The #1 Cause Of Church Growth
Over our almost 12 year history, we’ve had the following measure in place: How Did You Find Out About CCV?
You would think our website, visibility from the major highway running through our target area, or direct mail advertising would be The #1 Cause Of Church Growth. Nope. Not even close.
Are you familiar with the use of Pareto Analysis as part of any continuous improvement process? I know, it sounds technical! It’s pretty basic, though. It’s a bar graph, arranged from highest bar to lowest bar. The purpose of the analysis is to determine and illustrate the “highest contributing cause” of something. In this case the graph shows the highest contributing cause of church growth.
By far and away it’s “Invited By A Friend Or Family Member.” Surprised? Sometimes I think we underestimate the significance of “a person with skin on them” personally inviting their friend or family member to church.
OK. So now what? What do we do with this knowledge? The first step is understanding that the people who are attending our churches are our best tool for growing our church. Now, we must do a number of things to equip them and help them succeed.
First, we must put a service together that our people wouldn’t be embarrassed about asking someone to attend. In addition, we must create a warm and welcoming environment. The list is long and requires us to re-think everything about our churches. And, in most cases the stuff we must do is difficult and takes a significant amount of time to get in place.
But there’s one thing we can do that’s pretty easy. The Invite Card. Yes, it’s a simple business card sized tool that we can print for our people that equips them to simply hand someone a card that provides the needed information. Here’s an example:
The Invite Card we have at South Hills for Easter looks like this…
Until next time,
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
80% of people surveyed said they would attend church if invited. – Barna Research
For the past two weekends our Children’s Ministry (Kidmin) has taken over our church…and it has been fantastic. Last weekend Pastor Justyn Smith and his team took over our extended campus and this weekend they took over the main campus. From the Kid’s worship team leading songs with bubbles and confetti, to Pastor Jesse and the comedic antics of Cowboy Curley Joe bringing the point home. From the story telling sound effects of Timmy to the powerful message from Justyn… it was truly amazing!
Why would we do that? Why would we allow the Children’s Ministry to take over the main service. The primary reason… Kids are important! Very important! The two secondary reasons are one, to highlight what an amazing Kidmin team we have, and to allow everyone to see what their kids get to experience every week. Second, volunteer recruitment. When people see what an amazing ministry this is, and how exciting and rewarding it is to help in that area, they are much more likely to come on board than with the typical “sign up table” or announcement in the bulletin.
I know what many of you are thinking “that’s great for you, but we don’t have those kinds of resources.” Even if you are at a smaller church, you can still have a fantastic Children’s Ministry. There are great resources available too, if you just know where to look. Join a Celera Kidmin group, check out the blogs of the Kidmin Coaches, many of them have free resources and great ideas. Kidmin should never be an after thought, it should be at the top of the list. When a Children’s Ministry is strong healthy and growing, then chances are much better that your church is strong, healthy and growing.
Until next time,
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
“If I could relive my life, I would devote my entire ministry to reaching children for God!”
-Dwight L. Moody
This past Saturday we hosted our second annual food drive/day of outreach. Don’t let the name fool you. Community outreach is something we feel very passionately about here at South Hills. This is just one special day where we stretch ourselves to further reach out to our community.
On that one day the South Hills family fed 409 families that represented 2,300 people. On that day we also provided clothing, haircuts and connected people to free job skills classes from Smooth Transition. Many families said “thank you so much, we have no food in our home.” And “Thank you so much, this is a months’ worth of food for our family.”
Also the staff and volunteers had blast! Here is what one volunteer said:
“My time spent serving the community was one of the most fulfilling experiences in my life. Several times throughout the day I felt the Lords presence and Him overwhelming me with total joy. I caught myself having to stop several times so that I could gather my emotions. God is awesome!”
It was a fantastic day!
So why did we do this? Because we have made a commitment to “Raise Your Risk for the Disadvantaged” We want to be the flesh of Christ to literally touch people with His love.
Why am I telling you this? To toot our own horn? Well maybe a little. I am very proud of all of our staff, volunteers, and contributors who made this day happen. They worked well and gave big. But equal to that, I want to encourage you to reach out to those in your community who need a loving hand up.
I want to encourage you to be a church that demonstrates a gigantic, God-sized faith. Jesus said, if you love me, you’ll do what I ask. So what did he ask us to do? Seek & save the lost. Serve “the least of these.” Go and make disciples, baptize them. Go farther than your church, farther than your own town, help the church in the next county or another state or even on the other side of the world. These are the radical ideas of our RISK Project.
We raise our risk level when we’re willing to get our hands dirty to meet the needs of the needy. We raise our risk level when we decide to cross the line to have a conversation with a friend to bring them to Christ. We raise our risk level when we say I’ll sacrifice to give more dollars to help other churches grow, to leverage our resources for maximum impact. When you demonstrate a radical risk of faith, incredible things will happen.
Until next time,
QUOTES OF THE DAY
“Knowing is not enough, we must apply. Wiling is not enough, we must do.”
– TJohann Wolfgang Von Goethe
“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If you speak, you should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If you serve, you should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.” – 1 Peter 4: 10-11
I just had the privilege of journeying to Haiti. It was both one of the best and worst trips of my life. I went there with the knowledge of the devastation caused by the recent earthquake coupled with the absolute poverty on the nation, but even that foreknowledge in no way prepared me for the reality of what I saw.
I went on this journey with a few other pastors in partnership with Convoy of Hope. Thankfully Convoy of Hope was already in place in Haiti when the quake hit, and therefore was able to quickly respond. We had the privilege of helping in food distribution. Thousands of people gathered to receive food, and I was elated to give out the food purchased with the funds our church had raised. We had enough food to feed 18,000 people from that one container. I was feeling pretty good about what we had done.
Then the food ran out.
There were still thousands waiting for food. There was nothing left. And I stood there with this little six year old girl pulling on my pant leg looking for some thing to eat, and I had nothing to give her. I didn’t feel so good anymore. It was numbing to be there. The devastation and death were absolutely unfathomable. Nearly 300,000 have died. Human trafficking and child slavery are rampant. Millions are homeless.
I have come home with renewed determination to make a difference. And I encourage each of you to respectfully use your positions of leadership and influence to make a difference. Find a way, be creative. I just read this story about a seven-year-old boy in England who has raised more than £60,000 ($110,000) to help the people of Haiti.
“Charlie Simpson was so upset by the devastation wrought by the earthquake that he told his mother he wanted to do anything he could to help. The boy set out to raise £500 for Unicef’s Haiti appeal by riding his bike five miles around his local park – but the schoolboy’s efforts inspired hundreds of people online who donated a total of more than £60,000 in just one day.” source: www.telegraph.co.uk
I am haunted by the image of that little girl pulling on my pant leg. I will do more. I have to. I am reminded of James 2:14-17 which says, “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.”
If you already have a trusted place to donate to, fantastic! If not, I urge you to trust Convoy of Hope with your contributions. I completely support Convoy of Hope. I have seen them in action, and I know that 94% of every dollar they bring in goes directly to the people they feed.
Until next time,
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
“The purpose of life is to serve and to show compassion and the will to help others. Only then have we ourselves become true human beings.”
— Albert Schweitzer
Early in the life of South Hills we realized the need to have a good website, and as our church has grown, so has our website adapted to meet our needs. Our website is a priority to us at both South Hills and Celera Group, as a website will often be someones first impression of your organization. If you have a poor web presence (or none at all) it could be a huge detriment to your church. The following is an excerpt from an article found at internetevangelismday.com I encourage you to visit their website, as you will find much more detailed information there.
Making church sites into evangelistic tools
1.Most church websites are designed entirely for their members, or unwittingly exclude non-Christians because of their choice of language and content.
2.A good church site must communicate with three very different target groups:
3.This ‘three-way stretch’ is a challenge, but can be achieved.
4.Take time to consider the needs and viewpoints of non-Christians.
5.Avoid all ‘churchy’ jargon and ‘Christianese’ language throughout the site, especially on the homepage.
6.Non-Christians may have negative images of Christians: boring, killjoys, judgmental, etc.
7.Christian outreach often fails because Christians do ‘megaphone proclamation’ from behind the protecting walls of their ‘ghetto’.
8.A primary task of the website is to convince non-Christians of these four things:
9.Do not think of your church site in isolation, merely as a stand-alone online brochure.
10.Church is people: the home page should have at least one photo of a church member. This is absolutely foundational to good communication, yet infrequently done.
11.Internal pages on the site can include photos of both outside and inside of the church building.
12.Include some ‘meet our members’ pages.
13.All links, page titles, and sub-headings should sound enticing.
14.If testimonies are used, they should be completely free of religious jargon, exaggeration and sentimentality.
15.Consider a ‘New to this site?’ visitors link on your homepage. This enables you to offer a particular welcome to an outsider.
16.Games and fun stuff are attractive and make a site sticky.
17.Consider adding some ‘bridging’ pages to the site.
18.Involve your church members in praying and supporting the web design team, and ‘owning’ the site.
19.Demonstrate a specific welcome for people with disability.
20.Summing up: the overall impression of the site must of a gentle, loving, enticing welcome. But…
21.Sadly, it is this issue of welcome and assimilation that frequently breaks down.
22.The context of your country, area and culture may lead you to apply these principles in different ways.
23.Church websites are not the only form of web evangelism.
24.Your church site will be the first point of contact for many people in your community. First impressions count.
25.Do not place too much information on your homepage.
26.And all important information should be ‘above the fold’.
27.Avoid ‘churchy’ graphics – open Bibles, stained glass windows, doves, candles. And appeals for money.
28.Use at least one graphic of a person’s face on the homepage.
29.A 3-column layout is often the most suitable for a church site.
30.Never use an introductory ‘splash page’.
31.Every page should display the same overall appearance, with the same navigation options in the same place.
32.All links, menu options and buttons should be clearly identified as ‘active’ – they should change color when hovered.
34.Don’t use frames for site design.
35.Learn how to use ‘include’ files – a great time-saver.
36.Also learn how to use CSS.
37.Use colors correctly: understand how to choose a color scheme, how colors relate to each other, and what mood they communicate.
38.Don’t use patterned graphic backgrounds behind body text.
39.Consider a ‘liquid’ page design: the content should flow naturally and fit together, at any screen resolution (i.e. size of the monitor screen measured in pixels) or reasonable font resize by a user.
40.And don’t put ‘best viewed at resolution’ or ‘best viewed in browser Y’ on your website.
41.Don’t include ‘mailto’ email addresses in plain coding on the site.
42.Your site need not be large or complex.
43.Don’t leave out-of-date content online.
44.Use several people to proof-read for typos and poor grammar.
45.Make your pages printer-friendly.
46.Take time to assess your target audience, their interests, needs and circumstances.
47.Not least, pray – both for planning and implementation.
Your church webmaster/team
48.A church webmaster or team needs a clear job description.
49.What if there is no-one technical in your church, to take on the webmaster role? You can use a pre-designed template system. These also answer the problem of what to do if the only technical person in the church moves on, leaving a website that no-one really knows how to update. Follow ‘Extra’ for a listing of providers and how to assess the features they offer.
50.A larger church site can benefit from ‘CMS’ – Content Manegment which enables multiple users to keep the site updated.
51.Learn from others. Help is only a mouse-click away.
52.For normal body text, use black font on a white or near-white background.
53.Do not used fixed font size in your coding.
54.Therefore make all font sizes relative, so that users can resize text if they wish.
55.Choice of fonts is important. The Verdana font is designed for computer monitors, and is widely perceived as the most readable for body text.
56.Understand how to make your site user-friendly to color-blind and visually-impaired visitors.
57.Test your site from a technical viewpoint in different browsers, and at different screen resolutions.
58.Also test your site with real first-time users. Remember, you know your site backwards. They do not.
59.Find non-Christians to critique your site. Yes, non-Christians! They are your primary target audience.
Navigation and usability
60.Good navigation allows a first-time non-technical visitor to move round your site easily.
61.Good navigation gives visitors constant clues to fulfill the vital requirements: ‘Where am I, where have I been, and where can I go’. Many websites, of all types, fail to be effective because they lack a good intuitive navigation system.
62.Do not offer too many links in your navigation menu.
63.You can use ‘paper prototyping’ to plan different ways of structuring links within the site.
64.Make sure your pages download quickly.
Being found – online and physically
65.The title tages in the head of your homepage, which should contain the full name of the church, plus town, state and country.
66.Your church name, street, town, area/state, country and phone number should also appear in unabbreviated form in a small font in the footer of your homepage (or preferably every page).
67.Submit your church site to main search engines and secular directories.
68.Make every page of your site a logical entry point to your site.
69.Framed Pages present problems to being listed in search engines.
70.Ensure the church URL is easy to remember. Take every opportunity to give it a high profile.
71.Make full use of press releases to local newspapers and radio stations. These should always include your URL. Larger churches can consider publishing regular news using an ‘RSS’ feed.
72.Include clear directions for finding the church. Give details of parking, public transport links, and a map.
Responding to emails
73.Ensure that every day, someone reads incoming emails to the church.
74.Some people may be emailing for help on serious life issues.
75.It need not necessarily be the pastor or pastor’s secretary that does this, especially out of hours.
One last thought… A good website does not have to cost a fortune. A good website can be very simple,and there are great website templates out there, and designers who will give a church a break. Remember, since it is the web, you don’t have to limit yourself to designers in your area.
Until next time,
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
“Visitors are increasingly checking out churches online before walking into a service.”
– Tom Harper of ChurchCentral.com
There are many different approaches to church growth, some more affective than others. Here at South Hills, we have a simple three point approach which is to 1.invite people to one of our weekend services, 2.promote small groups, and 3.encourage involvement through serving. We have found that the more connected someone feels, the more likely that person will continue to attend our church and/or church in general. For that reason I frequently, enthusiastically promote small groups in our weekend services and other venues. The following article excerpt by Josh Hunt, www.joshhunt.com has some great insight to the importance of small groups.
Rick Warren taught us that to grow a church, you need to think about five concentric circles:
- COMMUNITY Those living around your church who never or occasionally attend.
- CROWD Those who attend your church regularly but are not members.
- CONGREGATION Those who are committed to both Christ and membership in your church family.
- COMMITTED Those members who are serious about growing to spiritual maturity.
- CORE Those members who actively serve in ministry and mission in your church.
The idea of disciplemaking and church growth is to move people ever closer to the center.
What Larry Osborne adds to the conversation is this: it is a whole lot easier to grow a church by concentrating on the inner rings– moving the crowd to the congregation and so forth, than it is to concentrate on the outer ring — moving the community into the crowd.
Much church growth thinking concentrates on the opposite — how to attract a crowd. I think Larry Osborne is right in saying that the fastest path to growth is to concentrate on the inner rings.
This seems to be the way Jesus operated. He concentrated on the few more than the masses. This was Robert Coleman’s theme in the classic work, The Master Plan of Evangelism. While not ignoring the masses, Jesus seemed to concentrate his energy on the few. As time went along and the cross grew closer, he seemed to concentrate more and more of his energy on the few.
My own research corroborates this approach. I did a survey where I asked four questions to five hundred churches:
How many attend?
How many attended a year ago?
How many visitors do you have?
How many join?
I discovered there was very little difference between growing churches and non-growing churches in terms of their how many visitors they had (calculated as a percentage of worship attendance). There was a huge difference in terms of how many stuck around. They big difference was in what I called the “Velcro factor,” not the “magnet factor.” This is the theme of Larry’s Osborne’s book, Sticky Church.
How to Make a Church Sticky
Here is my answer: invite every member and every prospect to every fellowship every month. Have a party once a month and make sure every member gets invited. If we can get them to the party you would not be able to keep them from class.
Here is Larry Osborne’s answer: sermon-based small groups.
Larry spends five chapters discussing how small groups change everything. People grow in small groups. Small groups need to be right-sized. Small groups dispel the Holy Man myth. Small groups dispel the Holy Place myth. And so forth.
The last half of the book is why sermon-based small groups make a church sticky.
At this point, I am feeling a little stupid. I read the book twice, then skimmed it to find the answer to this question: WHY? Why are sermon-based groups better than other kind of groups at getting visitors to stick around?
Here is my take: sermon-based groups are no better or worse than other types of groups. The key variable is the Senior-pastor cheer-leading the groups.
Imagine two churches. One has a Senior pastor who is a real cheerleader of groups. He regularly attends a group and regularly tells stories about his group from the pulpit. These could be home groups or Sunday School style groups, open or closed groups, any type of groups. They key thing is, the pastor is a huge fan of groups.
Down the street we have a church that follows the sticky church model to the tee. They attend the conference. The staff all read the book. They attempt to implement the plan as carefully as they can. But, they can’t get the pastor really on board. He does a little push at first, but then he looses interest. His interest is the worship service. Groups are not that important to him.
Which church do you think will have the best groups?
Groups don’t work at North Coast because they are sermon-based. They work because the Senior pastor cheerleads them.
That is not to say that sermon based groups are a bad idea. They are not. But, they are not the silver bullet. The senior pastor’s love for groups is the single biggest factor in predicting the success of groups at any church–not the details of the model. Pick a model, any model: old fashioned Sunday School, Cho’s small groups, Carl George’s meta groups, Northpoint’s (Andy Stanley) closed group model, neighborhood groups, or any other–and get the pastor thoroughly excited about it and I will show you a model that is working.
One closing thought, small groups are an important source of connection and growth for the people of your church, and it is highly valuable for them to here this from the pastor who leads them.
Until next time,
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
“Encourage every member to join a small group. Not only do they help people connect with one another, they also allow your church to maintain a ‘small church’ feeling of fellowship as it grows. Small groups can provide the personal care and attention every member deserves no matter how big the church becomes.” – Rick Warren
As I pointed out in part one of “Keeping the Main Thing the Main Thing,” weekend services are where your vision comes to life, team efforts are seen, are catalysts to life change, and the a weekend service is usually a visitor’s first impression of the church. Creativity is often the missing piece in making predictable weekend services memorable, inspirational and impactful. I know this can seem like a huge overwhelming task…
DON’T DO THIS ALONE…BUILD CREATIVE TEAMS
Some of the benefits of creative teams are they:
a) Make you better than you are
b) Keep you from getting in a rut
c) Reduce stress
d) Reduce your work load
e) Multiply your talent base
f) Give you greater buy in
g) Expand your knowledge of the audience
Two teams you can build to help keep your services creative are:
Team #1 – Teaching Team
Purpose: To create the monthly themes for each weekend series and the
outlines for each week’s service. They assist in providing illustrations,
examples, scriptural insight and creativity.
Participants: Lead Pastor, few key staff/leaders – size of team can vary from 3-5
Step 1 – Mapping out the year
·3-4 months prior to the coming new year the team will meet for prayer and discussion on monthly themes for the following year.
·There will be several meetings before the themes are finally decided
·Various themes become staples for the following year. (Family Month, Spiritual Emphasis, Vision, etc…)
·The goal is not to create working titles, but general themes.
Step 2 – Mapping out the month
·The Teaching Team meets once a month, to create series titles. (including titles for overall series and weekend titles)
·The Team works approximately 2 months in advance (this is necessary to help programming team in creating elements for the service)
·These meetings include the Programming Director and the Graphics Director (this allows them to gain insight for the series which helps the Programming Director prepare and the Graphics Director for branding)
Step 3 – Mapping out the weekend
·The Teaching Team meets approximately 10-12 days prior to the weekend services
·The meetings last approximately 2 hours and are held weekly
·The purpose of these meetings are to create the actual outline of the weekend service.
·The team provides scriptural insight, creative illustrations for the message, quotes, examples or anything that will enhance the message for the person communicating that weekend.
Team # 2 – Programming Team
Purpose: The purpose of the Programming Team is to create and design the elements of the services. Their responsibility is to enhance the overall experience that the audience has when attending a weekend service.
Size of group: 6-10 (take caution in making it too big)
Programming Team process:
·The Programming Director takes notes from the “Mapping out the Month” meeting and distributes them to the Programming Team.
·Individuals from the Programming Team are asked to come with 2-3 ideas for the services based on the themes.
·The Programming Team will meet 6 weeks prior to the start of the new series for the purpose of creativity.
·Ideas from the teams will include: special songs, staging, branding, videos, dramas, life change videos, life change moments, and illustrations
·A white board is used a lot in these meetings. The 4-5 week series is divided on the board and the ideas are placed in each week as they are presented.
·After all ideas are given, the team begins to narrow down the best ideas.
·Assignments are given out and the Program Director follows up with each person as the weekends approach to assure completion of the assignment
Programming sub/review team:
·Smaller group of the programming team meets each week.
·Team reviews the elements and services from the week prior
·Programming director reviews plans for the upcoming 2-3 weeks to assure we are on schedule for the upcoming services.
Pre and Post service process:
·Programming Director meets with those involved in service (sound, lighting, stage hands, worship team, drama team, anyone speaking from the platform)
·Meeting lasts 5-7 minutes
·Purpose of the meeting is to review plans for the service that is about to happen to make sure all bases are covered.
·This meeting happens before the first weekend service
·Immediately following the first service of the weekend 4-6 people (Tech Director, Program Director, Drama Director, Stage Hand Director and anyone speaking from the microphone) meet to review the service and make any last minute changes for the upcoming services.
With minor adjustments, these teams can work for any size church. While some of the specifics may change the principle will remain the same. Here’s how:
a)Find the most creative people you can (it’s ok if 1-2 of them don’t go to your church)
b)Be flexible with the schedule (nights, mornings, weekends)
c)Be prepared (don’t waste their time)
d)Let the directors have ownership
e)Get the system in place (difficult up front, but will make life easier)
f)Start somewhere…but start
g)Have a lot of fun
Finally, you must remove your excuses. Excuses such as, “adding creative elements is too expensive.” “There are not enough creative people around me.” “I/we don’t have enough time.” I don’t work that far in advance.” “The facilities we are in won’t work for creativity.” Make a commitment to look for solutions to challenges and not give in to them. The ability to connect with your audience and have greater impact is too important to let these or any other excuses stand in the way of having creative, inspirational services.
Until next time,
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
“Creativity, as has been said, consists largely of rearranging what we know in order to find out what we do not know. Hence, to think creatively, we must be able to look afresh at what we normally take for granted.”
— George Kneller
In order for any church to be a healthy, thriving body, especially if your focus is church growth, you must keep “the main thing the main thing.” What is the main thing? In any church, the main “thing” is Weekend Services! Your weekend services are where your vision comes to life, team efforts are seen, and they are catalysts to life change. And in terms of evangelism a weekend service is usually a visitor’s first impression of the church. It has been said, “In the NFL there is one Super Bowl per year…in the church life there are 52 per year.” The problem is that we often treat the major thing as the minor thing. We think of the weekend services as business as usual. Therefore, there is often very little sermon prep. The planning is frequently last minute. The services often lack creativity, and are predictable. Following are some of the excuses I have been given for not having more creative and interesting services.
• I’m not very creative
• No one in our church is creative
• I don’t have a staff to work with
• Can’t afford to be creative
• Creative services inhibit the moving of the Holy Spirit
Now consider this… God made you as a creative being. God invented creativity. Jesus modeled creativity, and the Spirit empowers creativity. If this is true, what is the real reason why we don’t have creative services? Some of the reasons and/or excuses I have encountered are…
a) The planning takes too long
b) Brings us out of our comfort zone
c) Failure to see the value
d) Too much work
Now that you are beginning to embrace your creative side, here are a few general suggestions regarding how to increase your creativeness in various areas of your services.
1. Creative Worship
• Life Change video
• Reading of a life change story
• Video images
• Utilize special music with creativity
FACT: Worship can be more than 3-5 songs week after week
2. Creative Communication – the sermon
• Always ask: “What does the listener need to know and what do they need to do?”
• Less is more (try to find one driving theme)
• Use creative illustrations
• Stay fresh
• Give a good balance (spiritual depth, Bible, relevancy)
“If better is possible then good is not enough”
3. Creative Elements
• Special Song
• Interaction moments
Before you start to feel overwhelmed, keep in mind that this is not and should not be all up to you. You will need a team to help you in this process. In part 2 we will discuss how to create that team and how to work with the team effectively.
Until next time,
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
“You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.”