Category Archives: Ministry
With over 70-80% of churches plateaued and declining, church revitalization must be a major topic of conversation for church leaders and strategists. In the last two posts (Diagnosis and Refocuse & Re-Energize), I’ve shared our developing strategy with the Northshore Baptist Association.
So how do we Restructure or Re-Start?
If a church is diagnosed with needing restructuring or restarting, there are really only two next steps:
Step #1: Decision. The congregation must decide if large internal changes are possible or is it time to close the doors & allow something new to be born. All living things are born, they live, & they die. No New Testament Church still exists today. But even if a church continues it must die to its current way of thinking, so that a new vision can develop. Living things experience death as they age & mature & adapt to changing environments. Every growing church has had to die to various ideas, paradigms, and programs in order to grow. A final death that doesn’t lead to growth as the church exists may happen when we are unable to continue to adapt & grow through challenges faced.
- Can we afford the large internal changes that are needed?
- Do we have the resources, energy, & determination to dream a new dream for our community?
- From where we are, can we adapt to the changes of our current environment?
Step #2: Death. Once the decision to die has been made there are two options:
1) Adaption by Re-Structuring. Deciding to adapt/re-structure & grow means dying to the current model of ministry & mission. Scenarios for adaptation:
- Reverting to Mission Status & submitting to the authority of another congregation that can assist in dreaming a new dream.
- If resources are available, working with the local association to develop a plan to Assess, Align, & Advance the mission of the church.
2) Closure to Re-Start. Deciding to close/re-start means laying to rest the current church so that a brand new ministry can be started in its place. Scenarios for closure:
- Formally decide to close the church, giving the assets & liabilities to the local association so that a new church can be planted or ministry developed.
- Formally decide to close the church, giving the assets & liabilities to another local church with ties to the local community.
Next week I’ll share some of our local success stories and lessons learned.
When a church is stagnant or declining in size, diagnosis is that refocusing and re-energizing is needed. How do we refocus & re-energize? Three steps to revitalization: Assessment, Alignment, Advancement.
Step #1: ASSESSMENT.
- Discover needs of community and potential new ministries.
- Assess Leadership capability and needs.
- Identify Church Systems in need of restoration. Nelson Searcy of Church Leader Insights identifies Eight Systems of a Healthy Church:
- The Weekend Service System,
- The Outreach/Evangelism System,
- The Assimilation System,
- The Small Groups System,
- The Ministry Mobilization System,
- The Stewardship System,
- The Leadership Development System,
- The Strategy Planning System
- Research legal documents and history. History and legal documents need to be researched in order to identify potential threats to growth.
Step #2: ALIGNMENT.
- Recover Faith Factors. In Chapter Three of the book Comeback Churches, Ed Stetzer identifies three faith factors that are essential to church revitalization: 1) A renewed belief in Jesus Christ and the Mission of the Church, 2) A renewed attitude for servanthood, 3) Strategic Prayer Efforts.
- Discover/Recover the unique, God given Mission, Vision, Values. The revi team should participate in Church Planter Basic Training & take advantage of coaching networks & suggested reading lists to help discover a vision for the community.
- Make necessary identity changes. Name? Signs? Location? What identity changes may be necessary to birth new vision & energy in the church?
- Restore needed Church Systems for life and health. See above comment about Church Systems. What systems will need new energy & attention going forward?
Step #3: ADVANCEMENT.
- Vision Renewal Launch Service. Plan for a Vision Renewal Celebration as the church moves into a period of advancement and growth.
- Plant, water, and bring in the harvest. The church should experience some growth as systems are slowly restored and outreach, assimilation, small groups move people to Christ and spiritual maturity.
- Multiply disciples, leaders, and ministries. A new generation of leaders will begin to emerge that will carry the Church into the future.
- Partner in Acts 1:8 Missions. The Church will be capable of taking on missions endeavors beyond its Jerusalem and potentially assist other churches with revitalization/renewal.
Download the paper, Steps to Revitalization.
With over 70-80% of churches plateaued and declining, church revitalization must be a major topic of conversation for church leaders and strategists. In the next few posts, I’ll share the strategy we are working on with the Northshore Baptist Association. Everyone working on revitalization should be indebted to Ed Stetzer and Mike Dodson for their great book Comeback Churches. One of my top gleanings from the book is the diagnostic tool for assessing a congregations needs:
This image gets even those most entrenched in the attitude “we’re fine the way we are” thinking about the need to change. Great tool to help churches diagnose their need for revitalization.
The next question is – How? How do we refocus? re-energize? Restructure? Restart?
“He has filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding and in knowledge and in all craftsmanship” Exodus 35:31 NASB.
We know God gives power to preachers, worship leaders, teachers, and missionaries. BUT do the people in the church know that their skill, whatever it may be, can be used to fulfill God’s purpose. Bezelel was a carpenter/craftsman and filled with the spirit to craft instruments for God’s glory.
“I never knew my skills could help the church” said one craftsman we utilize to build wheelchair ramps for the handicapped in our community.
How does you church make a way for those God has filled with his spirit for craftsmanship, carpentry, sewing, scrapbooking, flooring, arts, trimming trees (like in the picture of tree surgeon Mark Johnson taking trees off the house of an elderly widow during a recent Faith in Action weekend with our church), landscaping, etc. etc.? Sending and equipping the whole church means realizing the Spirit empowers for all kinds of ministry.
Seating & sending capacity are necessary for growth and Acts 1:8 kingdom expansion. And in a day of declining attendance and loss of Christian influence we desperately need both. More seems to be made by example and information of “The How” related to seating capacity than sending capacity. In a previous post about sending capacity, I talked about why? And here’s a bit of my personal exploration of the How behind SENDING.
The HOW is really found in the practices of Jesus & the early church & the truths of the Gospel:
1. Share the Gospel – Ephesians 2:8-10, Titus 3:5-7
Going/Sending/Serving/Obeying is an affect of people being transformed & regenerated by the gospel. The Bible says that Christians who are transformed are created “for good works” (Ephesians 2:10) and that one of the purposes of the Gospel was that God would have a people who were “eager to do good works” (Titus 2:14). The Holy Spirit gives power to serve and share the message to those transformed by the Gospel.
So if we’re sharing the Gospel & people are being saved then we will always have capacity to send these people who are being shaped by God and the Gospel to obediently Go in His power.
2. Listen to God – Acts 13:1-5
In Acts 13, the church was fasting, praying, and listening to God and guess what He said? “Go/Send.” Actually, he said, “set apart for me Barnabas & Saul for the work that I have called them” (Acts 13:2). This made since to the believers because the Lord had already told them to “Go into all the world…” Mt 28:19 and that they were to be His witnesses to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). His instructions for the church haven’t changed. If we listen to God the call to obey, go, send will still be heard within every church. This call will make sense to believers who are listening.
3. Leaders that EQUIP the Saints – Ephesians 4:11-12
In Ephesians 4, Paul the Apostle, teaches us that God gives to the church apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds, teachers and their job is “to EQUIP God’s people to do His work” (NLT). So two separate roles develop: Equippers and Ministers. Several attitudes in today’s church hinder these roles:
- A “hire it done” mentality. Sending for us, means hiring a new staff member, so I can send him/her to the hospital or to the lost, etc.
- A Mere Volunteer. Some leaders hinder sending by downplaying the power of God’s people doing his work. They are mere volunteers, that can’t really be depended on or trusted. To that I say, maybe that’s all you’ve equipped them to be.
- Fear of Releasing. Sending is not desired by some leaders, because their end goal is to have more people this Sunday than last Sunday at any costs and to give opportunities for people to be sent may require people being elsewhere some or most Sunday’s.
Dennis Watson of Celebration Church says for a church to grow, the people have to give the leadership to the Pastor(s) and the Pastor(s) have to give the ministry to the people. For multiplication to happen, we must not fear equipping, releasing, sending people to fulfill their God given roles.
4. Lead like Jesus – Sending was part of his strategy – Matthew 9:35-10:5
“They’re just not ready yet.” This is a common refrain that I’ve heard and said about people in churches. But if you observe Jesus’ ministry, you’ll see him sending the “not yet ready” at a steady clip. Sending was part of his strategy to grow people and grow the kingdom. They weren’t ready, they made mistakes, but they learned, they developed faith, they were ready at the right time to multiply the church exponentially. If we wait until we’re ready, we’ll be stuck in a holding pattern while the world’s population passes us by. Is that where we are today?
What is your ministries sending capacity? How are you intentionally releasing people to ministry? Does your attitude about ministry or people hinder sending capacity for your church?
I’ve heard this saying over & over again for the past 15 years or so from Pastors and church leaders from all different perspectives of ministry. But I haven’t seen much about how to expand the SENDING capacity of a local church or a real change in strategy to developing SENDING capacity. Both are necessary for a missional movement. How can we understand the difference & add real SENDING capacity to our strategies?
- Seating capacity is about managing the movement of people into relationships. Sending capacity is about managing the movement of people into mission.
- The mission that Jesus gave the church was a SENDING strategy. The Great Commission & the Acts 1:8 Challenge are foundational
- Matthew 28:19 (NLT) – “go and make disciples of all the nations…”
- Acts 1:8 (NLT) – “you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
- Seating capacity is easier. Not cheaper, but easier. It’s easier to draw a big crowd than to send a lot of people into missional roles in the world. It takes longer & requires different things from the leaders.
- Seating capacity is INSIDE. Sending capacity is OUTSIDE. Serving inside the church is great, but if the only mission opportunities we give people are inside, we fall short of a true Acts 1:8 SENDING strategy.
- Being SEATED is much more comfortable than being SENT. Going to church is for the majority of people, very safe, sanitary, & can be enjoyable. Being SENT requires sacrifice, risk, & a sometimes delayed reward for effort.
- I can be SEATED in my own strength. Being SENT requires the power of the Spirit.
- Being SEATED tends to make much of the leaders. Being SENT makes much of the mission. We hear a lot about the churches & leaders with the most SEATING capacity.
- SEATING capacity is easier to track and clean up after. It’s more static. SENDING strategies are hard to control and can get messy.
Do you see any difference between SEATING capacity and SENDING capacity? How does your church include SENDING in its strategies? What resources do you know about to aid SENDING capacity and SEATING capacity?
Later this week I’ll share some thoughts about developing SENDING capacity and some of the best resources I’ve found on Sending.
Ever thought about taking your churches children’s ministry to the streets? I think we should. Most children’s ministry is focused on reaching/teaching/discipling kids that show up at my church on the weekends or midweek. Some of the questionable outcomes of this:
- Can teach kids that church is all about them & most importantly, about them having fun, falling just short of disciple-making.
- Wanting to grow our churches, we sometime start talking about kids as only a hook to get their parents “butts in the seats” (to quote Whoopi Goldberg in Sister Act). “If the kids have fun, the parents will come back” ~ church growth quip.
- Children’s facilities can cost mega bucks.
- Can cut the rug out from under parental responsibility for discipling kids as they become more and more dependent upon the “professionals” down at the church.
AND the big one, that our team has been grappling with: WHAT ABOUT THE MAJORITY KIDS THAT ARE NOT COMING TO THE FULL COLOR KIDS MINISTRY EVENTS AT OUR CHURCH EVERY WEEK?
In my region of 345,000 people, demographic reports show that around 21% of the population is age 14 or below. That’s around 69,000 kids!!!! In my denomination, which is one of largest in the region with 11,500 worshipers on any given Sunday, approximately 18% of that number are children under 14. Meaning on any given week only 2,500 or so kids are attending, which is only about 4% of the population in the 14 and under age bracket. We average about 7,000 each year for Vacation Bible School, which is a 1-week, 4-hour overdose of Sunday’s Kids Ministry. That gets us to 10%. Add the other evangelical groups to the mix and best figures, after consulting with other church leaders, give me a number of 4,500 kids in an evangelical church each Sunday for faith & fun. That’s only 7% of the kids in our community. And many of these kids are growing up with absolutely no access to the Gospel story or a Christian witness in their lives. Are we losing a generation as we strategize on how to improve our children’s facilities? (& considering the # of kids that need to be reached, can we even build a big enough facility to do what’s needed?) & preach loudly about God being taken out of schools? & order next years Vacation Bible School curriculum? & continue to think of kids ministry as a facilities focused ministry?
A New Vision for Kids Ministry
What if we began to consider the 93% in our Kids Ministry strategy? Not neglecting the 7%, providing faith & fun on Sunday’s as we are, but also thinking of new ways to get God’s story into the lives of kids in our community. When you think of it like this you’ll realize there are more opportunities then you might imagine. Here’s a few ideas:
- Encourage your congregation to get involved in schools on their terms, not yours. There are a variety of mentoring, tutoring, encouraging opportunities that will equal relationships with unchurched families in the community & opportunities to invest in kids. Our church recently provided free popcorn for an area schools open house & met several families in need.
- Partner with local kids organizations that are serving children & asking (if not begging) for volunteers. In my community, there’s the Boys & Girls Club, YMCA, local multi-housing complexes, private schools. And we’ve found many of them are open to you sharing THE story as part of your work.
- Multiply what you do on-site, off-site. You’ve made great backdrops & costumes, produced cool videos & posters, you’ve bought expensive curriculum, & prepared awesome crafts, & you’ve trained volunteers who are loving it. Why not look for an avenue to multiply that in the community? Do the VBS at a local multi-housing complex or another church that would not be able to do it for the kids in their neighborhood on their own. Do a one day kids ministry event at a local park or multi-housing complex utilizing all the stuff you’ve done over the past few months.
- Local Festivals provide opportunities to show kids & families that faith is fun by providing some of the crafts or games or other elements you do each week. This is a great way also to build trust with community leaders & parents. And you can say, “if you like what we do here, you’ll love our Kids ministry at ______ Church on Sunday.”
- Get the Kids involved. Instead of seeing them as hooks to get more “butts in the seats.” See them as missionaries who can invest in their friends & demonstrate that faith is fun & meaningful in the community. Teach kids that it’s important to serve & that faith is not just about them but others, by taking them on a local mission trip to the park or festival or multi-housing complex for Kids Ministry Day.
- Start or get involved in a mentoring program for children without dads, grandparents raising grandchildren, foster children, etc.
- Instead of VBS. I heard of one church that instead of VBS they encouraged neighborhood Bible Clubs during the summer & trained & empowered people to reach the kids & families around them, utilizing the same curriculum sets & production quality, but in yards & subdivision common space all around the city.
- Other ideas?
We’ve reached a point where we can’t keep preaching about culture decay, God kicked out of schools, & bad parenting. We’ve got to get involved. The doors are open in our communities. It won’t be easy, but salt is no good left in the salt-shaker. Could our churches add salt by taking your kids ministry to the streets?
Just thinking. Please share other ideas, opinions, corrections, smart remarks, etc. in the comments.
“The link between academic failure and delinquency, violence, and crime is welded to reading failure.” ~ US Justice Dept
Over 70% of inmates in America cannot read above a fourth grade level.
Want to be On Mission? Get involved in a tutoring/reading program at the local school, Community Center, or start one at your church.
Our Association is working with STAIR (Start the Adventure In Reading) which targets 2nd graders in at-risk communities. Hoping to open several sites this fall. Message me to get involved.
Could one hour a week of our time save a life?
Not much time for blogging lately. Getting ready for a furious few weeks On Mission 4 Others in our region. Here’s our church’s & my personal lineup for Crossover/SBC 2012 in Greater New Orleans:
- Mon, June 11 – Wheelchair ramp going up in Madisonville for an elderly widow & 2K homes get bags on their door inviting them to participate in our annual summer can food drive. Info meeting for a Bridge Church Fall Mission Trip to Haiti to work with respirehaiti.org.
- Tues, June 12 – Serving a local Mobile Home Park in various ways, concluding with a Big Ole Block Party, 5-7pm.
- Wed, June 13 – More ramp, porch, hand rail building. And another Block Party at a local Multi-housing complex, 5-7pm.
- Thurs, June 14 – Final Meeting for our Spring Recovery & Re-entry Class at our local jail. 88 registered, 38 men will be Graduating. Honored to have done life with these friends for the last 26 weeks. Pumped to send many of them out as new men.
- Sat, June 16 – Block Party at Ames Blvd Baptist Church on the Westbank, 10-2pm. Painting @ the Covington Boys & Girls Club to get their new building completed, 9am-4pm. Backyard Bible Club in a Madisonville subdivision, 5-7pm. Family Movie Night at Lakeside Baptist Church in Metairie, 7-9pm.
- Sun, June 17 – Father’s Day Pancake Breakfast at Bridge Church, 10:30am @ the West St. Tammany YMCA. Father’s Day Block Party for Inmate families at our local jail, 1-4pm. Entertainment provided by Jim Chester. Graduating 38 men from our Recovery & Re-entry programs, Baptizing 20+ men who have found Christ through our church & ministry at the jail.
- Mon, June 18 – More porch, ramp, handrail building. Block Party & VBS Kickoff at a Ponchatoula Apartment complex.
- June 19-20 – Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting 2012 in New Orleans. I’ll be working the Unlimited Partnerships booth, voting for Fred Luter to be the next Pres of the SBC, & making connections & re-connections w/kingdom partners from around the United States in the SBC tribe.
Our partners for the next few weeks:
- FBC Chesnee, SC – First trip to NOLA for these guys. Bruce Jennings on point.
- Ford Park Baptist Church, Shreveport, LA. Fellow Northwestern St. Alums, Tate Miller & Heather Tolbert annually bring a group to work with us through Mission Lab.
- FBC Winnsboro, TX – Pastor David Rose is a fellow Northwestern St. & Southwestern Seminary Alum.
Here’s a bit of a photo dump of flyers for next week or so. Prayers appreciated.