How does a church get momentum for transformation? There are four steps to gaining momentum for church transformation.
First, in addition to preaching from the “vision lectionary” (see our EBA resources), encourage lay leaders from your team to share their stories of personal transformation in worship. The more individuals talk about how God is reshaping and changing their own lives, the more you will capture the attention of people in the pews.
Second, feed a growing conversation by encouraging people to linger after worship. The first 45 minutes after worship is the best time to create “a buzz” of conversation. Lay on extra refreshments. Clergy should try to come away from the handshaking at the door as soon as possible.
Third, seed the conversation by organizing your team around a “script” with which they can quickly, pointedly engage people in any formal or informal conversation through the week. The “script” includes 3-4 key messages every team member shares with every relationship. Consider things like: “We are at a turning point in our church life” and “God has a bigger plan for our church than is contained by our own personal needs”. Or consider asking questions like: “What is the scripture verse or story that sustains you through your troubles?” or “What will our church look like in 2020?”
A Church has “Three Hearts”
The Body of Christ is a bit different from the human body in that it has three hearts. A church has a heart for Jesus Christ; a heart for one another; and a heart for the stranger. In many churches, our heart for one another is very large, but our hearts for Christ and strangers are smaller. That needs to change to grow the church deeper and further.
The biggest heart of all is the heart for Jesus Christ. With your first breath in the morning and last penny at the end of the day, the church should be about Christ rather than privileges of membership or personal comfort zones. The remaining two hearts (for one another and the stranger) will then be of equal size. You will no longer worry that welcoming strangers might somehow curtail caring for members. Both will happen naturally.
Tipping Point for Change
You can’t go further without going deeper. You can’t give away what you do not have. Right now, too few members in our churches are seriously engaged in spiritual habits of prayer, bible study, small group interaction, hands-on mission, and regular meditation on Christ every day and every week. If you can raise the percentage from just 5% to about 20% of the members, stress will begin to disappear and church people will find courage for change.
The best Sunday morning hospitality is redundant and opulent. The more layers of hospitality you create (from parking lot, to outer door, to inner door, to welcome center, to sanctuary, to refreshments) the better. They should all be trained to share the single core message of the church and be sensitive to the stranger … and they should all be in position both before and after worship.
Be sure to add to, and diversify, refreshment options. Give people a reason to linger. Be sensitive to culture, diet, and other issues different people may have about food. If you have to remove some furniture or add signs to encourage people to linger, do it. And deploy your Bible study and small group leaders among the crowd to invite them to mid-week spiritual growth opportunities.
I strongly encourage you now to start converting all your hospitality “task groups” into true “small groups” for spiritual growth. The best hospitality teams are doing a mission, not a task, so they come early for food, intercessory prayer for strangers, Bible conversation, intimate sharing of struggles and victories, before doing their tasks.
Why Newcomers Come
You have heard me say that there are many seekers out there who are broken, lost, lonely, anxious, victimized, or thankful to an unknown god … and are looking for spiritually mature Christians to help them experience the touch of Jesus Christ. But many wonder if that is really true. Have you actually seen them?
The reality is that “you get what you prepare for”. There are 3 basic reasons newcomers come to church.
First, they come to satisfy personal preferences and aesthetic tastes. Something about the building, music, pastor, and people pleases them. They’ll decide in minutes at the front door with the greeter whether they will come back or not. Their attendance is apt to be sporadic. Unfortunately, traditional church practices satisfy the tastes and preferences of fewer and fewer people. Let’s not rely on that to grow our church!
Second, they come to find a particular program. It may be a Sunday school for their children, a youth group for their teens, an adult group for themselves, or maybe an outreach program that meets their needs. They might even join a committee or choir if they like it. But once their need for a program is over, they tend to disappear. Unfortunately, traditional church programs can’t compete with the quality of many other non-profit, social service, sports, and entertainment groups out there. Let’s not rely on that to grow our church!
Third, there are many, many people who come to find healing, intimacy, answers, hope, respect, and joy. They are really looking for God. But are we training and deploying our mature Christian volunteers to clearly and constantly respond to their need? Can our ushers and greeters and choir members talk from their heart about faith … and our session, staff, and committee chairpersons readily share their experience of Christ? Do that, and the word will spread, and you will see more seekers at your door.
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