10 12 2017

Cary Nieuwhof is one of the favorite bloggers of those who work Bridgebuilders Ministries.  This is an extremely helpful post for this time of year. – STEVE


Any idea what the best outreach opportunity of the year at your church might be?

You might think it’s an event you do, or perhaps it’s Easter. But whether Christmas has historically been your best opportunity to reach unchurched people or not, I believe it could be.

You may think it’s far too early to start thinking about Christmas, but think again. Whenever I’ve shared these ideas about Christmas, people say “Hey, I wish you’d talked about this earlier.” So we are.

In addition to this post, Jeff Henderson and I are doing a free live training outlining how to turn Christmas into your best outreach opportunity of the year.  Jeff takes all his learning from Gwinnett Church (#ForGwinnett)  and I take mine from Connexus Church and hand them to you.

The training is on replay for a limited time leading up to Christmas 2017, and you can watch it here.

So why can Christmas become your very best outreach event of the year?

It Only Happens Once A Year These Days

As our culture becomes more and more post-Christian, we’re seeing far fewer times when the holidays of the church and the holidays of culture sync. I remember about a decade ago hearing a Toronto DJ refer to Easter as “the first long weekend of summer” (in Canada Good Friday is a holiday and schools still take Easter Monday off…a relic from Colonial days). Good Friday and Easter were completely lost on him. It was simply time off.

Christmas is completely different.

Our culture still loves Christmas. Sure, the motives are commercial. But Christmas is the only time of year when you’ll hear malls belt out explicitly Christian songs like Charles Wesley’s “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing:”

Veiled in flesh the Godhead see
Hail the incarnate Deity
Pleased with us in flesh to dwell
Jesus, our Emmanuel

If you follow a lot of Christians on social media leading up to Christmas, you probably have noticed how many people lament over the culture’s disregard of Christ.

Well, you can see the obstacle. Or you can see the opportunity. I choose to see the opportunity. There are so many connection points with our culture you’ll miss if you only see the glass as half empty.

This is no time for the church to be more cynical than the world, which still remembers something is different at Christmas, even if they’re not exactly sure what it is.

Stop complaining about the world. Reach it instead.

As the general population thinks less about the Christian faith, Christmas provides a unique opportunity to reach people who no longer ordinarily attend church.



2 07 2014

Bill Tenney-Brittian partners with Bill Easum (Dancing with the Dinosaurs) in a ministry called 21st Century Strategies.  Recently he posted an article on their blog EFFECTIVE LEADERS that committed Bridgebuilders might want to consider. – Steve


Stop Inviting People to Church … and Grow Your Church Anyway

Stop Inviting People to ChurchThis weekend I’m working with a church that desperately wants to grow … well, the pastor wants it to grow. He asked his core leaders about their inviting experiences and to a one they all said shades of the same thing: “I’ve invited all my friends to church and they’re not interested.”

Well, Duh!!

Unless you happen to be inviting a formerly well-churched person who somehow misses the falderal of doing church, there are few people out there just waiting for an invitation to come to church … pollster’s statistics notwithstanding. As I’ve said before, pretty much everyone who wanted to be in church last week was in church last week. That means that everyone else really didn’t want to be in church. So why bother inviting them? Especially since they’re unlikely to accept your invitation anyway.

Besides, there’s a better and significantly more effective way.

Typically, people only accept invitations to events (functions, meetings, etc.) that they perceive will add value to their lives. Of course, “values” are as personal as they are ephemeral. What one finds valuable another finds pointless. The truth is, a lot of people believe they get more value out of staying in bed than they would from attending a worship service on Sunday morning. On the other hand, these same folks find value and invest their time in hanging out with friends, going to concerts, attending workshop on improving their lives or their golf game, and taking their children to endless soccer, t-ball, gymnastics, and swimming practices. Value is in the eye of the beholder … and for a growing number of people, attending a worship service just isn’t worth the investment.

If your church is serious about reaching these folks, and if you depend on member’s inviting those in their circles of influence to come to church, then the church will need to host something “valuable enough” (in the eyes of the beholders) that your members’ friends are willing to say “Yes!” to an invitation.

Here’s an example:

A church in a very small town is located next door to the town’s single-screen theater. They’ve got a good relationship going with the theater owner so they get a heads up about upcoming movies a good bit in advance. They’re offering a Family Friendly Dinner Date Night a couple times a year and they encourage their members to invite their friends to it. For $15 per adult, the date night includes a sit down dinner at the church, the cost of admission to the movie, and childcare for the kids.

Of course, the childcare isn’t just babysitting. The children’s team pulls off full programming with the children that’s gentle-faith based and over the top fun. The kid care is designed to encourage the children to be excited about coming back.

But like Ginsu knives, “But wait! There’s More.” Just before the movie lets out, the church sets out a family friendly bedtime snack spread to encourage lingering and mingling. And as the families linger, the church members serve, and mingle, and build new relationships.

But the real genius isn’t the invite-worthy event; it’s what comes next. Sure, the kids go home with their handmade craft (that’s always a lot better than a coloring sheet), but the parents go home with a “handoff” as well. They receive an invitation to a special three-week series on a topic targeted to these mostly unchurched families. Sometimes there’s a three-week series based on the movie, but more often it’s a three to four week series that’s compelling such as the date night was.

For instance, following one of the date nights, each couple was given a VistaPrint magnet card that advertised an upcoming three week sermon series titled: A Guys’ Guide to Relationship Sanity. The series is based on how husbands (and prospective husbands) should treat their wives (prospective wives). The church was intentional in creating a series that guys could get into … but that the women were invested in getting their guys to go to.

But the genius just keeps on coming. Before the series is over the church will be delivering another handoff event or series to keep the guests (and the members!) coming back.

So, stop inviting people “to church” and start inviting them to church hosted events that your target finds value-able enough to accept an invitation to. And then make sure you’ve got a handoff … because it’s those handoffs that can move them from an event participant to an exploring disciple who’s attending worship


3 10 2013

Carey Nieuwhof provides some of the best insights on reaching the unchurched, or in this case, not reaching them. We have added a permanent link to his blog on our blogroll. – STEVE

Almost every leader I know says they want their church to grow.

And almost all of them say they want much of that growth to come from people who don’t go to church.

But precious few churches see real traction in this area.

why churches aren’t growing

Most churches aren’t growing, and even the ones that are sometimes experience a majority of their spike from transfer growth rather than from previously unchurched people.

So why don’t churches who say they want to reach unchurched people actually reach unchurched people?

Here are 7 frequent reasons:

1. Your desire to reach unchurched people is an intention, not a strategy. You’re basically doing what you’ve always been doing and hoping for different results. Wanting people to attend and creating a church unchurched people love to attend are two very different things. If you haven’t made radical changes to how you do church, don’t expect radically different results.

2. You’ve ended up in No-Man’s Land by trying to please everyone. Your church is too contemporary to make insiders happy and your approach is still too dated, irrelevant and unengaging to capture the imagination of unchurched people. You’ve made as many changes as you think you can navigate without alienating your existing membership, but not brought about nearly enough change to really engage outsiders. You are in no-man’s land. In an attempt to please everyone, you have pleased no one.

3. Your real vision is about you. On the wall, your vision is about Jesus, the Kingdom and the world, but down the hall your reality about how to keep Mr X from writing yet another angry letter and how to appease Ms X who says your church just isn’t deep enough. You say it’s about others, but you spend all your time on insiders. Keep that up, and no matter what your mission and vision say, your church will have a vision no bigger than its (contentious) members.

4. Your people don’t know any unchurched people. This can be a real problem. How can people who attend your church invite unchurched people if they don’t know any? One of the ways we combat that where I serve at Connexus (where 60% of our growth is from unchurched people) is to offer very little mid week programming—mostly just community groups for people to gather in at most one night a week. We want people to be at home and be a family, invite friends over, get to know their neighbours, play on community sports teams and love the cities and communities they live in. It’s a lot easier to invite unchurched friends to church when you have some. Most churches keep their ‘salt’ inside the box…it never actually touches any food.

5. You speak insider. If unchurched people show up, you confuse them by the way you speak. If they have to learn code to understand what people in the hall way are saying (We were blessed by great fellowship the other day) or what’s being said from the front (sanctification is a process of regeneration led by the Holy Spirit), they’ll leave. Talk like normal people. Be clear. Remember, being unclear does not make you deep. It just makes you unclear.

6. You judge them. If you start reaching unchurched people they’re going to look like, well, unchurched people. Their lifestyle will be different. Sex won’t just be for married people. You’ll deal with addictions, family break down, competing ideas about who God is and much more. Stop judging. Start loving. Very few people get judged into life change; many of us get loved into life change. Start with judgment and they’re gone. And apparently, Jesus will be upset too.

7. You’re not sure what to do with them when they get there. You have no clear steps. No environments designed with new people in mind. You don’t know how to engage their questions, to journey with them. Even if they come, they probably won’t stick around if you can’t lead them into a relationship with Jesus Christ.

That’s what I’ve seen as I’ve talked with many churches and church leaders. And those are things we constantly guard against at Connexus.

How about you? Would you add anything to the list?
– See more at: http://careynieuwhof.com/2013/09/7-reasons-churches-that-want-to-reach-unchurched-people-dont/#sthash.ABANrXEw.dpuf


16 11 2012


In our current round of Bridgebuilders Seminars and in presentations about the Bridgebuilders Principles, we have been sharing some disturbing news that goes to the heart of  renewing our passion for evangelism and making more and better disciples.

As a follow-up, I’d like to share some graphs that summarize the recent findings of the Pew Research Center.

Shawn Anderson in his blog living dangerously has some counsel for us based on these observations:

1. Realize that we are the seekers, not the religiously unaffiliated. Jesus told his followers to “go”. Instead of building a church building with the notion that “they will come” to us, we need to actively and intentionally go to our communities.

2. Target young people. The younger generations are the ones with the largest percentage of religiously unaffiliated. They will also dictate the future of the church. Therefore, we need to intentionally seek to develop relationships with them.

3. Communicate the love of Jesus. If we share the love of Jesus by serving others with no strings attached and by being transparent with them, it will show them that we are more concerned with their souls than money, rules and politics.


2 12 2011

Who are your neighbors?

Increasingly traditional churches cannot answer that question with any specificity.  Some congregations are reverse commuters, returning Sundays and perhaps Wednesdays to gather and worship in a community in which they no longer live.  Other churches live in a bubble of doctrinal isolation (i.e., we do not want to tainted by the world and therefore have little contact) or inward-focused fellowship, spending almost 100% of their time with other church people.  Some congregations are even afraid of their neighbors.  As a result no attempt is made to reach those unchurched neighbors except the billboard or sign out front.

Who are our neighbors?  The scriptures make it very plain – they are the people for whom Christ died and who Christ loves.  Some of them are connected to churches, some are not.  Some are Christians, some are not.  Some are church drop-outs.  Some have absolutely no Christian roots and have barely a clue as to what you do behind closed doors on Sunday morning.

If we think of those neighbors at all, we generalize them as the lost and then act as if they’re not really lost by largely ignoring them.

Do you want to reach your unchurched neighbors?  That is an essential question for every congregation that claims to be an obedient and faithful part of the Body of Christ.

If you truly want to reach your unchurched neighbors, then there some realities you must come to grips with.

1. They are not your enemies, nuisances, nor your project.  These are three perceptions that will drive your neighbors away or create barriers across which they will never pass.  They may not like your faith nor approve of it, but if you see them as your enemies and approach them as such, they will fight back.  They are not persons who get in the way of your ministry. They are people who need your ministry.  Reaching them is far more important than all the church suppers, small group Bible studies, and projects your church may pour its energy into.  They are not a project, a number to be counted, a victory to be one.  They are people, created in the image of God, loved and respected because Christ died for them.  They are people who need a relationship with Jesus Christ and with you, the Body.

2. They have needs that you must first understand and then respond to in the name of Christ.  Too many of us do not know our neighbors well enough to know their needs, let alone address those needs.  We often assume we know them, but that usually leads to assuming they are like us and just need to be persuaded to behave as such.  If you don’t build relationships, listen, and seek to understand–you will not reach your neighbors effectively.

3.  They are have values and dreams.  You may think those values to be sinful or their dreams to be shallow; but you do not build a redemptive relationship with people who you do not respect in some way.

There’s more to be said on this subject, but for now; know that if you want to reach your unchurched neighbors, you will have to begin thinking in new ways.

(C) 2011 by Stephen L Dunn


20 07 2011

Reaching the Rough and Tumble of Society: An Historical Example

From the blog THE INTERNET MONK July 19 by Chaplain Mike

By Chaplain Mike

OK, so you have a heart to reach men for Christ—working class men, work with your hands and bring home the bacon kind of men, hard working and sometimes hard living “men’s” men, men who are not afraid to break a sweat and get dirty.

These are not the kind of men that grace church pews. You’ll find them in the pubs after work, downing a pint or two and using indelicate language. In their rare free time, you might find them playing sports with such a competitive fire that it leads to a brawl now and then. You’ll find them placing bets on the ponies. You’ll find them out in the woods hunting or on the lake fishing. At home, they are likely to be chopping firewood or wielding a hammer to mend some flaw on the roof.

You want to reach these men for Christ. You want to see them humble themselves and repent and go to the Cross and trust in Jesus. You long that they will become disciples. You hope to see them in church among the congregation, praising God in song, becoming hearers and doers of the Word, partaking of Christ’s body and blood at the Lord’s Table. You want to teach them to love their families, to do their work to God’s glory, to love their neighbors, to be generous, kind, and hospitable people. Perhaps some will find opportunities to improve their lot in life and they will do great good through their charitable works on behalf of the less fortunate. Perhaps some will become leaders in their communities, peacemakers, promoters of good order and all that is good and right.

What is your strategy for reaching these men, the rough and tumble of society?

What kind of a person would you choose to speak to them?

If you had fifty years to try and impact this working class culture dramatically with the Gospel, who would you pick as your leader as the face of that movement?

I’ll tell you who God chose.

God chose…

  • A man of aristocratic background, not a working class man.
  • The youngest child in a large family, whose greatest influence in life was his mother.
  • A man who was frail and diminutive, about 5′ 4″ tall, not an imposing figure.
  • A man who was undramatic, not one who overpowered you with his presence and speaking ability.
  • An academic, who had spent most of his life in school surroundings, who had mastered six languages.
  • A serious and pious man, who had lived a strict personal life of following religious rules and abstaining from fleshly pleasures.
  • A man who was very conservative about the church, who practiced liturgical worship, who did not believe in religious innovation.

In other words, a man who did not relate to the people in that rough and tumble working class by any natural ties whatsoever.

God chose John Wesley.

One day God dragged John Wesley out into a field in Bristol, England, where he hesitantly preached to a large group of tough coal miners, and he was hooked. For the next fifty years, he and his band of “methodists” worked tirelessly among the working classes throughout the British Isles, winning those on the rough edges of society and equipping them to follow Christ in their world. Though it ultimately did not work out that way, Wesley had no intention of starting a new church or denomination. He was a staunch Church of England proponent his entire life, and the Book of Common Prayer was his liturgy. He hoped methodism would become a missional force within the Church of England that would help the church recover and maintain her spiritual vitality. He was an organizational genius, however, and the overwhelming response to his preaching required that he provide for the ongoing spiritual sustenance of those the Church would not welcome. And thus the Methodist church came to be. However, Wesley’s innovations were targeted toward the church’s mission, not her gathered life and order.

He did not think that one had to change the Great Tradition of the church to reach lost working class people.

He did not think that one had to change the church’s worship or traditional ministries to reach lost working class people.

He did not think that he had to radically identify with the culture of his audience by dressing like them, speaking like them, or altering his message in any way in order to reach working class people.

He did not try to change the church or its fundamental ethos.

He did not change the pastor’s ministry.

What did he do?

He took the Gospel out of the church and into the world.

He trusted in the power of the Holy Spirit to empower the preaching of the Gospel and the good works of his people as they lived and moved and preached and ministered in the fields, villages, towns, and cities of England.

And that’s how you reach men, women, and children for Christ. You don’t have to identify with them, dress like them, speak like them, attract them by playing their music or making them think you’re cool.

You just have to be yourself, radically identified with Christ, and living in relationship with your neighbors in their world. Let the church be the church. Let the mission be done in the world by the John Wesleys of our day, who rely not on church growth principles and missional strategies, but on the power of God to bring revival.



2 06 2011

Many of our churches still choose an attractional model of ministry in general and evangelism in particular.  But if they are successful in getting non-Christians through the door, will they truly connect with them in a potentially life-transforming way? Thomas Weaver, writing for RESURGENCE has some important thoughts for evaluation.

Okay I’m not a Christian, but I’ve finally made the decision to come to your church this Sunday. Don’t expect much from me though. If something comes up I might not, but right now I’m planning on it. I feel like I need to go, but I’m not sure why. I want to tell you a few things about myself before you meet me.

1.  I’m not going to understand religious language or phrases so be aware of that when we talk. I don’t understand slain in the spirit, God is moving in me, covered in the blood, I need to die to self, you just need to be in the Word, what you need is a new life, etc. If we have conversation filled with religious talk, I’m probably not going to understand half of the words…and maybe think you’re a little crazy.

2.  When you ask me how I’m doing, know that I don’t trust you. I’m probably going to lie and tell you I’m fine. It’s not that I don’t want to tell you; it’s just that I come from some pain and am not sure if I trust you yet. How about you tell me your story first? If I like you and get the vibe that you’re not trying to capture my soul or anything, I’ll tell you mine.

3.  I’ve got pretty rough language and I can be bitter and angry about some things. If I sense in you a mindset of superiority, I’m out. If you are just waiting for your turn to talk instead of truly listening to me, I’m not going to be interested. Don’t expect me to be exactly like you.

4.  Don’t make a big deal of introducing me to everyone you know. I understand a couple of people, but please; don’t set up a welcoming line. I’m just there to check it out; I need a bit of space.

5.  I’m going to be looking for genuine interest in me. I don’t want to feel like your personal salvation project or be a notch on your “I saved one” belt. If this Jesus is who you say he is, then I’m looking forward to seeing him in you. That’s how it works, right?

6.  I’m going to have questions. I need truth, not your preferences or your religion, so can you just tell me what the Bible says?

7.  I need to feel welcomed. Is there a time limit or something on my visit before I’m supposed to feel unwelcomed? I mean, I’ve been to other churches and there seemed to be a push for me to make up my mind or something. How long until I’m unwelcomed?

Thanks for hearing me out. I’m pretty sure I’m going to come this Sunday. But I might not.