Day 3 of my Prayer and Prep Retreat was highly productive. I clearly sensed God desired us to continue to be a church unchurched people love to attend, and that we grow in two main areas: 1) to be strengthened in the Word and, 2) to grow in the strength of our relationships.
Based on these 2 things, I then went through a series of 5 questions to determine what we should communicate to our church in the next year.
- What do they need to know? (information)
I took my cue from what Pastor Casey Treat said in his book Renewing the Mind about the 5 areas in which our minds must be renewed.
- We must believe that God has a plan and a destiny in our lives. (Purpose/Destiny)
- We must believe that what's inside us - not circumstances outside us - control our lives. (Inner Strength)
- We must believe that if we give the best, we will have the best. (Generosity)
- We must order our lives in a balanced way and keep our priorities in line with God's will. (Priorities)
- We must be excellent in our work; parenting; relationships and communication; homes; spirituality; and in our church.
I took these 5 areas and placed them in the annual calendar as themes. It looked like this:
- Why do they need to know it? (motivation) In the last 15 years I've pastored, I've come to realize that each church has it's unique seasons. There are certain times of year when the unchurched are more likely to attend your services. There are other times of year where it's just your regular attenders in the audience. There are certain times of year that your attendance grows naturally, and there are other times of year where your attendance will be sporadic at best, no matter what you do. For instance, I have discovered that our high attendance seasons are between Thanksgiving and Christmas and between Easter and the May Long Weekend. During these two seasons, we see more visitors and more salvations. After the May Long Weekend our attendance becomes sporadic and there are less visitors throughout the summer. When I understand these seasons I can therefore know "Why" I want to plan a certain theme during a certain season. During the summer, for example, I have chosen themes that are more suited to our regulars. During the growth seasons I have chosen themes that are more applicable to the unchurched.
- What do they need to do? (application) The application question becomes more relevant when I actually get down to creating the Series to fit the theme and the sermons to fit the series, but it is useful in choosing the appropriate topics for the series as well. What I really want to answer is "how does this apply to our people?" "How will it apply to their family?" And "Will it impact their world?" One thing I've learned from Pastor Willie George is to be aware of whether a series is a "grace" based series or whether it is a "truth" based series. Too much grace leads to a slippery slope and too much truth is harsh and unrelenting. The secret is to stagger truth and grace series so that the people grow in both.
- Why do they need to do it? (inspiration) Every series and every sermon is an opportunity to cast vision . It's an opportunity to inspire people to act on what they've just learned. Dallas Willard said, "We don't believe something merely saying we believe it, or even when we believe that we believe it. We believe something when we act as if it were true." What vision am I trying to cast?
- What can I do to help them remember? (creativity) This question launches me into the next phase of the process. It's important to choose topics and titles that will captivate people's attention so that the messages will stick with them for more than the 30 minutes on Sunday. Jesus was the master story teller and had a way of making his point that has mesmerized the world for thousands of years. Communication is much more than just sharing information, it's about connecting with the hearts and emotions of the audience so that they will feel compelled to act on what they have heard.
Question: These 5 questions will help you in your communication as well, no matter how big or small. What questions are you asking before you communicate? Please share your thoughts in the "Leave a Reply" box below.