2 Highly Recommended Books
I wish to recommend the two following books and I will make comments about each. Neither of these is written by members of the church of Christ. Therefore, you need to read and use them with discretion. However, you will receive many blessings from both of these books.
The first of these recommended books is Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Donald S. Whitney. Our brethren have generally been taught only two of these disciplines: study and prayer. And while these two are very important and I think non-optional, there are other disciplines that all Christians should practice. Whitney emphasizes over and over again that discipline is for godliness. The spiritual disciplines have a grand goal: godliness. And, what Christian doesn’t want to be more godly?
One of the disciplines discussed in the book is Christian service or as he words it “service.” I recommend this book for a class or a series of lessons so the brethren can see how service fits into the scheme of Christian growth and godliness.
The other book is by Drs. Townsend and Cloud, the authors of all the Boundaries books that have been and continue to be so popular. The book’s title is How People Grow What the Bible Reveals about Personal Growth. This book is about 360 pages. However, it has been rewritten in a shorter 182 page book entitled Growth Has No Boundaries the Christian’s Secret to a Deeper Spiritual Life. This book would make for a great class, book discussion group or series of sermons. I mention it here because there has been a general de-emphasis (intentional or unintentional) of studying personal spiritual growth as a topic (this is my opinion). Generally speaking, we do not tackle topics such as spiritual growth and we can see the consequences of such an avoidance. A word of caution: whoever leads a class or discussion group or preaches from these books, this person must be a seasoned teacher. We would not agree necessarily on their plan of salvation or how the Holy Spirit works. But everything else in the book is helpful for those who are interested in growing spiritually in Christ. There IS much helpful information in this book. I mention this book because only spiritually mature/growing Christians fully appreciate Christian service and gladly consistently find themselves involved in Christian service and service for godly reasons. As you assist members in growing spiritually, you will have more and more members interested in and involved in ministry.
Do Life Skills Become More or Less Important?
What is a life skill? This could include a lot of things including hobbies, job skills, natural skills, education, life experiences and special training. Skills, generally speaking, are abilities that we accure and learn over time. Sometimes a formal education is involved but many times we learn skills from others. As we age, I believe that these become even more important.
When we have children at home and we are making a living, these things are very important in providing food, clothing, transportation and housing for us and our families. We use our life skills to make a living. As we age, we may become more attractive to employers who are looking for folks like us.
As it pertains to ministry in the church, these skills are more valued, desired and needed and are often sought after. Some Christians never use life skills in serving others, other than employers. We need to be using all of these at any age for the good of the kingdom of God; we shouldn’t wait until we are retired to use them for ministry. However, when retirement comes, which means we usually have more free time, these skills become priceless to the church and to the people we serve.
One of my favorite examples is the late Ken Smith. Kenny taught me most of what I know in home repair and remodeling. Kenny not only served me, he also served many in the church. He could build and repair anything to do with buildings and carpentry including electrical work and plumbing. He could also fix appliances. He helped many older members (especilly widows) and didn’t charge them a dime for his services.
Another favorite example of mine is my late father-in-law, Frank Sadler. “Pap” could do anything with his hands much like Ken. However, Pap could tear down an engine, find a problem, fix it and reassemble it and reinstall it. He would fix things for free and the price of the parts. This was his ministry in his retirement years. He helped many people and one man, Paul Allen became a Christian because of Pap.
People who have medical experience can go on medical missions, people with accounting experience can help folks with taxes and life planning, people who cook can help with Meals on Wheels, people who love children can teach and read to them, and mechanics can help repair cars for those who can’t afford it and the list goes on. The list is endless.
Do your life skills become more valuable? Yes. I hope that as a steward of all of God’s blessings, you will use your skills for the furtherance and growth of His kingdom. Trav
|We wish for you and your family a most happy holiday season and a blessed new year. The year 2020 was filled with challenges for sure. Hopefully we grew through it all. May the new year bring other opportunities of personal growth and service.|
Deb and I will officially be retired effective December 31, 2020, and we will be moving to Murfreesboro, TN on December 16. We will be living there starting January 1, 2021. Our new address is 2134 River Chase Drive, Murfreesboro, TN 37128. My phone will remain the same at 423 920 3060 and my email will remain the same at firstname.lastname@example.org
Presently I am working with the Waverly (TN) church of Christ on a monthly meeting basis via Zoom. In February we will be going to Waverly three days a week for 13 weeks to assist them in starting an involvement ministry. Note: as of 12/8, we are postponing our work with Waverly church of Christ until things get better with the pandemic. I think this is a wise move and will allow more attention to be given to our campaign and training with them.
Other churches are beginning to contact me for workshops and retreats. I would also like to locate for a limited time (one to thirteen weeks) with churches around the country to assist them. Weekend workshops and retreats are also still available. If I can be of service, please contact me.
My mission statement:
I assist church leaders who are concerned about the spiritual and numerical growth of their congregation by helping members discover how God has designed them for His purpose and to get them involved in ministry in the local church and community.
Do You Wear a Bib or an Apron?
When I think of a bib I think of an infant in a high chair being fed. The bib catches all the food that doesn’t find the mouth of the infant. The baby is happy that most of the food goes in.
On the other hand, I can also think of an apron. Years ago, many ladies wore aprons as they cooked a meal for their families. Some men wear them today when they grill outside.
The bib imagery is of a child being fed and the imagery of the apron is that of someone preparing a meal to feed others. Which imagery best describes you as a Christian? Do you wear a bib or an apron? Are you constantly waiting on others to serve you or are you busy finding ways of serving others?
We all are blessed time to time to be wearing a bib; others in the church lovingly serve us and we gladly receive the blessings. But hopefully we all, are the for the most part, wearing the apron of service.
Some of the Lord’s church believe that the church exists to serve them. The Bible paints an entirely different picture. Jesus said he came to serve, not to be served. He washed the disciples’ feet and said that he had left them an example of what they should do for each other. Paul said we are to have the mind of Christ. I believe that we are most like Jesus when we serve others.
If you are always waiting for other Christians to serve you, you will sooner or later be miserable. You will never be satisfied. To move beyond bib wearing, you must learn to see others and their needs clearly. You must look intently at others so you can really see them. When you do, you will see the need. Many of us can only see our needs. Martin Luther King, Jr. said anyone can be great because anyone can serve. Jesus said it this way: “the greatest among you will be your servant.”
I suggest that you think of someone you know that has a need and seek to fulfill it. Open your home to a member of the church you don’t know. Send a gift to Tennessee Children’s Home. Make a visit to a shut-in. Pray for a missionary or parents who are raising their children. Look around Athens and see all the needs and seek to fulfil one of them with your time and energy. Put on your apron and serve. Trav
|Who Recommends Travis Irwin? Several people recommend my services: Jerrie Barber, my preacher Mark Littleton, my present elders and dozens of folks who have received my training (I can send a list of these if you wish). But most recently I got this one from a brother In Brazil who attended some of my webinars via Zoom:|
Thank you brother! We will never know how much your work will influence the church in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, which in turn involves all of Brazil and the Portuguese speaking world. As an example, tonight our National Bible School has a webinar with our brothers Daniel and Carol Morgan from Garland, TX motivating our students and the churches all over Brazil to become involved in “Brazilian Harvest”, a mission of planting the Lord’s church in every capital city of Brazil. We now lack only 5.
I realize you are “retiring”, but Christians don’t retire; we redirect! Would you be interested in coming to Belo Horizonte to teach a short course on “Church Growth” or “Church Involvement” in our National Bible School? Many brothers have come from around Brazil and around the USA to help us in this way.
Keep up the good work!
My 45 year full-time ministry career ends December 31, 2020. My wife and I will move to Murfreesboro, TN to be near family. I will enter a period where I will be available to work with congregations on a part-time basis and I am even willing to reside in their locale up to 13 weeks.
I know that COVID 19 has postponed and changed many congregation’s plans in many areas of work including involvement. Please keep me in mind when all this chaos is over. One thing is for sure: things will never be the same again and I will be there to help you through this transition.
423 920 3060 (text or call)
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Mission statement: I work with church leadership who wish to prevent membership stagnation by assisting members in discovering how God has created/designed them for His purpose. I help church leaders move church members from the sitting position to the serving position.
Will Your Church Survive COVID 19?
What do I mean? I mean, will your congregation be around after COVID 19 is gone? Some churches are losing their income flow; their giving is down 50% or more. Many churches have an attendance that is down 60% or more even when they use technology. It has been predicted that some congregations will cease to exist because they did not have sufficient income (giving) to keep the doors opened or because members disappeared during the pandemic.
Yes, hopefully, all the members will return with their giving when this is all over. We should be optimistic and pray. However, we have to face reality every Sunday as consistent attendance figures slowly dwindle and giving remains low.
What May We Do About It Now?
First and foremost, don’t panic. Most elderships are solid and are known for moving slowly and methodically; this is good. Members in the pews are more likely to panic than leadership. Some church staff, especially full-time staff, may panic because their incomes/livelihoods are at stake. But then again, the Lord will take care of them in His own way. I have also found that Christian people do their very best to supply the needs of church staff. They follow Matthew 7:12.
Always remember that God is still in control and after all, the church is HIS church; He can do what He wishes with His church. He promised that the gates of hell would not prevail against her. He also promised that she is eternal. In all reality, the church has faced worse enemies and worse circumstances. But she remains! True, she may not look like she did before COVID 19, but she will still be here. And, the faithful (if they are still alive physically) will return in full force.
Mistakes to Avoid
Today I received a free 5 page booklet entitled 7 Mistakes Church Leaders Make Trying to Stop the Decline of Their Church (from effectivechurchleadership.com).
I am thankful for this little booklet and I will mention some things I find helpful with my comments:
Don’t Make These Mistakes:
Updating your building to make it more modern. Nope. You don’t need to do this. Make sure it is clean, attractive and safe. “Building” programs aren’t really needed right now unless a hurricane recently destroyed your building.
Adding another program or ministry. You bet this one got my attention, and I agree. Here’s what I suggest:
- Review and revise all of your ministries; make them relevant in real time or end them. In most cases, your ministries have slowed or stopped especially the maintenance ones.
- Improve them when/where it is obviously necessary
- Add new ministries that your present circumstances require; there are some things that churches are having to do now that they did not do six months ago. Thorough cleaning and disinfecting are two of those things. Adding technology is another.
- Don’t overwhelm the brethren with new stuff. The brethren are already overwhelmed with the pandemic, civil unrest, children going back to school and the election. Soon they will be overwhelmed with the holidays and the regular flu season.
- Don’t demand commitment; they are already committed to protecting and providing for their families. Never demand anything.
Being a copycat. I’m not too worried about this one. Most churches of Christ work hard to maintain what they’ve got and aren’t too concerned about copying a mega church in Texas or Tennessee or anywhere. Focus on your local and congregational needs and fulfill as many as you can.
Overlooking your community. Your community is YOUR mission field. Find out what the pressing needs are in your local community and start to serve in those areas. It may be difficult to get volunteers to assist in meeting these needs because of fear of exposure to C-19.
Ignoring the digital age. We can’t do this any longer. The pandemic just sped up the process of using technology. Improve your website (get one if you don’t have one), live stream your services and Bible classes, record your services, have elders, deacons, etc. meetings via zoom, etc. Hey, when COVID 19 is over, continue to do meetings this way. It will save tons of time.
Hiring new staff. What right thinking leaders would do this? Before the pandemic we were going to start looking for a youth minister this Fall. But that is on hold for an indefinite period of time and rightfully so. After the air is clear we might reconsider it. Right now, get through all the immediate challenges one by one and deal with pressing items.
Not letting your mission and vision rule. Sometimes in times of trial, we forget why we exist. We need to revisit our church’s (or the Lord’s) mission statement and vision statements. We need to be reminded why we exist and get back to doing it. We are being distracted by many things and as a result we forget our mission. We may be fulfilling those in a different manner, but we need to get back to those things now if we have neglected them. These statements were originally given to give leaders and members direction. Let’s be honest here: of all the times we need direction, it is now. And, there are few things more exciting than seeing mission and vision statements fulfilled.
One Suggestion for Leadership
As shepherds of the church, you need to be in constant communication with your sheep. I think it was the late Flavil Yeakley who said that members who stop attending church will reinvest their interest, time and money in something else within six weeks. How many weeks has it been since the pandemic began? More than six, right? 6 months!
In spite of all the use of technology many of your members are not engaged with the church in any way. You, as shepherds, must engage them. You need to divide the church directory up and all of you call all the members at least once a month to see how they are doing, to see if they have any needs, to show love and concern, pray with them, listen to them, minister to them, in some cases, you will want to help them with technology so they can attend services and Bible classes—or just simply pastor the sheep. Certain disconnected members are less likely to reinvest their time, money and energy in something else if you pastor them.
And, the ‘given’ in all of this is to PRAY, and to pray as never before.
I am interested in what you have to say. Please reply or email me at email@example.com
Don’t Waste this Crisis
The COVID-19 pandemic has limited our movement, emptied our stores, closed our schools, taken our jobs and prevented us from assembling. Several articles have addressed the issue of “closings.” Folks have responded with articles on what is still “open.”
We have a choice when it comes to responding to this pandemic. One choice is to be angry and refuse to cooperate with authorities. Another one is to be unhappy and be controlled by our circumstances. However, there is an alternative: we can use this time, as some have suggested, to spend more time together with family, spend more time reading the Bible, more time praying, etc.
I suggest that we should use this crisis as an opportunity to grow spiritually. In the April 24, 2020 issue of “World” magazine, Audree Sue Peterson suggests that we should be setting and achieving spiritual goals as we shelter in place.
For example, if we don’t learn patience during this crisis, this time would have been wasted. A crisis without opportunity is hopeless. Our present crisis, however, presents many opportunities.
We should also be spending this time making plans for what is waiting for us when this pandemic is over (some are now saying that it may not be over for several years). The pandemic has changed our assemblies, Bible classes and outreach already. When it subsides or goes away, its affects will remain for years to come. In some businesses future plans have been moved up to the present. Some congregations had plans for the future, and this pandemic has forced them to go ahead and implement the plans. Medical professionals had future plans for telemedicine in two or three years. Guess what? They are doing it now. Necessity demands the change===ahead of schedule. Churches are faced with a similar phenomenon. For example, as the church turns more and more gray, more opportunities/challenges will come to use virtual means to communicate with those older members who cannot get out. However, we are being forced to do such right now. Similar things are happening with church education. Fewer and fewer are att3nding Bible classes. Solution? Virtual. We’re doing that now; it can’t wait no longer.
While you are in the thick of this pandemic, I suggest you some spend time evaluating and assessing several things in your congregation. You may object by saying that you are too busy just trying to adjust to this new norm/reality. However, I suggest that you look at the following in this context because issues are fresh on your minds. If you wait til everything returns to normal (which, it never will be same again), you will forget what you are learning ln a daily basis now. Following are a few suggestions:
- Assess your mission statement as a church. Most congregations don’t even have a mission statement. If you are one of those, I strongly suggest you get one or credit one. The pandemic can show you where you are weak and where you need to make changes. Your core values are coming to the top; possibly some changes need to be made. For those who have a mission statement, the challenges of this pandemic may have provided church leaders ideas for revised and updated mission statements.
- Assess your assemblies. We haven’t assembled for 12 weeks. We have had virtual worship services all this time. We don’t have all the elements in virtual services and we’ve added one more: communication for an elder each week. Sometimes our normal assemblies are stuck in a rut and need to be evaluated. I am NOT promoting unscriptural worship; I AM promoting assemblies that truly worship the Lord, communicate to the church, edify the church and emphasize just how important being together is.
You might want to ask this question, “Should we stop having Sunday evening services?” Face two facts: Sunday night attendance has been going down for years, and you haven’t been attending Sunday night services since the pandemic started. Why start up something that was dying in the first place, and hasn’t been utilized for 12 weeks. To me, Sunday night services are a thing of the past. This is something to think about.
- Assess your Bible classes. If your congregation is like most, only 50% of your membership attends. For the past 12 weeks 100% of your congregation may have not attended Bible classes. I am not advocating doing away from Bible study. However, this is an opportunity to do it differently when you get back together. Some are advocating returning the responsibility of teaching children to their parents. There is material available to help parents teach their children at home. I would also strong urge leadership to know what their children and adults are being taught. Some of it is heavily repeated and some areas are totally neglected. And some printed material is weak and, in some cases has false doctrine. Why not take some time to review everything.
- Assess small groups. Some congregations already have small groups. Those who do and those who have trained well, they work well. While you were not assembling as a whole, several of your members met in smaller groups, many without your knowing. Definitely families met together. This crisis also affords you the opportunity to rethink why you have small groups. You may revise your purposes, add others and delete some.
- Assess all of your ministries. Some of your ministries will die. Some should die. New ministries will begin because of a new need. New needs have surfaced during the crisis. Assessment of ministries need to be done constantly. Good stewardship and common-sense demand it.
- Assess your church budget. Let’s face it, the church budget in most cases has been hit hard by this pandemic. In most cases, members have done a pretty good with their giving the first month of the pandemic. The second month was/is a disaster. Some churches have closed their doors forever their giving tanked. Some are having to make big adjustments. One thing is for sure, you need to communicate to the congregation the need for them to continue to give during the crisis. Salaries continue to be paid, bills continue to come in and emergency needs arise. Members laid off need help. Community needs offer opportunities to serve and many of these cost money.
- Assess your means of communication. We use eight or nine means of communicating with our members. A large number of means should be used all the time. Budwiser and other vice-producing companies spend billions advertising to and communicating with us. We can’t do less; we must do more.
- Assess your staff. You may have to let someone go because of the money. You may have to hire someone to do a ministry that now requires a full time staffer. Someone on staff may have to submit to a new/different job description. Some of this is obvious and some of it will not.
I’d like to hear from you. Please share how you are using this crisis to make some needed changes.
Healthy Body Checklist for Churches
- Does 20% or less of your church’s membership do all the work in the church?
- Do you have to beg for volunteers? (e.g. Bible class teachers, men leading worship)?
- Does a healthy percentage of your members serve others in your community?
- Are your church ministries evaluated at least once a year?
- Do all your congregation’s ministries have intentional purposes?
- Does your congregation provide continual training for members who volunteer?
- Does your congregation express appreciation for those who volunteer and serve?
- The members who volunteer and serve, are they happy in their service?
- Could your members tell someone what your congregation’s core values are?
- Is individual spiritual growth admired, expected, and encouraged?
If you answered either of the first two questions with a “Yes” or any of the other questions with a “No,” the health of your congregation may be compromised. Please contact me so we can work together to make the health of your church more certain.
What do you do as an involvement coach?
I assist church leaders who are concerned with congregational stagnation by planning and executing a customized plan to assess every member of their non-miraculous gifts, personalities, passions, life skills and life experiences for the purpose of getting them into ministries for which God has designed them.
Contact me and let’s talk on Zoom about a plan for your congregation.
Travis Irwin, involvement coach
423 920 3060
During this time of pandemic, many of the church’s ministries are either dormant or limited. However, this does NOT mean that we can sit idly by as a church or as individuals. There are many other opportunities for serving others who are members and non-members in our church and community. Your congregation collectively and individually must learn to be creative and flexible when it comes to serving your members and people in your community.
The pandemic is challenging us on several levels: our jobs, our shopping, our schooling, our travel, our economy, and church attendance. However, many of us haven’t thought of how the pandemic has affected and will affect future ministry in the church. This is not a time for neglect but action.
What About Right Now?
Here’s what I suggest to you for your consideration. Starting today, you need to encourage and equipmem bers to revamp present ministries so they become relevant now. More importantly, several ministries need to spring up in which individuals or small groups of members can serve. For examples, your local nursing homes, hospitals, stores, police department, EMS, schools, the local Y and such are full of people that need encouragement. You can’t go inside and spent time with them but you can do something for them.
More of your ministries, present and future also need to be designed for non-members and for folks in your community. New ministries should focus on needs of individuals and groups of people in your town. Individuals should start taking personal responsibility to create ministry and do it. Individual Christians should not wait for a formal ministry to exist before they serve in some meaningful way. Jesus went about doing good, and so should we. In a smaller town, members should know just about everybody in town and know some real needs. In larger towns, the news agencies and newspapers will inform us of opportunities to serve.
Actual ideas on how to serve others: members and non-members
(these can be done by individuals, couples, families, Bible classes, and teams)
Most importantly, as always, Practice all COVID 19 protocol.
Brainstorm alone and with others on the phone and be creative. Fulfill the new ideas by serving BOTH members and those in your community.
Have parades past houses or nursing homes; get permission first
Caroling – go to members’ homes and sing hymns/favorite ones
Go shopping for others (groceries, medicine, etc. for members or those in the community)
There are dozens of things you can do virtually; however, many older people do not know how to use technology or do not have it. ZOOM is great for communicating with your members with daily devotionals, Bible classes and worship services. Use Facebook, Marco Polo and other mediums to communicate also.
Email folks and communicate daily with them
Phone calls that are uplifting and encouraging; show real concern—also ask if there is anything you can for them. Make regular phone calls. Some folks will even tell you to call on a certain day every week to check on them.
Visitation through windows at people’s homes or nursing homes (make appointments to do either of these)
Send cards via snail mail (for anniversaries, birthdays, get well, encouragement)
Gifts – small things: soaps, candy bars, toiletries, something cute, etc. leave on the porch or have them mailed to people. You can loan music CDs and movie DVDs.
Flowers – these could be fresh flowers from your garden
Gift cards they can use on line; we have found food cards are also popular (e.g. Cracker Barrel)
Donate blood. Have your children color pictures and send/give them to older folks.
Provide meals and leave on porches; you could do the cooking or buy the food
When out and about a cordial greeting is welcomed, and if your face is uncovered, smile–there’s nothing like it. In fact, some folks paint a smile on their masks.
Don’t overlook vets, the disabled, shut-ins, the vulnerable and widows.
Do something for local nursing homes and hospital staff (drinks and snacks). Just the other day, someone donated fresh picked greenbeans for a nursing facility. Many residents snapped the beans and got to eat them. What joy that brought to those residents.
Do something for the local police department, fire fighters, EMS (meal, snacks, cards and notes of support and appreciation, etc)
Do yard work for folks. Do home repairs for people.
Donate money to worthy causes especially those that help people during these difficult times.
If you are able bodied, it doesn’t matter how young or old you are—you should be willing to help
If you are not able-bodied, you can pray and encourage those who are serving or possibly donate funds that can used to help others.
Do more study on-line for more ideas
Note: at the end of July the government $ runs out; what will people do then? And, whether our government gives people money or not, these opportunities to serve remain.
Start now preparing to help folks in and out of the church.