By Cynthia Terpstra
Lent is here. That means Easter is fast approaching and church staff is putting in overtime to prepare for this most holy of seasons. While it is easy to fall back on traditions and get caught up in busyness, it is important to take a step back and ask, “Are we making an impact? Are Easter worshipers engaged after Easter?”
Easter traditionally brings more people to church than any other time of year. However, even this most sacred of Christian celebrations is facing lackluster attendance. According to a poll conducted by LifeWay Research, 41% of Americans planned to attend an Easter worship service last year, almost the same as the number who planned not to attend (39%). Another 20% were unsure. Among Christians, only slightly more than half planned to attend. Protestant (58%) and Catholics (57%) were most likely to attend while only 45% of nondenominational Christians planned to attend.
Attendance in General
A recent survey by Pew Research Center found that 37% of Americans reported that they attend worship services every week, and only 33% reported attending monthly or yearly. Among religiously affiliated Americans who report that they only attend worship services a few times a year, the following reasons for not attending more often were cited:
- Personal priorities (24%), including 16% who say they are too busy.
- Practical difficulties – work conflicts, health issues, or transportation difficulties (24%).
- Religious or church related issue – disagreement with the beliefs of the religion or church leaders (37%).
- No particular reason (9%).
Getting Them to Return
So, how do we engage more Christians before, during and After Easter? In an interview with TheBlaze, Thom Schultz, co-author of Why Nobody Wants to Go To Church Anymore, suggested 4 four possible solutions to the church attendance problem:
- Radical Hospitality – “embracing a church paradigm of full acceptance.”
- Fearless Conversation – sharing of divergent viewpoints.
- Genuine Humility – true concern for addressing the issues, without being a hypocrite.
- Divine Anticipation – a focus on God’s providence in today’s world.
According to ChurchLeaders.com, the majority of de-churched people (62%) are open to the idea of returning. Getting them to return may be as simple as inviting them. In fact, 41% said they would return if an acquaintance or friend invited them. Younger adults, ages 18-35, are even more likely to return if invited (60%).
Of course, the way we invite people may vary greatly. Some people are perfectly comfortable with simply inviting their friends and acquaintances to worship. Others feel more at ease inviting friends and family to celebrate a religious holiday or attend a ministry event (e.g., youth activities). Small groups are also a great way to establish a personal connection and give people who would consider coming back to church a chance to openly explore issues and share different viewpoints.
The key is to discover what matters most to the people you would like to invite and engage them on their terms. Be patient. It is not a sprint to the finish line. Give them a chance to re-engage in a way they feel comfortable with. In fact, nearly two-thirds of the de-churched who decide to return prefer to remain anonymous until their second visit. Provide a way for them to access information about small groups or learn about how various ministries serve the community without making them feel like everyone is going to pounce on them the minute they enter the worship center. A Self-Service Kiosk is a great way to let them learn more on their own while at church.
Open up to people and be authentic about your faith AND your life. Christianity is not about Christians, it is about Christ. It is about having an eternal relationship with God through Christ. Of those who left church and expressed dissatisfaction with the membership, 45% felt church members were judgmental and hypocritical. Demonstrate a little humility while extending the invitation to come to church. Listen to any objections they may have and show true concern for addressing the issues without attacking the messenger. After all, we refer to our faith walk, not our faith 400 meter dash.
Need help connecting with church attendees and finding new ways to engage those that grace your front step? Contact us.
Image Credits: iStockPhoto
By Cynthia Terpstra
Expectations of church staff in today’s digital world are high. We expect church staff to be disciples, content/program producers for their ministry, and able to keep up with millennials when it comes to technology and social media. We give them access to all kinds of tools but rarely take the time to teach them how to use these tools properly to get the most out of our investment.
How can you help your church staff overcome the technology curve?
- Demonstrate Benefit
To get church staff to embrace new technology you have to first demonstrate to them that there is clear benefit to using the new technology. Are you helping them work more efficiently? Are you eliminating frustrations caused by current systems? Are you giving them a tool that will help them connect better with their individual ministry?
- Purchase with Purpose
Technology should align with ministry goals and solve a specific need. Technology for the sake of technology is not a valid purchase decision. Identify how the technology will help your staff be more efficient, connect and engage with your community, grow, and relate to a constantly changing demographic.
- Match the Right Experience to the Right Job
Hiring a millennial-aged youth pastor might make him/her appear more relevant to teenagers but it doesn’t mean he/she automatically understands technology. For example, there is a huge difference between an effective website versus one that is poorly implemented. Don’t expect your youth pastor to be a web designer, communications specialist, and an effective social media marketer. Match the right experience to the right job. Invest in a good website designed specifically for ministry by experts and then train appropriate staff how to use it. A good church website can be a tremendous asset to helping you connect with your community and grow your ministry IF it is properly implemented and maintained.
- Implement with a Plan
Once you have made a purchase decision, decide on an implementation plan that includes training. What are your time frames? Does the implementation require conversion from the old system to the new? What support is available to make the transition a smooth one? Is there an optimal time to launch the new technology or specific times to avoid? Take into account both the church schedule and give your staff adequate time to plan their schedules to implement and train. Nobody enjoys being set up for failure because they weren’t given sufficient time to plan and learn.
Who will use the new technology? Even if only one ministry leader is planning to use it, include others in the training so they can step in if the lead person is not available. While one person might be comfortable with a quick scan of the user manual, another person might require more direct teaching. Identify who will participate in training and then decide which training methods work best for your users: self-directed documentation, live training sessions, videos, or all of the above.
- Equip for success
Give church staff training opportunities. In a recent study, “70% of organizations cite ‘capability gaps’ as one of their top five challenges.” Churches are no different. Take time to meet with staff to have an honest discussion about their comfort level with relevant technology and identify opportunities for training, both formal and informal.
Training doesn’t have to be expensive. Give staff time and opportunity to share knowledge. Take advantage of free training. There is a wealth of information available for free on the Internet. Give staff time away from daily tasks to take advantage of it. Do your vendors offer training? For example, does your church software provider offer ongoing support? Take advantage of it! Allocate the proper resources – time and money – to help your staff become more comfortable with technology.
Need help identifying church management technology that will help your staff be more efficient, connect and engage with your community, grow, and relate to a constantly changing demographic? Contact us!
By Cynthia Terpstra
Church management has evolved significantly over the past several years. Changing demographics, use of technology, multi-site campuses, and social media all play a role in shaping the way churches connect and interact with their members and visitors. Staff is challenged to stay focused on the mission of the church while constantly adapting to change and managing with fewer resources.
How can church staff stay engaged with members and visitors and work more efficiently? Here’s a look at ways churches can simplify church management:
- Maintain a USEFUL database
One of the best ways to simplify church management is to start with your database. Your church database is only as good as the information you put into it. Take the time to assess the information stored, identify areas for improvement (cleanup!), and establish clear guidelines for how information is collected, entered, and used. All too often databases are poorly maintained and become a roadblock to ongoing communication. If you have recently merged databases, take the time to purge duplicate records. If you are converting from one database to another, take the time to clean up the database both before and after the conversion. Ask your software provider if they offer support in migrating your old database to the new system.
Next, identify the information you are going to collect and manage going forward. Think about how you are going to use the information to grow fellowship, serve unique ministries, and identify opportunities to grow. Do you know which small groups your members participate in? What about their passions and spiritual gifts and how they relate to volunteer opportunities? Are there any special event requests from a member that need to be managed (e.g., wedding)? How about tracking of contributions to thank faithful givers?
- Give Individuals the opportunity to update their own records
Save time. Decentralize your people record management by empowering individuals with secure web-based access via an online portal to your website or mobile apps. These tools provide a way for attendees to access/update personal information. Church attendees can also update information with a Self-Service Kiosk. Remind them while they are at church and give them the opportunity to update their information while they are thinking about it.
- Use Your Database to Target Communications
Church databases should be more than a place to store information. Use data in combination with mass communication tools to assist with your discipleship process. Send targeted email and text messages, post engaging content to your social networks, and send US mail only to those that prefer this communication method. Targeted communication is far more efficient and cost effective than sending out information that is not matched to interests, duplicated to multiple household members, or not sent via a recipient’s preferred communication channel (e.g., email or social networks).
- Set up Automation
Are you regularly communicating with members and visitors? Identify opportunities to connect and engage with your audience and create email templates matched to these opportunities. For example, create templates that thank first-time visitors, follow-up with people before and after an event, wish members a happy birthday or anniversary, remind people of small group opportunities, and thank them for their contributions.
- Engage Volunteers Wisely
First, a word of caution. Volunteers play a vital role in ministry. They help with discipleship and extend limited church resources. Volunteers deserve our ongoing appreciation. They also need to be matched to the right opportunity and engaged at the right time or they will suffer burnout and withdraw from volunteering altogether.
Church staff needs to work together to plan opportunities for volunteers that are tied to its mission and then coordinate calendars to understand church-wide volunteer needs for the year. All too often the same small group of people is asked to volunteer for every need the church has. Plan out volunteer needs across all ministries and then use personal relationships and your church database to identify opportunities specifically tied to interests and spiritual gifts. People are more likely to volunteer for things they feel passionate about or feel confident they can add value to. Set up .your automated email system to make sure volunteers are thanked regularly for their service.
- Save Time with Online Giving
Reduce administrative costs with online giving. Use web-based tools to efficiently collect contributions and extract data to make decisions based on trends. With online giving and access tools, the church office no longer has to send statements and giving becomes as easy as using the church mobile app or self-service kiosk.
- Use an Event Management Tool
Simplify event management with a system that helps you plan resources and handles registration, payment, and promotion. An effective event management tool should integrate with your church database to streamline marketing of the event and identify and request volunteers. It should also allow you to save registration information for follow-up & future event participation.
- Simplify Check-In
A secure church check-in system simplifies children’s ministry and event attendance. It can help manage registration and ticketing, print name tags and security receipts for parents dropping their kids off at the nursery or kids’ ministry, and maintain a room registry that is easily retrieved for room checks. It can also be used to retain data for future events. Simplify church management while keeping attendees happy with shorter lines and quicker, more secure processes.
Looking for ways to simplify church management? Contact us.
By Cynthia Terpstra
Tax season is here. By now most churches have sent contribution statements, either by email or U.S. mail, or have made the statements available online to registered users of their online giving system. Unfortunately, these statements are simply viewed too often as an accounting tool and not as an opportunity to encourage faithful and consistent giving by connecting with church members.
How can churches use contribution statements to increase online giving? First, let’s take a look at the advantages of online giving, both for members and for churches.
For church attendees, online giving is:
- Convenient. For regular giving (tithing), the giver can simply register through the church’s online giving system and designate the amount to be given and the fund to receive the donation (e.g., 40% to missions, 30% to meet special needs in the community, and 30% to operations). Adjustments can be made should the contributor’s ability to give changes or a special need for giving is identified (special one-time contribution).
- Easy to track. An online giving system makes it simple for contributors to download their own statement for tax purposes as often as they need to. (some of us are good at misplacing things!)
- Potentially rewarding. While not all churches are comfortable with accepting credit cards – churches encourage financial responsibility – the reality is donors often enjoy the perks credit cards offer such as money back and travel miles. Also, with all the recent attention on security breaches, many users feel credit cards are a safer alternative to linking bank accounts or sending out checks with account information on them.
For churches, online giving is:
- Cost Effective. Online giving reduces church administrative costs.
- More consistent, more reliable. Variations due to seasonal fluctuations in church attendance are typically reduced with online giving.
- A way to engage with Millennials. Recent Barna research shows that “Millennials are giving, yet technology is significantly changing how they give. In fact, Millennial generosity, for the most part, has gone paperless.” Online giving is also the most reliable; online givers are the least likely to stop giving. It is important that your website include an online giving system compatible with mobile devices.
The Role of Contribution Statements in Online Giving
Contributions are more than an accounting tool. They are a way to touch base with your community and engage with them in a meaningful way. If the only staff people discussing contribution statements are your accounting department, then it is time to rethink that strategy. Your director of communications and lead pastors need to be part of the discussion. Why? The director of communications is in charge of marketing and public relations. Every single piece of communication to your congregation is an opportunity to connect and engage with your audience. Your lead pastors should be involved because they have a more personal connection with their individual ministries; they are more likely to understand the unique dynamics of each group they minister to.
5 Ways to Increase Giving With Contribution Reporting
- Identify Key Groups. Church software that features a robust database integrated with an online giving system enables you to set up groups by ministry or unique demographics that you define. Do you know who your regular online contributors are? How often are you sending them a contribution statement? Are you keeping them informed of your church’s financial health and identifying needs and missions?
- Identify special giving opportunities. Do you know if a particular fund is especially important to an individual? Perhaps someone feels passionate about giving to the deacon’s fund to help serve people in the community who are in need. Create an email distribution list matched to contribution funds. Send a quarterly statement to each group letting them know the financial status of the fund and the impact the fund has made.
- Identify contributors who do not wish to use online giving. Some donors do not feel comfortable using an online system. Use demographic information contained in your church database, combined with your staff’s personal knowledge, to identify those individuals and develop a printed communications strategy for these donors. Send printed quarterly statements to this group only, addressing the same items listed in steps 1 and 2. However, make an effort to understand WHY someone does not wish to use the online system. Is it because of their age and lack of comfort with technology? Perhaps they want to use the online system but just need someone to walk them through it. Maybe they never considered it; they are just giving the way they have always given. Don’t automatically rule out this group of donors without a little bit of investigation.
- Identify contributors who may be convinced to “go green.” Again, use demographic information contained in your church database, combined with your staff’s personal knowledge, to identify ways to reduce administrative, printing and mailing costs. People respect organizations that spend money wisely, reduce unnecessary costs, and are environmentally conscious. Your church constituency is no exception. Remind people that you offer a paperless way to give and to receive contribution reports for filing taxes.
- Thank! Every contribution report to every donor should include a statement of thanks. Thank them for their generosity and show them you appreciate them.
Interested in learning more about church software? Contact us.
Image Credits: AWeber
by Mark Kitts
For thirteen years I was a founding pastor and then elder in a church that went from 0 to 2,500 in average attendance. I also started a church software company with no funding and grew it to the point of serving nearly 1,000 churches. As someone who has worked on both sides of the fence, one of the frequently asked questions that has always intrigued me is, "Why does church management software cost so much?"
Great question! Here are a few reasons:
1. Simple economics - We are used to paying low prices for software because MILLIONS of customers buy it and share the burden of development costs. So if a mobile phone app costs $1, and 10 million people buy it, the software company grosses $10 million! This is why most software we buy is less than $99 or even "free"! Facebook gives away their app for "free" because they sell advertising based on my personal data and that of a billion(!) other users.
But in the US, there aren't billions of potential buyers of church software. There aren't even millions. There aren't even hundreds of thousands. Of the roughly 300,000 churches in America, only a fraction of them currently buy church software. This means the cost of producing the software is spread out over relatively few customers.
2. Production Costs - It takes real people a lot of time to create great software. Shocking, right? We’d all love for Artificial Intelligence to take over the job of managing software development. Alas, it doesn’t; it takes a lot of clever, highly skilled people to create a great church software company. Not only do you need great programmers, but you need knowledgeable support people, sales people with a heart for ministry, and a wise administrative team (Leadership, Office Support, IT, Finance, HR).
Just stop for a minute and count up all those people and what it costs to pay them a fair wage.
And that's just the people costs! Just like your church, software companies also have to pay rent, buy computers, maintain the supply of coffee and Twizzlers, pay for utilities, pay for health insurance, and so much more…
3. Deep, Feature-Rich Functionality - Most other commercial software is very limited in scope. For example, Microsoft Word or Apple's Pages do one thing—they create documents. That's it. Modern church management software does contact management, mass emailing and texting, event management, contribution management, attendance tracking, reporting, check-in, all bundled with a mobile app and web portal, and so much more! All of this functionality takes a significant investment to create and maintain.
I have a friend who’s a lead programmer at Microsoft. In our discussion, I was telling him about all the stuff our software does and his response was eye-opening. "Wow, that's really impressive.” In shock, he said, "We have 2,000 developers working on just one application that does far less than what you just described."
Hopefully this presents a glimpse into the core reasons that the cost of church software is more than most mainstream business application software. You should also know that most of the leaders in the church software industry are Kingdom-minded, sacrificial servants of Jesus, just like you. At least at our company, our mission is to provide the most affordable pricing for the churches we serve while maintaining a healthy enough profit to allow us to continue to grow so that we can do even more to expand the cause of Christ. We are driven by our purpose and what God has called us to do.
As a founding pastor and elder in a rapidly growing church, I faced the same financial challenge every pastor faces. It seems as though there is never enough time, money, staff, and resources. However, you will always face the "resource challenge" if you really want your church to grow. So the question is, "With our limited resources, where do we want to invest to get the most impact?"
We have always chosen to invest in technology tools because they bring exponential value. I am far more efficient and effective when I can instantly communicate broadly (mass emailing and texting) and do the work of two admin staff people by using automated tools for routine tasks like event sign-ups, online giving, and automated report distribution. Most people don't hesitate to pay hundreds of dollars a month for a family plan for their mobile phones. (Yes, I've got three teens and a wife and we all have smart phones. Ouch.) So why wouldn't you pay that (or even less) for software that benefits your entire church?
Remember: If you are putting great church management software to effective use, what you pay is a fraction of the value you receive for your ministry.
Mark Kitts is a principal architect of church software provider, Elexio. He spends his time between developing software and studying ministry in the local church. He’s a coffee connoisseur and likes cake and pie. He’s tortured by his loyalty to the Dallas Cowboys. He was kicked out of multiple Sunday School classes as a preacher’s kid.
by Ken Stewart
Has your church reached a size threshold that it’s having trouble breaking through?
Church leaders have a deep desire to participate in the building of Jesus’ church. So it’s not surprising that pastors and other leaders can feel discouraged when their church seems stuck on a plateau.
Many factors can account for a church’s expanding and contracting over its life span—too many to cover adequately in a brief post. (Earlier posts in this series can be found here, here, and here.)
Remember that the Lord is the church-grower. God gives the increase. The first place to go for guidance is to the Lord and His Word, because leading and growing the church is the Holy Spirit’s work first of all.
Church growth isn’t usually a straight line upward. A “stall” could be a temporary gift of refreshing from the Lord. A plateau provides a season for everyone to rest, rejoice, recover, and regroup. There are usually seasons of growth, then stasis or even contraction.
When a church finds that it’s been on a plateau for several years or more, it may be due to spiritual, organizational, or cultural factors (or a combination):
- Spiritual factors. A decline in numbers often signals spiritual concerns. The plateau may be a symptom of spiritual problems such as:
- Conflict among members or leaders
- Shallow busyness
- Neglect of disciple making
- Neglect of evangelism
- Organizational factors. Your church’s plateau may be as large as you will grow because of:
- The limitations of your structure. Having too small a staff for your membership or lacking a leadership-development process will impact how large your church can grow. Growth may have stalled because systems have not been scaled up or upgraded to match the new reality. Your current systems may not be adequate to sustain a church any bigger than it is now. Carey Neiuwhof wrote, “You know why most churches still don’t push past the 200 mark in attendance? You ready? They organize, behave, lead and manage like a small organization.”
- Even if a church is poorly managed, it still has a system, and that system produces predictable results. Management expert W. Edwards Deming famously said, "Your system is perfectly designed to give you the results you're getting."
- Cultural factors. Both the church’s internal culture and the surrounding culture influence the church’s growth potential.
- Resistance to change is a major drag on growth. Now, not all change brings growth, but all growth brings change. A dying church is changing, but it’s not growing.
- But a church that truly seeks to grow will have to make changes, often significant ones. “Simply put, church size does matter for how a church is run, much like a married couple who some years later find themselves with a dozen children cannot simply organize their life as they did with their first child—everything must change.” Mark Driscoll, pastor of Mars Hill Church
- Leadership can be the reason a church’s growth has stalled. Asking “why?” can be a threatening step for leaders to take, because they themselves may be the primary reason growth has stopped. It takes a strong leader who is committed to the true welfare of the church and to the will of God to take that long look in the mirror.
- Demographics can account for a church plateau. There may be an innate limit to growth because of where the church is situated. It may be landlocked, or it may be located in a sparsely populated area.
Researcher Ed Stetzer offers some hope to plateaued churches:
“[If] a church is in a pattern of plateau, it can likely be kick-started . . . If a church is in decline, it will take longer to change things, and more things will need to be changed, depending on how steep and long the decline is. Moreover, some churches (there's no easy way to say this) need to die. Whether no one is left, the community has changed drastically, or those who are left are a self-defeating core, some churches have fulfilled their life cycle. The good side is that some dying churches have resources and assets that can be utilized to start something new (see www.legacychurches.com).” Ed Stetzer, http://www.churchleaders.com/pastors/pastor-blogs/146139-kick-starting-the-plateaued-and-declining-church-part-3-contemplate-the-state-of-the-situation.html.
In the upcoming e-book version of this series, we’ll look more deeply at growth strategies for the plateaued church.
by Ken Stewart
If you have never thought of your church as a complex organization, adding a satellite campus will convince you.
And complexity multiplies with each campus a church adds. The same needs that exist in the parent church will exist in the satellite: visionary leadership, effective organization, and adequate resources (including technology).
The major step most growing churches take—buying or building their own facility—will be discussed in the Look Before You Grow e-book. Part I of this series laid out principles for managing church growth. Part II looked at guiding a fellowship to its first rented space.
The pastor's role is indispensable
Max De Pree said, “The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between, a leader is a servant and a debtor.”
For pastors, defining reality includes describing both current problems and possible solutions. Effective leaders describe a desirable future and then help the people work to bring it about.
What’s the reality of your current situation at your church? Can you envision ways to improve it? Are there alternatives to adding a satellite campus (e.g., reworking the schedule to allow more efficient use of your existing building and resources)?
Why launch a satellite?
I’m tempted to say, “If you’re outta space, think satellite!” (Sorry for that one.)
Here is a fundamental question to consider: Is the addition of a campus being driven by necessity (i.e., you’re outgrowing your current facility), or is it an intentional part of your church’s mission? All other things being equal, the more integral growth is to your church’s ongoing mission, the more likely growth will continue.
If your church is consistently operating at capacity, gaining space is probably the most obvious benefit to launching a satellite. The building need not be completely maxed out before the church adds a campus, but the planting church should be solid, stable, and growing before attempting to add a site.
But planting a daughter church can do more than give you more room. It can
- Extend your presence into another community
- Add opportunities to grow new leaders (at both campuses)
- Recruit new workers
- Build unity and enthusiasm in the body
- Affirm the body’s steps of faith
- Celebrate successes
How to know if your church is ready
Adding a campus will likely be more difficult than you might expect—unless you go in expecting it to be difficult. The words of church planting expert Steve Pike bear repeating: “At least ninety percent of problems that occur in multiplication efforts can be traced back to unclarified expectations and assumptions.” If your church is considering adding a campus, your leaders should invest plenty of time and prayer into clarifying your expectations and assumptions.
Your church may be ready to launch a satellite campus if:
- You are consistently at 80% capacity or more in your current facilities.
- A desire to grow is part of your church’s character.
- You know that the satellite campus will meet an identifiable need in the new community.
- You have qualified, trained leaders in place.
- You have a core of dedicated men and women who will “seed” the church plant.
- You have the necessary financial foundation; the parent church is willing and able to take on the financing of the satellite until it becomes self-sustaining.
Many challenges, even more opportunities
As they shepherd their congregations through the challenge of adding a campus, leaders will find endless opportunities to define reality, to serve, and to say thank you—to the people, and to the Lord.
Up next: Reviving growth in the plateaued church.
When a church plant grows to a rented space
by Ken Stewart
Seeing God mature your small living-room fellowship into a growing church body is a uniquely exciting experience—one that the vast majority of believers, at least in North America, have never had. It can bring a sense of eager anticipation as your group ventures from the confines of a home to a larger, rented space. People wonder, what will it be like? Will we keep growing? What does God have planned for this flourishing fellowship?
This article is designed to help prepare your leadership for some of the unique challenges and opportunities that come with moving your church to a leased space.
See Part I of this series for insights that apply to the various stages of church growth. To recap: every stage of growth requires visionary leadership, effective organization, and adequate resources.
Moving to a rented space gives your church the opportunity to:
- Reach new people
- Recruite and train new workers
- Stretch their leaders
- Improve the overall experience for church members
- See God come through in new ways, in a new setting
What challenges will your church face?
- Problem solving. Every solution brings new problems. You'll encounter problems in your leased space that you didn't have to solve before. For example, how will you ensure the safety of the parking lot and stairwells?
- You'll need more staff and more money (see below)
- Opposition. You may lose some members, though founding members tend to be loyal, having been won and nurtured by the person or team who planted the church. Opposition can also come from people who live and work near the rented facility.
What resources are essential?
- Unity - not necessarily unanamity, though some reluctance to venture out is natural
- Workers, which implies a good recruiting process
- Ongoing training. While God will often send someone with particular skills and gifts to a new fellowship, Scripture indicates that He desires that a church fill its ministry needs by equipping and training its own members.
- More leaders. Since we're talking about managing growth, expect that the work will be more than the current leader/church planter/pastor can manage alone. One of the first things the Apostle Paul did when he planted a church was to appoint and equip leaders. Every wise church planter does that. Only put people in key leadership positions who have shown themselves to be faithful Christ-followers.
- Technology can help. A previous article shows how technology tools can improve the church's experience when they're meeting in a rented space.
How can leaders navigate the choppy waters of change?
Even though growth is good change, it's still change, something most of us naturally resist. Most of us prefer the comfortable and the familiar, and we will only give it up by choice if something better is being offered.
Big changes go more smoothly if the leaders:
Cast vision. Even church leaders who don't see themselves as visionary can describe a better future for their church. Casting vision involves describing the destination and guiding the journey. People are more likely to get on board when they know where the boat is going. They might row harder, too.
Delegate wherever you can. That's important if you want to create future leaders. The more people invest of themselves, the more invested they become. (Profound, right?)
Build an effective system of organization. Not all organizational structures are equal. Some of them focus more on keeping the system going than on helping the church and its members to thrive. In these organizations, the workers serve the system. In the most effective churches, the system serves the members, enabling them to minister effectively.
Expect occasional stalls and setbacks - even opposition. Few organizations get the change process exactly right from the beginning. Change is always messy. Learn and grow from setbacks.
Celebrate successes. Show your people that what they are doing matters, and that it's noticed and appreciated.
Next in the series: moving from a single church campus to multiple sites.
By Ken Stewart
When a church begins bursting at its seams, its leaders will sometimes use the expression “This is a good problem to have!” Steady, healthy growth is something most church leaders dream of.
But as with most dreaming, there comes a moment when leaders wake up and see that the blessing of growth brings with it some new and difficult challenges.
How can leaders successfully manage the promises and pitfalls of church growth? This post is part one of a four-part series on managing the phases of church growth: from living room to leased space; from single campus to multi-site; and from plateau to new growth.
Whether your church is just beginning to outgrow its first gathering place or is long overdue for a surge of growth, there are some things your leaders should know.
True and lasting church growth is literally the Lord’s work. The Lord is the true builder of His church, according to Matthew 16:18 and Ephesians 2:18-22. It is spiritual work first of all.
A church has to know its context and its constituency in order to grow in a sustainable way. Those churches that have sustained their growth have done so because they researched, identified, and embraced their ministry context and the constituency they serve.
A church should study its DNA. Regardless of the phase a church is moving into, it’s a good time to evaluate what makes them the church they are. Why has the church grown as it has? If it’s because of qualities that are part of its DNA—say, small groups or expository preaching or caring for the community—then the church should work hard to ensure that those qualities stay central to its identity.
Growth will not automatically continue unabated. Such factors as geography and demographics will place a limit on the growth potential of a given church. Also, growth needs to be properly managed, or the church will get in its own way.
Growth can be caused by any number of factors, not all of them good or sustainable.To see this, you need only to imagine 100 new attenders who have just gone through an acrimonious split from their former church. Unless leaders respond wisely, that kind of growth can damage a church.
Growth does not always indicate total ministry effectiveness. A church may grow because it has begun a great children’s ministry, for example, but other ministries in the church may be weak and ineffective. In that case, some of the church’s other ministries may need to be reshaped or dissolved so they don’t impede the overall work.
Every stage of growth requires these assets:
Visionary leadership that can persuasively answer the question, “Why are we doing this?”
Effective organization—a structure that serves, not hinders, the growing church
Adequate resources—people and money
A growing family requires its members to adjust to changes. The same is true of a growing church—which is also a growing family, after all. Whether your church is transitioning to its first facility, a multi-site model, or new growth after a plateau, the next three parts in this series will answer these questions:
What challenges will you face at this phase of growth? What opportunities does this phase present? What resources are essential? How can leaders navigate the choppy waters of change?
Up next: Look Before You Grow: From Living Room to Leased Space
Is your church currently in a growth spurt? What’s been good about this growth? What’s been difficult? What advice would you offer to other leaders?
by Ken Stewart
I’m pretty sure that was the reaction most people had upon seeing Christmas displays in retail stores just after Labor Day. That’s still summertime!
As chagrined as most of us might feel about merchants stocking the shelves for a season still three months away, these months are the home stretch for many ministry leaders. Church teams are already in high gear, planning for the upcoming Christmas season.
As a former worship pastor, I’ve planned a lot of Christmas events. Sometimes my team and I were already out of steam by the time the event came around. For too many ministry leaders, the Christmas season is less about celebrating and more about surviving.
A lot of the holiday frenzy can be avoided with thoughtful planning. Whether your church’s Christmas events are simple or complex, your leaders and volunteers can enjoy the season’s special occasions when they know that the details are being taken care of.
It’s not too late to begin planning meaningful Christmas events for your church. (But don’t wait too much longer, or you’ll be able to sum up in two words the plan you will have chosen: winging it.)
Elexio is offering a free, downloadable planning checklist to help you and your team think through all of the details for your Christmas events.
Christmas gatherings, like most church events, typically need planning in these categories:
- Type of event. Will it be a concert? Worship service? Dinner? Party? Caroling?
Facility and resources. Where will your event be held? What rooms will you need to reserve? Will you need to rent facilities? Rent or purchase equipment? Will your event need extra funding? How will you raise the funds? Will you be selling tickets? How will you receive payment? How will you register attenders, particularly guests? Are online registration and payment an option?
- Volunteer recruitment. Will your regular ministry teams be enough, or will you need additional volunteers? How will you recruit them? How will you train them? How will you thank them?
- Publicity. How will you promote your event? How will you communicate with your teams?
- Follow-up. Will your greeters need training? Will your regular assimilation process work? Will extra team members be needed to follow-up on more guests than usual? The congregations that do the best job of welcoming guests and drawing them into the life of the church are those that make it an essential part of the church’s life.
Many churches struggle to follow up with their guests. Does your church have an effective assimilation process? Elexio’s Fusion provides resources to assist you with assimilation. In fact, Fusion has features to help you with every aspect of event management and follow-up.
There’s no denying that a successful Christmas event takes a good deal of prayerful planning and effort. Even a labor of love is still labor. So above all, be sure to plan for regular rest and spiritual refreshment before, during, and after the Christmas season.
Walking in Christ every day is the most important preparation of all.
How is your church planning to celebrate our Savior’s birth this year?