10 OLD WIVES’ TALE ABOUT CHURCH GROWTH

14 05 2013

From Outreach Magazine ….

BY BRIAN ORME

There’s a lot of discussion that goes on about church growth: what causes it; how to generate it; prepare for it; launch it; build it; cultivate it and even, to some degree, manufacture it. Many of the discussions are helpful, but there are a number of subtle beliefs that still creep up that aren’t healthy. In fact, they’re downright superstitious and, at times, dangerous to the church.

I’ve collected these myths over many conversations, coffees and lunches with church leaders and I’d like to share them with you.

 

10 Old Wives’ Tales About Church Growth

 

1. If You’re Not Growing, Something’s Wrong

 

If growth and a bigger crowd is “always” the result of obedience then some of the OT prophets will have some serious explaining to do.

 

Of course, if you’re not growing—or you’re declining—I think it is cause to evaluate what you’re doing, but it’s not a given that something is always “wrong.”

 

God could be doing something different—more Jeremiah and less Peter.

 

Also, while we’re at it, let’s stop using the Acts 2 passage as a normative prescription for every church today. It’s an amazing description of something special God was doing in history to launch his church, but it’s not a church growth manual. A casual reading of the NT will show churches of all different shapes and sizes, and never once is there a declarative statement that the church should be growing faster than it was—more obedience, yes; helping the poor, yes; staying true to the Gospel, yes; practicing the Lord’s Supper and baptism, yes.

 

2. The More You Grow, the Healthier You Are

 

We would love to believe this one. It certainly feels good to have a bigger crowd. There’s a built-in justification for ministry leaders when more people show up, I know. However, just because your church has more people attending doesn’t mean your church is completely healthy. In fact, it might be cause to closely evaluate the message the crowd is hearing.

 

Growth can be healthy, and it can be a very good thing—it’s just not an automatic four-stars for healthy spirituality. Large numbers are no more an indicator of health than great wealth is an automatic indicator of wisdom. You can be wealthy or impoverished and still be wise or a fool. The same goes for church growth. You can have a lot of people or a little and still be healthy/unhealthy. Health deals more with what’s going on below the surface. Growth tells us something’s going on, but whether it’s good or bad, that’s another issue.    READ MORE …





BRIDGEBUILDING IDEAS

22 02 2013

page25_picture0_1345493656These are some ideas Bridgebuilder churches have used to begin developing a redemptive relationship with their communities.

Volunteering to help the cafeteria workers in the schools

This is a great one for building a rapport with the school and helping your people see that side of life

Taking a Vacation Bible School INTO a neighborhood

This helps people meet you—lets them see their children are safe with you—lets your people meet neighbors who may hide out in their houses otherwise

Offer A GOOD QUESTION Forum in a neighborhood coffee shop

This I can share in detail—but you create a middle space where people are invited to come, enjoy coffee and ask questions about the Bible, God, Christianity etc—where they will not be asked to join anything , agreed or commit to anything.

Throw a Baby Shower for an Unwed Mother

Walk the Neighbor Hood and Ask “How can we make this a better place to live for you?”Great starter for spiritual conversations)

Adopting a Food Bank and Offering Coaching in Food Preparation

Microwavable and easy-to-prepare food is not often present and people have to learn how to use the food they receive

Diaper Changing Stations at Community Festivals

Setting up a Prayer Station at a Community to Pray for Loved Ones in Afghanistan, etc.

Does your church have an idea they would share with us?





FEEDBACK FROM BRIDGEBUILDERS

31 10 2012

Persons from eight central Pennsylvania churches attended a recent Bridgebuilders Seminar in Camp Hill

Kelly Hall is a member of the Newville PA Church of God who attended a recent Bridgebuilders Seminar. This is what he shared with Steve a few weeks later.

Just a few comments on our outreach in our Couple’s Ministry Class.

We have had some great discussion in our couple’s class the past two weeks. Within that time we have decided to select 3 star’s off a Christmas tree at our local grocery store. The star has names of children in our area that are in financial need. We are able to provide a gift box with their needed requests and we are also open to include our own special gifts.

We have made contact in our local high school guidance’s office. We are being provided with name(s) of families in our area that have special needs. They will give us permission to contact them and help with their needs and this will allow visits from our class. At this time, there is at least two families that we should be able to connect with.

We are also purchasing children bibles to distribute in the community for random visits.

This has been something heavy on my heart …… to do more in our couple’s class. We have helped within our church but your seminar has motivated me to move outside our church walls. Thank you for the inspiration.

Kelly

 





MORE THAN OUTREACH

22 05 2011

by Steve Dunn

Many churches have begun to reach out to their communities and neighborhoods. They have begun to develop strategies of outreach, to respond to and meet their neighbors’ needs.

There is a danger in all of this.  Outreach, although never easy, is easier than evangelism.  Lots of time and energy is invested in serving the community in practical ways.  But much of it is done without communicating the message of Jesus Christ.  We do many good things in Jesus’ name but do not necessarily lift up the name of Jesus.  Recovery programs, food pantries, neighborhood clean-ups, childrens’ day camps do not necessarily include conversations with people about Jesus Christ and the Good News he brings.  People are easily motivated by the sense of personal satisfaction that comes from knowing they have done a good thing; but often fear is the motivation for letting it stop there.

Chris Hunter, the Evangelism Coach, recently made this comment in a workshop I attended.  “Without an opportunity to actually talk to people about Jesus Christ, all we are doing is good deeds.”

Do we create those opportunities?

Do we equip or train people to carry on those conversations?

Do we value these conversations even more than the blessing that comes from doing something good?

They are questions worth asking?  The answers will impact the eternal destiny of those for whom we are doing good.





SIX QUESTIONS FOR OUTREACH IN A SMALL TOWN

29 10 2010

This counsel from Steve Sjogren that will help many churches develop the outward focus needed for effective evangelism and outreach in their context. – Steve Dunn

I was recently in the New England area of the U.S. I have been pondering lately the unique aspects of doing ministry in smaller population areas like that. There are many aspects of doing outreach that are universal – as we step out to serve others we are going to find that people are pretty much the same everywhere. At the same time, there are unique features present when we are aiming at people in these areas. What do we need to keep in mind as we reach out in to rural people?
There are six basic questions we must be answer well before we are able to deeply connect with smaller communities. These are the pressing questions we will be asked when we approach the small town audience.
Are you here to stay? People will ask if you are doing something that is just going to be a “ship passing in the night” or if you are going to commit yourself to this area. You will be dinged effectiveness points if you come across as someone who is doing things in order to just connect initially but not at a deeper level. It is important that you connect with people in a way that is going to be perceived as lasting and deep versus light and passing. We tell our community we are here to stay partly by the atmosphere we create when we are doing outreaches. Each time you go out to do SE you have the opportunity to tell people “We are planning on living the rest of our lives in this town. We love this place!” We communicate this message in a variety of ways. At a practical level, put on your “friendly face” and you will do well at connecting with the small town audience.
“Do you love me or are you just trying to build your church through me? If people think you are trying to use them as building blocks of your church they are less likely to warm up to you. You will be evaluated by how you connect with others. Most people who live in smaller towns feel a sense of pride about what they have accomplished in making a living for themselves in that context. There is a sense of accomplishment in these people you won’t find among urban dwellers. If you honor that sense of smaller town USA you will come across as a friend, an ally in the fight for meaning.
How do you treat people? In the smaller town context the way we connect with people will be under the microscope more than when we are in a larger context. The good news about doing servant evangelism in a smaller context is that people will take more notice to the way you connect with your city. That is, there is the possibility that you will make an even more enduring impact upon people than if you were merely connecting with people in a larger city. In big cities we are doing virtual stranger-to-stranger outreach. In small towns we are connecting with people who likely consider themselves friends or at least acquaintances.
How do you see the future? People who live in smaller communities see the future in a unique way. It is common that they view what will take place in the future through the lens of staying put in the current community. That is different than the way people in larger communities see things. Since they have typically lived in the larger context all their lives the notion of city or town size as a flexible factor in evaluating moves. Most who live in a smaller community have committed themselves to the notion that they will persevere in staying in a smaller setting. When we are doing outreach in these settings it is important that we convey that we are going to be here for the duration. Those in smaller communities will plainly ask what we plan to do if we grow as a congregation. The fear is that growth will compromise the quality of the church. If we do grow as a church it is important that we convey that are going to continue to hold strongly to the value of putting people first. We don’t plan to change.
How do you relate to money? Money is viewed a bit differently in smaller contexts. Servant evangelism is all about doing things for free. This important concept will have even more impact in smaller towns than in bigger cities. People are generally impressed with the notion of serving for free. When we serve for free in small towns we have the opportunity to literally amaze people.
When doing servant evangelism we sometimes are approached by people who attempt to pay us for our gift or services. We generally make it a point that we never accept these attempts at giving back to us. We are going to be approached more often in smaller towns by people who wish to give to us when we serve. I recommend you have a standard response to those who are flabbergasted at our project. It is good to spin people a bit with our projects. It isn’t good to leave them overly frustrated. One possible response to those who are blown away is to recommend they give to one of the children’s sponsorship programs that are typically seen on TV on Sunday evenings.
“Are there projects that work especially well smaller settings? Yes, there are projects that work well in a smaller context. In general, anything that can impart the value of the individual will help get you better mileage. Doing give away projects is a hit no matter where you are located, but this approach seems to work better in larger cities. In a smaller context it is important that we convey to people that we are in the business of serving. Projects that allow us to connect with the value of the individual will make a bigger impression.
Some projects that connect well include:
  • free carwashes(I would stay away from the dollar carwash in a small town setting – that is a bit over the top and might come across with too much pizzazz),windshield washingis an amazing project that can touch a lot of people in a relatively short time
  • restroom cleaning teams(stick to gas stations, restaurants and fast food joints and other public venues)
  • feeding parking meters(make sure you are able to actually feed parking meters – you may need to attach a quarter to your outreach card and place that next to the drivers handle)
  • shoveling snow
  • giving away deicer to residents(provide a one gallon plastic milk container that is cut away – then return to fill the salt or deicer every couple of weeks)
  • window washingat homes and businesses.
The best is yet to come! God is on the move in small settings. If you live in a rural setting you might find that you have special blessings resting upon your outreach efforts. There are unique challenges that accompany a focused outreach in a smaller context. It is not impossible to be effective in this setting. My advice to you is to take heart. It is encouraging to learn the ropes and then to reach out with effectiveness. In some ways it is easier to reach out to a smaller town. Once you have paid your dues, so to speak, you will find it is in fact easier to reach out in this context versus a larger city. You will find it is possible to create an atmosphere that will grow to envelop your entire town. In a smaller setting it is possible to set attainable outreach goals that will see you touch every person in town more than once. Ultimately the name of the game in outreach is your ability to connect with many in a repeated fashion.