Five Movements to Maximize Outreach Effectiveness

With culture in such a rapid state of flux, with the dominant headline being the increasingly post-Christian nature of our world, many churches are uncertain how best to respond in terms of outreach. They know they aren’t reaching the unchurched as effectively as they would like, but they don’t always feel comfortable trying to emulate the fast-growing models they see and hear so much about.

More specifically, they don’t feel they can. You walk through a megachurch children’s ministry and see a built-in climbing wall in a first-grade room, and it’s hard to know what there is to feel except envy.

Fair enough.

So here are five outreach shifts that almost every church should be able to make – regardless of style or structure, tradition or denomination – that will help situate your church toward greater effectiveness at reaching the unchurched. And each one can be followed no matter your church size and no matter your budget.

1. Change Your Outreach Focus from Easter to Christmas Eve.

Here’s something that isn’t often talked about, but I’m prepared to say is a new principle: Christmas Eve is the Super Bowl of outreach, not Easter.

There are many reasons for this, and none of them have anything to do with the church. Here are two: 1) an ever-increasing number of schools and colleges schedule their spring breaks around Easter, making Easter weekend one of the biggest “suitcase” weekends (travel/vacation weekends) of the year; 2) Easter has been effectively secularized into little more than the bunnies and egg hunts.

So why is Christmas Eve better for outreach?

First, unlike Easter and the resurrection, it continues to be primarily related to the birth of Jesus. Second, it is not a “suitcase” night – if people travel, it is to gather with other family members, not vacation. Third, unlike the “weekend” or Sunday-centric nature of Easter, Christmas Eve services can be scheduled for multiple days leading up to and including Christmas Eve. Fourth – and most important – there is a larger number of unchurched people present at Christmas Eve, undoubtedly due to attending being more of a family event than Easter (which is viewed as more of a spiritual event).

At Meck, we routinely have larger attendance figures for our Christmas Eve services than we do our Easter services. Easter weekend is big, to be sure, and is our second-largest series of services. But it’s not as big as Christmas Eve.

Lesson? Quit putting all of your eggs in the Easter basket and get serious about Christmas Eve.

2. Drop Direct Mail and Move to Social Media.

When I started Meck, nothing was better than direct mail. That was, of course, 25 years ago. It’s not better anymore. In fact, it’s often a waste of Kingdom money. It can still be effective if targeted toward new residents, or specific demographics, but the more specific direct mail becomes, the more expensive it becomes.

(And please, don’t even think about an ad on the “church” page of your newspaper. You are after the unchurched, right?)

A better use of your marketing efforts is online, such as ads on Pandora or, even better, through targeted pop-up ad responses to Google searches, or banner ads on the websites of local subdivisions, or the vast opportunities that exist on social media.

Speaking of social media, prepare things that your attenders can share on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

And the good news for small churches? So much of this is not simply cheap, but free, with technology almost everyone already owns.

Lesson? No matter what style your church may be, there is no excuse to be out of style with media.

3. Let Them Belong Before They Believe.

The most common way of thinking about outreach is that you get someone to believe in Jesus, and then you get them to belong to your church.

What if I told you the new reality is the opposite?

Today, people want to belong before they believe. They often have a lengthy adoption process as they move from spiritual and biblical illiteracy toward an understanding and acceptance of faith. So evaluate your outreach strategy in light of offering “belonging” opportunities that enable a movement toward believing. If you think I’m fishing for instituting a “seeker” service, think again.

Yes, I believe that the front door of the church is still the weekend service.

Yes, I believe that biblically (e.g., I Cor. 14:23), we should make sure our services are understandable to those far from God.

But no, a full-blown seeker service strategy (which no one really does anymore, anyway) is not what is at hand. But that doesn’t mean you can’t provide lots of opportunity to belong before believing.

Examples might include “exploring” small groups, low-key serving opportunities that don’t require the embrace of the Christian faith (much less membership), as well as a simple atmosphere of acceptance for those who simply with to come and see, come and hear, come and explore.

Lesson? Believing is at the end of the process, not belonging.

4. From Reach the Woman to Reach the Man.

For decades there has been a reality that no one owned: the church was designed for women and, as a result, that’s who they attracted. The service was for women, the music was for women, the décor was for women. I’m not saying this was intentional; it’s almost as if it happened by default. And don’t get me wrong – I am completely for women in the life of the church. Just not women as the life of the church in such a way that men are alienated.

So if the church has been unduly feminized, we shouldn’t wonder why there are so few men in attendance. Just like an African-American walking into a lily-white congregation might not feel comfortable returning, a man walking into a service decorated in pastels and flowers and “Jesus is my boyfriend” songs may not either.

Coupled with this is another truth that is seldom discussed related to how the dynamics of family outreach work. I don’t have a definitive study to back this up, just three-plus decades of being in the game: if you reach the man, you reach the rest of the family. But if all you do is reach the woman, you don’t tend to get much further in that family beyond the children. And without a supportive, involved, attending father, you don’t often keep the kids long after puberty.

Lesson? The absence of men from the life of church is legendary; work on their presence, and you can change the size and scope of your church.

5. From “You Build It They Will Come” to “You Create It They Will Invite.”

The old “Field of Dreams” mentality was that if you build something… like a great weekend event… they will come. Meaning crowds of unchurched people looking for a church home.

Um, no.

At least, not anymore. And it hasn’t been that way for a long, long time.

But if you create something that your current attenders intuitively sense would be perfect for their unchurched friends, they will begin inviting them to attend.

Yes, this may mean some changes to your current service on the front-end, but you might be surprised (and relieved) at how many of them are simply qualitative, and not necessarily stylistic.

At Meck, yes, we hear that people like our music and style of communication, but we just as often (if not more) hear that they appreciate our parking team, our signage that guides first-time guests, security within our children’s ministry and, most of all, friendliness.

Lesson? You can’t “build it” and have them come, but you can “create it” and have them be invited.

So there are just five things, among many others, that any church can take advantage of.

No matter your size, no matter your budget.


Connect with an Auxano Navigator to explore options for reaching more people.


> Read more from James.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

James Emery White

James Emery White

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which he also served as their fourth president. He is the founder of Serious Times and this blog was originally posted at his website www.churchandculture.org.

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COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
I love the intentionality here as well as the challenge to look at the data. That's missing so many times. I would like to offer a contrarian's take. Church members and regular attenders have so many ways to get information: Announcements, bulletins, social channels, relationships, and email being among the options. But brand new people are likely going to check out the website and that's it. It might be wiser for churches with limited time and resources to focus their website almost exclusively to guests. This group of people isn't looking for a calendar of events but wants to know about regular programs. They probably aren't interested in watching all of the messages but instead may want to preview one of the services. For the times we need church members to go to websites (sign up for camp, join a group, etc), we're probably better off designing and promoting a specific page rather than cluttering up the homepage.
 
— Michael Lukaszewski (@mlukaszewski)
 
A great question! Unfortunately, the Church Unique Kit is no longer available in print form. We are working on revising it and updating it into an online experience, but that project is at least six months out. An alternative is to come to an upcoming certification class. There is one May 15-18 in Houston, and October 23-26 in Atlanta.
 
— VRcurator
 
Where may I purchase the Church Unique kit?
 
— Linda Winkelman
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Discipleship Can Be Served, But Never Delivered

Discipleship matters.

The goal is not a crowd, but rather a core of committed Christ followers who are fleshing out the life of Christ at work, in their marriage, their parenting, their finances, their thinking, their politics, their…

… everything.

To borrow from Abraham Kuyper, there is not an inch of any sphere of my life that Christ does not say, “Mine!”

But what is the nature of discipleship?

There seem to be two schools of thought. The first holds that discipleship is all about ongoing investment. Whether classes or seminars, sermons or small groups, everything is designed to “feed” the Christ-follower. The language used to describe and promote this understanding of discipleship puts the entire emphasis on someone or something, doing discipleship to someone else. The one being discipled is seemingly passive. In other words, discipleship is something received.

The other school of thought is less about feeding and more about training. There is an old line that says, “Give me a fish, I eat for a day; teach me to fish, I eat for a lifetime.” So rather than providing an ongoing pipeline for biblical teaching (present though that may be) the overarching goal is to teach people how to become Bible students themselves.

So which is the true nature of discipleship?

The answer lies in the word itself.

The word “disciple” is from the Greek word “mathetes” and literally means “learner.”

Stop there. Re-read.

Learner.

This puts the action firmly into the lap of the one doing the learning. The point is that you, as a disciple, are to be actively learning. It is your responsibility to take up the mantle of self-development.

And yes, this suggests a teacher is involved.

And yes, we talk about someone going to college to receive an education.

And yes, Jesus seemed to fill the teaching/equipping role by inviting 12 men (and more than a few women) to do life with Him for three years.

And yes, they were called “disciples.”

But reflect on those early followers: Theirs was an invitation to learn, not to enter into a passive process of being fed. We certainly know that not all of the twelve went to school on Jesus. One in particular didn’t seem to learn much of anything. If discipleship was simply something done to you, Jesus failed epically with Judas.

(I wonder if Judas ever said he needed to follow another rabbi where he could be better “fed” and thus grow better spiritually than he was under Jesus.)

Growing in faith is something that can be served by others, but ultimately must be owned personally.

This is decisive. Too many followers of Christ view discipleship as something that is done to them and for them – akin to a personal enrichment program. Yet the writer of Hebrews made it abundantly clear that people who keep getting “fed” in this way are in arrested development. Once out of infancy, they should no longer need to be fed, but instead be feeding others (Hebrews 5:11-13).

But even more disquieting is how we have missed out on what it is we should focus on learning. The back-half of the Great Commission exhorts us to teach new believers to obey what Christ has commanded. This is the essence of the content of discipleship.

And what has Christ commanded?

To live our lives in mission to the least and the lost.

In other words, what we are to be learning is increased love toward others and increased faith for the task of serving them. We are not to be in search for a feeding station that creates a culture of dependency and endless demand for head-knowledge, but instead for a learning environment where an active life of faith is stretched and encouraged.

I know, knowledge is needed. Doctrine matters. We are transformed by the renewing of our minds. But that transformation only happens when what is in the mind translates into obedience to serving the widow and orphan, and reaching out to the hell-bound and skeptic.

So discipleship is enhanced through practical teaching, learning the personal disciplines of prayer and Bible study, engaging in ministry, engaging in relationships that bring challenge and opportunity, and welcoming circumstances that demand the essence of commitment and obedience.

In other words, faith is stretched by being in the game where you are admonished by teachers/leaders, investing in connecting with God through prayer and the Scriptures, putting yourself on the front lines of the cause of Christ, mixing it up with other Christians who sharpen you as iron against iron, and being led by God into unique situations that challenge you at the deepest of spiritual levels.

That’s not passive, but active.

It’s something that can be served, but never delivered.

It takes a church, but only goes so far as the person is willing to be,

… a true learner.


Want to know more about developing discipleship at your church? Connect with an Auxano Navigator today.


> Read more from James.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

James Emery White

James Emery White

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which he also served as their fourth president. He is the founder of Serious Times and this blog was originally posted at his website www.churchandculture.org.

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COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
I love the intentionality here as well as the challenge to look at the data. That's missing so many times. I would like to offer a contrarian's take. Church members and regular attenders have so many ways to get information: Announcements, bulletins, social channels, relationships, and email being among the options. But brand new people are likely going to check out the website and that's it. It might be wiser for churches with limited time and resources to focus their website almost exclusively to guests. This group of people isn't looking for a calendar of events but wants to know about regular programs. They probably aren't interested in watching all of the messages but instead may want to preview one of the services. For the times we need church members to go to websites (sign up for camp, join a group, etc), we're probably better off designing and promoting a specific page rather than cluttering up the homepage.
 
— Michael Lukaszewski (@mlukaszewski)
 
A great question! Unfortunately, the Church Unique Kit is no longer available in print form. We are working on revising it and updating it into an online experience, but that project is at least six months out. An alternative is to come to an upcoming certification class. There is one May 15-18 in Houston, and October 23-26 in Atlanta.
 
— VRcurator
 
Where may I purchase the Church Unique kit?
 
— Linda Winkelman
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

10 Ways to Build Your Church Staff Dream Team

I love the church staff team I have the privilege of leading at Meck. They are dedicated, loyal, unified, joyful and deeply missional. Sadly, staff discord and dysfunction is all too common. So I shouldn’t be surprised that one of the most common questions I get asked by fellow pastors and church leaders is, “How did you get a staff like this?”

It wasn’t always this way, to be sure. I have made more than my fair share of staffing mistakes. In fact, they’ve been my biggest as a leader. I think I’ve chronicled almost every one of them in my book, What They Didn’t Teach You In Seminary (Baker), still one of my favorite books that I’ve written. Painful, as it involved sharing a lot of “learning through mistaking,” but a favorite.

So how did our staff get to the place that it is? Here are the top ten things I’ve learned to do, or to look for, from over thirty years of pastoral leadership. I believe most are transferable to almost any organizational setting – whether at a church, business or school:

Ten Principles to Build Your Church Staff Team

1. We hired from within. I’m continually surprised by how few organizations do this. The biggest reason to look from within your own ranks first is simple: they already have your DNA. There is also a sense where you know what you are getting. But DNA is the biggest issue. They inculcate who and what you are in a way no one else can. Some might find this insular – I find it protective. It’s easy to stretch yourself as a learner – it’s not so easy to flesh out a culture.

2. They came to Christ here. There is no substitute for someone who is a product of your mission. Their loyalty is off-the-charts, and you never have to convince them “why” you do “what” you do the “way” that you do it. They are the poster child. If you’re in a business, think of hiring your most rabid fans. Regardless, the product of what you are trying to do is often the best recruit.

3. They passed the “beer” test. Sorry if that’s offensive to some of you, but it’s part of Meck’s internal culture. We have a saying about people: “Do they pass the beer test?” Translation: If at the end of a long, hard day of work, would you want to go out and have a beer with them? If the answer is “yes,” they passed. I think most of you know that this is about chemistry.

4. We don’t have to be suspicious. Have you ever spotted someone talking to someone else in a hallway, or out in a parking lot, and got a pit in your stomach wondering about the conversation? In other words, you wondered whether it was divisive, undermining, gossipy, slanderous… or mostly, if it was about you? Never, ever hire anyone you are suspicious about. We all know to hire for character, but few throw in the idea of “relational” character. Are they a “safe” person relationally?

5. They have a bias for action. I’ve long said that I would rather rein someone in than kick them forward. There is no substitute for being catalytic, meaning someone who initiates, takes charge and creates action. Some people have a “ready, ready, ready, ready” mentality instead of a “ready, aim, fire” mentality. Go for the fire.

6. This is what God wants them to do. There is a significant difference between someone who wants a job, and someone who is answering a call. I’m not simply offering employment – I’m offering a life investment. I’m offering a way for them to fulfill God’s clear direction and invitation. Meck is a fantastic place to work, and many, many want to work here – but what is most important is whether working at Meck fulfills a clear sense of life-calling.

7. They’re good at what they do. In a word, they are competent. Very competent. They have a skill set, an aptitude, an intellect, an ability that matches the job. There’s no sin in hiring this way, even for a church. People can be a ministry, but you shouldn’t hire them as one. I look for people who are “tens” where we need them. And we need them in every role.

8. They do not need to be, or want to be, micro-managed. This may speak more to my personality, but I have no interest, desire or time to micro-manage anyone or anything. I remember reading of a 33-page government manual outlining how to buy hammers. If I had to oversee that, then shoot me now. Just hire someone you trust to buy them! If they can’t be trusted to do it, hire someone who can! This also goes to the way people need to be managed. If someone comes to my door every morning wanting to know the five things they should do that day, again, put me out of my misery. I want people who will figure it out, chase it down, and keep me in the loop.

9. If you didn’t pay them, they would still be serving, attending and giving. This is key. They are doing what they love, doing who they are, and doing what they believe in. If it’s just for a paycheck, then they don’t have real passion or commitment. When you have someone who would do what they are doing even if they weren’t being paid, you have a keeper.

10. They get the mission, and as a result, are mission-animals. I know I alluded to this under the idea of “hiring from within,” but even people who come from your mission may not be committed to it afterwards (that’s another blog, to be sure). You want people who truly embody, understand, live and breathe the mission. At Meck, this means they “get” who we are after (the unchurched), and are unwavering in that pursuit.

So what makes Meck’s staff special?

We strive to have everyone on staff reflect all ten.

And if I can brag on my team, they pretty much do.


Learn more about developing your staff team – connect with an Auxano Navigator.


> Read more from James Emery White.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

James Emery White

James Emery White

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which he also served as their fourth president. He is the founder of Serious Times and this blog was originally posted at his website www.churchandculture.org.

See more articles by >

COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
I love the intentionality here as well as the challenge to look at the data. That's missing so many times. I would like to offer a contrarian's take. Church members and regular attenders have so many ways to get information: Announcements, bulletins, social channels, relationships, and email being among the options. But brand new people are likely going to check out the website and that's it. It might be wiser for churches with limited time and resources to focus their website almost exclusively to guests. This group of people isn't looking for a calendar of events but wants to know about regular programs. They probably aren't interested in watching all of the messages but instead may want to preview one of the services. For the times we need church members to go to websites (sign up for camp, join a group, etc), we're probably better off designing and promoting a specific page rather than cluttering up the homepage.
 
— Michael Lukaszewski (@mlukaszewski)
 
A great question! Unfortunately, the Church Unique Kit is no longer available in print form. We are working on revising it and updating it into an online experience, but that project is at least six months out. An alternative is to come to an upcoming certification class. There is one May 15-18 in Houston, and October 23-26 in Atlanta.
 
— VRcurator
 
Where may I purchase the Church Unique kit?
 
— Linda Winkelman
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Five Questions that Change Everything

Mention the name Peter Drucker in management circles, and a hushed silence will fall as your peers wait to see if you might have even a nugget of his wisdom that has not already been disseminated for consumption.

The famed Austrian died in 2005, but not before turning his vast experience and intellect toward the non-profit sector, benefiting churches around the world.

He once offered five questions for organizational strategic self-assessment. Not for “program” assessment or an individual performance review, mind you, but organizational assessment. To this day, most would argue that they really are the five most important questions you will ever ask about your organization.

And shockingly, few churches have ever asked them, much less wrestled with their answers.

Here they are:

1. What Is Our Mission?

Years ago Drucker sat down with the administrators of a major hospital to think through the mission of the emergency room. They began by saying, “Our mission is health care.”

Drucker told them that was the wrong definition.

The hospital does not take care of health; the hospital takes care of illness. Eventually they determined that their mission was: “To give assurance to the afflicted.”

The mission says why you do what you do, not the means by which you do it. It answers these questions: What is our purpose? Why do we do what we do? What, in the end, do we want to be remembered for?

So perhaps, for a church, your “why” (mission) might be: “To reach people far from God, turning them into fully-devoted followers of Jesus.” Regardless of how you word it, it will surely be some variant of the Great Commission given to us by Jesus.

2. Who Is Our Customer?

No matter what you call them – customer, student, patient, participant, volunteer, donor or member – you have someone you are trying to reach; someone you are trying to serve.

Who is it?

As Drucker puts it: “Who must be satisfied for the organization to achieve results?” His answer for the social sector, including churches, is telling: “The primary customer is the person whose life is changed through your work… Supporting customers are volunteers, members, partners, funders, referral sources, employees, and others who must be satisfied.”

In other words, the primary customer for the church is the person far from God; the supporting customer is the person already reached.

3. What Does the Customer Value?

When you ask what a customer values, you are asking what satisfies their needs, wants and aspirations. This is so complicated that it can, of course, only be answered by the customers themselves.

This may be the most important question of the five. Yet, as Drucker notes, it is the one least often asked.

A complicating factor is the reality of multiple constituencies. When I was president of a leading graduate school, I had to be mindful of a vast array of support customers: faculty, staff, trustees, donors, alumni, community residents; not to mention the primary customer – the student.

But take your eye off the ball of your primary customer, and you will negate the very reason you exist. So for a church, perhaps the most telling question is what a person far from God values when it comes to exploring God.

Very few churches know the answer.

4. What Are Our Results?

Drucker wisely notes that the results of social sector organizations are always measured outside the organization in changed lives and changed conditions.

So what does this mean for a church?

What should be appraised and judged so that resources can be concentrated for results?

In a penetrating assessment, Drucker notes that one of the most important questions for nonprofit leadership is: “Do we produce results that are sufficiently outstanding for us to justify putting our resources in this area?”

He would argue that need alone does not justify continuing. Nor does tradition. Like the New Testament parable of the talents, Drucker would challenge that the job of leadership is to invest resources where the returns are manifold, where you can have success.

This shift in thinking – from “needs” to “results” – may be among the most challenging areas for leaders to grapple.

5. What Is Our Plan?

Everything about self-assessment should lead to a plan – a plan that encompasses mission, vision, goals, objectives, action steps, a budget and appraisal.

And be careful with goals. They are critical, to be sure. “Goals flow from mission, aim the organization where it must go, build on strength, address opportunity, and taken together, outline your desired future.”

But they should be few in number. Classic Drucker: “If you have more than five goals, you have none.”

He then adds the five elements of effective plans: 1) abandonment (meaning abandoning what does not work, or in truth, has never worked); 2) concentration (strengthening what does work); 3) innovation (looking for tomorrow’s success); 4) risk taking (planning where to take the risks); and 5) analysis (marking out what you do not know, but need to know).

But through it all, one overarching question reigns supreme:

What do we want to be remembered for?

> Read more from James Emery White.


Learn more about Auxano’s Vision Clarity Process.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

James Emery White

James Emery White

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which he also served as their fourth president. He is the founder of Serious Times and this blog was originally posted at his website www.churchandculture.org.

See more articles by >

COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
I love the intentionality here as well as the challenge to look at the data. That's missing so many times. I would like to offer a contrarian's take. Church members and regular attenders have so many ways to get information: Announcements, bulletins, social channels, relationships, and email being among the options. But brand new people are likely going to check out the website and that's it. It might be wiser for churches with limited time and resources to focus their website almost exclusively to guests. This group of people isn't looking for a calendar of events but wants to know about regular programs. They probably aren't interested in watching all of the messages but instead may want to preview one of the services. For the times we need church members to go to websites (sign up for camp, join a group, etc), we're probably better off designing and promoting a specific page rather than cluttering up the homepage.
 
— Michael Lukaszewski (@mlukaszewski)
 
A great question! Unfortunately, the Church Unique Kit is no longer available in print form. We are working on revising it and updating it into an online experience, but that project is at least six months out. An alternative is to come to an upcoming certification class. There is one May 15-18 in Houston, and October 23-26 in Atlanta.
 
— VRcurator
 
Where may I purchase the Church Unique kit?
 
— Linda Winkelman
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Growing an Irresistible Welcome

Have you been to Disney World?

Did you leave with a “can’t wait to come back” attitude?

You’re not alone. In 2015, more than 20 million attended the Magic Kingdom theme park alone (there are three others).

One of the first leadership books I devoured was In Search of Excellence by Tom Peters and Bob Waterman. Among their profiles for best business practices was the Walt Disney World (WDW) Resort, specifically for quality service that generated customer loyalty.

In the book Be Our Guest: Perfecting the Art of Customer Service, the folks at the Disney Institute spell out their approach to customer service. It’s not complicated: “Quality service means exceeding your guests’ expectations by paying attention to every detail of the delivery of your products and services.”

You might think that the heart of making this happen is money, or technology, or the “wow” factor of a ride.

Nope.

What is one of the most frequently stated reasons why guests return for another visit?

The cast.

Disney calls all of their employees “cast members.” They have roles and responsibilities, the most important of which is “courtesy.”

As Jeff James, Vice President of the Disney Institute, puts it, “A $200 million attraction won’t be fun if the cast member at the front is less than pleasant.”

Beyond this is the attention to detail, particularly in matters of quality. In Disney theme parks they have the saying, “Everything speaks.” This means, “Every detail – from the doorknobs to the dining rooms – sends a message to guests. That message must be consistent with the common purpose and quality standards, and it must support and further the show being created.”

If only the church could be more like Disney World.

Not in terms of existing for mere entertainment, and not in terms of a vision of providing “happiness.”

No, the church is much more than that.

But the church is meant to be Disney World in terms of its effort to reach out to others in a way that makes them want to return. Its volunteers should be marked by friendliness and courtesy. If “everything speaks,” then nothing about the church should speak against the message it is trying to convey, or the honor due God.

When it comes to serving guests, opening the front door to guests, and having our guest relations mirror our message and purpose, then yes, we should not only be like Disney, but put Disney to shame.

Disney wants to say, “Be Our Guest.”

Unless I’m missing something, so does the church.

It’s just that we’re not saying it as well as Disney.

But we should be.

Sources

The Disney Institute, with Theodore Kinni. Be Our Guest: Perfecting the Art of Customer Service (Revised and Updated Edition).

Read more from James.


Want to learn more about church hospitality and welcome practices? Connect with an Auxano Navigator.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

James Emery White

James Emery White

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which he also served as their fourth president. He is the founder of Serious Times and this blog was originally posted at his website www.churchandculture.org.

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COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
I love the intentionality here as well as the challenge to look at the data. That's missing so many times. I would like to offer a contrarian's take. Church members and regular attenders have so many ways to get information: Announcements, bulletins, social channels, relationships, and email being among the options. But brand new people are likely going to check out the website and that's it. It might be wiser for churches with limited time and resources to focus their website almost exclusively to guests. This group of people isn't looking for a calendar of events but wants to know about regular programs. They probably aren't interested in watching all of the messages but instead may want to preview one of the services. For the times we need church members to go to websites (sign up for camp, join a group, etc), we're probably better off designing and promoting a specific page rather than cluttering up the homepage.
 
— Michael Lukaszewski (@mlukaszewski)
 
A great question! Unfortunately, the Church Unique Kit is no longer available in print form. We are working on revising it and updating it into an online experience, but that project is at least six months out. An alternative is to come to an upcoming certification class. There is one May 15-18 in Houston, and October 23-26 in Atlanta.
 
— VRcurator
 
Where may I purchase the Church Unique kit?
 
— Linda Winkelman
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

4 Giving Gimmicks that Cheapen Biblical Stewardship

Webster’s dictionary defines “gimmick” as “an attention–getting device or feature, typically superficial, designed to promote the success of a product, campaign…any clever little gadget or ruse.”

Churches use money gimmicks all the time.

I don’t like them. Not simply because they are “gimmicky,” but because they cheapen biblical stewardship.

The heart of biblical stewardship is not complicated.

There are three principal truths:

  1. God owns it all;
  2. If God owns it all, He has all of the rights as owner, and I/you operate solely in the realm of managerial responsibility (It’s not “God, what should I do with my money?” but “God, what do You want me to do with Your money?“), which means that –
  3. Every spending decision is a spiritual decision. God cannot be shut out of any transaction.

When it comes to giving, the Bible teaches about tithes and offerings. A tithe is ten percent of all that we earn, given to God through the local church of which we are a part. Offerings are those gifts that are given “above and beyond” those tithes in relation to special events, projects or memorials.

The Bible is also full of wisdom on limiting debt, saving for the future, and working hard with time and talents in order to maximize earning.

Beyond these truths are some basic application principles, like the 10-10-80 principle – meaning that the soundest management of our funds would involve giving 10% to God through the local church of which we are a part, 10% to savings, and then living off of the remaining 80%.

Another principle I’ve long taught is to start where you are. If you come to Christ and have financial realities that war against these plans, you should begin with a blend of realism and faith. Start by giving and/or saving 1% (though it will be sacrificial), then 5%, working your way up to the percentages that will both fully honor God and optimally serve your life.

God cares more about our heart and intent than a legalistic percentage. The amount matters, to be sure, but only as it reflects a true barometer of our life. Which is why, for many of us, giving ten percent is far too little.

(Legalism cuts both ways).

That is the essence of biblical stewardship in regard to finances.

So where do church money “gimmicks” fit in?

They don’t.

But that hasn’t stopped leaders from using them as short-cuts to true discipleship.

Here are four of the most common that cross my path:

Refunding the Tithe

Many churches give in to the gimmick of offering to “refund the tithe” if somehow God doesn’t provide for their needs after they’ve tithed. In other words, the line is, “Tithe, and if God doesn’t supply your needs on the 90% leftover, we’ll return what you gave.”

I get the point. In Malachi, there is a promise that giving will never outrun supply. So this is a church ponying up and saying they have so much trust in God’s provision, they will “insure” your tithe.

But that isn’t discipleship. You either trust or you do not. Period. Further, the blessing of the tithe is so multifaceted that to reduce it to income alone is a ridiculous truncation of God’s promise.

The value is generosity, not a return on your investment.

Money Giveaways

Some churches plant envelopes of money under the seats of the auditorium. Then, after a talk on giving, they tell those in attendance to reach under their seats and (surprise!) find an envelope of cash – say, from $20 to $500.

Then, the challenge goes, they are to take that money and invest it for kingdom gain. Use it for a bake sale, or to start a for-profit website. Do something with that money that you think could gain a return. Sure, you can keep it and use it on yourself, but if you will trust God with it, you will find that you will be able to be served – and serve others – at the same time.

I agree with the principle, but the means of teaching it?

You can’t trust God now, but we will give you “free” money to trust with – which takes no trust at all – to see if He’s trustworthy?

Again, that’s not creating disciples.

Entrepreneurs and Kickbacks

If I had a nickel for every time someone wanted to promote their business through the church and, in the process, give the church a kick-back in revenue, I would be retired in Palm Beach.

Of course, they don’t pitch it that baldly.

It’s spiritualized.

They couch it all in terms of serving the church and its needs. Their profit is inconsequential, if not irrelevant.

The truth is that many enterprises actually train their people to work church “networks” for gain. They bathe their enterprise in “Christian-ese” in order to gain entry into trusting communities and, hopefully, open wallets.

The church is not a business nor “in” business. God designed it to be funded through the changed hearts of His people and their giving.

Fund Raisers

This one will ruffle a few feathers because fund raisers are so common in churches. Particularly with youth groups.

But again, it’s not teaching stewardship. It’s just gimmicky giving.

If you are going to support a student missions trip, fund it through the church’s budget. Or don’t. But don’t make it a side item that has to be handled through a car wash.

But even further, when you start down this road, you start down the road of “designated” offerings. Meaning, a gift that is given for one and only one thing.

“I want to give this money for…”

…my favorite ministry,

…my favorite staffer,

…my favorite project,

…my favorite mission.

Meck has not accepted a “designated” offering, apart from capital campaigns and Christmas year-end offerings – meaning ones we have imposed on our selves – in our history. We actually turn them down.

It’s just not healthy.

It’s certainly not healthy for the church, which simply can’t run on designated offerings (Anybody want to designate the light bill?). But further, it can be a subtle sign of distrust, refusing to follow leadership, or simply play well with others in the sandbox.

Trust the church’s leadership, or don’t.

Give to the budget, or don’t.

But picking and choosing where your money is spent is divorced from God calling you to be a part of a church, trusting God with that church, and trusting the leadership that is prayerfully leading that church in light of their ordained role.

Ask for accountability all day long (Meck’s members vote to approve its annual budget, and then has an outside accounting firm do an annual audit), but using designated offerings to try and direct things, force things, or enable your agenda is not the mark of a healthy church member, much less a healthy church community.

After all, nothing about money and the church should be gimmicky.

Even the giving.

Read more from James Emery White.


Want to learn how to avoid giving gimmicks and develop generosity for your church? Connect with an Auxano Navigator and start a conversation with our team.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

James Emery White

James Emery White

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which he also served as their fourth president. He is the founder of Serious Times and this blog was originally posted at his website www.churchandculture.org.

See more articles by >

COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Dean Cotton — 07/05/16 8:27 am

What about "matching funds" gimmick ? It just does not seem right to me.

Recent Comments
I love the intentionality here as well as the challenge to look at the data. That's missing so many times. I would like to offer a contrarian's take. Church members and regular attenders have so many ways to get information: Announcements, bulletins, social channels, relationships, and email being among the options. But brand new people are likely going to check out the website and that's it. It might be wiser for churches with limited time and resources to focus their website almost exclusively to guests. This group of people isn't looking for a calendar of events but wants to know about regular programs. They probably aren't interested in watching all of the messages but instead may want to preview one of the services. For the times we need church members to go to websites (sign up for camp, join a group, etc), we're probably better off designing and promoting a specific page rather than cluttering up the homepage.
 
— Michael Lukaszewski (@mlukaszewski)
 
A great question! Unfortunately, the Church Unique Kit is no longer available in print form. We are working on revising it and updating it into an online experience, but that project is at least six months out. An alternative is to come to an upcoming certification class. There is one May 15-18 in Houston, and October 23-26 in Atlanta.
 
— VRcurator
 
Where may I purchase the Church Unique kit?
 
— Linda Winkelman
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

10 Solutions to Consider When Your Church Isn’t Growing

It’s one of the most pressing questions pastors and church leaders ask themselves:

“Why aren’t we growing?”

To be sure, not every mission’s soil will yield the same fruit. We’re not talking about overall size, but rather the idea that biblically, we can assume that God wants every church that honors His name and proclaims His message in Christ to grow and that He is willing to empower it to that end.

Churches are living things. Living things grow. If you’re not growing – even if just in compensation to what you’ve lost through transition – something is wrong.

Again, it doesn’t have to be by much. Those churches in smaller communities who are growing by five people a year may actually be growing at a higher percentage of the available population than the “mega” churches.

So take heart.

But if you are not growing at all, or declining…well, God isn’t the problem. We are.

Here are ten areas to consider as to “why”:

1. Leadership

It’s been said that everything rises and falls on leadership. Perhaps a more accurate way of putting it would be that no organization will rise above the level of its leadership.If, on a scale of 1-10, the current leadership is around a “4,” then it will be difficult for the church to grow beyond that level in terms of vision, effectiveness, strategy and impact.

Solution: Ensure that people with the spiritual gift of leadership are actually leading, and that they are committed to developing that gift by reading about leadership, getting around other leaders for insight, and exercising their leadership gift in challenging settings.

2. Communication

There are few things more critical to a church’s growth than an effective communicator for weekend teaching. The dilemma is that many who serve as the primary communicators in their church aren’t Spirit-gifted teachers. They like to speak, and the group that gathers around their teaching seems to benefit from it, but the majority of listeners tend to vote with their feet. At the very least, the teaching doesn’t seem to be catalyzing the congregation to invite their friends.

Solution: Make sure that the point communicator has the spiritual gift of teaching and is actively working at developing that gift by listening to other gifted communicators. Don’t be afraid of developing a team-teaching approach to shore up weakness, or to adjust responsibilities so that various roles more accurately reflect gifting. In other words, perhaps someone has been serving as lead communicator when their gifts are better used in another area. This is a difficult maneuver for, as stated above, people who are speaking tend to like to speak and have a (perhaps) distorted view of their effect.

3. Quality of Worship

The quality of the worship experience is more important even than its style. If the service itself seems slapped together, incoherent or unable to be embraced, then it will not provide the traction needed for ongoing growth. To be sure, worship is not about what we get out of it, but what God gets out of it. But the better that service is at helping people connect with God, the more people it will attract. And lest we forget, the weekend service is the “front door” of the church. So it’s where we “win” or “lose” people. Which means part of the “helping people connect” dynamic will include helping those far from God connect to God through what we offer.

Solution: Review the music, presentation, style and quality of the worship experience of your church in light of its ability to optimally serve and engage people. View the services of larger, faster-growing churches that you feel are biblically and theologically sound for benchmarks. If you are continually plagued by forgotten lyrics, missed notes and awkward transitions, consider planning meetings for your services and run-through rehearsals of critical parts. And by all means, look at your service through the eyes of someone far from God and deeply unchurched.

4. Atmosphere

Every church has an atmosphere, but not all have an atmosphere of friendliness and acceptance. Let’s put it bluntly: every church thinks it’s friendly. But what that often means is they are friendly to each other, friendly to people they know, friendly to people they like or friendly to people who are like them.

Solution: If you haven’t already, consider developing an entire ministry around first impressions and the creation of a friendly, welcoming atmosphere. At Meck, we call it “Guest Services,” and it oversees parking lot attendants, greeters, ushers, hospitality and so much more – all geared toward the experience of first impressions and friendliness. It’s one of our largest and most strategic efforts. In fact, one of the leading reasons people return to Meck is our friendliness.

5. Location

The physical location of a church, if you want to grow by inviting people to attend, is decisive. If it is hard to find, hard to get to, too small in size, has insufficient parking, is difficult to enter or exit due to road traffic,

…then you are artificially limiting the size of your church.

In essence, the shoe tells the foot how big it gets.

Solution: Much of solving location problems is logistical in nature. Hire off-duty police to help people enter and exit your services. Increase the number of your services. Develop a capital campaign to help pay for increasing the size of your auditorium or parking. If needed, simply move to a new location. That may seem dramatic, but it’s often critical. Going “multi-site” is also proving to be a helpful strategy for many churches facing location issues.

6. Structure

Most church structures are not “structured” for growth, much less unity. As an organization, you have to be able to seize opportunities, streamline decision-making and unleash the leadership gift. There is so much that could be said on this, so…

Solution: Read my chapter on “Rethinking Structure” in Rethinking the Church. Do away with committees, across-the-board majority rule and endless policies. Read the chapter and you’ll see why.

7. Methods

Values and doctrine are timeless; methods and strategies are not. Think of a method as a very time-bound approach to solving a problem or answering a challenge. A vast number of churches are employing methods that simply aren’t viable. They hold on to them out of an unfounded sense of loyalty, or even worse, a sense of orthodoxy. Methods don’t fall into that camp.

Solution: Go to school on other churches and their methods. Further, make a list of all of your methods that haven’t been evaluated in five years. That’s your “to do” list.

8. Blind Spots

Blind spots are interesting…they are what you do NOT see. Others can, but you can’t. It’s been said that we all have them – actually, many of them. Do you know yours? Do you know where you are weak, outdated, sloppy, understaffed, wrongly staffed, poorly funded…

Solution: Bring in “mystery” worshipers, or outside consultants, to observe you, talk to you, counsel you. Get 20/20 vision on as much as you possibly can.

9. Not Fueling Growth Engines

Every church has one or more “growth engines.” These are the ministries that fuel whatever growth you have. Most will think of their weekend services; and to be sure, that is a powerful growth engine. But many of your sub-ministries offer the same, if not more, of your overall growth power. For example, at Meck our weekend services may be a powerful engine, but we tend to think that MecKidz is even MORE powerful. So we give it what it needs to grow. Right now, it has the largest staff and the most square-footage of building space of any ministry.

Why?

It grows our church.

Solution: Fund your growth engines. Repeat: FUND YOUR GROWTH ENGINES. And look beyond the weekend. The biggest growth engine of all, in most churches, is the children’s ministry.

10. Unity

Jesus made it clear that unity would be THE verifying mark on His message. A unified church is a growing church. Period.

Solution: Do the hard leadership work of confronting division, dissension and disunity. See the chapter titled “No Tolerance” in What They Didn’t Teach You in Seminary (Baker).

One Last Thought

The most important principle I could pass on is this: think like a lost person.

Really.

Think like someone far from God, divorced from church, coming to your church, would think.

Then…

…change things.

Not the message. Heaven forbid. But do change anything and everything that would be a barrier to this person engaging Christ that does not involve altering the message of Christ.

Read more from James.


If you’re not satisfied with your church’s growth, start a conversation with our team. We’re glad to offer our input. Your vision is at stake, so let’s talk.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

James Emery White

James Emery White

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which he also served as their fourth president. He is the founder of Serious Times and this blog was originally posted at his website www.churchandculture.org.

See more articles by >

COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
I love the intentionality here as well as the challenge to look at the data. That's missing so many times. I would like to offer a contrarian's take. Church members and regular attenders have so many ways to get information: Announcements, bulletins, social channels, relationships, and email being among the options. But brand new people are likely going to check out the website and that's it. It might be wiser for churches with limited time and resources to focus their website almost exclusively to guests. This group of people isn't looking for a calendar of events but wants to know about regular programs. They probably aren't interested in watching all of the messages but instead may want to preview one of the services. For the times we need church members to go to websites (sign up for camp, join a group, etc), we're probably better off designing and promoting a specific page rather than cluttering up the homepage.
 
— Michael Lukaszewski (@mlukaszewski)
 
A great question! Unfortunately, the Church Unique Kit is no longer available in print form. We are working on revising it and updating it into an online experience, but that project is at least six months out. An alternative is to come to an upcoming certification class. There is one May 15-18 in Houston, and October 23-26 in Atlanta.
 
— VRcurator
 
Where may I purchase the Church Unique kit?
 
— Linda Winkelman
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

4 Steps Toward Change All Leaders Take

I seldom address a gathering of pastors without “the” question being asked, in one form or another:

“How do you change a church?”

Whether moving from a traditional model to one that is more contemporary, a complex structure to one that is simpler, or an outdated outreach strategy to one more relevant and effective, knowing the target on the wall isn’t the problem.

It’s how to actually lead the change to hit it.

Here are the four steps to leading change in your church (I am going to assume you already know to pray.):

1. Establish a Sense of Urgency

The first step is to establish a sense of urgency. People will not even consider change unless they are impacted on an emotional level. If change is not considered necessary, leadership expert John Kotter of Harvard writes, they “will find a thousand ingenious ways to withhold cooperation.”

There must be a perceived problem, or need, that is generating a certain amount of emotional energy. For the change agent, or agents, one of the keys to this is passion: if you do not seem to care, they will not bother to care.

Note that this is more than simply articulating the logic of a particular set of actions. People must be communicated with on an emotional level. There must be a sense of urgency. The Bible reminds us that we are transformed through the renewing of our mind (Romans 12:2). So whatever the change may be, be sure to convey what the stakes are, and why the change is so important.

For example, why should anyone contemplate evaluating a weekend service in light of its effectiveness at communicating the truth of Christ to a lost person? If they do not perceive that lost people matter or that they are being reached quite well through current approaches, then any change that might be suggested will die at the starting gate.

Leaders who want change must communicate the importance of those who are apart from Christ and the exact state of the church’s current effectiveness in reaching them. It is up to the leader to say: “We will stand before God one day and give an account for our lives. And this generation of Christians is responsible for this generation of non-Christians. And God will ask, ‘Did you do all that you could? Did you match the intensity and fervor I brought to the cross?'”

People must be brought to the point where they view the lack of change as a tragedy; where they don’t simply embrace change but cry out for it.

2. Develop and Cast a Compelling Vision

The second step has to do with developing and casting a compelling vision. Where is this change going to take us? What will it mean for us? What difference will it make? Paint the picture for people of what the change will actually do.

Vision is nothing less than the language of leadership. It points the way, it motivates people to take the steps needed to get there, and it coordinates the actions of all involved. At its best, it paints a simple but compelling picture of a better tomorrow in ways that appeal to everyone’s interests. This has to be more than a single motivational talk. In reality, not only does vision “leak,” but it gets lost in the competing noise for attention.

Consider a business example. I once read that the total amount of communication going to the typical employee in an American company in a three-month period is 2,300,000 words or numbers. The typical communication of a change vision over the same period has been calculated at 13,400 words or numbers (the equivalent of a single 30-minute speech, coupled with a one-hour long meeting, a 600-word article in the firm’s newspaper, and a 2,000-word memo). Thus the change vision only captures .58 percent of the communication competing for the average employee’s attention.

This is akin to a gallon of information dumped into a river of dialogue.

Vision must be repeated over and over again. When you are sick of hearing it, and the core change agents with you, then you might be approaching some degree of connecting with the group at large. The point is that one message, or even one cluster of messages, simply isn’t enough. People’s grasp of the vision fades fast, and it must be continually cast. And not simply to one group, but to all groups. And in all settings: to committees, boards, ministries; during weekend services; over lunches and breakfasts; through articles, stories, facts, statistics; and one-on-one sessions. Simple, to the point, tied to the values behind the change – but over and over again.

You cannot over-communicate.

3. Implement the Change

The third step, after the vision casting eventually pays off in consensus and approval with the various groups in the church, is to begin implementing the change.

4. Give Updates on the Change

The final step is to make sure you let everyone know how the change is going. Be sure to give progress reports. The war is not won simply with implementation. The question then becomes whether or not the change should be maintained. Rick Warren has written from many years of experience that, “Vision and purpose must be restated every 26 days to keep the church moving in the right direction.”

Whether monthly is too much or too little, it must certainly be ongoing. So let people know what is happening. Talk about successes and breakthroughs. Let people see, and feel, the benefits that are flowing from the change.

As you work through these four steps, keep in mind one of the most important principles related to change a leader can learn: change takes time. There’s a saying that when it comes to change, don’t overestimate what you can do in a year, but don’t underestimate what you can do in ten.

You may have heard the old analogy about turning a ship around in a harbor. The bigger it is, the further you have to go out to sea to bring it around in a different direction. This is important, because a lack of patience has caused many church leaders to get into trouble that was all too easy to avoid. As change agents, they get in a hurry and begin implementing changes that people simply weren’t signed on to, much less emotionally prepared to experience. This leads to resistance.

But if you carefully – and patiently – work the four steps, a remarkable thing will take place.

Change.

> Read more from James.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

James Emery White

James Emery White

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which he also served as their fourth president. He is the founder of Serious Times and this blog was originally posted at his website www.churchandculture.org.

See more articles by >

COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
I love the intentionality here as well as the challenge to look at the data. That's missing so many times. I would like to offer a contrarian's take. Church members and regular attenders have so many ways to get information: Announcements, bulletins, social channels, relationships, and email being among the options. But brand new people are likely going to check out the website and that's it. It might be wiser for churches with limited time and resources to focus their website almost exclusively to guests. This group of people isn't looking for a calendar of events but wants to know about regular programs. They probably aren't interested in watching all of the messages but instead may want to preview one of the services. For the times we need church members to go to websites (sign up for camp, join a group, etc), we're probably better off designing and promoting a specific page rather than cluttering up the homepage.
 
— Michael Lukaszewski (@mlukaszewski)
 
A great question! Unfortunately, the Church Unique Kit is no longer available in print form. We are working on revising it and updating it into an online experience, but that project is at least six months out. An alternative is to come to an upcoming certification class. There is one May 15-18 in Houston, and October 23-26 in Atlanta.
 
— VRcurator
 
Where may I purchase the Church Unique kit?
 
— Linda Winkelman
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

3 Features of Church Government NOT Found in the Bible

When it comes to ministry, the process of decision making is so important because bureaucracy can become incredibly inhibiting. To make matters worse, a church’s structure is often wedded to some of the most deeply rooted customs within the life of a church.

Yet a church’s structure is crucial when it comes to rethinking the church because it is a church’s structure that supports and facilitates the purposes and mission of a church. Think of it functioning the way a skeleton serves a human body — it holds together and supports the working parts of the body in order to enable them to function as a body.

A church’s structure can either serve the church or bring it to a standstill. It can energize a community of faith or lead it toward ever deepening levels of discouragement. It can enable men and women to use their gifts and abilities for the kingdom of God or tie the hands and frustrate the most dedicated efforts of God’s people.

Why?

Because the structure of any organization directly affects morale, effectiveness and unity. Morale, effectiveness and unity are key issues for the life of any church. Consequently, church structure must be evaluated in light of whether it promotes them.

There are a wide number of approaches to church government, from elder rule to a more congregationally based approach. Yet most forms of church government have three features that dominate their structure: committees, policies and majority rule.

None of them serve morale; none of them serve effectiveness; none of them serve unity.

And none can be found in the Bible.

The most successful churches subscribe to a singular philosophy. Namely, that the ministry is not called to fit the church’s structure; the structure exists to further effective ministry. And there are some real concerns regarding committees, problems with policies, and misgivings about majority rule.

My biggest concern with committees isn’t that it takes people away from the frontlines of ministry and moves them into issues related to maintenance, such as budgets and organizational matters (it does). My biggest concern is that oversight committees keep the people who are doing the ministry from making the decisionsabout the ministry. Authority and responsibility become distant from one another. This is a recipe for poor decision making, not to mention low morale. This is not to say that oversight – particularly in regard to vision, values, performance and mission – are not appropriate. Yet the fact remains that the individuals who are the most intimately involved in a particular ministry are the best qualified to make the day in, day out decisions regarding that ministry.

My biggest problem with policies is the removal of judgment. A few years ago the federal government bought hammers with a specification manual that was thirty-three pages long. Where is the trust in the person who is buying the hammers? This does not mean certain policies are not required to serve as guidelines, and even as protection. Yet unhindered, policies can multiply to the point of organizational asphyxiation. It takes trust for this structure to operate but, as Plato argued, good people do not need laws to tell them to act responsibly, while bad people will always find a way around law.

My biggest misgiving about majority rule is that the Bible teaches that a church is a family (see Galatians 6:10; Hebrews 2:10-12; 1 Peter 4:17). In most family structures, there are the mature (parents) and the immature (children). As a family, the church contains members who are at different levels of spiritual maturity. If every decision is made by the majority instead of the most spiritually mature, then there is a very strong chance that the majority could mislead a church.

This is precisely what happened with the Israelites. Moses sent twelve spies into the Promised Land to report back to the people if it was everything God had promised. All twelve agreed that the land was flowing with milk and honey, but the majority said that the land could not be taken. Only two, Caleb and Joshua, were convinced that God wanted them to possess the land. The majority were allowed to rule, however, which left the Israelites wandering in the wilderness for another forty years.

I don’t know what your church structure is like. If you were to ask me, I would encourage the separation of maintenance from ministry, and the development of self-directed work teams.

Let me give you a quick insight into both. In most churches, the relationship between maintenance and ministry is simple: the pastors are the ministers, and the people are the administers. Yet this is diametrically opposed to the teaching of the Bible in relation to the pastor’s role as equipper and leader, and creates a bottleneck for ministry. Rethinking structure involves an entirely new paradigm: the people are the ministers, and the pastors are the administers.

As for self-directed work teams, the idea is simple: for a team to function at its optimal level of ability, the members must be self-directed, which means they must own the process or task at hand. Only when given the responsibility and the authority to follow through on a task can a team have the ability to become flexible and responsive to changing events and demands.

Michael Hammer likens it to how a football team operates. The offense and defense bring together a collection of tasks—blocking, tackling, passing, and receiving—that together achieve a result. The offense and defense operate within the confines of a carefully worked out game plan and strategy, but once a play begins, the players are largely self-directed. They have to be self-directed because the nature of the game demands it. When the ball is handed to a runner, it is up to him to determine whether to cut left, right, or go up the middle. While the offensive coordinator may have designed the play, selected the players, assigned them their roles, and even trained them, it is the players who are the implementers and who must have the freedom to make split-second decisions in light of the constantly changing realities of their situation. This is why we celebrate quarterbacks like Peyton Manning and Cam Newton; they are able to read the defense, call an audible, and make the best play.

But that’s the point of any good structure. Let your players be able to play.

> Read more from James.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

James Emery White

James Emery White

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which he also served as their fourth president. He is the founder of Serious Times and this blog was originally posted at his website www.churchandculture.org.

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COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Josh — 05/02/17 4:30 am

Boom ;)

Recent Comments
I love the intentionality here as well as the challenge to look at the data. That's missing so many times. I would like to offer a contrarian's take. Church members and regular attenders have so many ways to get information: Announcements, bulletins, social channels, relationships, and email being among the options. But brand new people are likely going to check out the website and that's it. It might be wiser for churches with limited time and resources to focus their website almost exclusively to guests. This group of people isn't looking for a calendar of events but wants to know about regular programs. They probably aren't interested in watching all of the messages but instead may want to preview one of the services. For the times we need church members to go to websites (sign up for camp, join a group, etc), we're probably better off designing and promoting a specific page rather than cluttering up the homepage.
 
— Michael Lukaszewski (@mlukaszewski)
 
A great question! Unfortunately, the Church Unique Kit is no longer available in print form. We are working on revising it and updating it into an online experience, but that project is at least six months out. An alternative is to come to an upcoming certification class. There is one May 15-18 in Houston, and October 23-26 in Atlanta.
 
— VRcurator
 
Where may I purchase the Church Unique kit?
 
— Linda Winkelman
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

10 Steps You Know You Should Be Taking to Grow Your Church – But Aren’t

What if I gave you a list of ten things that any church could do that would bring almost immediate renewal and growth?

Would you be interested in the list?

Most would be.

So here it is:

  1. Simplify your structure by putting the authority to make most decisions related to the practice of ministry in the hands of those with responsibility. Translation: let your leaders lead.
  2. Hire young, platform young, program young. Why? You attract who you platform, and most churches are growing old.
  3. Become more contemporary in terms of music and graphics, décor and topics, website and signage. It’s 2015. Really. You can check.
  4. Stop preaching and start communicating. There’s a difference.
  5. Shift the outreach focus away from the already convinced toward those who are not. It’s called the Great Commission.
  6. Prioritize your children’s ministry in terms of money and staffing, square footage and resources. Do you really not know, after all this time, that the children’s ministry is your most important ministry for outreach and growth?
  7. It’s the weekend, stupid.”
  8. Help everyone find their spiritual gifts and then help them channel those gifts toward ministry.
  9. Target men. Get the man, you tend to get the family.
  10. Proclaim the full counsel of God without compromise or dilution. All you get with a watered-down message is a watered-down church. And a watered-down church has nothing to offer the world it does not already have.

Now, what if I told you that the vast majority of churches already know this list. Not only do they know the list, they would agree with most if not all of it.

But they refuse to act on it.

It’s true.

And the reason tends to be the same, in church after church, around the world: they don’t want to change.

Which brings up another list.

It’s the list of the seven last words of the church:

“We never did it that way before.”

> Read more from James Emery White.


 Would you like to know more how to take steps to help your church grow? Connect with an Auxano Navigator and start a conversation with our team.

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Tags: , , ,

| What is MyVisionRoom? > | Back to Leadership >

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

James Emery White

James Emery White

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which he also served as their fourth president. He is the founder of Serious Times and this blog was originally posted at his website www.churchandculture.org.

See more articles by >

COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Josh — 05/02/17 4:21 am

Every home descriminates towards the young. That is how healthy families work :)

Willie Harper — 12/28/15 5:29 pm

It's not about growing a church its about getting people truly saved. our yes or the gospel is so weak today because we are not telling sharing complete truth. I don't need to know about building a church that's God's job. We all need to come together and face the facts of truth concerning salvation but nobody is interested everyone have their own little safety net and satisfied with fragmented truth. I'm sick of the church world and all of its philosophical theology that opposed complete truth. Jesus is coming soon and that will settle it all one lord one faith one baptism. Acts 2:38-47. That's how the church began and steel should be today but men have changed it and the church world suffers

Marcos — 12/09/15 7:28 pm

Niiiice. Intentional age discrimination at church.

Recent Comments
I love the intentionality here as well as the challenge to look at the data. That's missing so many times. I would like to offer a contrarian's take. Church members and regular attenders have so many ways to get information: Announcements, bulletins, social channels, relationships, and email being among the options. But brand new people are likely going to check out the website and that's it. It might be wiser for churches with limited time and resources to focus their website almost exclusively to guests. This group of people isn't looking for a calendar of events but wants to know about regular programs. They probably aren't interested in watching all of the messages but instead may want to preview one of the services. For the times we need church members to go to websites (sign up for camp, join a group, etc), we're probably better off designing and promoting a specific page rather than cluttering up the homepage.
 
— Michael Lukaszewski (@mlukaszewski)
 
A great question! Unfortunately, the Church Unique Kit is no longer available in print form. We are working on revising it and updating it into an online experience, but that project is at least six months out. An alternative is to come to an upcoming certification class. There is one May 15-18 in Houston, and October 23-26 in Atlanta.
 
— VRcurator
 
Where may I purchase the Church Unique kit?
 
— Linda Winkelman
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.