Use Notion To Manage Your 3 Blog Buckets

Three Buckets?

Since the time I began the Intentional Blog course by Jeff Goins, I have been looking for a simple and sustainable way to work within the “3-Bucket System.” The 3-Bucket System is a simple but brilliant way to channel blog ideas into blog posts. Here's how it works: You take all of your ideas, really just titles or thoughts, and place them into the first “bucket” – consider these the seed of a blog post or a book chapter–anything you see that you think you might want to write about.

Once you have a bunch of ideas, you can begin developing them. This happens in blog bucket #2. This is where your ideas take shape. For me, I begin mind-mapping thoughts, assertions, and subheadings. I begin to knock out a few paragraphs to fill in the ideas. It's not polished prose yet, but there are sentences that flow together to connect the ideas.

Finally, once you've roughed in your piece, you move it to bucket #3 for the editing process. For most authors, the actual act of writing is much different from the way we find ideas and develop them. That's why I like Jeff's 3-Bucket System. It allows me to engage different parts of my brain when needed. For bucket 1, my brain is organizing and evolving the ideas-it's a mechanical process and feels like a left-brained to me. For bucket 2 I'm engaged in prose and written dialogue. This feels like right-brained activity. But for bucket 3 I'm back to my left brain again, checking for typos, duplicate phrases, passive voice—that kind of thing.

What's special about Notion?

Notion is an information organizing tool and frankly, the interface is beautiful. It's also very functional. I have tried so many different tools to keep the 3-Bucket System working, including yellow pads, a spiral notebook, Google Keep, Apple Notes, and Evernote. Visually and practically, none was up to the task.

I would list my ideas in Apple Notes or dig through a pile of papers and then I fleshed them out in Scrivener, Pages, or Google Docs. Eventually I ported them over to WordPress for final layout and publishing. I was working with 3 disparate applications and wishing I could have everything in one place.

Screenshot of my Blog Buckets

Notion solves this issue gracefully. Now I can see all my projects in one space, gauge the progress, and I can even write, edit, and revise in Notion. That's all three buckets and I haven't left the application. Not only that, but the tools for writing include a full suite of markdown tags, linking, images, and much more.

When I'm done, I can export markdown or simple select all of the content and the paste it into WordPress. The subheadings and text treatment persist so there's no need to go back and add H2 tags or italicize or underline things.

But wait, there's more…

While Notion is great for the 3-Bucket System, it does a TON of other things too. You can use it to store notes, of course, but you can also create spreadsheets and databases. You can coordinate tasks and projects. You can use Notion to create a Knowledgebase, and it's all shareable with your team at a low cost. It beats Evernote hands-down, which even the staunchest of past Evernote supporters agree (i.e. Michael Hyatt and others). 

A Quick View of Notion & The Blog Buckets

Note: If you're interested in taking Notion for a test drive you can get a $10 credit by signing up here. Full disclosure, I also get $5 credit if you do. Try it out today!

My 4 Big Takeaways from Tribe Conference

There’s nothing like sitting in a room of 300 people who want exactly the same thing you do…to make a difference through writing.

This last weekend I attended Jeff Goins’ Tribe Writers Conference in Franklin, Tennessee. Since joining the Tribe Writers online workshop in May of 2017, attending the conference has been a dream of mine.

How was the conference? In one word, AMAZING! So many great speakers, so many awesome people, and so much encouragement. I’m glad that I went and I’ve already purchased my ticket for next year.

After combing through my session notes, these are the four biggest takeaways for me. If you attended the conference I would love to hear yours. If you didn’t get a chance to go, I hope they will be helpful for you too.

Takeaway #1: Tell yourself the right stories

What’s that mean? It means the road to being a successful writer starts by believing that you can be a successful writer. You have to say it out loud, “I am a writer, I am a writer.” It’s like a mantra. The more you say it, the more you believe it. The more you believe it, the more it comes true.

Believe me, there’s no shortage of self-doubt on the pathway to your first book or blog. I experienced that first-hand when I first started to write. If I had a bad day writing I would think, Well, maybe everyone was right. Maybe I’m not a writer. By the way, it’s not like everyone was saying that, it was me saying that to myself!

Jeff Goins reminded us that we must tell ourselves the right kind of stories because there is power in words. There’s power in the words you write, and power in the words you speak–even in the words you speak to yourself. So say it with me, “I am a writer, I am a writer.”

Now, go write.

Takeaway #2: Your impact increases when you care for your audience

This was the biggest takeaway for me. It’s important to write with a purpose, and there is no better purpose than to help others. Seriously, if your goal is not to enrich the lives of people than why even consider publishing? After all, writing for yourself has a name, it’s called journaling.

When you write with love for your audience it shows. Jeff Goins and his team proved that at the conference. What most novice writers need are support and encouragement and the Tribe Conference speakers focused on that need. Charles Lee (Ideation Podcast) reminded us that branding is about way more than logos and colors. It’s about giving your audience/customers a sense of how you want to help them. Most successful writers have tapped into this truth, even those who write fiction.

Now, I am actively asking my readers what kinds of topics and articles would be helpful to them. I’m hoping to show that I care about what they care about. I have put together a survey of spiritual topics where I believe my perspective will be helpful.

Takeaway #3: What stops your art is inside of you

We would all like to blame someone or something for our lack of productivity, but with very few exceptions you can find the culprit in a mirror. If telling ourselves the right stories will help us succeed, then the opposite must also be true. However, it’s more than just negative stories that can stop us from producing our art. At the heart of the problem is fear. We’re afraid of failure and success simultaneously. While the thought of failure is frightening, the prospect of success creates an expectation too. Will will be able to live up to our own success the second time around?

Tim Grahl, the author of Running Down A Dream: Your Road Map To Winning Creative Battles gave a phenomenal talk about the role of fear in our artistic lives. He encouraged us to embrace it, deal with it, harness it even. He said, “fear is a sign that we are doing something right.”

Fear is a sign that we are doing something rightClick To Tweet

In the end, it’s a matter of changing our perspective on fear and discouragement. We don’t allow it to control us, but we do acknowledge it as a part of our humanness. As a matter of fact, sometimes our fears come to us disguised as wisdom. When they do we can talk ourselves out of a goal that seems too difficult. Instead of feeling like a quitter, we feel smart to play it safe. It’s nothing more than giving up on our artistic dreams because we have inflated the consequences of failure.

Takeaway #4: There is no easy road

Writing is hard. It’s supposed to be. Writing is the act of creating ex nihilo–out of nothing. It’s not like a writer starts with a jumble of words with the intent to arrange them into well-formed series of paragraphs. No, the writer stares at a blank screen or a new pad of paper and then writes. First words, then sentences, paragraphs, chapters, and finally, a book. It’s a painful process.

Alli Worthington, the best-selling author of Fierce Faith: A Woman's Guide to Fighting Fear, Wrestling Worry, and Overcoming Anxiety, shared her four key steps to success: Show Up, Be Real, Love Others, and Don’t Quit. Showing up is the first step for any writer hoping to find success. You have to sit down and write–when you don’t feel like it, when you’re tired, when you’re blocked, and when you're discouraged.

Writing hurts. Like exercise, you don’t love life when you’re on the treadmill but you’re glad that you got through it. More than anything, you can’t quit. When I first started writing almost eight years ago I quit. Twice. It was the Tribe Writers online cohort that encouraged me and kept me moving forward. I’m so glad they did. This year I self-published my first book ever, Flannel-Graph Jesus: More Than A One-Dimensional Savior. It was a huge step for me and I couldn’t have done it without the support of my new Tribe friends, so many of whom were at the conference.


So, how are you doing in your art? Even more, how are you doing in general? All of these principles apply to writing but they also apply to other areas of life too. If you’re struggling, remember to tell yourself the right stories. You are a writer, or a painter, or a great mom, a great dad, an inspiring boss, a phenomenal student, and so on. Tell yourself good stories.

Remember to serve your audience and put other people's needs first. Ask the question, “how can I add value to someone else’s life?” and then go do it. Embrace fear by realizing it’s natural to worry about the mistakes or failure. Lastly, remember there’s no easy road. Someone once said, “the right thing to do and the hard thing are usually the same thing.” Show up, be real, love others, and don’t quit.

4 Things I Learned Self-Publishing My First Book

In two days, my first book will be officially released. It’s called, “Flannel-Graph Jesus: More Than a One-Dimensional Savior,” and to say I’ve learned a few things during the self-publishing process is an understatement. Here are four of my takeaways.

It’s About Dedication, Not Inspiration

When I first dreamed of becoming an author, I would write in fits and starts. Sometimes I would wake up in the morning and scribble a few paragraphs, and other times I would stay up deep into the night and polish off a few chapters. I was inconsistent and it got me nowhere.

What I found out was the only way to start and finish a book was to commit to a certain amount of writing each week and then stick to it. For me, it was Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 5–6am. Rather than wait for inspiration, I learned to channel it. Just the act of sitting at the keyboard early in the morning with nothing else to distract me induced creativity.

Sure, I had days when words did not come easily. But I found that the more I kept at it, the easier it became.

Believe In Yourself, Even When No One Else Does

Years ago, when I first attempted to write a book, I became discouraged when I shared my writing with friends and family and heard nothing back. I assumed that I wasn’t a good writer and that I should give up. Seth Godin says, “No one is going to pick you. Pick yourself.” I learned that other people are very busy and most don’t have time to be inspired by your dream.

Jeff Goins teaches that you have to call yourself a writer, first.Click To Tweet I remember going to each of my social profiles and changing my title to “Writer and Pastor.” Initially, it was a dubious title, but now it’s real. There’s power in words, especially when they are spoken internally and repeated often. Call yourself a writer and then work hard at it. Trust me, if I did it, you can too.

Editing Is Like Magic

In my early writing sessions, I would find myself getting bogged down in the minutia of a single paragraph — tweaking words and punctuation until I got it exactly correct. This is the wrong approach. While I was writing Flannel-Graph Jesus, I would sit down and get as many words onto the paper as possible, not going back to fix spelling or punctuation. As I learned, all of that can be handled during revision.

After I finished my completed manuscript at just under 30,000 words, I went back and did a rough edit — just fixing some obvious issues and clarifying areas of the book that needed adjustment. Then, I hired a copy-editor. Wow! An editor is a writer’s secret weapon. Yes, it cost a little money, but having a trained professional make suggestions, adjustments, and corrections was a game-changer. The process took longer than I thought it would, but I’ll be hiring an editor to help with all my manuscripts from now on. And don’t forget, all top writers have editors — it’s the just way it works.

The Publishing Process Takes Time

I self-published my book, which is to say, I was in charge of finding an editor, cover designer, layout designer, printer, shipping the books, and paying for all of it. I thought I could accomplish all of these tasks within a couple months. Not a chance.

First, I used Kickstarter to raise the money to pay for the publishing cost. This is essentially “pre-sales” of the book and allows people to support the project ahead of time. My Kickstarter campaign total exceeded my goal by more than $700, which was amazing. I raised about $3,700. However, Kickstarter takes 15–20 days to release the funds, not to mention taking about a 10% cut.

Additionally, working with the copy-editor took more time than I thought, not because she was slow, but because it’s a process that requires careful thought and plenty of decisions. Designing a book cover also takes a lot of time. Each revision may take a week or more and there are several revisions to make along the way. Lastly, it’s no small feat to coordinate the purchasing of ISBN numbers, bar codes, getting the manuscript uploaded to Kindle, iBooks, and shipped to

In the end, I had to push my release date back by about 30 days and I still had to rush to get everything done.

While challenging at times, this journey has been exhilarating and fun. I’ve already started working on my next book. Armed with a little experience and knowledge, I’m hoping to publish around this time next year.

Kickstarter Project: Flannelgraph Jesus

Another book about Jesus?

Yes! But I think you’ll like it. Here's why: First, it’s not for theologians or super Christians—it’s for everybody. You won’t need an exegetical dictionary to read it. You’ll only need to be interested in seeing Jesus in a refreshingly new light. Second, it might change your life. Scratch that, Jesus will change your life. Especially when you get a better understanding of how awesome he really was!

As a pastor, my dream is to help people get a clearer picture of Jesus. It's time to go beyond a one-dimensional picture of Christ and see the man, who lived, laughed, loved, and ultimately died for the world. He's so much more than just the Bible story Jesus. There are so many characteristics of his personality that go unnoticed or underappreciated.

I'm raising the funds so that I can self-publish the book. Here's a breakdown of how the money will be used:

* Cover Design $500

* Interior Layout $250

* Copy Editing $500

* First printing $1,000

* Marketing $500

* Miscellaneous $250

Total cost is $3,000

The first draft is already completed and is 22,000 words. After final editing and revisions, I expect to finish at 25,000. That will make the finished product about 125 pages.

Tentative Chapter Titles:

Didn't Know He Was Funny

Didn't Know He Was Tough

Didn't Know He Was Rebellious

Didn't Know He Was Teacher

Didn't Know He Was a Friend

Didn't Know He Was a Brother

Didn't Know He Was Creator

Didn't Know He Was Messiah

Risks and challenges

Because the first draft is already completed, the biggest challenge that I have now is editing. Currently, the manuscript is being reviewed by my team of “beta readers.” This is sort of like a test audience for movies. Once I hear back from my beta readers I will make changes and then submit to my editor.

I'm working with a couple people that have a lot of credibility in the Christian book publishing world so I'm getting lots of good guidance along the way.

Does What I Do REALLY Matter?

Photo by Dino Reichmuth on Unsplash

This is guest post by fellow Tribe Writer, Kandi Johnson. She is a writer, blogger, published author, and a certified health coach. Her blog celebrates life by offering people hope and inspiration from God’s perspective. Please check it out and sign up for her email list at She also has a 5-star rated book at called Healing Anorexia: Learning Acceptance by Embracing God's Love.

Do you question if what you do REALLY matters?  Who it matters to?  Is there a REASON that you not only exist but that there is something directing the paths of your days, hours, minutes?  I often question this myself.  As one who has served in many aspects of ministry leadership, I feel the weight of “making my life count”, and yet often find myself wandering aimlessly through days, and without notice, seasons and years pass by too quickly.

Recently, I had the awesome responsibility of writing the obituary for my mother, who passed away at the age of 92.  My mother spent her entire life as a Pastor’s wife, as well as holding numerous church leadership positions.  How would I sum up the life of such an amazing person who meant everything to you, as well as impacted the lives of so many around her, in 300 words?  As I considered her life (in chronological order), I realized that it was best to sum up her life based upon her favorite scripture, then expand from there.  At the top of the page, I penned Proverbs 3:5,6  which said “Trust in the Lord with all your heart.  Lean not to thy own understanding, but in all thy ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.”  As I considered this wisdom, I was able to grasp the true meaning of what her life meant, because she LIVED this scripture – she TRUSTED, ACKNOWLEDGED and allowed God to DIRECT her life.


Are you trusting in God?  Do you trust that He will not only provide the basics for you but also give you the desires of your heart?  Do you realize that Trust is rooted in Faith and is displayed by an optimistic outlook on life?  In Jeremiah 17:7 (NIV), scripture tells us that “Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord…”  When we view our lives with a negative outlook, we are not trusting in God.


Do you acknowledge God each day? “Do you give God credit where credit is due, or do you say you were “lucky” or “the stars were in alignment”?  Acknowledging God is also known as having a grateful heart and giving thanks to God.  Psalm 100:4,5 (NIV) says “Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise; give thanks to Him and praise His name.  For the Lord is good and His love endures forever; His faithfulness continues through all generations.”   When we greet each day with a thankful heart and go through each moment with a heart of appreciation, we not only have a more peaceful day, but we grasp a glimpse of our purpose in life, often in the eyes of others.

Do you give Him credit where credit is due, or do you say you were “lucky”Click To Tweet


Do you allow God to direct your life, or do you want to hang on to the wheel?  Psalm 25:4 (NIV) says “Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths.  Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.”  Instead of walking through each day in a fog, choose to make the most of each day by allowing God to guide you to His path – no matter what your tasks or day looks like.  Give your best because EVERYTHING you do is for Him.

As the scripture says in Proverbs – “In ALL your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths”.  When He is directing your path (which He IS when you acknowledge Him), you will find yourself looking back on your day and realizing that you did have meaningful encounters that you hadn’t planned, and your life, for that day, fulfilled His purpose.

Kandi Johnson, The Vibrant Author

Six Steps To Financial Freedom

In 2005 my wife and I were in the middle of a financial catastrophe that we created for ourselves. We were $70,000 in debt (not including our mortgage) and the financial strain was having a profoundly negative impact on our family and our ministry.

Then we made a drastic change. At the urging of my father, we enrolled in Financial Peace University (FPU), a program created by Christian money guru, Dave Ramsey. It was a game changer!

Within 3 years, my wife and I became debt free and began saving for the future. I cannot stress how important this was for our marriage, our family, and our ministry. I highly recommend FPU for anyone that is struggling with money, however, if you don't have the time to attend the class then here's are six steps that can help lead you to financial freedom.

1 – Make A Decision…No More Credit!

In Romans 13, the Apostle Paul takes time to stress the importance of paying what you owe. He shares this encouragement within the greater context of paying government taxes but the principle can be expanded. “Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.” (Romans 13:8)

When it comes to spending money, it's simple. Don't borrow. If you want to change your financial future you have to change your mind. You have to decide that you will never borrow money again. Period. Get rid of those credit cards. Say no to those credit offers from Target. Shred the endless credit card applications that you receive in the mail. This type of hardened resolve is what will provide the strong foundation for steps 2-6.

When it comes to spending money, it’s simple. Don’t borrow.Click To Tweet

2 – Make A Budget and Stick To It

I love the story that Jesus tells in the gospel of Luke. He says, “For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?” (Luke 14:28) Of course, Jesus is actually talking about the cost of discipleship, but there is an obvious financial implication in this parable. A half-built tower sends a message to all who pass by–the man failed to budget properly.

If you desire financial success you need to know how much you can spend each day, each week, and each month. That's called a budget. A good budget will help you reach your goals and most importantly a budget will inform you when to stop spending.

A couple things to remember when starting a budget. First, it won’t start working right away. It takes time— at least a few months—so don’t get discouraged. Second, simplicity is good. Sometimes the best way to start is with a pencil, pen, and a yellow pad. Fancy software based budgets and apps tend to overcomplicate the process and cause failure. Keep it simple!

3 – Make A Backup Plan

Budgets can only handle the costs that you are expecting. Unexpected costs, or emergencies, will break your budget quickly. Dave Ramsey recommends putting $1,000 in an emergency fund in order to cover emergencies. If you can’t do that right away, make at least 5-10% of your budget available for emergencies.

In Proverbs, Solomon illustrates this idea by pointing out the diligence of the ant. He says, “Though the ant has no ruler or chief, she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest.” (Prov 6:8)

The ant knows that winter is coming and that means she has to save for a time when disaster is imminent. For this tiny creature, emergencies are regularly occurring events. It’s the same for us. We should expect emergencies too. Tires wear out, people get sick, jobs can be lost, etc.

4 – Pay Off Your Debt

Drive downtown in any major city and look at the tallest buildings. What do they all have in common? They are almost always banks. Banks are in the business of lending money and let me tell you, business is good! At an average interest rate of 16.31%, banks know that you are a great investment. As long as you are someone else’s investment you will never get ahead.

According to The Motley Fool, the average American family carries more than $90,000 not including mortgage debt. That’s an incredible statistic. Even if those numbers are inflated by half it’s still a big problem.

When most people look at their mountain of debt they say, “I’ll never be able to pay that off.” But it’s not true. What you need is resolve and momentum. Cut back on all unnecessary expenses. Your mobile plan, cable bill, restaurant tab, and entertainment costs are good places to start. Remember this, you don’t have to give up the fun stuff forever, you just have to give it up while you are paying off debt. You can do anything, no matter how difficult or painful, if you know you don’t have to do it forever.

5 – Work, Work, Work

My friend has a bumper sticker on his car that says, “I owe, I owe, so off to work I go.” It’s funny and it’s true. The key to getting out of debt and staying out of debt is to work really hard. Proverbs 14:23 says, “In all toil there is profit, but mere talk tends only to poverty.” It’s time to stop talking about making a change and get to work.

Changing your financial future means working harder than you ever have before. Ask yourself, can I get extra shifts? Get an extra job? Get two extra jobs? People do it all the time. Of course it’s not fun but it won’t last forever.

Plus, the extra effort is good for you. When you realize how much work it takes to get out of debt on your own, you be less likely to climb into debt again. It’s important to “feel the pain” of your own bad mistakes. You dug the whole, you’ll have to climb out of it on your own.

6 – Set Aside God’s Money First

Truthfully, this is the most important factor when it comes to financial freedom. It’s something you need to consider doing first–before you take any other action financially.

How you spend your money says a lot about who you are spiritually. When you spend everything you have, borrow more, and pile up a load of debt, you’re being less than a good steward of what God has entrusted to you. Look no further than Jesus’ parable of the talents for instruction in this matter (Matthew 25:14-30).

Everything, and I mean everything belongs to God (Psalm 24:1) and he has blessed each of us with a small portion of it. Are you able to give back to him—first? Are you able to say, “Yes Lord, I trust you enough to give some of my blessing back to you, knowing that you’ll provide for me no matter what?”

wealth is not the acquisition of lots of money, it is the freedom from having to worry about acquiring a lot of moneyClick To Tweet

When you can cheerfully give to God first you’ll unlock the secret to financial freedom. See, wealth is not the acquisition of lots of money, it is the freedom from having to worry about acquiring a lot of money. See the difference?

In conclusion, let me say this. I know it’s hard. I’ve been there. At one time my life, family, marriage, and ministry were on the brink of collapse. But God changed me through the power of his word. If I did it, you can too.

Additional resources:


The New Church Guest Challenge

For the whole month of October, I have been on a sabbatical. It's been a refreshing experience for me. I've been able to read some books, spend time in prayer, and rest my spirit.

But being on sabbatical has also helped me gain a new insight on what it means to be a visitor to church. Each week I've attended a different church. It's such an exhilarating experience, walking into a brand new place, meeting new people, hearing a sermon (instead of giving one).

However, what strikes me most is how out of place and strange it feels to be a guest in a church. Frankly, it's kind of scary. Then it hit me, this is how EVERY new person feels when they walk into my church on Sunday. Just knowing what it feels like to be new helps to give me a sense of how I need to treat new each person that attends my church. So, I'm issuing “The New Church Guest Challenge” to you! Here's how you do it

1 – Tell your pastor you'll be missing for a week

It's not that you need their permission–unless you're volunteering every Sunday. Still, it's nice to let him or her know what you're up to. Truthfully, some pastors will be against the idea. Just assure them that your goal is to learn more about how to get better at welcoming new people to the congregation. If you go to a really big church you can probably skip this step.

2 – Decide to visit a nearby local church

Pick a church that is similar to your own. For example, if you go to a large Baptist church, don't choose a small Pentecostal church to visit. Instead, do your best to match size and denomination. Also, pick a place where you don't know anyone–that way you will have a truly “new” experience.

3 – Get the full experience

Arrive early enough to be greeted and maybe grab some coffee. Don't come 30 seconds before they start and miss all of the uncomfortableness. Also, bring the whole family (if they're willing). You will get some great insight from your kids on what it's like to be new too. It could be uncomfortable, but at least you'll be together.

4 – Remember what it feels like to be new

The goal is not for you to evaluate how well the other church does worship or preaching, the goal is for you to “feel” what it's like to be new. You'll notice things that you would have never noticed before and it will help you think of others and the way they feel when they visit your church.

You'll notice things that you would have never noticed before and it will help you think of others and the way they feel when they visit your church.Click To Tweet

5 – Talk about your experience with others

What was it that made you feel welcome? What made you feel like an outsider? Was it easy to find a parking space? Did you know where to go? These are things that you probably take for granted at your regular church but new people don't.

6 – Go back to your regular church and turn your findings into action!

So now that you remember the awkward feeling you'll be ready to react. For example, remember that long “meet & greet” at the church where you visited? If no one really came over to say ‘hi' now you know that you have to be that person at your own church. Find the newcomers and make them feel welcome. Does your church need better signage to direct guests to the restrooms or nursery? Point it out to someone that can make a difference.

So give it a try sometime and then let me know what you found out. I'm convinced that if we all put our heads together and learn from our experiences we will be helping people find the church and find Jesus. After all, isn't that the overall goal?

Six Surefire Ways To Alienate New People

Matheus Ferrero

Nobody tries to alienate people that are visiting church. As ministry leaders, we should be as inclusive as possible without sacrificing the message of the gospel. Even so, churches across the country are accidentally excluding potential attendees by simply forgetting what it's like to be new. We need to be intentional about what we do, what we say, and how we say it.

However, if you wish to ostracize your weekly visitors then, by all means, try these six surefire ways to alienate new people at your church.

Sing Songs That No One Knows

I know that your worship leader has been working on his/her new album and that the congregation loves it. However, the new people don't know those songs and can feel very alienated during the worship service. Even songs that were written and recorded by professional but little-known worship groups can be a challenge for the newcomer.

Solution? Consider playing at least a couple songs that are popular in case someone new shows up.

If you must play an obscure song, mix it into the set after you've brought the congregation into worship together and helped everyone connect to God.

Fail To Introduce Yourself To The Congregation

You wouldn't think this would matter too much but you would be surprised. A new person has no idea who anyone is. So, when someone gets on stage and starts talking, visitors don't know if that person is the lead pastor, an elder, a member, or some dude that had the guts to grab the mic.

By asking each speaker (announcements, welcome, offering talk, etc.) to start by saying something like, “Hi, my name is Bill and I'm on staff here..” or “My name is Paula and I'm a member here…” helps new people get some context for who is who.

This helps people feel more comfortable. By the way, when you don't do this, newcomers assume that almost everyone up on the stage is working at the church.

Have An Exceptionally Long Meet & Greet Time

First of all, you should ditch the “meet and greet.” You know what I'm talking about–it's the moment that the worship leader or pastor says, “hey there, take a few minutes and say hi to the people around you.” They might as well be saying, “hey there new people, for the next few minutes you'll be standing uncomfortably by your selves while everybody says hi to people they already know.”

Too harsh? Not really. Ask anyone who's visited a new church how they feel about being forced to meet new people in such a non-escapable environment. Only the most gregarious and outgoing new people appreciate the meet & greet.

Be Sure To Mention Situations and People Inclusive To The Church

How does it feel to be left out of a private joke? Pretty terrible. That's sort of the feeling that new people have when the pastor is speaking about a situation that only the current congregation knows about. “Remember when Tom flooded the basement?” he might say. “That was a bad day!” Well, we can only guess because we weren't there and we don't know who Tom is.

You could say, “In 2001, Tom, our janitor accidentally impaled a water pipe while installing the new sign for the children's area. By the time we figured out where the water was coming from we were standing in ankle deep water!” (autobiographical illustration, by the way)

That helps because you've given enough information to help even a first-time guest know what you talking about. They won't feel left out of the joke that way.

A related habit that a lot of ministry leaders have is referring to Bible passages and stories casually, assuming that everyone knows them. If you refer to a well-known Bible story or verse, don't assume everyone knows about it already. That's insider talk and it subconsciously excludes people who don't know the Bible.

Don't Give People Time To Find Bible Passages

As a preacher, this is a huge pet-peeve of mine. The reason? I used to do this A LOT! When I first starting preaching I would place bookmarks in my Bible ahead of time so I could find them fast. The problem was that no one else in the congregation could find them as quickly.

For example, if you are speaking and you say, “please turn to 1 Peter 3,” you need to turn there with everyone else. Once you get there, look out in the audience and see if most people are done flipping pages. Once they are, then you can reference the verse you're asking them to find.

You say, “but there will be a lot of silence while we are all looking.” Yeah, that's ok. People won't be listening to you when they are searching in their Bibles anyway. This is especially true for new people who aren't as familiar with the Bible as everyone else. For many visitors, this could be their very first experience with God's word. Make their first experience a positive one by helping them feel successful in finding the Bible verses you're talking about.

And for Heaven's sake (literally), use the Bible when you preach!

Overwhelm New People By Being Too Friendly

For a while, the greeters in our church were too happy to see new people. It's true! I actually got that feedback from a visitor once. They said, “your people were too happy to see me.”

What they meant was that the greeters sort of bombarded them on the way in the door. It's the same feeling you might've had the last time you walked onto a used car lot–the sales guy runs out of the office and attaches himself to your leg.

Smaller churches are especially susceptible to this problem for a couple reasons. First, because they tend to be so excited to see new people, hoping that the church will grow. Second, because there are fewer people it's easier to determine who is new.

The solution? Whelm people. Don't OVERwhelm them, don't UNDERwhelm them either. Just ‘whelm' them. Yes, it's a word.

Be happy to see them and welcome them cheerfully. Then let them experience the church at their own pace. Most visitors don't need to know everything about the congregation on their first visit.

6 Simple Keys to Presenting Powerful Sermons

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

This is a guest post by fellow Tribe Writer, Rachel Larkin. Rachel lives in New Zealand with her husband and their three young adult sons. She is the author of Simple Prayer: The Guide for Ordinary People Seeking the ExtraordinaryShe writes about growing in faith and developing your potential on her website She is also a practicing Chartered Accountant, a homeschooler for 14 years, and craves chocolate constantly.

To find out more on seeing God turn up in your daily life, Rachel has a free eBook available for download – The Untold Story: 7 Steps to Seeing God in the Midst of your Real Messy Life. Make sure to check it out!

All preachers, teachers, and speakers want an audience that is interested in what they have to say. We desire to engage the listeners with our message. After listening to decades of sermons in my life and preaching for the past couple of years I have discovered 6 simple keys to presenting powerful sermons, messages that will resonate with people and inspire personal transformation.

Keep it Simple

The sermons that are remembered are the simple ones. Unless you are speaking to a theology class, cut out all the long technical jargon and keep your language simple.

Resist the temptation to go off on tangents. Make sure each point is related to your theme, each illustration is appropriate and is illustrating the point.

This doesn’t mean that you can’t tackle the complicated topics – just break the topic down to its core. You might only focus on one or two aspects of the topic. That’s okay, there is always another time to cover the other sides. Don’t feel that you must cover everything in one message.

Be Vulnerable

People love to hear personal stories. Sprinkle some of your own experiences that relate to your topic into your message. Be vulnerable and open up your life. Let your audience know that you are also on the same journey as they are. No one has ‘arrived’ at perfection, we are all still growing and learning.

One Takeaway Point

A Sunday morning thirty-minute message only needs one takeaway point. This is an overall theme that is woven throughout. It flavours through every illustration, Bible verse and structure of the message. Emphasise this takeaway point at the end by including a call to action – what does the listener need to do, think, or believe now?

A Sunday morning thirty-minute message only needs one takeaway point.Click To Tweet

Make Good Use of Technology

When I was a young girl sitting in church, there was no technology and we were taught to sit for long periods of time listening to the sermon. Today we have access to amazing technology that if used well can enhance and inspire our listeners. Technology takes advantage of our listeners senses.

Include a short video clip, image or sound bite that helps to reinforce your point. But keep it simple. Don’t fill your PowerPoint slides with lots of words – white space is good. Our pastor delivered the most memorable sermon when he wore a Roman soldiers uniform with all the armor and weaponry – it bought Ephesians chapter 6 alive!

Preach the Word

“The sermon which does not lead to Christ, or of which Jesus Christ is not the top and the bottom, is a sort of sermon that will make the devils in hell laugh, but make the angels of God weep.”- Charles Spurgeon

Ensure that Christ and the Word is central. For Him to be glorified in our preaching, He needs to feature in our sermons.

Pray for your Listeners

The most important key to a powerful and engaging sermon is prayer. Soak your sermon preparation time in prayer. Pray before you start thinking of ideas. Pray as you research. Pray when you organise your structure. Pray as your type up your notes. Pray as you practice.

Pray not just for yourself but primarily for your listeners. Pray that the right people attend – people who need to hear the message that is on your heart. Pray that they will understand and hear God’s voice speaking to them personally. Pray for the soil of their hearts.

Now over to you – what do think makes a sermon powerful and engaging? Share your discoveries in the comments below.


10 Bizarre Things That Have Been Said To Me

I have been a pastor for almost 15 years. In that time, some funny and relatively bizarre things have been said to me. Don't get the idea that anything here makes me mad, or that I'm frustrated with being a pastor. I love my congregation and have a lot of patience. Plus, I've said some dumb things too! (When are you expecting?)

These are just a few notable (and funny) things that have been said to me.

“I'm pretty sure the communion bread in the Bible was gluten-free.”

This was after a conversation on whether or not our communion bread was, in fact, gluten-free (we use pita bread). I'm not sure they even knew what gluten was back then. Truth is, I only learned about it a couple years ago.

“That was a great sermon, I agreed with most of it”

I love getting feedback from the congregation. Most of the time it's helpful. I did follow up and ask him which parts he disagreed with. He declined to answer.

“Hey, you're finally a real pastor now!”

When I first became ordained in 2003, my title was “Worship Pastor.” When I became the lead pastor in 2007 I guess my powers were upgraded or something.

“Wow Pastor, you've really put on some weight!”

This very observant lady hadn't been to church in a while. When she came back she kindly reminded me that I was fat! The problem was…she was right! I had gained 20 pounds while she was gone. My wife and I went on a diet after that.

“But he sold me bad drugs”

When one parishioner complains about receiving a bad batch of drugs from another parishioner you've got trouble. I really didn't know what to say so I asked, “how do you know they were bad?” He said, “I didn't get high.”

“I saw [a] Halloween pumpkin from the entrance of sanctuary… Who they are [sic] serving?”

Ok, this wasn't said to me but was posted as a review on Google along with one star. ONE STAR! Never mind the fact that the pumpkins were carved by the youth group as a game, and that it was a scripture reference that was carved into them! Galatians 2:20

“It's clear you have abdicated your responsibility to the church”

After I looked up the word “abdicated” (who says that?) I realized that it was not a compliment. This gentleman was upset because I would not implement his plan to upgrade the stage, lighting, and sound in our sanctuary. By the way, abdicate means, “to abandon, give up, or disown.” Wow!

“Tell me the next time you’re preaching so I can bring my friend”

Ok, no pressure. So if I didn't preach or if I got hit by a bus you would never bring a friend? In truth, I think this individual meant it as a compliment. So, thank you!

“So, what do you do for a real job?”

This has actually been said to me a few times. It kind of blows me away. Once I said, “well, this is my job” to which the man replied, “I know you're the pastor, but what do you do to make money.” Where does he think his tithe money goes? In fairness, it only seems like pastors work for 30 minutes each week.

“Please pray for my pet hamster, he died this week.”

A little kid said this to me so, yes, it's cute. I didn't know what to say. Is there hamster purgatory? Does this explain that strange Bible passage about the baptism of the dead? (1 Cor 15:29) You know what I did? I prayed for the hamster!

If you're in ministry, what funny or crazy things have been said to you. Or, what have you said that you wish you could take back. Let me know in the comments section!