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Welcome to readingremy.com

Welcome to readingremy.com. If you scroll through my posts you’ll find words of faith to help you overcome whatever you might be facing.F. Remy Diederich

This blog has evolved over the past two years based on what I was working on at the time. As I launched my first book, Healing the Hurts of Your Past …a guide to overcoming the pain of shameI offered many posts taken from the book. If you are looking to learn about how faith in God can help you overcome insecurity, shame, depression, and addiction, you can search these key words.

The next set of posts are based on my second book called: STUCKhow to overcome your anger and reclaim your life. The posts during this season of my blog dealt with understanding anger, how it gets you stuck in the past, and how forgiveness releases you to reclaim your future.

Following that, I geared the blog to pastors who have gone through, or are going through, a hard time – what I called an “exile.” I wrote “Out of Exile”a forty day journey to make a comeback from a setback. This is about to be turned into my third book and will be followed by a similar book geared for the general population. Click the link to start the forty day journey. You might want to forward the link to pastor friends going through a hard time right now.

I’m increasingly focusing my posts on helping pastors in various ways. Pastors often feel alone, having no one to talk to about their issues. I hope to bring them some encouragement. I invite you to follow along with me. – F. Remy Diederich

Church Planter: Preparing to launch

I’m continuing to answer questions from church planters. Here’s the third question:

When Am I Ready to Launch the Church?

Before I say anything, let me offer a disclaimer for my answer: this is my opinion. Every church denomination or association has their own metrics for when to launch.  So listen to them first. I don’t want to undermine what they are saying. But from my experience here are prepare-to-launchfive things I’d be looking to have in place before launching a new church:
#1 – a good band. It doesn’t have to be amazing, but whatever you put together should be quality. The bigger you want to be long term, the better the band should be. 
A good band will help put people at ease and a good leader will help them relax and focus on God.
Pray for the person leading your worship. They spend almost as much time in front of people as you (the pastor) so you want to make sure they represent you and the vision well. You don’t want people checking out before they hear the message.
#2 – a solid plan for kids. If you want families to come…and you do…you need to have a great children’s ministry. Think like a parent…parents want their kids to be SAFE more than anything. If you skimp on children, you will lose families. I speak from experience. We had a bad space in a theater when we launched and we ended up moving just to recapture families.
#3 – a significant core team. Critical mass is…critical. The size you start with really depends on your vision. When we launched our church we opened with 200. It was nice to open with that many because we broke the 200 barrier on the first day. A lot of churches have trouble breaking 200. 
I wouldn’t start with less than 50…if the second week drops to 25 it will feel awful. I’d set 100 as a minimum number to launch with. We had up to 100 people coming to our pre-launch services. 125-200 came to our preview services (three of them in three months). Then we launched with 200. To get a core team you need to really work hard (see my earlier post on building a launch team). 
#4 – an advertising plan. In  the business world they say you have to spend money to make money. The point is: don’t be cheap. You need to let people know you exist. But most church planters have no marketing experience. I was fortunate: I had a sales/marketing background.
Be strategic. Don’t just buy any kind of advertising. Mailers are good to gain awareness, but the best advertising is people handing out postcards with a personal invitation to fun events or services with compelling topics.
#5 – strong preview services.  Everything should be in place (prayer, children’s ministry, band, etc.). Previews are the dress rehearsal…not practice for the real thing. You want previews to be as good as opening day, otherwise no one will come opening day!  They should preview what you want your church to be like. You want your messages to be the best thing you’ve got. Work on these. You only get one chance for a first impression.
Overall, you want to launch at a time of peak momentum. If you don’t sense you have momentum, delay the launch until you do. You don’t want to start with a dud. You may never recover from it.
I hope this helps. Let me know your questions.

What to Look for in a Launch Team

I’m continuing to answer some questions sent to me by a young church planter.
Today I’m looking at his second question about forming a launch team:
Question #2:  What are specific things you look for in launch team?

What to Look for in Your Launch Team

The quality of your launch team will determine the quality of your church.  I know that when you are first starting out, you tend to just want somebody…ANYbody to show up to your meetings. But be really careful.  Attracting the wrong people in the early days  can start the unraveling of the church before it even begins.
So here are five qualities that I would look for in the people who form your launch team.
Choose people who:
1. are healthy spiritually and emotionally. This doesn’t mean they have to be mature believers (although that helps). It just means they are headed in the right direction…toward Jesus.
Some of the hardest working and passionate believers are new believers. So that’s good. But often unhealthy people are attracted to church plants for the wrong reasons: they want you to have the perfect church, they want access to the pastor, they want to take control, etc. I’m not saying that you kick the unhealthy people out. Just don’t rely on them or let them represent the church.
2. share similar values. It’s important to establish your core values right away so people know whether they fit or not. At our church we have REALL values, meaning we value: Relationships, Excellence, Acceptance, Lifechange, and Laughter. These values define us. We judge much of what we do by these values and we teach them at our Welcome class so people know who we are and who we aren’t.
3. enjoy having fun together. Starting a church is intense. You’ve gotta have fun with it or you will burn out. Who are the people you enjoy doing life with? Who do you naturally like to hang out with?  If your launch team has fun together, you will be infectious. People will want to be around you guys. You’ll attract people without even trying. So this might sound frivolous, but I think it’s key to the success of a church. That’s why one of our values is “laughter.” 

If your launch team has fun together, you will be infectious. People will want to be around you guys

4. have a good work ethic. Work is fun when everyone pitches in. But when one or two people are obviously missing at all the key meetings or making a coffee run when everyone else is setting up…it gets old and drops morale.
5. are generous givers. I’m not talking about being rich (although that helps too!). Jesus commended the woman who gave two coins. The point is you want people who are willing to put the new church first in every way, including financially. Just like fun is infectious, generosity breeds generosity. Look for people who aren’t holding back.
So how do you attract these kind of people?  Be this kind of person! Like attracts like. We learned this in our music ministry. Good musicians attract good musicians. Fun people attract fun people, etc. So be the kind of person you want to attract and that’s who will start showing up.
If you think this helps, let me know and share it with a friend. More to come…

Five Ways To Gather a Launch Team

[My blog is increasingly narrowing its focus to help pastors. Sorry to "bait and switch" some of my earlier readers. Thanks for following my past posts on issues of shame, faith, and forgiveness. But I feel the need to encourage a group of people who often find themselves very alone: pastors.]

I offered to answer questions from a group of church planters on Facebook (Pastor Resources) about how to get their churches up and running. I started Cedarbrook Church with a group of 20 people back in 2003. I don’t pretend to know all the answers. But I’m happy to share what I know.

First Question: What has been the most effective way to gather a launch team?

Five Ways to Gather Your Church Launch Team

1. Perfect Pitch: Before I was in ministry I was in sales. The same principle applies to church planters as well as salespeople: you have to be fully convinced that your product is something people need and what you have to offer is the best thing available. If you don’t have that down, people will smell it a mile away and you’ll lose them in one meeting.


Perfecting Your Elevator Speech

I’m not just talking about the message of Jesus. That’s a given. Hopefully every church has that. I’m talking about the vision you have for church. Why should people make the HUGE sacrifice of coming to your underfunded church start-up with less to offer than the church down the street?

You not only need to have an answer but you need to communicate it in a clear, concise, and compelling way. Maybe you’ve heard of an “elevator speech.” That’s the 45 seconds you have to tell someone on an elevator why they should buy your product. That’s what every church planter needs to perfect. That’s where it all starts.

It’s okay to stumble around with a few of your closest friends as you develop your “pitch.” But when you are serious about going public with your idea for a church, you need to have it down. People will follow you IF they see you are not only passionate but that you have a VISION for a dynamic church AND A PLAN on how to get you there. You only get one chance for a first impression!

I bet you were looking for cool events to offer! Once you have a compelling story to tell, then just about any event will do what you need it to do. You’ll start attracting people because they will see they you have something that they want…something that is life-changing…something to live for.

2. Start Talking. The second tip is just start talking to people. Then talk to their friends. Once these people catch what you’ve got, ask them to either host a get together to hear your story, or YOU host a get together and ask your friends to invite their friends. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. Make it easy in and easy out. Buy lunch or coffee or beer or pizza for a few friends. No pressure. Keep it short and to the point. Don’t bore them! Leave them wanting more.

Keep it up. Keep momentum going. The more people you talk to the more people who will catch the vision. As people see the numbers growing it will add to the excitement.

3. Offer Next Steps. Third tip, offer a next step. As you meet people, ask them if you can keep them updated by putting them on your email list. Then send out a weekly or bi-weekly update and have great events planned for people to come to.

I will offer a post on emails and websites soon. But for now let me just say that your emails and website should be as awesome as you can make them. Not flashy, but attractive, clear and compelling. People will judge you and your dream on what you show them. If you show them a poorly crafted email or website, they’ll know that the church will probably look the same.

4. Create Engaging Followup Events.  Some events should be just get-togethers to build community. Other events should have a spiritual focus to show that you are someone who can help people know and follow God. And other events might be for strategy and planning. This will draw out the doers. Don’t overwhelm people. But you want them to see that this is not just some lofty idea. This train is building steam and is about to leave the station!

5. Make the Big Ask. Final tip, when people have come out to your meetings for a while, take them out for coffee and ASK THEM to join the launch team. Tell them that you need them to make your church happen and why you believe that is. Asking people affirms them. It’s the difference between dating and being engaged. You want to help them define the relationship. You want them to move beyond casual to committed.

If you do these five things well, you will build a team. But you need to give it your best shot. You are starting something from scratch. That’s nearly impossible UNLESS God is moving on your behalf AND you give it your best.

I’ve got three more questions in queue to answer but feel free to send me more.


Preaching for Life Change or Self-Help?

What role does “self-help” have in preaching?
I ask that because a lot of popular preaching today is what I call “self-help”: three ways to a better marriage, how to overcome fear, etc. This is what attracts people and gets them to come back.Life-is-Change
I’m not against offering helpful sermons. I think Jesus was always teaching people how they could live a better life. But I am concerned when sermons are just a retool of a Dr. Phil book with a few Bible verses added. That sells people short of what they came to church for. Jesus brought a fresh message, not a spiritualized version of human wisdom.
My question as a speaker is: what exactly can I add to a my message that moves it from being merely “self-help” to “God transforms”? How can I elevate people’s thinking beyond what they can do, to what only God can do in them and through them?
The goal is to help people see how God wants to enter their life to bring a power/ability/ reasoning that the world can’t offer them.
I don’t want people leaving church saying, “That was good but nothing I can’t get from Dr. Phil or Oprah.”  I want people saying, “Dr. Phil was helpful, but this is life-changing. This is going to be a game-changer.” 

What makes our message a “game-changer” is helping people realize that God is a God of resurrection and transformation.

What makes our message a “game-changer” is helping people realize that God is a God of resurrection and transformation. He has covered our past by Jesus’ death and given us his Spirit to renew our future: a clean slate with unlimited possibilities. That’ll preach.
So if you are a communicator of Jesus’ message, don’t sell people short. Give people what no one else can offer them: new life in Jesus Christ.

The Impact of a Sabbatical

This is my final post on the need for a sabbatical and how to plan one.

I said in the last post that I didn’t want my sabbatical to just be a long vacation. I wanted it to enrich me so I had a deeper well to draw from in my ministry. It would be an added bonus if my presence, wherever we traveled, could enrich others as well.

So this is what we did: I called MERGE ministries,  the short-term missions agency associated with my church denomination. I asked them for their recommendations on a country to travel to. They mentioned all of our South American ministry sites but then wondered if I’d be willing to go to Chile. Why Chile? No one seems to want to go there. It’s far away. It costs more, and once you get there, it takes hours by bus to get to wherever you want to go. That worked for me. I said “sure” and so the planning started.chile

My wife and I crafted a six-week plan that involved four parts to it:

Part One: Two weeks at a language school in Vina del Mar. Vina is a modern resort town an hour west of Santiago (capital and airport site). We stayed in the home of a local family and walked 1.5 miles to the school every day. Afternoons we shopped, ate lunch, and took walking tours. Evenings we spent studying Spanish. This was a great way to get to know the country, the customs, and the language. The “otherworldliness” of it all made it very easy to break from the reality of my life back home…especially since we left summer and entered into winter. It was a great time to reconnect with my wife and share something in common with her.

Part Two: After language school we met up with a team of five from our home church in Santiago and flew two hours north to Calama, Chile to help a church for ten days. I initially didn’t want to do anything with church people, fearing that I’d get pulled into leadership roles that would feel very “non-sabbaticalish.”  But it was one of the highlights of the trip. The intensity of relationships we shared with both our team and the local church people was fulfilling.

Part Three: This was the busiest part of the trip. I imagined casual mornings, light travel in the afternoon to a new village, and then sharing a meal with the local pastor. Not exactly. The reality was that we were on the go most of the time. Travel between cities was much farther than I realized…five to seven hours at a crack. When we arrived, the churches were so happy to see us they had special meetings for us where, guess what…they wanted me to speak!  I half expected this…so I was happy to oblige.  Being able to speak into the life of these churches was actually satisfying to me, but be careful if you don’t want to be involved in any ministry on your sabbatical. It can wear you out. Thankfully we visited some pretty amazing locations so I was always excited to see the next place. We visited Rancagua, Concepcion, Chiloe, and Coyhaique.

Part Four: A five day vacation.  I figured that, if all else failed, I wanted to make sure I had five good days before we returned. It was the rainy season so it rained three of our five days, but we didn’t care. We enjoyed staying in one place. I’m a bit of a foodie and this town (Puerto Varas) had great restaurants. I was able to get one of the nicer hotels for a good price on hotwire.com.

Did it work? Did I get the rest needed? Absolutely. I could tell about half way through the trip that it was working because when I thought about the sabbatical, tears still came to my eyes, but now they were out of gratitude. I felt like God had met me in a special way, renewed me, and prepared me to re-engage in ministry.

In reflecting on my stress and what renewed me, I think it was being immersed in something totally different. It probably didn’t matter what it was, just not feeling the need to solve a problem back home was freeing. Along those lines, it made me think back to when my kids lived at home. In some ways, I think I was less stressed with them home, which seems counterintuitive. Most of my nights are free now…but, I often end up working. When my kids were home, they helped preoccupy my time and attention, giving me a mental break I needed.

I mention this because, if you can’t get away on sabbatical, look for a way to immerse yourself in something other than your work…hopefully your family, but also a hobby of some kind or limited travel/get-aways. Get off-line and think about something totally different.

I hope this series has helped you think through the idea of stress and finding renewal. I’d love to hear back how you have found ways to find refreshing from your careers.

Planning Your Sabbatical

In my first two posts I talked about hidden stress and the need for a sabbatical. Assuming you are convinced of the need we can now continue to ask two questions: how long should you be gone, and where should you go? These are the two big questions I wrestled with for quite a while before I finally came up with an answer. I’ll start with the time question first.

How Long Should You Be Gone?


My wife and I on sabbatical in Chile.

My church granted me a three-month sabbatical. That was great, but I was afraid to take three months all in a row. What if I picked the wrong thing to do? I didn’t want to return home feeling that I wasted my time. Coupled with that, my church leaders were a little concerned about me being gone for three months. I’m the primary speaker at church. To just vanish and replace me with others seemed like it might be too big a shock to the system.

To solve both concerns, I only took six weeks to start. That way, if I made poor choices, I still had another seven weeks to do it right. Plus, in six weeks, most people at church would barely miss me (since during the summer many people are gone on vacation). This decision took the pressure off me to come up with the perfect plan. Even if the six weeks were a failure, I’d get another chance.

Whatever you do, take at least three weeks. It takes a week to unwind, and as your sabbatical draws to a close, you naturally start to take on stress as you prepare to return. Three weeks will give you at least one pure week to decompress.

Where Should You Go?

The hard part about this question is it’s really different for everyone. What is good for me may not be good for you. I read how many pastors spent their time on sabbatical but I was never convinced that I should do the same thing. I heard about one pastor that went to Disney World for two months. Whatever floats your boat! That would stress me out. 

This wasn’t meant to be a vacation. I wanted my congregation to know that I was not only working to destress but to broaden myself for their benefit.

The questions you have to ask yourself are:

  • What recharges my battery?
  • What will help me stop thinking about my normal work?
  • What will not just give me a break but actually enrich me so I have a deeper well to draw from when I return?  My sabbatical wasn’t meant to be a vacation. I wanted my congregation to know that I was not only working to de-stress but to broaden myself for their benefit. 

I started coming up with possibilities:

  • Take a seminary class. I’m a student at heart and love to learn.
  • Go to Israel. Again, this would be like a traveling classroom.
  • Find a cabin on a lake and spend time reading and studying like I don’t normally have time to do.
  • Visit another country/culture to get a fresh perspective.
  • Visit other churches around the country to see how they “do church.”
  • Stay home and do everything I’ve put off for twelve years while I built our church.
  • Go live in a community of believers (Holden Village in WA or Jesus People, USA in Chicago).

I gave my list to our Operations team at church. I told them that since they were paying my salary while I was away they should have some say in what I do. One person said, “You should go as far away from Wisconsin as you can possibly go.” That sounded good to me.

The next person said, “Go to a language school.” I had always wanted to learn Spanish. So that sounded good too. They discouraged me from just going to a classroom setting since that probably wouldn’t give me the life altering experience I wanted or needed. After studying the Israel option, I nixed that because it would have cost me $10,000 for a quality trip for both my wife and myself. Plus, the trips were so intense I was afraid of coming back exhausted.

So what did we do for six weeks?  I’ll talk more about that in my next post. Thankfully, we made some great decisions that gave us the refreshing we were looking for. Be sure to shoot me your questions and I’ll work an answer into upcoming posts.