Quick Tip: Creative Inspiration

October 4, 2016

 What do you do with mail like the catalog above?

I think a lot of pastors toss it right away.  They assume that there is nothing that fits with their current context, their style, or their budget.

But why not use this type of material to fuel your creativity?

As you can see, this particular catalog focuses heavily on Christmas.  I don't know about you, but one of the greatest challenges that I face on a yearly basis is how to repackage the wonderful advent story in a fresh way.

I like to look at publications like this for ideas. 

For instance, I noticed that they are selling a sermon package called The Gifts of Christmas for somewhere between $59.95 to $89.00 depending upon the package you choose. You can have it all - sermons, slides, bumpers, planning guides, graphics, etc.

Personally, I don't care to preach a packaged sermon series.  Now, please don't misunderstand; I am not finding fault with those who do. I assume that most who do use the prepacked sermons do the required work to "make it their own."  But the few times that I have preached messages that were pre-prepared, I did not feel comfortable.  If we were to do a church-wide campaign, I would rework the suggested sermons.

While I don't care to preach these packages , I am open to creative ideas!  

Without knowing much about this particular sermon package set, I did see the 4 Gifts, and I assume the passages of Scripture that they're based on.

Gift 1 - Hope (Romans 15:12)
Gift 2 - Love (John 3:16)
Gift 3 - Joy (Luke 2:10)
Gift 4 - Peace (Isaiah 9:6)

With that information alone, I could go to work creating a memorable Christmas sermon series all for the incredibly low price of $0.00!  Of course, I would NOT use their graphics. I might not even use their series title, but I will gladly use the creative inspiration!*

I might call the series: Gifts from Jesus, or Gifts from God, or Christmas Gifts that Everyone Needs, or Gifts that Would Not Be Returned, or Gifts Everyone Will Love.

I might even change the Scripture passages and order that they are preached. 

Do you get the idea?  

Just be open to the creativity that is around you.  

It even arrives in your mailbox for free!!  

In case you've already thrown away the catalog and need some creative inspiration, here are some of the ways that I've approached the Christmas story over the years:

Don't Miss Christmas - we looked at some of the characters that missed Christmas (Innkeeper, Herod, the Religious Leaders)  I got this idea from a chapter in a John MacArthur book.  Inspiration from one chapter was developed into a full series.

Angel Errands - We followed the angels as they delivered the messages to Mary, Joseph, and the Shepherds 

Christmas Carols - Incorporating the Beloved Carols with the Scripture (our people really seemed to enjoy these).  This can be a series that you pull out more than once since there are plenty of songs to choose from!

Journey to Bethlehem - In the first message I answered the question - Why Bethlehem?  In the following messages we traveled with the various characters to Bethlehem (wise men, shepherds, Mary & Joseph)

Lessons from Luke Chapter 2 - We simply stayed in this chapter for the entire Christmas series

Do you see how a little creativity can go such a long way?  You have the same glorious story, but in different packages!


*I actually preached a series similar to this back in 2010 that I called Gifts from Our Shepherd.  It was based on Psalm 23 (the gifts of peace, rest, guidance, courage, care, and life).  This series began before Christmas and ended after.

I keep a whole shelf of Christmas books, devotionals, stories behind the carols, etc., for inspiration and illustration purposes.

You'll find several of these messages and series on our iTunes page.  Just scroll by dates to see the Christmas series. Most recordings begin with music, so you'll have to fast forward.

Want to use some of my Christmas series ideas in your church?  Help yourself!  More information on this can be found here

5 Ways Your Cell Phone Can Help Your Ministry

October 3, 2016

If you're like most pastors, you're BUSY!  And I assume if you're reading this blog, you probably don't have a lot of paid help.  That's OK.  That just means that you need to be smart and efficient in the use of your tools and time.

And since you don't have a lot of time, I'll keep this post short and to the point.

Here are 5 ways your cell phone can help you in your ministry efficiency:

1. It can help you contact your members

Take the time to enter your congregations contact information into your address book.  You'll be so glad you did, when you are out and about and you need to call, text, email, or visit someone.  This is especially helpful when responding to emergencies.

I know it takes quite a bit of time up front, but it will save you in the long run.

2. It can help you remember what you read

Using a Scanner app is such a wonderful way to file away that great quote, insight, or devotional you just read.  Just scan the page, save it to Evernote, email it to yourself, or send it to whatever storage system you usually use.  This will save you so much time and frustration when you're preparing a sermon, and trying to remember where you read that great story!

3. It can serve as your digital brain

This is where Evernote comes in.  I don't have time to go into all the wonderful ways you can use Evernote for ministry (certainly a post for the future), but suffice it to say this is one of the best tools that I've ever used!  Check it out. I think you'll be glad you did.

4. It can remind you of stuff

With Reminders, To Do Lists, Productivity apps and the like, you can set reminders and forget about the item.  When the time comes, you'll get an alarm. This frees up your brain to concentrate on other matters.

I use an app called Capito.  Whenever I think of something while out of the office, it simply emails my note to me.

5. It can make you look professional

OK, I'm not talking about the phone itself.  I'm talking about the ability to make professional looking graphics to use on your personal or social media feeds.

There are lots to explore, but I use an app called VintageDesign.  In a matter of minutes I can make an image that looks like it was done professionally.  It is quick, easy, and quite intuitive - and a whole lot cheaper than a designer!

Of course, any designers reading this might disagree with my assessment of how professional it looks! 

Here is a sample image that I made and used recently:

I hope this list will inspire you to use that cell phone for something other than an alarm clock and an email device.

Do you have other ways that your cellphone makes you a productivity superstar?  If so, share them with me in the comments section below. I'd love to hear from you!

Note: I use Apple products, but I'm sure that there are similar apps for Android devices.  Plus, some apps are available on both. 

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