Archive for the 'Decline/Growth' Category

Decline/Growth, Easter

Why Visitors Don’t Return to Your Church

I read a post today at evangelismcoach.org on why visitors may not come back. Here are the reasons:

1. Live out of town.
2. Theological differences.
3. Weekend off from their regular church.
4. Comparison shopping while making a decision.
5. Bad experience: lost in the building, embarrassed, not welcomed, childcare problems.
6. Didn’t like the worship experience (too long, too short, too weird).
7. Nothing sacred – no experience with God.
8. No one welcomed them – hospitality.

The first three reasons are really beyond your control. It’s good to welcome those church visitors and send them on their way with blessing.

For more information as to how they suggest you work at developing the other 5 within your control click here.

What other reasons, in addition to those listed above have you faced? What did you do about them? Or, should I ask, how do you need help in addressing them? With Easter coming in 3 months, it’s not too early to be thinking of these things.

I’d love to hear from you!

Jeff

Books / Readings, Church Planting, Decline/Growth

Evaluating your Faith Community

I have been wading through the dense work that is “Thy Kingdom Connected”. I am struggling to figure out how the thoughts, words, and philosophy works itself out in my context. I am still working on that and will be for a while if not for as long as I’m alive. But as I sit here in Starbucks reading I came upon a great quote regarding how you evaluate the effectiveness of your faith community. And this has helped me, because last week I was struggling alot with trying to evaluate the community and was always coming back to the same old metric of numbers. Here is what I just read that is so helpful. Read this, ponder it, and wrestle with it.

“To determine how your church is doing, don’t gauge it by the individuals in your church, or even in comparison to what other churches are doing; go to God’s bigger narrative. How is your local faith community participating with God in God’s dream for the re-creation of heaven and earth? How is your church participating in the flourishing of God’s dream of abundant life for all?”

And so I need to ask myself, “How is Veritas currently participating with God in God’s dream? And how can Veritas begin to participate with God in God’s dream?” Those are two great questions that I will be wrestling with and also asking others within Veritas what they think.

I’ll be blogging later this week with more reflections from “Thy Kingdom Connected.”

Decline/Growth, Missional

Interesting Debate Going On at `Out of Ur’

Hey, there’s a really interesting debate going-on at another blog site. Some of the writers include Alan Hirsch, Dan Kimball, Scot McKnight, and Andy Crouch.

Missional vs. Attractional: Debating the Data
What do the numbers say? It depends who you ask.

by Url Scaramanga & Andy Rowell

The debate continues. For the last two weeks, opinions have been fast and furious on the definition and validity of “missional” churches. It all began with Dan Kimball’s post about his missional misgivings. . .

If you would like to check-out this debate go to Out of Ur.

Does this debate touch any of your nerves or stir your passions? If so, please come back and share some of your reflections and how the Church of the Brethren (either as a denomination or your local congregation) works at being missional or attractional.

Jeff

Change!?!, Decline/Growth, Leadership

Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead

Hello hello hello… Last week for the first time in a year and a half, I was sick on Sunday. Not being with Missio Dei that night was one of the most uncomfortable experiences that I’ve had in recent memory. I was sure it would have been foolish for me to try to lead that night; but unsure whether I had the right not to be there. One of the members wrote after the meeting saying that things went well, I was really happy to hear it. 

Building a church is, or better said should be, more about the people than the pastor. Now I know that there are those that prefer to have everything under their control. The truth be told, I have a hard time letting go of some stuff myself; for example, I will probably will always want to teach, and think I lead meetings better than most. But I think a better way to run things, is to let people find what they do best, and run with it.

That said my dual employment is proving more difficult than I had hoped. I am in Hollywood 55+ hours a week, and can’t effectively cross all the T’s and dot all the I’s; study, rehearse, teach, and connect with the community like I could when I was in Pomona all day. This experience has however really helped me understand how much a church asks of people when we ask full-time workers to volunteer. It’s why I think that many large churches use mostly paid staff. In the postmodern economy, people just don’t have much time to help out volunteering. The American expression of finance and labor, combined with Californian commuting demands, produces a social toll on the individual that severely limits what we can expect out of our members. Worship shouldn’t be a chore, it should be a respite.

And yet “a respite” can also be thought of as a vacation. Vacations can be relaxing, or exciting; it really depends on what you prefer. Now my wife and I enjoy vacationing in the city. Cities are the center of the human experience. They are full of life and culture, new births, and expanding boundaries. In fact, even though God’s creation begins as a garden, in the Book of Revelation, we see it’s completed as a city. I work in a city now, and everyday I see hard working people; in the office, on the streets, on telephones and in taxis. Black people and brown people, shades of Asian beige, and European pinks,   everyone up, out, and on the move. A million stories overlapping and interconnected by a common humanity. It’s exciting to be honest. Just the kind of place I imagine Jesus would be living.  

That certainly has put an exclamation point onto my frustration with folks with no passion for growth or vision for the future. The Christian life can be a sleepy experience if you’re not careful; short slow days that accomplish little except conversation. I’m convinced that, that can’t be the best way to be to live for God. The Christian life should be vital, dynamic, exciting and intense. If that’s not the way you’re living, let me kindly suggest, you’re missing a big part of the resurrection story. What have you done with what God has given you? Are you asleep or are you alive… either way, the truth is, things like this aren’t secrets. God knows, the World knows, and your heart knows. Therefore the Apostle says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall shine, make day dawn upon you, and give you light. ” And likely, a lot of smiles, and a little excitement.

Community, Decline/Growth, Missional

Is Your Church Sticky?

I just received a flyer in the mail, advertising a conference to help churches retain their visitors. The conference is called, “Sticky Church”, and promises to help churches “close the back door”.

Stickiness: what an interesting concept! (I first learned about it in the book, The Tipping Point, by Malcolm Gladwell.) How sticky is your church? What do you do to promote stickiness to your visitors? Once upon a time, when I was a pastor, Bring-a-Friend Sundays were very popular. I got pretty good at promoting this idea and getting the church to draw a big crowd. Sometimes, we would almost double our worship attendance for that Sunday! The church people would get excited to see such a crowd! But the following Sunday, maybe a few would come back. Within a few Sunday’s, no one was returning. Though we had an exciting day, it was depressing that we didn’t find anyone who really wanted to be a part of us.

Bring a Friend Sunday is definitely one of those “attractional” church activities. Many today are trying to discard the attractional model for evangelism by becoming missional — going out to where the unchurched are, building relationships and doing ministry.

As you engage your community, how sticky are you in moving people into your fellowship? What kinds of things are you doing?

At my insight session at Annual Conference (Engaging Our Communities with Jesus), I named some of the creative ways that congregations are using to engage their communities. Some of these creative ideas include:

Community Movie Nights: Showing recently run movies that display family or Christian values and inviting the neighborhood.

Websites: This is this is how people shop these days, especially younger generations. A church can put for more information onto their webpage about their church than they can a yellow pages ad. Two samples include:
> www.myglendalechurch.org: good example of blogging, telling challenging or inspiring life-stories.
> www.creeksideconnected.com: example of well laid-out site with streaming video and audio of sermons.

New Church Plant Mentality: Viewing the neighborhood as if the church is a new church plant. Waynesboro congregation in Shennandoah district sent two members to the new church planting conference.

Community Gardens: At least two congregations, Cincinnati and Virginia Beach, are opening their property to neighbors to plant gardens. Working together on your individual gardens is a great way to building relationships!

Skateboard Park: Virginia Beach has created a safe place for neighborhood kids to skate.

Tractor Show and Community Dinner: This wouldn’t work in many communities, but it works for the East Chippewa congregation!

Parent’s Night Out: Fridays, 6-9pm: Waynesboro, VA.

Classes for the Community: Computer, Conflict resolution, job counseling, ESL — Harrisburg First

DVD Handout: East Chippewa has a professionally produced DVD to introduce their congregation to their community.

For those of you who might be interested, the insight session was video taped and will be available on DVD at no charge. On the DVD, you’ll hear other creative ideas and the stories of four congregations who are engaging their communities in vital ways and growing as a result. Just let me know. My contact info is on the “Contact Us” tab, or respond with a comment to this post.

In case your interested in some books to help your church become more “sticky”, check-out the book list at the Sticky Church website.

May your outreach efforts be blessed and sticky!

Jeff

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