Our articles typically focus on marketing, management, social media, and fundraising — but we decided to take a week and talk specifically about church leadership, life, and church growth. If you are a Pastor or a church leader … this post is for you.
The start of a new year — and a new decade — is very exciting. If you’re like the average American, you’ve probably already made a list of New Year’s resolutions you’d like to achieve over the next twelve months. The arrival of January 1st usually stirs up a lot of new ideas, and it can be a time when we often reflect on our lives. Are we who we want to be? What can we do to become the best version of ourselves? And why on earth did all those Christmas cookies go straight to the waistline?
If you are a leader of a church, it is always a good idea to make time to evaluate the health of your ministry. Perhaps you may want to assess your weekly attendance, giving, and growth. Attendance and giving are actually both good indicators (when kept in perspective) because attendance reflects the number of people you are reaching and giving reflects confidence in church leadership and effectiveness in ministry. While it’s important to not become too “numbers-focused” in ministry, they do provide perspective regarding the overall snapshot of your church.
As you look at the big picture, did you see an increase or decrease in the number of people who filled your seats last year? How have the overall giving trends changed in the past year?
Outside of changing locations, people tend to leave a church for three fundamental reasons:
- Lack of meaningful relationships
- No significant place of service
- Disagreement with management/leadership decisions
As you review the previous year, consider those families who have left. Which of these categories apply to their decision? Leaving a church is usually a painful process for the person leaving. What could have been done to reduce the pain or address the concerns? Does your church have a way for visitors to build new relationships? Is it easy to find a place of service? Have decision-making processes been clearly communicated so people understand how each potentially controversial decision is in the best interest of the church? Every church will experience people leaving — but the first steps to closing the “back door” can sometimes be as simple as listening and understanding.
Shelter from the Storm
Challenging times can try the faith of even the strongest of saints. The church needs to be sensitive to the needs of its own people. Good people will make bad decisions; good people will experience tragedy and loss; bad people will have life-changing experiences with Christ. The church needs to provide spiritual and practical support in each of these situations. It is imperative for the church to be seen as a “shelter from the storm” and a safe haven. It should be seen as a place of acceptance, not rejection. It should be a place of healing, restoration, and forgiveness.
If your church would like to experience growth in the upcoming year, we would like to offer some encouraging leadership tips:
- Implement a strong Guest Services program. Studies show that within the first few minutes of entering a church, a newcomer will determine if they will return for another service or event. Make it a goal this year to ensure that you have volunteers staffed at key positions within your church to warmly welcome guests, make them feel comfortable, and direct them to various locations. If you don’t have one already, establish a “Welcome Center” where new people can easily obtain literature about your church and ministries. Develop a welcome packet or brochure. It will be important to give visitors a caring, hospitable first impression upon entering your church.
- Develop an Assimilation Strategy. Assimilation is the process of individuals becoming part of the life-stream of the church. As people visit your church, implement a process that keeps track of each person who walks in the door. You will want to obtain their name and contact information for your records. This can be done through a connection card in the bulletin, for example. Then, members of your team should be responsible for regular follow-up with visitors through phone calls or emails during the week. Encourage your team to build meaningful relationships with guests and to help them plug in to specific ministries or events where they will fit in and feel comfortable.
- Build your Small Group structure. The mega-church trend has become very popular over the last decade. Studies have shown the pros and cons of mega-churches, but either way, you need to be aware that some people can get “lost in the crowd” when you have a larger congregation. People may feel unnoticed or may feel like they don’t know anyone when they go to church. To counteract this, be certain that your church has a strong Small Groups ministry this year. Encourage people to become involved through actively promoting your small groups and by providing them with the resources they need to get involved. Small groups help people feel like they belong and are important for spiritual growth, healing, and support.
- Focus on the One. Ministry is unsuccessful when churches and leaders lose sight of the central reason behind why they have church in the first place: Jesus Christ. Be cautious to not allow the details and production aspects of putting a service together distract you from the real reason you are there in the first place. Along with this, try to gain a mentality of continually focusing on the one — that one person who needs a touch from God. That one person who sneaks in the back of the church on Sunday mornings. That one person who is deeply hurting and just needs someone to talk to.
These simple and practical tips will help you make this the best year yet for your church and its ministry. And if you would like a little help to grow a little faster, let us know. We’re here to help.