The Shoestring Conspiracy - Ministry Ideas Feed

Now Is the Time! Recession Is No Excuse for Recess!

Contrary to the human tendency toward flight in times of danger, these are days for entrepreneurs to venture forth into the unknown and strut their creative stuff. The time is right for new ideas, for niche thinking, and for bold initiatives by men and women who will not be ruled by fear or passing circumstance.

The very limitations, restrictions, and scarcity of our times that cause some to retreat will prompt others to think more creatively and move aggressively into the arena of invention and innovation.

In the midst of recession when the tides of prosperity appear to be receding, there sounds no recess bell. Class is still in session. The need for vision and visionaries is profound. Life goes on. There is a sea change of thinking, a correction in our collective greed for consumption, and a reevaluation of our definitions of success. But people still require basic services and great ideas still have landing places among receptive minds.

We cannot retreat from entrepreneurship, Rather, we must embrace it at a new level. Our communities need out-of-the-box thinkers and risk takers. Our nation and world need people who are willing to move forward to build great business, social, and spiritual initiatives on a shoestring.

Recession is no excuse for recess.

Urban-Suburban Church Partnerships



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Photo Credit: Fast Company

It was good to be in a meeting tonight where we were discussing the challenges faced by urban churches among our association of denominational congregations and other fellowships ministering in under-resourced settings with inner city challenges.

The issue of partnerships between urban and suburban congregations could easily slide into a paternalistic quagmire where the smaller churches of the inner city were crying "Come help us survive" and the larger churches on the outskirts of town were responding with, "We'll come aid our little brothers and sisters, poor things."

Now, no one would say that, but that is the way it seems when one group has hat in hand and the other is put-upon to "help."

Partnership is a better model. The assumption then is that God has given each congregation certain gifts and assignments and those churches, in and of themselves are gifts to the communities where they are assigned, to the church at large, and to the cause of the Kingdom of God in transforming communities from the inside out.

What then is the gift of the urban church to the larger church and, specifically, the highly resourced and larger suburban congregations from which it seeks "aid." It is the provision of a laboratory for urban mission experience, instruction, coaching, and mentoring. Pastors, staff, and members in the urban churches must be willing to make an investment into the lives of those people who come to "volunteer" or "intern" among them just as a seminary professor would invest in his or her students.

Both the urban and suburban ministers are on the same team working toward the same ends. Along the way, each has something to give and receive in authentic partnership.

It is time for partnership.

Big Rocks

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In "First Things First," Stephen Covey tells a story that was told him. I don’t know the sources, so I will embellish a bit.  

There was a speaker who was called upon to address a group of young people. As a prop, he pulled out a wide-mouth gallon jar and placed it next to a pile of fist-sized rocks, another pile of gravel, a jar of sand, and a glass of water.


“Who believes I can get all of this into this one gallon jar?” The question evoked some chuckling. No one raised their hand.


After filling the jar to the top with rocks, he asked, "Is the jar full?"

The group replied, "Yes."


He then took the pile of gravel and began to pour it in. He jiggled the jar until the gravel filled the spaces between the rocks.


Again, he asked, "Is the jar full?"


By now, the group cautiously replied, "Probably not."


The speaker then added the sand and asked, "Is the jar full?"


"No!" shouted the group.


Finally, the speaker filled the jar to the brim with water and asked the group the point of this illustration.


Someone replied that you could always fit more things into your life if "you really work at it."

"No," countered the speaker. The point is, if that if you don't put the big rocks in first, you’ll never get any of them in.


What are the big rocks in your life? I’d like to suggest a few for your consideration:


1. Do not neglect the rock of FAITH:


a. Have faith in the power of TRUTH – and by that, I suggest to you, ultimate truth, a higher power, God if you will.


b. Have faith in the power of TENACITY. Keep on keeping on. Don’t give up. Persist and insist on a successful outcome and work toward it.



c. Have faith in the power of TENURE – By that I mean, time invested and time passed. Be patient with temporary setbacks and inconveniences.


d. Have faith in the power of TEAMWORK. Work together. TEAM stands for – Together Everyone Accomplishes More!


 "Gettin' good players is easy. Gettin' 'em to play together is the hard part." - Casey Stengel 


"The strength of the team is each individual member...the strength of each member is the team."- Coach Phil Jackson Chicago Bulls  


"Men have never been individually self-sufficient." - Reinhold Niebuhr


" All winning teams are goal-oriented. Teams like these win consistently because everyone connected with them concentrates on specific objectives. They go about their business with blinders on; nothing will distract them from achieving their aims. " - Lou Holtz 


``Now is the Law of the Jungle---as old and true as the sky;

And the wolf that shall keep it may prosper, but the wolf that shall break it must die.

As the creeper that girdles the tree-trunk, the Law runneth forward and back---

For the strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack.''
- Rudyard Kipling


2. Do not neglect the rock of FAMILY: You are here because you believe in family and have committed yourself to strengthening families. You have been sharpening your skills for that purpose. You are already heroes and deserve praise. Now, do not neglect your own family.


a. If you do not have a warm family, CREATE it! Gather folks around you with whom you can be accountable, authentic, and supportive. If your family is dysfunctional, you will also be in creative mode by setting and observing strong boundaries and creating a safe zone of functionality around yourself. When Rich Mullins, the song writer and leader of the Ragamuffin Band died, there was a traveling funeral that moved from city to city, mostly on university campuses because it was said that Rich created communities wherever he went.


b. CULTIVATE family. Like a garden, a warm and nurturing family must grow. To grow, it needs the sunlight of truth, the food of love, and the water of life.


c. Third, we must all make it a point to COMMUNICATE as families and develop healthy communication skills which we can pass on to our children. Strong and nurturing families that resolve conflict with healthy communication, fair “fighting,” and unconditional love are the hope of society because the skills children learn in families, they practice in the larger community and world.


3. Do not neglect the rock of the FUTURE. Become futurists. That means to begin to live a life of hope and optimism in a dark world.


a. Have a WINNING attitude. Your future will rise or fall on your attitude.


b. Translate I WANT to I WILL! Then, will it and do it!


c. Then, WORK toward a brighter future for, after all is said and done, the big rock of success, which is a journey and not a destination, is a four letter word spelled simply: W-O-R-K.


Don’t forget the big rocks in these difficult times and be blessed:



Times are tough.
You are tougher. Face the times.


Life is hard.
You are resilient. Keep moving forward.


The future is uncertain.
God is already there. Do not be afraid.


Hope is a rare commodity.
Hope is within the grasp of your imagination. Let it soar.


Money is scarce.
You have all you need in a seed. Plant it and watch it grow.


You are discouraged.
There is a great dream within you. Feed it, follow it, fulfill it.


You deeply desire a blessing.
Be a blessing.


You lack courage.

Encourage someone else.


You have nothing left to give.
Give what only God can supply.


You are frightened of failure.
Risk everything to be all you can be.


These are not idle words. This is how you must live if you will live above your circumstances.


Weighing all possible outcomes of the choices you can make right now, to do nothing, risk nothing, and give nothing will insure that nothing will come back to you. You will be a success in the art of failure by default.


However, if you risk extending yourself, you may also fail, but you will fail with the satisfaction of trying and with all the lessons you can only learn by climbing out on a limb.


But you might also succeed. Out on that limb, when circumstances cut it from under  you, you may discover that you can fly.


You'll never find out without taking the big risk.


Take the risk, get the big rocks in place, and be blessed.


- Tom Sims

Big Rock Productions and Workshops to Go –



Lately, I have posted some messages that might be largely considered promotional in nature - meaning, "to move something forward."

The specific etymology is:

1429, "advancement," from O.Fr. promotion (14c.), from L. promotionem, noun of action from promovere (see promote). Meaning "advertising, publicity" first recorded 1925. Promotional "relating to advertising" first recorded 1922. (Etymology Online)
Motives (also from motieonem and movere) are always mixed. From that reality, they derive their power and complexity. From that equilibrium, we derive the genius of win-win scenarios and shared vision. When all who come to the table have the opportunity to win, everyone is PRO-MOTED, moved forward, advanced, and encouraged to the next level of accomplishment.

I encourage you to always be promoting something and/or someone. Always be looking for ways to win by helping others win. always be advancing an idea, a cause, or an event that will advance people.

In that sense, we are all advertisers:
c.1430, "to take notice of," from M.Fr. advertiss-, prp. stem of a(d)vertir "warn," from L. advertere "turn toward," from ad- "toward" + vertere "to turn" see versus). Original sense remains in advert "to give attention to." Sense of advertise shifted to "give notice to others, warn" (1490) by influence of advertisement, which meant "public notice (of anything, but often of a sale)" by c.1460. The modern, commercial meaning was fully developed by 18c.
We are calling attention to people with the idea of turning them toward an idea, opportunity, or issue they may not have fully considered in the past.

You might balk saying that all this promotion and advertising is too commercial. Consider the roots of commerce:
1537, from M.Fr. commerce, from L. commercium "trade, trafficking," from com- "together" + merx (gen. mercis) "merchandise" (see market). Commercial is 1687 as an adj.; as a noun meaning "advertising broadcast on radio or TV" it is first recorded 1935.
It means sharing merchandise together. Would that future generations would look back on the early days of the Internet and remark that it helped restore a sense of community and togetherness to business, that it leveled the playing field, and opened doors of opportunity to ordinary people.
With all this togetherness, I am reminded of the remark of a business associate once who said that what he liked best about network marketing was making new friends. "However," he said, "if I never made another new friend, I'd stay with it ... for the money."

Money is great! making money together is greater.

Keep advancing great ideas, great people, and great opportunities! PRO-MOTE!

Tom Sims, The Dream Factory

Don't Pan the Plan

There is a seemingly disingenuous urge on the part of practitioners of spiritual things to shun strategic planning as something outside the realm of the Spirit. It is as if we do not believe God cannot enter into the process of preparation, but must show up at the last minute in order to get all the glory and save us from any mental or physical effort.

Don't pan the plan.

At some later date, I will do a study of the concept of planning in the book of Proverbs and throughout the scriptures, but for now, i will limit myself to a few verses which live in proximity to each other.

The first reminds us that it is better to plan well and with many advisers than to proceed like a charging bull against all odds to follow our hastily formulated ideas of what needs to be done.

"Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers, they succeed." - Proverbs 16:22

It does not mean we follow all the advice we get. It means we seek it, hear it, consider it, and formulate our strategies in view of it.

Of course, "There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan  that can succeed against the LORD." - Proverbs 21:30

That is an ultimate safeguard, but no one wants to butt up against that wall of last resort. We would prefer to apply Proverbs 16:3 which says, " Commit to the LORD whatever you do,  and your plans will succeed."

So, somewhere between stubborn, willful confidence that excludes all voices but our own on one side and hyper spiritual "go-with-the-flowism"  on the other is the place of good planning.

Good planning happens when we start with commitment to God. If you are not at that place in your spiritual journey, then at least go for truth. We start there and finish there.

It is a deficit of truth in planning that is often responsible for failures. We either did not have enough information or we did not interpret it accurately.

Then, we need good human advisers who are wise, informed, or skilled. These come in many forms:

  • Experts in their fields who make up for areas where we are not as well informed.
  • Generalists who have the ability to analyze data and strategies across a wide spectrum of disciplines.
  • Strategists who understand how processes work and how to map out the progress of a pan from start to finish.
  • Consumers who can tell us of their own self interests. They are the sources for much of our demographic information.
  • Spiritual mentors who help us seek God and examine our own motives.
  • Prayer partners who encourage us, mirror our hearts, and intercede for us.

We don't need to pan the plan; we need to plan the "I can!"

Our problem is not that we over-plan and exclude God; it is that we exclude Him by not planning enough and unconsciously exclude Him that way.

The commitment is the start, finish, and every breath of the planning process.

Vanishing Leadership

It is one of the tasks of a great leader to vanish.

There are many leadership skills involving our hands: the hand up, the extended hand, the hands on demonstration,  the hand on the shoulder and the hand off.

That's right, the hand off with its accompanying attitude of "hands off." It is also called, "the hand over."

In business and ministry, we will find ourselves endlessly serving one task, one location, and one small group of people if we are unable, unwilling, or uninspired to duplicate ourselves and vanish into the woodwork.

Vanishing leadership is real leadership. It mentors, prepares, and duplicates itself in others with the specific goal of giving away a role or task and all the credit and accolades that go with it.

Great leaders are always grooming successors.

By the way, into the woodwork does not mean unavailable for counsel, accountability, and encouragement. It just means that the leader is generous and intelligent enough to know that his or her effectiveness is either severely limited or profoundly enhanced by the willingness and ability to duplicate and vanish.

To develop this idea, let us examine the concepts of "Hands On" and "Hands Off" to ascertain when each is most appropriate in leadership.


We need to keep out hands on a task while we are training new leadership. The extent to which we keep our hands on will be informed by the following factors:

  • H - Help is needed in learning skills, concepts, internalizing the mission, and getting the job done at a minimal level.
  • A - Assimilation of the philosophy and values of the organization are still in formation.
  • N - Negative attitudes, behaviors, and conversational patterns are being "unlearned."
  • D - Dependence on the mentor/coach is constant.

  • O - Optimum performance comes with close supervision.
  • N - Necessity dictates that the tasks be closely monitored for quality assurance.


  • H - Help is still needed, but it can be offered more often from a distance and  at broader intervals.
  • A - Assimilation of philosophy and values is beginning to take hold. The work has moved from head to heart.
  • N - Negative factors are less pronounced, easily recognized, and managed.
  • D - Delegation  of entire projects is taking place.

  • O - Optimum performance is enhanced by trust and disengagement.
  • F - Formation of a sense of ownership by the new leaders in the organization, its reputation, its future, and its excellence is becoming evident.
  • F - Formal recognition of the new leader's leadership abilities and skills has instilled a sense of confidence and accountability.

Each of these requires further explanation and development, but you can get the point. The transference of leadership may be gradual, but it must also be a constant commitment if an organization, ministry, or business is to grow in number and influence.

How to Make Someone's Day!

Let me start by saying that if you chose to open this posting and read it, that is a good sign that you are on the right track and your heart is in the right place. You have already moved from the realm of unlikely positive outcome to likely positive outcome. You have identified making someone's day as an intention in your life and that kind of intentionality is a real key to accomplishment.

Proverbs 18:1 says,

"An unfriendly man pursues selfish ends;
       he defies all sound judgment."

It is in the pursuit that our judgment is magnified.

So I may leave it at that for today. To be friendly and to desire the good for someone else today will move you far down the road of being a blessing. When you wish someone well, it is communicated in your attitude, your words, and your deeds. you cannot help but be an encouragement to all who are receptive and in need.

What Counts?

What Counts? What you count is an alert to what counts in your life and work. If you are in ministry and you value people, you will count people. If you are in business, you will count contacts, activities, and profits even if quality comes first. If you value time, you will measure it. If you value effort, you will keep track of it.

Whatever counts, you count.

That does not make it "all about numbers," but numbers are among other factors, a useful tool for measuring how much time, effort, and resouce expenditure it takes to be effective in moving toward the things that really count.

They can also be helpful in alerting us to where we can shave off efforts and save time and money.

If you would be successful, don't neglect your digits.

Working Pastors

I have just launched a new blogging initiative to support and encourage bi-vocational pastors, church planters, and others who are called to Christian vocation. It is called Working Pastors and is a companion to this site. I have similar blog on Blogger called Tentmakers and Other Working Pastors.

There is already a great deal of valuable information posted on these and we are just going public today!

Blog Updates

What follows are recent excerpts of some of my blogs:

From Transformational Communities

From the Clogger Blogger:

From the Entrepreneur's Table   

From Protect Your Identity

From Vast Possibilities

From The Shoestring Conspiracy

From Pastor Tom's Roman Road

From Healthy Foods for You

From Pastor Tom's Look at Luke

From Pastor Tom's Comments on Proverbs

From News From the Fellowship of Joy

From Affiliate Buzz

From Road to Success Ministries

From Polecat Hollow

from Pastor Tom's Journal

From Pastor Tom's Garden of Sermon Seeds and Sprouts

From Drink Xango - Mangosteen Journal

From Mid Valley Children's Camp

From Mid Valley Leadership Updates

From Federal Toastmasters WebLog

My Blog at Fresno Famous

My profile and recent activity at Answer Bag

Some new poems at Stream of Consciousness

Yahoo Groups


From "The Shoestring Conspiracy"

I borrowed this from myself - posting originally to "The Shoestring Conspiracy."

Shoestrings Are Cheap    

I wrote a while back about broken shoestrings.

Now, I must confess something. I seldom replace them. I tie frayed ends together and make do. I have several pair of really nice shoes with broken strings that I could easily replace.

Why don't I?

It is picky, tedious work. It requires going to the store for a nickle and dime item (I actually don't know what they cost), coming home, untying the old, and replacing it - sometimes with small finger movements.

"Poor baby," you must be saying. "It is soooo haaaaard being you."

I know - and I could argue that time is money or ministry and you could argue about how much more effective I would be if I would just invest a little bit of time, effort, and coin in some little things - a little effort with a big return.

And you would be right.

I told you that you were smart. Do you get the point?

Let's give a Little attention to detail and benefit greatly.      

posted by Tom Sims at 2:19 PM                 0 comments        links to this post  

BT - Loving the City

mikIm000294We couldn't understand why the roof of our church building kept leaking and would not hold a repair. Finally, we called in the big guns and they confirmed what we had suspected for a while, majoy truss failure. The whole thing would need to be engineered again and structurally rebuilt from the inside out. It was going to cost us.

First, we had to decide if it was worth it. Churches were moving from the city to the suburbs. Our members had been gradually doing the same and joining churches with attractive buildings and programs where they could get lost. The decision came down to calling. Were we called to serve the city or not? Was our location stratgic for God's purposes. Were we willing to stay and minister in an urban setting.

The answer was to stay. After that was made, we had to raise what was for us a great deal of money - nearly three times our annual income. We did. Not only that, we met in a construction zone for over a year.

There is a story to tell about a price that has been paid and is continuing to be paid. There is never enough money and not enough manpower, but here is what is happening:

Never in the history of Baptist Temple, the church with a name so funny, we call it the Fellowship of Joy, has such a tiny core group gotten as much done in the city. We host four congregations: Hmong, Set Free, Spanish and English, have a bilingual service every Sunday, co-sponsor a men's home, host the Christian Women's Job Corp, take care of Graffiti for a square mile and a half around the church while mentoring at-risk kids, have an active skate church ministry, keep a food pantry going, participate in Angel Food, conduct Bible Studies or some ministry on and off site every day of the week, are about to launch a new church start in a farming community, and provide chaplains in several areas of the city.

And that is not the whole story.

And this has happened while losing the biggest part of our giving and leadership base through death, attrition, job movement, and weariness.

We aren't going anywhere. We have great dreams and great faith. Sure, we'd love to have some folks come alongside us and catch the vision, but if they don't we don't intend to lose it.

God loves the city and the people who live in the city. The city is Fresno, California and we are the Fellowship of Joy.

My dream is to be able to continue to serve God in that community and beyond without regard for whether it can pay or not (at the moment, it does and that's the way my church likes it) - and to train other young men and women who will do the same in the city and in hard to reach outlying communities in the U.S. and around the world.

It can get pretty exciting sometimes.
Your Online Fundraising Campaign Fund raising program. Your Online Fundraising Campaign

We are have seen success and potential with Magazine fundraising with this link.If you don't need a fund raiser and just want to help an inner city church, click this link.

FriendsFor Fellowship of Joy Items:



The Shoestring Conspiracy—Urgency

Urgency is a poor substitute for priority. When we establish an understanding of what is truly important based upon God’s abiding principles and mission, we need to stick with it. The reality is that the moment we prioritize our ministries, diversions will emerge, distractions will appear, and urgency will shout in our ears, “Stop and take care of me NOW!” 

We need to be able to say “no” to urgency any time it steps outside the boundaries of our priorities. Yes, there will be emergencies that must be faced as they arise. There will be extraneous details that must be handled. The problem arises when every urgent matter presents itself with the same emergency motif and ministry life becomes one great series of emergencies. We have fire departments to put out fires.

What is your focus? Make sure it receives a prominent place on your calendar and that you do your best to follow your calendar. Leave time for incidentals. Leave cushion for emergencies. Live by grace because you won’t meet all of your goals. But, know this, if you heed every urgent cry, you will meet none of them because your life will be controlled by something far less than your God-given priorities. Follow Rick Warren’s advice and lead a purpose-driven life.


The Shoestring Conspiracy—Passion

Let's face it. Ministry on a shoestring requires an elevated level of commitment. When you are short on resources, you must draw on something else, something deep and limitless.

Passion if the at the root of our energy for ministry. It is that God-given quality that enthuses us with clarity of vision and depth of conviction. Without passion, we whither. With a vibrant passion we can overcome obstacles and rise above our moods. Passion reminds us of our essential purpose and drives us forward. Some characteristics of passionate people are:

P—Positive Priorities—Instead of avoidance behavior, people with passion move toward their commitments aligning themselves with those activities that support the causes for which they are passionate.

 A—Active Attitude Adjustments –Passionate people are constantly adjusting their own attitudes and actively tuning their minds in the direction of their goals and objectives.

S—Sincerity— There is no faking real passion. It bubbles up from within and is nurtured by our committed actions.

S – Simplicity—Passionate people can explain their mission to you in a few short sentences. Since it is clear to them, they can make it clear for you.

I—Inspiration—People with true God-given passion for ministry know the reality of God breathing His purpose through His Spirit into their lives. The calling is His and they are driven by that knowledge.

O—Open “Outwardness”— Not necessarily extroverts, passionate people love to talk about their mission and cause. It splashed out of their lives and is contagious.

N—Non-Negotiable— People with passion are not easily deterred from a mission. It becomes one of the non-negotiable values of their lives.

Also posted at The Shoestring Conspiracy.