Church Articles

How to Invite Your Friends to Church

"Ninety-six percent of the unchurched are at least somewhat likely to attend church if they are invited." Dr. Thomas Rainer made this claim in his article Ten Surprises About the Unchurched - Understanding their Hearts and Minds posted 7/11/2007.

The next obvious question is: Are Christians inviting non-Christians to church? The heartbreaking answer is "no." Rainer claims that only 21 percent of active churchgoers invite anyone to church in the course of a year. But only 2 percent of the church members invited an unchurched person to church. That's sad! Why do you think this is? A simple invite can go a long way.

One excuse might be that we're too afraid to invite. I like a basic four-step relational formula that helps remove some of my fear because it's so simple.

It's based on a concept I heard a while ago that explains four levels of relationships:

  1. The Sidewalk Stage This is the basic stranger relationship. If you took your trash to the curb and someone was walking by on the sidewalk in front of your house, how would the conversation go? It would be primitive, shallow, and probably about the weather. You may not ever get their name, but you smiled, were friendly, and conversational.
  2. The Porch Stage If the sidewalk contact were to happen on a regular basis, eventually you would get the individual's name and the conversations would begin to extend beyond just the weather. They would extend in length and eventually the person may enter your yard, just to connect with you. The relationship is developing and may or may not go any further.
  3. The Living Room Stage If a porch relationship continued to develop, a friendship would begin. At this point you may invite this new found friend into your home. The conversations would continue to go deeper and yet, still not intimate. At this point, you are serving your friend and they are welcome guests into your home and life.
  4. The Kitchen Stage As the relationship continued to develop and the Living Room visits became more frequent, the conversations would become more intimate. At this point, you move beyond serving a guest and into close friends. Close friends and family are welcome into the kitchen and begin to assist in preparing the meal and helping with clean-up. Isn't it true? When we have family over for Christmas dinner, don't you find that often the best and deepest conversations occur in the kitchen as we work together toward a common end.

I've applied these four levels into my own life and experience and I have taught them to our church. I encourage people to invest in a relationship so that it progresses through the levels, stressing not to extend an invite to church until the relationship has at least comfortably moved to the Living Room stage. It's simple. It's comfortable. And, I've found that it works.

When is the last time you have invited an unchurched person to church? It could make the difference in the eternal destiny of a person. Try the four levels. It may be that simple, and it may be that profound.

10 Ways to Attract and Keep Volunteers

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Church growth expert and mentor to over 4000 pastors, the late Jack Whitesell, once told me that for every one active volunteer, the church has the ability to effectively minister to 6-8 people! In other words, the church cannot function or grow without volunteers. But volunteers are often difficult to lead and even more difficult to recruit. This is one of the greatest frustrations and problems pastors face. So, here are 10 ways to attract and keep volunteers. 10 Ways to Attract and Keep Volunteers:

  1. Identify their strengths and find the right fit for them. A volunteers growth potential is unlimited inside their strength zone, however outside of their strengths their growth potential is nil. Therefore, as early as you can try to discover your volunteer recruit's strengths and match them to the appropriate tasks.
  2. Recruit them with a personal ask. Many believe the best way to recruit volunteers is from the pulpit. In actuality, the most proven method of recruiting is still the personal ask. The majority of individuals will say yes when approached personally and are asked by a trusted individual.
  3. Tell them the difference they can make by getting involved. Don't just announce a position vacancy. This by itself is not enough to compel most people to become involved. Everybody wants to know that what they are giving their time to is making a difference. When you recruit someone personally, make sure you tell them how they will be making a difference. Often the best way to explain this is with stories and testimonies.
  4. Resist the urge to be need focused. Don't fill a position with just anybody because there is a need. If you don't have the right person with the right set of skills to fill the position, I have found that it is simply better to not run a program in that area of lack than it is to fill it with the wrong person.
  5. A positive atmosphere from current volunteers will attract others. Your best recruiters are your current volunteers. Everybody is attracted to places where there is fun and excitement. If your current volunteers are having fun, are positive and excited about their current roles, others will automatically be drawn to join your team. Therefore, it is vital to treat your current volunteers right and to make their job as positive an experience as you can and when you do, you will seldom lack recruits.
  6. Effectively skill develop the recruited. One of the best ways to keep your current volunteers happy and engaged is with proper training. There is nothing more frustrating than being asked to do a job and then not being adequately equipped to fulfill your duties. Treat your volunteers as you would your most valuable staff (because they are!) and provide the highest quality of training you possibly can.
  7. Maintain a high motivation of the recruited by celebrating their victories. Catch your volunteers doing something right and then make sure you celebrate them and their achievements! But, I would caution you to reward individuals privately and teams publicly. If you make a habit of rewarding individuals publicly you will create a culture of unhealthy competition among the rest of your volunteers and your efforts to motivated will back fire.
  8. Link new volunteers to their team and supervisors
. Another common frustration among volunteers is problems that arise around communication or the lack of it. It is imperative that your new recruits are clear as to who is their direct overseer. There is nothing more frustrating for a volunteer than receiving direction from multiple sources and being unclear as to which one you are accountable to.
  9. Provide regular supervision of the deployed. A common practice in churches that frustrate volunteers is that when we find a person to fill a vacant position we think our work is done and assume they will take care of everything from here on out. This causes immense frustration for volunteers because like everyone else, they have a desire to know how they are doing and if they are doing what is expected of them.  It is imperative to provide every volunteer with ongoing training, supervision, and feedback.
  10. Creatively reward the productive.
 What gets rewarded gets repeated.
 Volunteers don’t get paid but they don’t work for free either. Find creative ways to reward your volunteers just for the time they willingly give regularly for the cause.

Question: What have you found that helps attract and keep volunteers in your organization?

Great Vision Requires Great Partners

The prophet Elisha spent a great deal of time learning from his predecessor Elijah, being mentored by the old prophet, seeing him stand up to wicked kings and queens, watching him preform extraordinary miracles. Then one day God raised the stakes for Elisha himself. 2 Kings 2:1-2 (NIV) When the Lord was about to take Elijah up to heaven in a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal. Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here; the Lord has sent me to Bethel.” But Elisha said, “As surely as the Lord lives and as you live, I will not leave you.” So they went down to Bethel.

Two more times the old prophet asks his young apprentice to stay behind. And twice more, Elisha refuses to listen and continues on with the old man. Sometimes good things happen to people just simply because they continue on and refuse to quit, even when everything and everyone is telling them to.

page_image_partners The Bible tells us that Elisha wasn’t the old prophet’s first apprentice. Elijah’s first servant abandoned him in 1 Kings 19:3 when he was running from Jezebel.

1 Kings 19:3 (NIV) Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there,

The key word in this verse is the word “servant.” There’s a big difference between a servant and a partner! In 2 Kings 2 Elisha goes on to inherit Elijah’s ministry and double his anointing. I can’t help but think, what would have happened if Elijah’s first servant would have stuck with Elijah no matter what? Maybe we would know his name, too.

Here is what we can learn from Elisha:

1. Servants commit but partner covenant.
 Covenant is a word we often associate with marriage. And so we should. A marriage isn’t a contract between two people that lasts until something goes wrong. It’s a covenant that stands “until death do us part.” This was Elisha’s stance. He covenanted to Elijah to stick with him through thick and thin, and he did and he received Elijah’s highest blessing because of that stand.

2. Servants live for immediate return but partners see the big picture.
 Servants obey. It’s their job to obey. It’s interesting that Elisha directly disobeyed Elijah’s instructions. He could have been severely punished for this behavior, but he was willing to risk it for the bigger picture. Elijah needed him even if Elijah didn’t know it at the time. Elisha was willing to risk short term loss for long-term gain.

3. Servants will be there in the good times but partners will stick with you through through the bad times, too!
 It’s easy to stand by someone when things are going good. I’m sure Elijah’s first servant loved being seen with Elijah during his stand on Mt. Carmel. But as soon as Jezebel turned on Elijah his servant was morn than happy to part ways. Similar uncertainty surrounded Elijah and Elisha in our story, and yet Elisha refused to abandon his master. And his loyalty was justly rewarded!

4. Servants are in it for themselves but partners sacrifice for each other and for the greater cause! If you read further on in 2 Kings 2, you will discover that 50 prophets were following Elijah and Elisha at a distance. They were more than happy to chime in their concerns to Elisha about his master Elijah. Yet, Elisha ignored their rebukes and pressed on for his master. Elisha wasn’t looking to be popular with the prophets, he was committed to a great cause. And the greater cause in the moment was Elijah. Elijah needed him, so he stayed.

I was with Dr. George Hill in Nairobi, Kenya recently and we saw a billboard that read, “Great Vision requires Great Partners.” How true! In fact, the greater the vision, the greater the partners it requires. Elijah had a great partner and the vision carried on with greater strength because of it.

Question: Are you a partner to your church and pastor? or just a servant?

How to Create a Positive Growth Environment

In one of his latest podcasts, Dr. John C. Maxwell briefly touched on a list he had written years ago on the 10 ways to recognize a healthy growth environment. I found the list inspiring and it reminded me of Paul's challenge to pastors in Ephesians 4 when he instructed us to "equip the saints for the work of the ministry." The word equip means skill development. In short, our role as pastors is to create a positive growth environment for our people to develop in the skills of ministering to their community. growth environment

Here is Maxwell's list with a few of my thoughts thrown in.

10 ways to recognize a healthy growth environment:

1. Others are ahead of you.

We as pastors need to continually push ourselves ahead of our people. This means we must be personally growing. We are to be the models and examples of ministry to our people. Do you do all of the ministry in your church, or do you develop your people to do the work of the ministry?

2. You are continually challenged.

There are many pastors who are afraid to challenge their people. They feel if they challenge them, they will lose them. What I have discovered is you will lose people either way, it's just the nature of ministry. However, you chose who you lose. If you challenge them, you will lose the uncommitted follower types. If you don't challenge them you will lose your committed leader types. When is the last time you challenged your church?

3. Your focus is forward.

Too many pastors lead by reaction rather than leading with vision. If you are constantly making decisions based on your past or current problems you are leading by reaction. If your church celebrates it's past more than it's future, you have a major problem. The best leaders focus ahead and lead with foresight. Where is your focus?

4. The atmosphere is affirming.

One of the greatest ways to repeat your vision is by celebrating your victories. What is celebrated will get repeated. It's easy to see what is going wrong, but what if you could catch your people doing something right?  When you do, celebrate it! It will get repeated.

5. You're often out of your comfort zone.

I go to the gym 3 times a week to be worked out by my trainer. The reason I still employ a trainer, after years of being at the gym, is because a trainer has the ability to push me further than I think I can go on my own. In the same way, I believe we as pastors are called by God to challenge our people to ministry they wouldn't necessary feel comfortable doing on their own.

6. You wake up excited.

How would you rate the expectation of the people in your church? Are they excited about what you're doing and for what is coming? Or, do they attend out of pure obligation? It's important to keep a pulse on the expectation level. If it drops, you may need to shake something up to keep their anticipation up.

7. Failure is not your enemy.

In the church world, we are guilty of thinking that failure is fatal. When we do, we stop moving forward. As my mentor, Dr. George Hill often says, "the greatest risk of all is a life of riskless living." In your church, are people willing to take risks?

8. Others are growing.

The Bible calls growth "fruit." In fact, it says that we should judge everything "by it's fruit." How is your fruit? You can judge your ministry right away by the fruit it is producing. Are people growing? If so, celebrate their growth! Use their examples in testimonies. Again, what you celebrate will be repeated.

9. People desire change.

To most churches, change is a four letter word. The last thing they want is change. Yet, John Maxwell says if you are in a growth environment, people will desire change. It is a good idea to get your people used to change. This takes creativity. Being creative means to be consistently inconsistent, predicably unpredicable, to be on the radical edge of change. When is the last time your church did something for the first time?

10. Growth is modeled and expected.

I am shocked how many pastors and churches are content with maintaining what they already have. Jesus gave us a huge warning about this mentality in the parable of the talents. He called the one who maintained "wicked and lazy", took what he had and gave it to one who doubled what he had, and then threw the maintainer into a place where there was "weeping and gnashing of teeth." Yikes! I don't want to be a maintainer!

Based on this list, how would you rate your church? Pastors, I would recommend asking your board, staff, and/or key volunteer leaders to rate each point on a scale of 1-10. How effective is your church at raising up leaders?

10 Surprises from the Unchurched

On July 11, 2007 Dr. Thomas Rainer posted these 10 statistics after undertaking an extensive study among thousands of the unchurched. He called them the 10 Surprises. And they are truly surprising! Here they are: invite

Surprise No. 1 Most of the unchurched prefer to attend church on Sunday morning if they attend.

Surprise No. 2 Most of the unchurched feel guilty about not attending church.

Surprise No. 3 Ninety-six percent of the unchurched are at least somewhat likely to attend church if they are invited.

Surprise No. 4 Very few of the unchurched had someone share with them how to become a Christian. And Christians have not been particularly influential in their lives.

Surprise No. 5 Most of the unchurched have a positive view of pastors, ministers and the church.

Surprise No. 6 Many of the unchurched have a church background.

Surprise No. 7 Some types of "cold calls" are effective; many are not.

Surprise No. 8 The unchurched would like to develop a real and sincere relationship with a Christian.

Surprise No. 9 The attitudes of the unchurched are not correlated to where they live, their ethnic or racial background, or their gender.

Surprise No. 10 Many of the unchurched are far more concerned about the spiritual well-being of their children than themselves.

The one that stands out to me the most is Surprise No. 3. Imagine if 9 out of 10 people you invited to church responded positively! Would you be more confident to ask a coworker, family member, or neighbor to church?

This weekend is Easter Sunday. It is one of the best opportunities of the year to invite people to church. More people attend church on the Easter weekend than any other time of year, even more than Christmas. So, I want to encourage you, wherever in the world you are reading this, don't go to church this weekend alone! Invite someone who is unchurched to go with you. There's no rush quite like it!

I'm praying for you and believing with you for souls saved and lives changed this weekend! The Apostle Paul said that the resurrection of Jesus is the foundation of our faith. It's the defining proof that Jesus truly is God. Regardless of the style of your church or it's focus, I guarantee this weekend that the Gospel will be preached and that your friends and family members will hear the message and they will have an opportunity to make a decision for Christ. All you need to do is invite them!

Question: Will you message me and let me know if the person you invited this weekend to church made a decision for Christ? I would love to celebrate with you!