Preaching and the Importance of Landing The Plane

I felt this panic come over me. At this point I had only taught a handful of times and I found myself at the end of my notes. I had nothing left to talk about, I’d made all three of my points and I was done. Out of nowhere I said a concluding sentence, prayed and walked off stage. The only thing worse would have been to drop my mic in the process.

I was new to this preaching thing and had spent all my time working on the main points of my message. I had completely forgot about how I was going to “land it”. In turn, it was a completely abrupt, drop out of the sky finish that left everyone jarred and confused.

landing the plane.jpg

Very often we don’t give our conclusion enough credit.

Some times we treat it like an obligation. We repeat everything we’ve already covered, we pray, cover that same material again in our prayer…and then we dismiss.

Our closing is so much more than that. It is the “landing of the plane” after a journey through life and scripture together. 

In order for a conclusion to be as effective as possible we need to know how we are going to end our message (aka “land the plane”) before we even begin writing our message.

A predefined conclusion becomes the deciding factor.

By knowing where you are headed with a given message, you now have the necessary tools to help you focus your content. Does the funny story you want to tell help you move toward your conclusion?

Just like flying a plane, your planning is heavily effected by where your flight is ending. Your destination helps you decide how much fuel to bring, how many staff will be necessary, etc. The same is true with teaching. Knowing how you will conclude your message helps you decide what is most important to teach and what can wait for another day.

A predefined conclusion helps the landing seem smoother.

Landing a plane doesn’t just happen over the runway, it’s something that begins miles out. The pilot begins a process of steps down as he prepares the plane to land.

The same is true in preaching. Moving toward conclusion isn’t just a summary of the message, it is helping your audience answer the question “So what?”

Your conclusion helps them to bring your message down to earth and to apply it to their every day life.

A predefined conclusion means you can answer this question:

What do I want my audience to do as a result of this message?

The answer to that question is your conclusion, it is the landing strip for your message.

Your conclusion is the landing strip for your message.
— StevenJBarker

Take that question a step further and outline what implementation looks like for each demographic in your audience (singles, married, job seekers, managers, men, women, students, etc.)

Understanding your conclusion prior to writing your message helps to focus your preparation time and to focus your content.

Still struggling uncover your predefined conclusion? Read “The Most Under Recognized Ingredient in a Powerful Message”.

How Many Volunteers Do We Need?

There is a simple concept that is true in business: you need to make money.

Spend less than you bring in and you end up with a profit.

In any profitable business, employees should pay for themselves in sales, whether they in some way support the sale or especially if they make the sale. The job of a manager is to find the sweet spot between customer experience and employee cost.

It makes sense. A great customer experience at the optimal and minimum appropriate expense. As long as that ratio is right, you make money, you grow. Get it wrong and eventually you can’t afford to have employees.

But when it comes to church, that same concept doesn’t apply.

One of our campuses recently moved to a new location with a much smaller parking lot then we were used to. Our team has done an incredible job creating a hands-on parking experience for each of our guests. Each person is handled with care and they have ensured that no family or vehicle leaves because they “couldn’t find a spot”.

It’s been awesome, but there is a question brewing on the horizon.

How many volunteers do we need?

There are three factors that must be considered:

  1. What kind of experience are we trying to create for our guests?

    On any given weekend we are creating an experience for our guests. Just like inviting someone into your home, we need to get ready. We make sure the house is clean, that there is a place to sit and that everyone feels “at home”. Church is not different. So, if we can identify what kind of experience we are trying to create for our guests we’ve got a great place to start.

    Using the parking lot example -- we want each family that drives onto the lot to know we’ve been expecting them and we’ve saved them a parking spot. That’s objective #1.
  2. In order to deliver that experience, how many volunteers can we create spots for?

    To clarify, it is not how many volunteers do we need, it’s how many can we create spots for? While it can be easy to get sucked into a scarcity mentality we’ve got to fight that urge. So for a moment, remove the “realist” part of your brain and write down what an amazing experience would look like driving into that parking lot. Someone waving at the street. Someone “tour guiding” you to the perfect open parking spot, close to the door. Another handing you an umbrella on a rainy day. Cast vision for what an amazing experience it would be for your guests if you created that kind of experience.
  3. Does each volunteer role feel like it’s contributing something valuable?

    Can you think of anything less motivating than volunteering your time and effort to something that has zero impact? I can’t.

    Creating multiple volunteers is important, but each must be making an impact. If you don’t have a parking problem, do you actually need a bunch of volunteers standing around? You might not.

Helping the people in your church find a valuable contribution they can make helps them feel like this is not “the church,” it’s “their church.” That is exactly what you want for them. Let them have some skin in the game and look for opportunities for your people to have measurable impact.

Here’s your next step:

  1. Take any one of your environments and make a list of every possible position available to create a fantastic guest experience. Don't add volunteer names to the list, just positions. We call this blanks on a page.
  2. Subtract any position that would make someone feel like they were wasting their time.
  3. Decide what triggers the need for more volunteer spots.

In our example, during a service where 50% of the spots remain available a skeleton volunteer staff is all that is needed, but when we anticipate the parking lot being 75% full, we’ve got to call all hands on deck to maintain a quality experience.

Here’s the simple math:

Maximum Volunteer List
Boring Volunteer Roles
"All Hands" Triggers

The Perfect Volunteer Team

For more on how to recruit without job descriptions see “2 Reasons to Stop Building Your Volunteer Org Chart, Plus 1 Alternative” [link].

2 Reasons to Stop Building Your Volunteer Org Chart, Plus 1 Alternative

Volunteer Org Chart.jpg

I made a mistake when I first started out in ministry. I decided that I need to build an org chart. It was awesome. It had every possible roll I could think of and it was a masterpiece of an org chart. Everyone had a span of care, everyone had a role. It was a beautiful thing, but it was a huge waste of time for 2 reasons. 

1. It was completely focused on process and not outcomes. 

In fact one could argue it was solving a problem that wasn’t a problem yet. Organizing the teams wasn’t as important as focusing on the outcome. Focusing on what you want to accomplish is your most important step. Then solve the problem of how the team needs to work together to deliver that outcome. 

2. It makes people into pawns and not team members. 

When you start with an organizational chart, it isn’t long before you look at people like pawns. Your “in head narrator” begins to address people as chess pieces that will help you fill spots in your org chart. Yup, that’s just cold…and who really wants to sign up for that! 

So, what do you do instead? 

Start with the problem you’re trying to solve. That problem, and the desired outcome are the focus. When you start asking people to help, you’re asking them to be a part of the solution…not a part of the game. 

Give that problem a time line, "I’d like to solve this problem in the next 4 months. Can you help?” 

Now, that’s a much more efficient use of your time!