28 September 2007

Las Vegas Learnings (Part 4)

Learning #4: Make your advertising visually compelling
Everywhere you look in Vegas there is something clamoring for your attention – a place to gamble, a hot spot to eat, a golf course to play, or things too seedy for this blog. They are all there, 24/7 without fail – and they are all well done…at least photographically. They are eye-catching and compelling. They encourage you to look more, explore deeper, and eventually spend your hard-earned cash on them.

Each casino featured some big headlining entertainer – from Louie Anderson to Cirque de Soleil to Chris Angel (aka ‘Mind Freak’). Each casino went out of its way to make sure that their advertisement was the biggest, brightest, or catchiest. They used bright colors, intriguing graphics, and/or scantily clad women to get you to look at them…and re-look at them…and look at them some more…and then spend your money to see that show or entertainer.

This reality became clear to me as soon as we arrived at the Las Vegas Airport, because as I stood outside the women’s restroom waiting for Deb, my eyes glanced toward the baggage claim area to see the sheer volume of advertisements ‘plastered’ on the walls, suspended from the ceiling, or posted on a rotating kiosk display. They were everywhere (literally!) and I could not help but look at them and wonder how much it cost to see Carrot Top at the Luxor or Celine Dion at Caesar’s.

We did not see any of the shows advertised on those giant screens/posters/billboards, but we knew who was performing where and if we wanted to, we could get to a box office and purchase tickets with ease (part 3).

So what can the church learn from this? I think the issue comes back to the question of visual intentionality. Is the Church (and your church in particular) visually compelling in a positive way? What steps are you taking to make sure that when guests enter your building or browse your website they see something that would make them want to look again or visit again? I believe that many churches have lost the ability to see themselves from an outsider’s perspective and they then begin to allow clutter to pile up, posters to go out of date, and images in the church to become stale.

I am by no means an expert in this area, but I do know that in the 21st century, our “customers” have far too many choices in what to do on Sunday mornings to allow our churches to be relics, obsolete, or dated in any way. We must impress upon our church leadership to take the lead in being innovative, risk-taking, and compelling in every way possible. Without a compelling reason for people to spend their leisure time at our events/worship services/Bible studies, then they will sleep in, work a little more at the office, or go to a baseball game instead.

Read the other posts in this series: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

27 September 2007

Las Vegas Learnings (Part 3)

Here I go again...

Learning #3: Meet asked and unasked needs every time.
The casinos in Las Vegas work hard to get you in the door and they want you to have an enjoyable experience...so that you will come back...and so that you will tell your friends about it. In order to do that, they work hard to meet the asked and unasked needs of their customers.

When a casino patron wants something to drink, there is usually a waitress within eyesight ready to take their order. If the customer wants something to eat, there is most likely two, three, or even four different restaurants within the casino walls that would love to meet their every food wish - often this happens at the buffet! If a patron wants to gamble or spend the night in the hotel...their desires can be met within mere moments.

Outside the casino, vendors work hard to attract and satisfy customers with video screens, billboards, posters, live acts, etc. all within view of any Strip sidewalk that advertise anything from the next casino down the Strip to the newest entertainer coming to town to where to golf tomorrow. I believe that most of these attempts to meet needs fall in the "unasked" category because most of the people walking up and down the Strip are not necessarily looking for a show to go to that evening, but when the opportunity presents itself, they consider the possibility (for however long or short that consideration may be) of meeting a need that they had not yet expressed.

One day on our trip to Vegas, Deb and I were walking between casinos across one of the many pedestrian walkways that take you over the street rather than having to fight with traffic on the street level. Debbie casually remarked to me that she sure could use a drink of water after walking what seemed like at least half a mile. And wouldn't you know it, an industrious salesperson crossed our path not 15 seconds later selling "ice cold bottled water" for $1. So we bought one and shared it...and so did about 6 other people. It was amazing how this vendor had positioned himself just at the right place to maximize his efforts at selling water to thirsty travelers on a hot August day. That was meeting an unasked need!

So what can the church learn from this? It seems to me that it is vitally important for the church to pay attention to what their "customers" are asking for and then meeting those needs to the highest level possible. If our customers crave community, perhaps we need to increase our efforts on creating opportunities for people to gather in small groups. If our customers need additional worship opportunities, perhaps we need to investigate the possibility of expanding our current worship offerings. If our customers want new opportunities to reach out to the least, last and lost, then maybe we need to seek out new mission opportunities to serve the marginalized and exploited in our world.

I know that we cannot be all things to all people, but if all churches utilized their strengths to do what they do best, then we could refer people to different churches/agencies/etc. that were doing what they want to do. And perhaps our people would learn the value of serving in the local church in a role that aligns with their skill set and passion.


Read other posts in this series: Part 1, Part 2

Priesthood of All Believers

Another musing from Walk #31...

God calls all believers into ministry in the Christian church. God - thru our baptism - equips us to carry out the mission of the church along with all other believers. God callas all to serve in the body of Christ. In addition, God places a special call on some believers to be set apart for service leading the church as pastors, but all have a calling to love and serve the body.

"Priesthood" is not a special occupation reserved only for a select few...it is a calling to be Christ to anyone and everyone you meet. The "priesthood" is for everyone. We have been gifted uniquely to serve the kingdom in ways that no one else can - so the Church needs you! Each of us needs to serve Christ in the ways we have been equipped and not leave the work of the church to the paid professionals. If all churches operated under that [paid people do all the work] model, there would be far fewer churches, far more burnt out pastors, and far less impact in the world.

The simple fact is that preachers/pastors/priests can not do everything - they must train their congregations to serve, take on leadership, and give of themselves. The church must do their best to focus on Christ and be the body of Christ in the world.

How are you expressing your priesthood right now? Who sees Christ in your life? How are you living our your calling?



This past weekend I had the privilege to serve on the clergy team for Denton Area Emmaus Walk #31. Each Walk has the same structure and format, but each one is unique due to the personalities of each team and the pilgrims who attend.

The weekend kicked off with a talk from my friend Ted on "Priorities" and I was moved by what he shared and how he spoke from the heart about the need to constantly align ourselves with God. I wrote these thoughts in response to his talk.

The things that capture our time are the things that are our priorities in our life. It can be good or it can be destructive. It can be positive or it can be negative. Either way it shapes us and makes us who we are.

We can set our own priorities or they can be set for us - by external circumstances. When we call the shots we control who we spend time with, what we spend our time doing, or where we spend our time. When we allow others to set our priorities we are pushed, pulled, stretched, and shoved in directions that others would have us go.

In the Christian life, our priority must be God. It can't be spouse or job or kids or money. Those are good priorities in and of themselves, but contextually, they must be placed behind God in order for our lives to be fully what God has called our lives to be.

I love my wife and daughter. I love my ministry. I love myself. I love what I do on a daily basis because I know God has called me to where I am. However, I must love God and prioritize him over all those things/people to fully realize my calling - because I can do no less than that and stand shameless before my Creator in the fullness of time.

What are your priorities? What do you spend your time doing? Where and on what do you spend your money? What or who has your attention? Spend some time reflecting on where your priorities are so that you can prioritize God to the first place in your life.


14 September 2007

Las Vegas Learnings (Part 2)

Here is another post in my series on what I learned while on vacation in Vegas.

Learning #2: Make it difficult for people to leave
This is a corollary to Part 1 because the casinos work very hard to get you in the door, so they don’t want you walking right back out the door without spending some time (and money). As I noted in Part 1, there are people movers to get gamblers into the doors at most of the newer casinos, but there are no "people movers" to get people out of the casinos. This is definitely a strategic thing – they don’t want to make it easy for people to leave – it has to be a conscious, effort-filled decision. The simple fact is that if a gambler wants to leave a casino, they must stop what they are doing, walk to the cashier, walk to find the door (not always clearly marked), walk out the door, and then walk all the way to the street. It is a physically intensive (and sometimes exhaustive) process.

How often do churches complain about people leaving thru the proverbial “back door” without so much as one person noticing they are gone? Perhaps we have made it too easy for those who are loosely related to the church to walk out anonymously. Perhaps we have not yet figured out how to connect those people more deeply within the body of Christ so that if they go missing – someone notices! Perhaps we have misplaced the "people movers" in our churches. Sometimes we plant mechanisms that take out the physicality of leaving – in other words, we do it for them instead of forcing them to make the conscious decision to leave – they simply drift away unnoticed.

I am convinced that we can close the back door in our churches! I am convinced that unless we, as church leaders, give intentional thought and effort to methods of assimilation and connection, we will continue to watch the revolving door swing ‘round and ‘round. Encourage your church members to talk to people they don’t know on Sunday mornings before, during, and after worship services. Model that behavior yourself. Keep reminding your congregation that they are the best advertisement for the church – and that people are watching…closely!

Read the other post in this series: Part 1

11 September 2007


I was reading the new issue of RELEVANT earlier today and I saw the Slice on the LifeStraw and had to post about it. It is an invention that filters bacteria and germs - like the ones that cause typhoid, cholera, dysentery and diarrhea - from the water in third world countries who don't always (or possibly never) have access to clean drinking water.

Check out the website to find out more about this nine inch straw that can purify up to 185 gallons of water for only $3! Wow!


Las Vegas Learnings (Part 1)

I want to post a series of thoughts on what I learned about how Vegas casinos attract and keep players coming back and how that can be translated to the church. So here goes...

Learning #1: Make it easy for people to get in the door and find what they are looking for.
Gamblers in Vegas are looking for one thing when they go to a casino...a place to spend their money in order to have a shot at making more money. Most gamblers look for a certain type of game - be it video poker, nickel slots, or the tables - and they don't want to have to look hard to find their game.

Casinos know this, so they make it very easy for gamblers to get inside and spend their money as quickly as possible. One example, Deb and I were walking down the Strip toward The Bellagio in order to take a look inside and see what all the hype was about. As we approached the block that the Bellagio sits on, we saw that we needed to go up an escalator in order to get to the same level that the main entrance doors were on. Once we ascended that escalator we noticed how far away from the door we really were from the casino doors. This was not a problem because the entire walkway from the street to the door of the casino was a "people mover" ala George Jetson. It took virtually no effort on our part to get from the street to the door of the casino - none! We both commented that this fact made getting into the doors to spend our money so easy.

Churches need to make it easier for people to get in our doors. Not so that they can give their hard-earned money to us, but so that they can get connected to Jesus. Not so that they can be impressed with our technology in worship, but so that they can see that the church is a place that welcomes them and actually wants them to spend some time there. We need to make the hurdles of attending church the lowest ones possible (if we even have hurdles at all). The time, place, or feel of our churches should be the smallest impediment to people walking thru our doors.

What kind of "people movers" does the church need to employ? How can we make the process of finding a place to get plugged in should be the easiest thing that guests can do at our churches. Guests should be able to walk into our clearly marked front doors (hopefully opened by waiting, attentive greeters) and find exactly what they are looking for. (Side note: There are no "people movers" taking people away from the doors of the casino...you have to want to walk out...and do it under your own power. More on this later.)

Are we doing all that we can to break down obstacles for people to find God in our churches? Are we losing their business before they even hear the music or sermon? Are they having to clear hurdles just to experience all the things we love about our worshiping community?


10 September 2007

Ministry Forum, Day 1

I'm at the Ministry Forum today and tomorrow and I must say that being with my clergy colleagues is always fun. We are scarred from the same Systematic Theology classes, bleary-eyed from late nights trying to write sermons, and loved by the same God who calls us into ministry. It is a good feeling to be among those who are giving their heart and soul to advance the kingdom of God here in North Texas.

I promised last week that I would blog about what I learned in Vegas...and I will. Tonight I will put my thoughts on here to share with those of you who care to stop by and read them. I am excited about what we (the Church) can learn from the city of broken dreams (I don't know if that is a nickname for Las Vegas, but it sounds good!).

That's all for now...I'm off to read the new issue of RELEVANT.


04 September 2007

Email Forwards Can Surprise You

I usually don't look much past the subject line when a forward comes into my inbox, but this one sounded worth a second look. It was!

It’s a skit that was done at Winterfest this year [06-07] set to “Everything” by the band Lifehouse. The cheers from the audience in the last half of the video are rightfully earned - what a great presentation of the gospel...using a "secular" song! Take a look and tell me what you think.


Hat Tip: KSBJ and Betty

03 September 2007

Back from Vacation

This past week Deb and I were on vacation in LV and SA. I have to say that I learned quite a bit from Sin City that I think Christian churches can use to attract and retain guests (more on this later in the week).

For now, eventho no one offered any suggestions for my previous query, the sermon went just fine on Sunday...and I only had one person come out of the sanctuary just looking to pick a fight about what I said. The truth hurts I guess!