Archive for July, 2008

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

Books / Readings, Community, Decline/Growth, Leadership, Missional, Spiritual Formation, Worship

A Neat Experience….

Last night, I hosted a prayer/worship experience that I called “Passages: Conversations with God.”  My thought was to offer somethinga that would help us connect with God in a variety of ways, using prayer, worship, and some spiritual disciplines.  Last night we used the Jesus Prayer and a passage from Luke 10.  The other thing I wanted to try was the 5 questions that I found in “Tangible Kingdom”… because I am thinking about using them as the framework for “the sermon time” in a new worship experience that I would like to launch this fall.  I was not sure how the questions would go… but it was the best part!   I didn’t want to delve deep into historical analysis of the scripture, etc.   I wanted to engage the Scripture as the Living Word of God and allow the Holy Spirit to guide our conversation.  It was totally awesome how rich and deep that time was.   Here are the questions that we used to guide our conversation.  1. What did you like about what you just read? 2. What didn’t you like? 3. Was there anything you didn’t understand? 4. What did you learn about God? 5. Regardless fo where your faith is at right now, if you were to apply what we learned about God to something in your life this week, what would that look like?

I can’t wait to see how using them goes several weeks running.

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 Sunday; 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’m certain that 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; and 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 human evolution. 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 End we see the creation perfected 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… everywhere and all the time. A million different stories overlapping, and all of us connected by our common humanity. It’s exciting to be honest. Just the kind of place that 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 ministry can be a sleepy experience if you’re not careful; short slow days that accomplish little except for self indulgent conversation. I’m convinced that, that can’t be the best way 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.

Missional

Tangible Kingdom

After some bugging from a friend (thanks Martin) I recently bought two books (The Tangible Kingdom and Church Unique). I began reading the Tangible Kingdom on Monday night and finished it last night. It isn’t a long read. It was a good one though….another needed reminder to be missional and incarnational wherever I am.

So I was reading the book and came across some really good quotes all throughout the book, but the one that caught my attention the most, as it states my issues very well. is from Henry Nouwen.
“More and more, the desire grows in me simply to walk around, greet people, enter their homes, sit on their doorsteps, play ball, throw water, and be known as someone who wants to live with them. It is a privilege to have the time to practice this simple ministry of presence. Still, it is not as simple as it seems. My own desire to be useful, to do something significant, or to be part of some impressive project is so strong that soon my time is taken up by meetings, conferences, study groups, and workshops that prevent me from walking the streets. It is difficult not to have plans, not to organize people around an urgent cause, and not to feel that you are working directly for social progress. But I wonder more and more if the first thing shouldn’t be to know people by name, to eat and drink with them, to listen to their stories and tell your own, and to let them know with words, handshakes, and hugs that you do not simply like them, but truly love them. ”

So that got me thinking of ways of living this quote out in my daily life. So here is what I am committing to do:

1. To visit the local Starbucks between 2-3 per week. Hang out there. Do work there. Meet with youth and others there. Seek to have a presence there.

2. Host a neighborhood picnic either during the remainder of summer or during early fall.

3. Learn how to say no. A quote from the book spells out more about this, “Since the word missional theologically means to be sent, leaving is where living like a missionary really begins. Leaving isn’t just about going overseas. It’s about replacing personal or Christian activities with time spent building relationships with people in the surrounding culture.”

4. Be outside more. Play in the front yard with my kids. Take more walks around the neighborhood. Pray as I am walking around the neighborhood. Start up more conversations.

These are just some commitments that I am making in order to be more missional. Keep me accountable by asking how I am doing with these things.

Uncategorized, Understanding Context

Surreal Experience

“My First allegiance is not to a flag, a country, or a man. My first allegiance is not to democracy or blood. It’s to a king and a kingdom”- Derek Webb “A King and a Kingdom”

The other week as I was on vacation I was reading these words on the page of the book Jesus for President. My wife and I and our two kids were vacationing for a few days at Virginia Beach before heading to Richmond for the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference. As I sat on the balcony of our hotel room reading Shane Claiborne’s book (which is all about justice, peace, the empire, etc..) I heard a rumbling noise from the air. At least once every hour a military jet (or two or three) came flying overhead making a ton of noise.

I kept thinking, “How much money is being spent on these flights? How much does jet fuel cost? How much of my taxes are going to fund the machines of war?” I tell you what… it was a surreal experience to read about the kingdom of God and the desire that God has for his people to be people of peace and to hear the war jets flying overhead.

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