“Use as directed” – Three little words found on the label of the bottle containing your doctor’s prescription. If we are wise, we will use the contents of that container “as directed.” Why wouldn’t you do the same with the contents of your church growth consultant’s directive? Especially when your consultant carries the credibility and credentials of a Bill Easum. Especially when three years after relocating to your beautiful new building the church you lead is losing attendance.
A year after we moved into our new facility, our attendance grew by 33%. Twelve months later attendance had dropped by 4%. Just three months later our attendance was declining at a rate of 9%. After twenty-five years of leading the church, I really had done everything I knew to do to help Allen Memorial grow numerically and spiritually. I needed help. The Lord came to my aid through an email from Bill Easum announcing the formation of a pastors’ network dedicated to breaking through the next growth barrier (ours was 500). Because of excellent previous experience with Bill, I garnered the support of our leadership and signed on to participate in the network.
After receiving Bill’s analysis and recommendations relative to Allen Memorial, we went to work to do…”as directed”—exactly as directed. Why else would you bother to hire an esteemed consultant? The following are Bill Easum’s major directives (in bold italics) and what resulted from our pursuit of them.
Spend the summer putting the controversy over going to a cell church to rest in favor of church unity which God wants of every church.
Many of the members of our four remaining Sunday school classes were upset with our transition to a decided emphasis on LIFE groups–holistic small groups that meet in homes (“cells”). My inadequate handling of the transition contributed to the problem. Bill wrote, “That (decline in worship attendance) will continue as long as conflict is present.” And then came a sentence that struck home: “God doesn’t honor conflict.”
For four months I worked diligently to make the Sunday school classes feel loved and valued—without abandoning the cell vision God had given me many years before. God has blessed these efforts; a sense of unity now permeates our congregation (not among all, of course, but among the overwhelming majority
Monitor the parking especially at the 9:30 hour and the crossover to 11:00 to make sure you provide one parking place for every 2 people at the peak hour.
The ministry team and I created a detailed action plan aimed at motivating our members to “park in the grass” and leave the paved parking for the guests. The people responded beautifully, opening at least sixty spaces every week at the peak 9:30 hour and thereby creating more than enough parking for us to avoid the 80% logjam.
The pastor should respond within 24 hours to every first-time guest who signs in. First-time guests should be visited by the pastor within 24-36 hours.
When I read this suggestion, my heart sank. How in the world would I ever find the time to do this? Yet, the Lord led me to make the changes in priorities and scheduling that freed up the time to call every guest either on the Sunday they visited or on the Monday after our services. I also sought to make an appointment for breakfast, lunch, or a home visit with as many guests as I could. The retention rate of these guests with whom I met has been astounding. 86% of the guests I have met within the last four months are still attending our church! Lead pastors, you may think you do not have time for all these visits…make the time. God blesses the effort.
You are going to have to focus more on the needs of the community than the needs of the church…love your community more. How heartbroken are you over the condition of your community?
We journeyed to the mayor’s office with this question: “What geographical area of Salisbury needs salt and light?” Without blinking an eye, the mayor’s representative said, “Princeton Avenue.” We planned an evangelistic block party for that area. City officials were delighted with our plans and offered great assistance.
On Saturday, October 16, we went door-to-door in that area distributing flyers in English and Spanish that invited the residents to the block party. We also gave every home a Chick-fil-A coupon as a sign of God’s love for them. Firefighters accompanied some of our teams and offered to check the smoke detectors in the homes of the residents, giving smoke detectors to those who had none and new batteries for those who needed them.
On Saturday, October 23, we threw our evangelistic block party from noon to 4:00 p.m. Approximately 500 people attended. We passed out countless quantities of hot dogs, snow cones, soft drinks, and popcorn. The kids enjoyed a wide variety of games. Everyone enjoyed the musical talents of our worship team. We distributed many copies of the New Testament, evangelistic tracts, copies of the “Jesus” film, and invitations to our special worship service (Double Day) on October 31. We also shared our faith in Christ; three persons prayed to receive Christ.
A few weeks later we called the people who registered for the door prizes and asked if we could bring Thanksgiving dinner to them. Forty-one families agreed to
receive the food. At the time of this writing, our teams are still out distributing the food, passing out evangelistic materials, and seeking to tell their story and the story of Christ. So far, two professions of faith have occurred.
Preach on the importance of outreach and evangelism. The first time you do a Double Day I would encourage you to get my book, Preaching for Transformation, and focus your messages for the month on The Acts of the Apostles. Each Sunday you will preach on some aspect of New Testament evangelism.
I downloaded and read Bill’s book. While I did not use his messages, I did base my series of messages on Acts. I pursued the concept of calling upon our people to get out of our building, to get out of their LIFE group, to get out of their comfort zone, and get into our community to advance the Kingdom of God. The series was entitled, “Get Out!” In these messages I told them that our church was going to “get out” and throw a block party in the Princeton Avenue area. I called upon them to volunteer for both door-to-door duty and block party responsibilities. Over 200 people signed up on our simple sign-up sheets in our lobby! We ended up with so many volunteers that people had to work in two-hour shifts rather than serve the entire afternoon at the block party. How wonderful to see the Allen Memorial Baptist Church literally “on the street.” Our people had a wonderful experience; they grew in the Lord.
During this series I also called upon our people to pray over the two invitation cards for Double Day (check out: www.clubflyers.com) in their worship brochure and give them to the people revealed by the Lord.
Do one Double Day in 2010 and two in 2011 and beyond.
I would characterize Double Day as “Friend Day on steroids.” The goal of D-2 is to double the number of first-time guests. We did everything Bill suggested:
1. Pick a seeker-friendly message series (“Peace of Mind…at Last”),
2. Distribute well-designed invitation cards,
3. Advertise with television, radio, yard signs, and billboards.
(No, we are not rolling in money—we just spent in faith. God provided.)
Our goal for Double Day was eleven first-time guests (our average per Sunday over the last twelve months was 5.5). On October 31, our first-time guests totaled…51! The total number of registered guests was 83. Our attendance was up 100 over our average. Two persons asked Christ to be the Forgiver of their sins and the Leader of their life!
Please note that three months ago a few of my leaders thought that with the block party and Double Day we were biting off more than we could chew. In fact, we bit off just enough to create tremendous momentum as we moved from the door-to-door distribution (October 16) to the evangelistic block party (October 23) to Double Day (October 31).
Now, I have saved the most important element of this Kingdom success for last: WE PRAYED…diligently, corporately, and sacrificially.
I preached for a renewed commitment by our people to our weekly day of prayer called, “FACEDOWN.”
For several weeks during FACEDOWN, we emphasized these outreach efforts.
For the door-to-door effort, for the block party, and for the Thanksgiving food distribution, we placed prayer cards in the worship brochure.
For all three of those events we met at the church for fervent prayer from 8:00 to 9:00 a.m. During the first two events people came to the church building to pray. For the third event we exited our corporate prayer time and “prayerdrove” through the Princeton Avenue area.
As wonderful as Bill Easum’s counsel was, the Kingdom-building success of these efforts required a thorough commitment to prayer, believing Jesus when He said, “Apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5b).
Rest assured, we shall continue to pray diligently and use Bill Easum’s counsel “as directed.” You would do very well to do the same.