Using Ushers in Emergencies (part 2 of 2)

Here’s an idea to help your ushers know what to do when. Get every usher a clip-on name badge; clip-on badges have a loop which holds the actual name badge. To each name badge, add three more badges which are the same size as the name badge. Yes, each name badge will be “fat” but they will also be very useful.

The three additional badges should be color coded and have specific written instructions on each one depending on the event.

  • Red – fire
  • Blue – violent weather
  • Yellow – active shooter

When one of these events happens, each usher can read his or her name badge instructions, be reminded what he or she is to do in this emergency, and then follow through on them.

The name badges are always present because the ushers always wear them. The instructions can be tailored for each usher or area of ushers. The ushers can even talk about this among themselves and train themselves and new ushers in what to do; they can even make suggestions about how to improve this system.

This simple system uses some existing volunteers, gives them critical responsibilities, and provides vital helpers during a crisis so that church staff leaders can focus on other things that only they can do.


Lead On!


Using Ushers in Emergencies (part 1 of 2)

There are a dozen emergencies that can happen in a church but there are three “big” ones: fire, weather, and active shooter. In every case, people should act differently. In fire, people in the church building need to get out; in violent weather, they need to hide in a low place; and with an active shooter, they need to get out of the building or hide behind closed doors.

It is not possible to train every member what to do in each distinct situation and expect them to remember. It is even hard to train staff members what to do. Most churches use ushers to welcome people into the building so use ushers to lead people to a safe place. Ushers are highly visible, they know the buildings and the people, and are usually trained in how to speak to and guide people. Use them in emergencies when you need to move people quickly.

This requires you to do some intensive and on-going training with your ushers. They need to know who will give them instructions to act and to stop. They need to know what kind of situation they are dealing with. They need to know where to tell people to go and who will sound the all-clear signal. They need to know how to handle panic-stricken parents or people with mobility issues. They need to know the names and faces of church members who are medical, fire, and police experts.

Please develop a well-thought out emergency preparedness plan in conjunction with local first responders (fire and police personnel). There are some guidelines available from your local emergency responders. Work with them to tailor a plan for your facility and your people. Use your ushers for more than just “ushing.”


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Does this add value?

It’s a simple question but it’s an important one. When making a decision, ask yourself that question:

  • Does this add value to my organization?
  • Does this add value to my staff?
  • Does this add value to our goals and mission?
  • Does this add value to the conversation?


This is a key question which I ask when I’m in meetings. I want to know if what we’re talking about helps the organization and its missions. Too many times I (and probably you) have been in meetings where an idea is presented and it is received without question because it sounds good, it comes from a person of influence, or there is some money available to do it.


I challenge you to not accept ideas just because of their source. Instead, when a concept is presented, determine if it is worth doing and one of the questions to ask is, “Does this add value?” However, don’t get into the cycle of “analysis paralysis.” Make a decision based on the current information and when you have new info, evaluate the prior decision, and then keep the decision or make a new decision. But in every case, ask if this action will add value to the org’s mission.


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Rubber Stamps on Invoices Instead of Paper Forms

I don’t like unnecessary paperwork. Years ago I came up with a rubber stamp to cut down on paperwork in the church’s finance office. Every invoice paid by a church should have information attached to it so that there is clear description of all the info that is needed to process the payment accurately.

Most churches have a “payment request” form that is filled out and attached to each invoice. A form is fine but sometimes the attached form is detached from the original invoice. Instead of a form, I created a rubber stamp (see below) which I stamp on many (but not all) invoices from vendors.

Payment Approval & Coding Info


Description _________________________

Account #                                  Amount

_________________            _____________

______________ ___           _____________

Approval ___________________________

Ck# _______________        Date _________

Using this rubber stamp ensures that it won’t be separated from the invoice, it saves money by not having to make copies of the payment request form, and it saves time by having a smaller “form” to complete than most large paper forms. I even buy a rubber stamp for each person in the office who completes the paper forms to make it more convenient for them.

Consider having this (or a similar) rubber stamp to make your finance office more efficient.


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Consolidation of Preachers

As a strategic thinker, I’ve got a prediction about a specific aspect of church life that will happen in the next 15-20 years. First, some context: consolidation of business is a historical reality in the US. We used to have scores of auto manufacturers and today there are a handful of US-owned car makers. The same is true of phone companies, office supply stores, department stores, and so on. For one reason or another, businesses merge till there are only a few. Call it survival of the fittest, or best, or biggest.

I predict some consolidation in churches. Technology allows me to watch via podcasts preachers from around the US. Technology allows my multisite church to have one preacher whose message is viewed in a variety of unique campuses. My prediction is that small and mid-sized churches will select one or more excellent preachers to deliver the weekly message while their on-site pastor focuses on pastoral duties. We are entering an age when there will be fewer but more excellent preachers and they will be on screens in worship venues.

Currently there are several outstanding preachers (Andy Stanley, Perry Noble, Bill Hybels, Rick Warren, etc., etc.) whose messages are regularly above your average sermon. They also have large local churches but also national and international followings and even church presences around the world. These are global preachers who, through technology, can preach almost anywhere in the world.

A well-developed and delivered sermon requires about 15-20 hours of work. That is time that the pastor of a church cannot spend on other requirements of his or her job. What if churches allowed their pastor to preach less and focus more on being a pastor. The pastor would still preach periodically during the year so the church hears the vision and direction of the church.

But most of the year, sermons will be delivered on screen by a selection of outstanding sermon-givers. That allows pastors & churches to focus on worshipping, caring, mission-doing, teaching, and fellowshipping (the main functions of the church). This gives the pastor 15-20 hours a week to meet people, train leaders, and give direction to the church. This helps the pastor have more family time and less weekly pressure “to produce.”

I know there will always be pastors who want to preach and that is fine – there will always be churches who want a “live preacher.” However, technology has the capability of letting churches hear more excellent preachers and help local pastors focus on doing what only they can do – be the local pastor.


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Top Three

Someone asked me, “What are the top three deficiencies that I see in churches today?” It is a great question and it took me a while to give a well-reasoned answer. Here is what I came up with from my own experience.

  1. Transparency
    • From finances to decisions and even the decision-making process, be as open as possible without breaking confidences. Too many churches circumvent the official processes with backroom deals. This leads to a loss of confidence by members and staff of the church leadership and even the future direction of the church.
    • Share as much info as you can with as many people as possible in appropriate ways. I’m not saying that everyone needs to be involved in voting on everything, but they should be informed about how things happen in their church.
  2. Compliance
    • For a long time churches have been able to not obey tax and other laws to which churches are subject. Some of this is done from ignorance and some from willfulness. Churches must comply with the tax laws, building codes, their own personnel manuals, insurance regulations, and other legal regulations.
    • To not comply means churches are flaunting the law and thus giving a bad witness to their community. They are implicitly saying we are either ignorant of the law or we’re above it. Both are detrimental.
  3. Strategy
    • Too many churches and pastors are simply trying to survive for the next few years. I challenge churches and their leaders to think 5-10 years out. The church is going to change dramatically in the next few years even as society itself changes.
    • For instance:
      • The first iPhone was released in June 2007 and the world has changed in incredible ways due to that invention. How is your church leveraging technology in its future plans?
      • Within the next 10-15 years, the pre-WWII generations will diminish and the Boomers will retire forcing churches to rely on Generations X, Y, & Z. What is your church doing to develop these next gen leaders for their inevitable role?


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Personal Coaching-How (part 2 of 2)

Church work is harder than it has been in previous years and decades. I don’t want to get the reasons in this post but I do want to offer some advice to everyone in a leadership position at a church (on staff or a lay person). Everyone in church work needs a coach. Everyone means all ministers and church program directors. Learn from other people, carry out what they say if it looks possible in your situation, be willing to fail, and adapt quickly to “the new” (which seems a daily occurrence).

  1. Get a coach or a support group. Find someone who has gone down the same path that you are on and who is willing to walk with you. That person will ensure that you avoid the pitfalls (and tell you about the experiences she or he had in that pitfall), see the rewards, and push you farther down the road.
  2. Meet monthly (at least). Monthly meetings give you time between meetings to implement what you discussed. Make these meetings a priority on your calendar and help your church understand how these meetings help you and the church.
  3. Talk strategically, not trivially. Strategic items help you and the church do things more efficiently, more effectively, and more excellently. Be strategic in your conversations and actions. Think long-term about what you plan and need to. Be intentional about how you’re going to carry out these actions.

The flip side of this is that you must also be a coach to someone. You have valuable experience and knowledge which you need to use to help someone else. If you do not use your own expertise, then you are robbing someone else of your help. In short, make learning a life-long opportunity and routine AND also be a life-long teacher yourself.


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Personal Coaching-Why (part 1 of 2)

As I talk with seasoned pastors and leaders, almost all of them tell me it is increasingly harder to be a pastor due to the variety of demands. They need to know more, do more, and be more in the church while being an excellent spouse, parent, and civic leader. Pastors need someone to help them and a coach or mentor can help. A coach need not be a paid counselor; a coach can be something as simple as a good friend – but the critical issue is complete honesty.

  1. Set priorities. All too often a pastor will place professional ahead of personal time and the family suffers. A coach can help the pastor determine which meetings he or she needs to attend and which family issues need attention.
  2. Be a release valve. Pastors are really good at hiding. They have to be so that they don’t betray confidences. But at some point they must open up to someone or else they might explore emotionally. A coach can provide a gentle and confidential opportunity for a pastor to share things he or she can’t share with anyone else and then gain some perspective from another person’s view.
  3. Be accountable. Who looks the pastor in her or his eye and asks for the truth? Other than a spouse, not many (if anyone). A coach can keep a pastor emotionally honest by asking and even demanding truth-filled answers, not shallow replies that pastors can sometimes get away with.
  4. Establish goals. Someone needs to help a pastor determine his or her professional and personal goals. Staff and even a church personnel committee rarely understand the complexities of a pastor’s role. A mentor can challenge a pastor’s self-establish low-hanging goals and establish higher goals. The coach must then follow up throughout the year on these goals.
  5. Be an understanding ear. Sometimes a coach just needs to listen. Sometimes a pastor just needs to talk about what is going on in his personal and professional life. Sometimes a coach doesn’t need to coach but just hear. Sometimes pastors need someone who has been there and is isn’t critical of what is happening. Sometimes a coach just needs to be a pastor.

A coach provides detached distance, non-emotional advice which is needed so much today for pastors and frankly for everyone in leader roles. If you don’t have a coach, get one and listen.


Lead On!