Thursday, November 16, 2017

Don't Wait Until It is Too Late to Change

I arrived at the meeting early. I wanted time to collect my thoughts and to pray. I knew it was possible the meeting would go poorly, as the subject to be discussed was a very challenging one. The group was deciding if it was time for their ministry to come to an end.

I wish I could say I've only been in one or two such meetings, but in my role as a denominational leader, I've been in many of them. Sometimes the situation could be managed and was turned around in positive ways. Most often, the group had waited too long to change.

Many churches and ministry organizations across our nation are struggling to survive. There are many reasons for this struggle, but most often it happens because somewhere along the way the group declined to make the changes that were needed to remain vibrant. Because of the deep commitment level that most Christians have toward their church and other related ministries, a small group can keep a ministry going long after the ministry's peak effectiveness has passed. But they enter into a period of long slow decline, often expending greater and greater energy but seeing less and less results. They hope something will change, even though they do everything possible to keep change from happening. What they often look for is a young vibrant leader who will enthusiastically lead them to remain exactly the same. Rarely does that plan work and even when it does, it often only temporarily delays the inevitable. 

When churches, or other ministry organizations are in decline, but refuse to change, the rate of decline often accelerates at the same time that the number of viable options for change are reduced. Though there are many points along the way when they could have made the decision to change, those points become farther and father apart and the options available to them become fewer and fewer. There finally comes a point when nothing can be done to reverse the decline and closure is inevitable. That is always a sad point to arrive at for those who are left to clean up what little remains. 

How do we avoid seeing a once vibrant ministry end? The key is to change early enough in the process to actually improve the situation while there is still energy and resources available for an effective shift in direction. This requires leaders who are brave enough to do something different. This requires leaders willing to release control. Most of all, this requires leaders who are willing to ask Christ, the Master and Savior of All, to help them re-envision what it means to follow Him and help them return to their first love. When that happens, change comes quickly. It is not without pain or a sense of loss. But it is a necessary part of the process and will produce amazing results.


While many churches and other ministries are unable to make the shift, those that do experience a glorious rebirth. Churches can be revived. Ministries can refocus. But it will look different than it did in the past. And that's not necessarily a bad thing, if we are brave enough to try something different.

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Dr. Terry W. Dorsett has been a pastor, church planter, denominational leader and author in New England for more than 20 years. He is a happy husband, a proud father and adoring grandfather. He is a cancer survivor and believes that God works powerfully through times of suffering. He writes extensively and you can find all of his books at:



Friday, November 10, 2017

Be Prepared for Ministry Opportunities

One of the saddest stories in the New Testament is found in Matthew 25:1-13. That story relates how ten virgins were waiting for the bridegroom to come so they could enjoy an amazing wedding feast. Five of those virgins had brought extra oil so that no matter when the bridegroom came, they would be ready to join in the festivities. The other five had not make preparations and instead were just hoping everything would work out in their favor. If you recall, the hour grew late, and when the bridegroom finally came, the five unprepared virgins had to run off to the store to buy more oil, while those who were prepared were able to enter into the party and join in the celebration. When the unprepared ladies finally returned, the door of opportunity was closed. They did not get to join in the festivities.
The reason I find this story sad is because all ten of the ladies knew the bridegroom was coming. They knew this was going to happen eventually, even though they did not know the exact moment. Clearly all ten had the ability and the resources to be prepared. All ten had lamps. All ten had some oil and the money to buy more. But only half of them actually took the time and energy to make adequate preparations so that no matter when the bridegroom came, they would be ready. The rest were unprepared, and once the opportunity passed, there was no way for the ones who were not prepared to get it back.
When I think of crisis type ministries like disaster relief or similar crisis type situations, this story comes to mind. It is not a question of IF a disaster or crisis will come, but WHEN. Sometimes disasters are spaced out over a long period of time. During those periods of calmness, it is easy to get complacent and relax in our preparations. But other times disasters come in groups, like the three hurricanes that recently hit the United States and its territory Puerto Rico, followed by the mass shooting in a mall and then a church. We know disasters are going to happen, even if we don’t know when. The only way to be adequately ready to respond is to already be prepared in advance. That is why training, in advance, is important. That is why having funding set aside and dedicated to crisis management is important. Otherwise the disaster comes and is gone before we have time to mobilize and finance the relief effort.
I am thankful that for people, and ministries like that have maintained a constant state of readiness. When the hurricanes hit, they were ready to go. When a mass shooting happened, they had trained trauma chaplains ready to respond. Regretfully, many Christians missed the chance to respond because they were not ready. But now is our chance to change that. The situations in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico are ongoing. So let’s get trained now so we can go. Another disaster or crisis will happen, and if we want to join in the relief efforts, we must be ready. Let’s be prepared so that we do not miss our opportunity to touch lives in the name of Christ when a disaster strikes.
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Dr. Terry W. Dorsett has been a pastor, church planter, denominational leader and author in New England for more than 20 years. He is a happy husband, a proud father and adoring grandfather. He is a cancer survivor and believes that God works powerfully through times of suffering. He writes extensively and you can find all of his books at:


Monday, October 23, 2017

Embracing Change in Your Church

Proverbs 3:5-6 (CSB) Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; in all your ways know him, and he will make your paths straight.

In my ministry I serve a lot of struggling churches. Most reach out to me because some problem or difficulty has upset their equilibrium and they need assistance getting things back on track. Though they often call for help about the specific challenge that has interfered with the status quo, it does not take long before they reveal some systemic problem, or a series of problems, that led to the event in question. They have often already come to the realization that the specific issue they are calling about is really just a symptom of bigger issues. And those bigger issues are what they actually want help with.

When they reach out to my ministry for help, the vast majority of these churches approach the process with an open mind and respond in cautious but positive ways about how to make changes that will put them back on a course toward spiritual health and organizational vitality. But some are determined, before the process even begins, that they are not going to change, no matter what. Such churches are doomed to fail. 

When churches ask for help but have already decided they do not want to change, what they really want is money, or other resources, that will allow them to continue in their ineffectiveness. They want someone else to pay the bills so they can keep doing what they have always done, even though it no longer works as effectively as it once did. This is a sad situation. Such churches seldom like my suggestions.

Any ministry, even one as large as the one I lead, has limits. Though I try to say yes as often as I can and meet with and consult with as many churches as I can, there are only so many hours in a week and only so many resource we can devote to any specific situation. Sometimes I have to say no to a well deserving church that wants to do things better. You can imagine the internal dilemma I face when a church that does not want to solve issues makes demands on my time and financial resources after they have made it clear they do not intend to make the changes needed to become healthier. Those are hard weeks.

Recently I was trying to help a church that was on the  brink of closure. Their problems were many but the short version is the pastor thought he had to personally oversee every ministry and make every decision, and his congregation was quite willing to let him do it. When I suggested it was time to delegate and let others assist him in leadership, it was clear that was not going to happen. Instead, they just wanted me to find money to help them have a full time pastor for a congregation of less than 20 people. You can imagine how the conversation went when I suggested a congregation of less than 20 might not need a full time pastor. I showed them scriptures about each person using their spiritual gifts to make a church strong, instead of just letting the pastor  do everything. I shared stories of other churches in similar situations as theirs who had expanded their leadership and we're doing better. I even offered certain training programs to them at a reduced cost. None of it interested them. They just wanted someone else to pay the bill so they could keep doing what they have always done. When I declined, they declared that I did not have a heart for the small church. Anyone who knows me knows quite the opposite is true. But alas, such is the life of a denominational servant.

In order to stay healthy, every organization has to undergo change. That does not mean we must compromise our theological beliefs. But it does mean we have change the way we function, the way we relate to each other, they way we serve the surrounding community, or perhaps he way we handle our funds, in order to remain vibrant. When churches, para-church ministries, or denominational organizations and agencies fail to accept change as part of their organizational lives, failure is inevitable. The time has come to embrace change, even when it makes us feel uncomfortable.

Lord, give us the wisdom to see when, what and who must change for our ministries to move forward in positive ways. Amen.

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Dr. Terry W. Dorsett has been a pastor, church planter, denominational leader and author in New England for more than 20 years. He is a happy husband, a proud father and adoring grandfather. He is a cancer survivor and believes that God works powerfully through times of suffering. He writes extensively and you can find all of his books at:


Sunday, October 22, 2017

Churches of All Sizes Are Impacting Cities For Christ


Matthew 5:14 - You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.

I am thankful for churches of all sizes, small, medium, big and mega. I served on staff  at a mega-church in Virginia that had over 8,000 in worship. I have also been the pastor of a mountain village church in Vermont that only had 20 people in worship when I became their pastor. I've served on staff, and also been the pastor, of churches that were medium sized. This gives me a great appreciation for churches of all sizes. They all have a part to play in reaching our nation for Christ, including our big cities.

But I must confess, sometimes I grow weary of the narrative that is common right now in Christendom. That narrative is that only mega-churches have the resources to impact cities for Christ. We must realize that small churches are not waiting for "big churches" to reach their cities for Christ. Small churches are already doing it. Every week small churches in urban areas (and in rural ones) will worship the Lord while ministering to broken families, helping addicts, passing out food to the hungry and clothing those in need. The leaders of those churches, most often bivocational pastors and overworked deacons, will pray with people, hear their stories and share Christ's love with those on the margins of society. Their stories will never be on the cover of Outreach magazine, but that does not lessen the impact of their ministry. Thank God for these unsung heroes of the faith!

Because of this false narrative that only mega-churches can impact cities, far too many people are waiting for the knight in shining armor to show up and solve their city's problems. They do not realize that the King of Kings has already deployed his army, the church. And that churches are all sizes are already hard at work solving those very problems in Jesus's name.

I'm thankful for mega-churches willing to invest their significant resources in changing a city for Christ, But they are not the only ones in the trenches. Good leaders from good churches have been doing it for decades. While small church leaders welcome reinforcements, don't think they are hiding in the basement of their small churches waiting for a hero to come rescue them. Those leaders of small churches are the heroes and they are getting the job done, but they sure would like some help. Let's help them instead of supplanting them. Let's partner with them, instead of pushing them aside because their buildings are not fancy and their brochures are not on glossy paper.

Today, instead of waiting for famous some TV preacher to start some new urban initiative, go find a church (one of ANY size) and get to work. Become part of the solution! Stop waiting for a hero, become the hero.

Lord, help each of us to be the light in the darkness for those who need You. Keep us from waiting for someone else to do it. Help us to be the one who goes in Your name. Amen.

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Dr. Terry W. Dorsett has been a pastor, church planter, denominational leader and author in New England for more than 20 years. He is a happy husband, a proud father and adoring grandfather. He is a cancer survivor and believes that God works powerfully through times of suffering. He writes extensively and you can find all of his books at:


Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Youth Group No Longer Fills the Social Need - Guest Post by Andy Lawrenson

DiscipleshipI remember when I was in jr. high I lived for our youth group’s weekend events. I would go to every possible one. Roller skating? I was in. Camping? I was in. Lock Ins? I was in. 
Every Wednesday night I would go to youth group. I did this all the way through my high school years until I graduated. I loved the fun that youth group brought. I loved just hanging out with my friends and youth group brought that social opportunity for me. I didn’t go for the great teaching I was receiving from some awesome youth pastors. I was going so I could be socially active with my peers and friends. I never asked myself, “Should I go?”. Now granted my parents played a big roll in that as well because church was not optional.
Twenty-five years or so ago when I started on this student ministry journey students were just like me. They loved coming to youth group and going on activities because it connected them socially. The only way to connect back then was by the phone on the kitchen wall. Cell phones had not arrived on scene. Then came the cell phone but then students still loved youth group and activities because cell phones could do one thing and that was make a call. Students wanted to connect face to face.
Fast forward to 2013. I began to wonder in student ministry, “What are we doing wrong?” For the past several years we have been constantly changing things up because we could see the noticeable drop in student’s participation in youth group and church. We were doing things that kids would have lined up for 11 or 12 years ago, even 5 years ago. Last year we had our lowest number sign up for camp. Last year we had two events that we had to cancel because two, only two, students signed up. They weren’t lame events either, archery tag was one of the events. I have even noticed this at Friday night football games. Where are the students?
In my frustration I started praying and seeking and reading and trying to figure out what is going on with our youth group. As I talked to other student ministers they were experiencing the same things we were experiencing. One friend’s youth group went from running 80 students to running only 25 the next year and they were doing the same things that made youth group exciting and relevant for the 80.
Over the past few weeks I stumbled across articles about the iGeneration (Generation Z). Students who have known smartphones for the majority of their lives. I started reading the articles and studies. The impact that smart phones has had on our teens is incredible, both for the good and bad. Sexual activity is down. Why? Because they aren’t dating like students did years ago because their faces are constantly looking at a screen. Suicides are up about 200%!! Why? The abuse and loneliness that has set in from a constant attachment to what everyone thinks about you and it’s being snapchatted and instagrammed constantly.
I finally made the connection. None of these articles have had anything to do with God, the church, or youth group. The articles have all been about the mental state of our teens. They have looked at the huge changes in our teen’s social lives as a result of the smart phone.
I went to youth group growing up mainly to fill a social need in my life. I wanted to hang with friends and youth group and youth group activities gave me that opportunity.
 Students today are having that social need filled by looking at a screen, texting, snapchat, etc.
Why come to youth group, especially if their social need is being met elsewhere?
I have been saying for a few years now that youth group has changed. What will youth group look like over the next ten years? Remember we used to lose sophomores and juniors when they got their drivers license? Now we lose them when they get their iPhone. . . . 5th grade.

Let me just say to all of us in student ministry that they days of doing youth group the way we have always done student ministry is gone. It is time to figure out student ministry for the future, for youth group in 2017/2018.
What will have to change in your church’s approach to student ministry to keep student ministry alive and viable?

Used with permission.

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Andy Lawrenson

is the student and ministry teams pastor at Nags Head Church in North Carolina. Andy has been in student ministry for 25 years as both a volunteer and a paid staff member. Andy and his wife, Misha, have been married for 28 years and have three children: a son in middle school and twin eight-year-olds, a boy and girl. Andy loves getting together with other youth pastors to talk about youth ministry, and he is involved in a local youth ministry network. Andy also enjoys speaking at student conferences and camps. He has been serving at Nags Head Church for 16 years with a great volunteer team.
Andy is a Youth ministry, church strategy specialist. With lots of humor and with life-changing insights, Andy can help your church define its goals, formulate a realistic plan, and (most importantly) truly come together as a team.

Monday, October 16, 2017

You Are Not Alone

Ministry is often challenging, lonely and frustrating, especially in places like New England, where churches tend to be smaller and less influential on the broader culture. I have dedicated the last twenty years of my life to helping ministry leaders overcome those challenges through partnering, equipping and encouraging. It is my goal to assist churches in my sphere of influence in removing barriers and obstacles that keep from fulfilling the mission God has given them.

For example, Bill Stack, pastor Haven Baptist Church, New Bedford, MA, reached out to me a few months ago about some significant renovations that had to be done to his building in order to comply with city codes. I was able to connect him to a church in Texas that is going to partner with him over the next three years to repair their building and see a vibrant church in that sacred space once again.

I am also working on a project with a group of Hispanic and Haitian leaders to develop materials in Spanish and French that will teach tithing and biblical stewardship to their members. The goal is to equip those two groups of churches to be healthier and stronger in the fulfillment of their mission.

The point I am trying to make is that ministry leaders do not need to be alone. If you are part of a network, denomination, fellowship or group of churches, take the time to learn what they offer and then use those resources to make your church stronger. If your church is not part of such a group, consider joining one. Being "non-denominational" is not as great as many people think it is, especially for smaller churches that really need some assistance to get to the next level. If your church is in New England, then I would be happy to chat with you about connecting with our network. You can reach out to me at tdorsett@bcne.net


Effective churches are part of a larger team. You do not have to be alone. Join the team and take a giant leap forward in fulfilling your church's mission.

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Dr. Terry W. Dorsett has been a pastor, church planter, denominational leader and author in New England for more than 20 years. He is a happy husband, a proud father and adoring grandfather. He is a cancer survivor and believes that God works powerfully through times of suffering. He writes extensively and you can find all of his books at:




Monday, October 9, 2017

Ministry Motivations

James 3:16-18 reminds us that “where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere." 

These verses were recently part of my devotional reading. They warn us about the danger of harboring jealousy and selfish ambition in our hearts. Such negative attitudes lead to chaos as we try to twist and turn situations and relationships into something that only benefits us while hurting those around us. 

Theologically we know this is wrong, yet we struggle with it anyway. But even those who do not care about the theological implications of these verse, should consider the practical applications of this timeless wisdom. When we allow jealousy against others to keep us from praying for them, volunteering our time to help them, or giving to their financial needs, then the the whole of society suffers. We need each other! However, when we refuse to allow jealousy and self-ambition to control us, but instead we pursue the path of wisdom, then we find it much easier to live in peace with those around us. We can think more reasonably. We can make impartial decisions with a sincere heart. We take actions that benefit not only ourselves, but those around us. And that means everyone wins.

Though these verses apply to all Christians, I think those of us in leadership roles should especially take note of them. If we as leaders have not learned how to rid ourselves of jealousy and self-ambition, how can the church and her related ministries ever move forward? Even those who are not Christians might want to consider living these verses out, as they contain the path to a happier life. Each of us should take some time to reflect on our attitudes and motivations to make sure we are living a life full of wisdom.


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Dr. Terry W. Dorsett has been a pastor, church planter, denominational leader and author in New England for more than 20 years. He is a happy husband, a proud father and adoring grandfather. He is a cancer survivor and believes that God works powerfully through times of suffering. He writes extensively and you can find all of his books at: