This group of LCUers are already looking like dazzling young urbanites.

via @joeslavich, Orchard Institute trains the next generation of church planting and urban ministry leaders!


There are only two things in life you can’t avoid.  

One of those will be upon us April 15. 

As a church planter or church leader, there are other things we don’t like to think about but, in the end, cannot avoid. I can’t give official legal advice in this forum, but I can point out things that I’ve seen that, just like death and taxes, must be planned for and expected:


It is a bad day when summons is served.  Yet in reality anyone can sue for any reason.  They may not prevail, but they will certainly make your life difficult in the meantime.   

Slip & fall, child abuse allegations, auto accident, board decision, food poisoning, parking lot mishap, dismissed employee, alleged misuse of a donation – all of these can lead to a lawsuit. 

Of course, prevention is always best.  Following good practices helps with prevention.  But what protects you if you get sued?  Simply put, your best line of defense is your liability insurance policy. 

To avoid a legal drama at your church, carefully select and monitor your liability insurance coverages.  Pay attention to recommendations and offers from your carrier. 


Yes, even at the (temporary) expense of growth!  

A child reports abuse while at your church—this is any church’s worst nightmare.  Besides concerns for kids and concerns for the reputation of Christ’s church, there is the worry about the legal issues that could occur if a parent sues the church for an incident involving a staff member or volunteer. 

To prevent this from happening at your church, enact strict child safety policies and follow them relentlessly. Be willing to close a room (and deal with the fact that you can’t be the church with the best kids’ programs on Earth) if you cannot adhere to your policies regarding properly screened volunteers and appropriate teacher-to-student ratios.   

Willingness to comply with those policies will help prevent harm to kids and harm to the reputation of your church.


When you have invested significant time, money, and energy into buying blanket licenses, it is easy to assume your church is covered and has permission to use any artistic creation that seems compelling.  

Then the letter from the law firm comes demanding you cease and desist (if you are fortunate) or demanding tens of thousands of dollars due to copyright infringement (if you are not so fortunate).  

The first step is to research and purchase the appropriate licenses.  But also be sure someone is asking the permission question about everything your use in your worship services, in your other programming, and even on your website.

Bottom line: get the proper licenses and special permissions, and make sure everything you use is encompassed by them. 


Any time a church gives money to an individual, the church should understand why it is doing so.  Is it benevolence?  If so, is a proper benevolence policy in place and being followed?  Is it expense reimbursement?  If so, is there a proper accountability plan in place and is it being followed?  Is it compensation?  And if so, does the church understand the difference between an independent contractor and an employee?  Churches sometimes presume that interns, musicians, and custodians can be treated as 1099 contractors, as can part-time, temporary, low-responsibility people. Yet these are not the factors the IRS uses to determine which is which! 

You need to know exactly what is happening any time the church gives money to an individual. 


Nobody gets excited about Articles of Incorporation & Bylaws!  But … .

The U.S. Government only has authority that is delegated to it by “we the people,” and we only know that by what is written in our Constitution and other legal documents. Similarly, the only way a church can conduct business is if it has expressed authority to do so in its governing documents.

What powers do your church members have?  Your elders?  Your lead pastor?  Can the church purchase property?  Can it receive income and invest it?  Can it ordain ministers?  Can it buy insurance that shields board members and staff from personal liability from lawsuits? 

Ensure consistency between what you actually do and what your governing documents say you can do.

Greg Hubbard is Orchard Group's Director of Operations. Greg is a graduate of Cincinnati Christian University and has served in pastoral roles with new churches in New Jersey and Nevada.  He received a law degree from UNLV and practiced law for several years in his hometown of Indianapolis.  He lives with his wife and three kids in the Philadelphia area.

Remarkable things happen when diverse groupings of aspirational, marginalized, and explorational people end up living and working in close proximity with each other.

Stephen T Um & Justin Buzzard, Why Cities Matter

Because of our emphasis on urban church planting, we often write about our nation’s cultural centers: New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Miami. These hubs are centers of power that shape the conversation for the rest of the nation and the world. 

And yet, the tide of influence also flows from the small towns and the suburbs, the farms and the rural areas back into the city.  Your support and your prayers are impacting lives and spreading the gospel!

The Kingdom of God grows through God’s Spirit, and the partnership of many individuals and many churches. We have never been so excited about the work you are making possible! You are making inroads for the gospel in cultural centers across the country and around the world.


According to the UN, almost 180,000 people move into cities across the world every day. That is nearly 5.5 million people a month, or a new San Francisco Bay Area being created every 30 days! #urbanchurch (at Forefront Church NYC)

Our favorite screenshot from our 2014 video.  Don’t mess with the Harlem Project


Excited to share this video with you next week.  Excellent work from Matthew Kern and the Meraki Collective.

This is where a church begins: gathered in a room, sharing hope and vision and the good news of the gospel!

Celebrating beach baptisms with Mission Ventura!

5 Quick Ways to Improve Your Preaching

When it comes to church growth, preaching is kind of a big deal.  You can get a lot of things wrong and still grow your church if the preaching is strong.  And likewise, you can do everything else right and flounder it it’s weak.  So, humbly submitted in the spirit of helping us all pick up our game, here are 5 quick ways to improve your preaching. 

1 – Prep ahead of time.   Do whatever you can not to prep your message the same week you’re delivering it. Unless you’re one of those rare birds that actually likes pressure, you’ll create better content with some margin and you’ll have a little something in the bank in case of a crisis. 

2 – Read widely.  Spurgeon said we should preach with the Bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other. Shoot to read (or skim) a newspaper daily, a magazine weekly and a novel monthly. Look for material that interests you and you’ll be amazed at how message ideas rise up from the pages. 

3 – Aim at something. Ask three questions every time you prep a message:  What do you want them to know? What do you want them to feel? And What do you want them to do? If you can’t answer those three questions with clarity, you’re probably not ready to deliver the goods. 

4 - Edit ruthlessly. Once you’ve got your three questions answered, edit without mercy. There’s no room for that forced analogy with the heavy emotional content or that funny story you’ve been dying to tell. ANYTHING that doesn’t serve to answer one of those three questions belongs on the cutting room floor. 

5 – LISTEN TO YOURSELF! Or, if possible, watch yourself on video. You’ll be amazed at what you can pick up with regular review. Bad habits, body language, extreme use of the word “ummmm…” – it’s all in there. Watch and learn. Or better yet, find a third party or coach who’d be willing to give you some honest feedback. 


Bert Crabbe is the Lead Pastor of True North Community Church on Long Island, NY. True North opened its doors on Sept 18th, 2005 and currently has 1500 people attending its services weekly. In addition to being True North’s pastor, Bert also serves as a preaching coach to pastors and church planters both here in the states and abroad. He and his wife Jen have three kids: Mackenzie (12) Ryan Elizabeth (10) and Timothy (7).