How to Make a Guest’s First Sunday Count

Sure, you have a mission statement for your church.

We do, too. I bet our statements pretty much say the same thing, with only a variation of adjectives and action verbs. After all, God sort of gave us the statement in the first place.

Having a mission statement is obviously important, but ensuring the mission statement comes to life is more important. How we design for that is important. After all, if what’s written on the wall isn’t happening down the hall, then what good is the statement after all?

I recently heard a story that so beautifully illustrates the power of taking the mission personally, and it was birthed from our organizational design. I’d love to share it with you, because it was a massive reminder to me of what’s at stake very single Sunday in our churches.

A few weeks back a brand new guest came to Woodstock City Church (where I serve). She was new to church. Not just new to our church, but I believe new to church. Although she is married, she came alone this day. As she entered the doors, a volunteer at our New Guest kiosk greeted her (let’s call her Amy). We have kiosks just inside the doors of every entry point at our church to answer questions and help new guests navigate our building. After talking with the new guest for a short while, Amy offered to give her a tour of the building, getting to know her more along the way. As they walked by Waumba Land (our preschool area), the new guest shared something very personal — she had lost her pre-school child. Through the obvious emotions of that moment, she confessed she didn’t know where else to turn, but knew she needed to turn somewhere, so she came to church. Our church.

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How to Increase Your Reach by Narrowing Your Focus

This is Part 7 (and the last) of a blog series on Creating Continuous Growth in Your Church.

SERIES SUMMARY:

Every church leader facing a growth barrier desperately wants to break through, because every church leader, including me, desires a growing, thriving church. Not because church attendance is the only measure of success, but because increasing attendance is proof that people are being reached.

Here is a question I’ve begun to ask: What if instead of just breaking through a specific barrier we were able to barrier-proof our church? Pause for a moment and imagine never hitting a growth barrier again.

I believe barrier-proofing is possible for every church in any denomination, and that’s exactly what we are going to evaluate in this blog series.

I have uncovered 6 specific ingredients to create continuous growth in your church. In this post, we are going to look at the fifth ingredient:

Ingredient 6: MAINTAINING A CLEAR FOCUS

In this last post, we are going to evaluate the most simple, yet counterintuitive ingredient to creating a continuously growing church.

Here’s our starting place: Logically, the more we offer at our church, the more needs we can meet. The more ministry we provide, the more people we will attract. If we offer Upward Sports, we can attract the recreation crowd. If we offer VBS, we’ll reach children outside of Sunday. If we have a Men’s ministry, we’ll get more guys to eat pancakes and pray together. If we offer Women’s ministry, we’ll give ladies a place to belong and do life together. We have to offer Sunday School, because, well, we’re a church! We need softball and basketball teams for adults, because where else will men recreate? And we have those fields out back, too. We should probably have a food pantry and clothes closet, because people in our community are in need and we are a church. Maybe a homeless shelter? And we should also have a school — and not just a preschool, but a real school.

That’s all well and good. It’s even logical. Some would say strategic, and most would say it’s church.

But here’s the counter to counterintuitive: It’s crazy complicated to offer countless ministries and programs. We would all agree making our church more complicated and complex does not necessarily equal more effective. It certainly doesn’t guarantee more people. Complication spreads our leadership too thin. It spreads our effectiveness too thin. It spreads our resources too thin. It happens subtly over time, often without us even noticing. Before we know it, though, our church is burdened with more than can be done well, and our reach and effectiveness will be hampered as a result.

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3 Keys to Create an Unchurched Entry Point at Your Church

This is Part 6 of a blog series on Creating Continuous Growth in Your Church.

SERIES SUMMARY:

Every church leader facing a growth barrier desperately wants to break through, because every church leader, including me, desires a growing, thriving church. Not because church attendance is the only measure of success, but because increasing attendance is proof that people are being reached.

Here is a question I’ve begun to ask: What if instead of just breaking through a specific barrier we were able to barrier-proof our church? Pause for a moment and imagine never hitting a growth barrier again.

I believe barrier-proofing is possible for every church in any denomination, and that’s exactly what we are going to evaluate in this blog series.

I have uncovered 6 specific ingredients to create continuous growth in your church. In this post, we are going to look at the fifth ingredient:

Ingredient 5: DEFINING, DESIGNING, AND DEFENDING THE ENTRY POINT

Where do people enter your home?

Friends probably come through the side door — often called a “friend door” for that very reason.

Family most often through the garage. I have four kids, and they more spill into the house through the garage, rarely closing it, shoes and socks and various clothing dropped anywhere and everywhere except the laundry room in the process. But maybe that’s just me.

But what about guests? Where do guests typically come into your home? It’s different for guests, right? They aren’t yet friends (the jury is still out), so the friend door isn’t a great option. They aren’t family, so the garage probably should remain closed when we are expecting them (and we hope they keep their socks on, too). In my home when we have guests over, much like you, they enter through the front door. The front door is the guest entry point into our home. It might be a little further than the garage or side door, but it’s where they go. It’s more comfortable for them and for us, mostly because it’s designed with them in mind.

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Tip 9. Making Church Easy to Attend (Shutting The Back Door in Your Church, Blog Series)

In this blog series, I’ve identified 9 tips to help keep people from leaving your church (i.e., shutting the back door). Here is the last tip:

TIP 9. Make Church Easy to Attend.

How easy is it for people to attend your church?

If you have a growing church (and you will if you shut the back door and keep people from leaving), odds are it’s getting more and more difficult to attend. Sometimes we don’t notice this as an issue, because when I arrive at church two hours before our first service begins, the parking lot is pretty open! But ask any of our 11:00 a.m. service attenders and they will paint a better picture. Maybe a disturbing picture.

At Watermarke, when we had a few hundred people, parking, checking-in children, finding seats, and all our other church activities was relatively easy. Actually, it was way too easy (more on that later). But as we began to grow, things became more complicated. The more we grew, the more complicated attending our church became.

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Tip 8. FOR People – All People (Shutting The Back Door in Your Church, Blog Series)

In this blog series, I’ve identified 9 tips to help keep people from leaving your church (i.e., shutting the back door). I believe all 9 are important. In this post, I’ll address tip number eight:

TIP 8. Be a church FOR people – all people.

Who is your church for?

Not theological. But practically, who is your church for?

I know what all us church leaders would say, but what if you asked people in your community? What if you asked the unchurched in your neighborhood or workplace? What if you asked the golfers teeing off on Sunday mornings?

When we get outside of our church bubble, we quickly discover the rest of the world sees the church differently. They see judgmental, homophobic, and hypocritical. They associate, for good reason, the gathering of Christians with their bad Christian experiences and an angry God.

Unfortunately, people are more familiar with what the church is AGAINST than what we are FOR. For good reason, too. Think of all the things Christians have boycotted: Disney, JC Penney, Lowes, Home Depot, UPS, PBS, Oreos, Muppets, Cheerios, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts. Cabbage Patch Dolls. Barbie. World Vision… The list goes on and on.

Now some of these boycotts might be warranted. Some might be even necessary. But from the outside looking in, the brand of Christianity is marked by the word “against.” That’s regrettable, because when we open the pages of Scripture, we see a God FOR people. A loving God who has been pursuing people their entire life. A God that is so for people that he allowed his Son to die for them. It makes me believe if God is for people, His church should be known in the same way.

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Tip 5. Relevant Preaching (Shutting The Back Door in Your Church, Blog Series)

In this blog series, I’ve identified 9 tips to help keep people from leaving your church (i.e., shutting the back door). I believe all 9 are important. In this post, I’ll address tip number five:

TIP 5. Relevant preaching.

Preaching is part art, part science.

Every preacher has a style (the art) and an approach (the science). Discovering your style takes time – especially if you listen to specific preachers consistently. It becomes easier to mimic the cadence and style of your favorite communicator than to discover and own your style. Maybe we should address this at some point.

But approach is different. Approach is science. Approach is that intentional side of preaching where you pre-determine what you hope to accomplish in and through your sermon. Often, your approach determines your outcome. In fact, the results you see today are a direct result of your approach.

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Tip 2. Allow Anonymity (Shutting The Back Door in Your Church, Blog Series)

In this blog series, I identified 9 tips to help keep people from leaving your church (i.e., shutting the back door). I believe all 9 are important. In this post, I’ll address tip number two:

TIP 2. Allow for anonymity.

Have you ever been forced to know or be known?

I once attended a church where every person I saw wanted to become my friend. To shake my hand, introduce themselves, and hear my life story. Seriously. I began walking with my head down as to not make eye contact with anyone in the hallway. But that was just the beginning. In service, we were forced to not just say “hello” to a neighbor, but to have a full on conversation with a FEW neighbors. Again, I looked down and away from my neighbors, which is hard to accomplish over 5 minutes time. Finally, we ended the service holding hands and singing a song. The GUY to my left tried to interlock fingers, which felt like level jumping in our lack-of-relationship.

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5 Good Reasons You SHOULD Leave Your Church

Have you ever left a church?

It’s funny to me. As a pastor, when people leave the church I lead, they feel compelled to let me know. Many times they even let me know why – in detail.
In my early days at Watermarke, it seemed every person or family that left the church wanted an “exit interview.” I usually listened, and in most cases, wished them luck at their next church with a smile. Usually my happy demeanor and willingness to let them leave was perplexing to them. I found trying to KEEP frustrated people at the church only cause me frustration, so I smiled and pointed out other great churches in our community.

During these slightly awkward meetings, I always wondered what they expected in return. An apology? A promise to change our church for their preferences? A cookie? Not as much sarcasm?

But seriously…as a lead pastor, when people tell me they are leaving the church, I often find myself excited for them. Or at least excited for me. Sure, there are many bad reasons to leave a church, but there are some great reasons, too. And when I hear one of the good reasons, I smile in return.

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Should We Ask Guests at Church to Fill Out Connection Cards?

Do you ask guests to fill out a connection card in your church service?

Growing up in the church, we always had those little cards in the pews or seat-backs. I remember because I spent time in every service making little paper airplanes and passing notes written on the cards.

After graduating from paper airplane manufacturing, while visiting some other churches, I noticed they too had a similar card in their seat-backs. I filled them out occasionally. In most cases, I never heard from the church. In some cases, I heard too frequently.

At Watermarke Church where I lead, we do not ask guests to complete a card or provide us with any information. We do offer a gift at our information tables and specifically welcome guests at the top of our service, but we never ask for anything in return. We don’t publicly recognize them or ask that they identify themselves. For what it’s worth, here are a few reasons we don’t ask guests to complete cards:

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Should We Make Church Less Weird?

Do you consider your church service weird?

Most of us church people don’t, because we are church people and it’s our service. And honestly, as church people, we are just comfortable with the weirdness. But when an unchurched person attends your church, odds are they will encounter a few things they consider strange, such as:

1. Worship

If your church sings songs about God, Jesus, Heaven, and the like, it is probably weird to outsiders. Imagine walking into a large room where people are collectively standing and singing songs about blood, healing, and praising an invisible God who we trust with our life even though he apparently is more concerned with being praised than giving us what we want. That’s what we sing. Come on… that’s strange.

2. Sitting and Standing (and maybe kneeling)

At most churches, we stand up at times, sit at others, and it’s nearly impossible to know which is which if you’re new. Weird. It can feel like a child in a dance recital who is always one step behind.

3. Responsive Reading

I’ve not participated in this for a while, but imagine being an unbeliever, being asked to repeat “truths” about a God you aren’t sure even exists? Strange.

4. Communion

Is it a mid-morning snack? Is it wine or juice? Not to be irreverent, but it’s weird.

5. Baptism

Maybe the weirdest of all! Adults allowing other adults to dunk them under water. That was fun in middle school, but as an adult? And if you wear robes, forget it! That’s even worse!

That’s only touching the surface. When we sit back and think about our church services, it’s pretty obvious that for an outsider or guests, experiencing what we consider normal can feel anything but.

So how do you make a church service friendly for an outsider without compromising the truth of Scripture or the traditions you hope to maintain? Continue reading…