Category Archives: Church Revitalization

Making Plans for a Big Easter

CelebrationStBernard

Easter 2015 at Celebration St. Bernard

Celebration Church’s St. Bernard Campus has grown from 110 in 2009 to 485 in 2016 in weekly average attendance. Easter Sunday attendance has grown from 206 to 1,380 in that time frame, serving as a great catalyst for overall growth. Patrick Eagan, Celebration St. Bernard’s Campus Pastor, recently spent some time coaching church planters in the Baton Rouge area on how to make the most out of Easter. Get Patrick’s Notes HERE. This can serve as a great playbook for planning Easter or other Big Attendance weekends at your church. Patrick said, “Most of us will not be able to double our weekend attendance by simply praying harder and trying harder.” We need a plan! Here are a few great starter questions for planning from Patrick’s presentation:

  1. What would it look like at your church if the fullness of the power of God met the fullness of the efforts of man?
  2. If you successfully doubled your weekend attendance, would there be room for everyone?
  3. Is it possible to add worship services to your usual line up?
  4. What is the long-term growth vision for your church?
  5. What is the challenging but reasonable goal for your end of year attendance?
  6. How will you identify and follow-up with guests on Easter Sunday?
  7. What specific elements of the worship service will encourage guests to come back?
  8. What post-Easter events can we leverage guests toward?

Get the whole doc and do what you can to get ready for a big weekend of planting seeds and growing God’s kingdom. Always grateful for Celebration Church and their generosity of lessons learned and best practices.

Church Growth = Growing Friends + Growing Family

I’ve been a part of a couple of growing churches. The fun of it is having a growing number of people to call friends and then a growing number of people to call family. This is essentially a good, simple church growth strategy. Hey, let’s make more friends and let’s stick with them long enough that they become family. Scaling this to grow a church larger and larger requires intentional strategy. Nothing wrong with a small group of friends and small families. But most churches want to grow. Many pastors and most church planters want their churches to be self-sustaining and be around for future generations. So how do we grow friends and family?

1. Design systems to discover and track the number of friends your church has.

A friend is anyone that may be connected with your church or with a member of your church family. Do you know how many friends you have? In the past, we’ve called these prospects. I prefer to think of them as friends. Do you have a list of prospects / friends? Here’s some ways to discover them:

  • Have a connection card on Sunday’s that people fill out. All first time guests are added to our Friends list, so that we can pray for them, and stay in touch with them.
  • Ask people in your church to make a list of friends that don’t have a church family. List them, pray for them among the leadership, visit them, invite them.
  • Have regular events that are just designed to make new friends. Easter Egg Hunts, Fall Festivals, Movie Nights in the park, etc. Let the community know that this is a safe place to know and be known.
  • Our church uses a list we call Crowd – Congregation – Core to track where people are spiritually within our family.

2. Cast a vision and provide resources to help people in your church to make new friends.

Tim Keller said,  “In the first two centuries, mission work was informal, conversational, and largely through friendship.” I think our world could use a lot of this kind of mission work as well. What if people got a vision for expanding the kingdom through friendship and caring for those around them. Here’s some ways a church may encourage this:

  • Teach people the importance of initiating new relationships in the process of evangelism.
  • Provide resources for people to celebrate and party well within the community. Like a block party trailer with inflatables, tents, and outdoor sound equipment. Like a big BBQ pit that can be loaned out to families on the weekends for Birthday parties and neighborhood gatherings.
  • Have special friend days, designed just for people to invite new friends to church that promises a meaningful message with them in mind.

3. Design systems to lead to deeper family-like connections and commitments.

sgcampout

One of the growing small groups at our church, does an annual camp out. Friendship written all over this pic. Love it!

We become family-like by sticking with each other through difficult times and awkward moments. Having systems in your church that provides meaningful connections for friends going through transitions and crisis – like moving, bringing home a new baby, experiencing loss, etc. helps develop sticky family-like connections. How do we do that?

  • Have a small group ministry where people can develop great connections where they can know and be known through good and bad seasons.
  • Have a team in your church that looks for opportunities to serve people in transition of some kind. For our church it’s the Family Support Team and the individual small groups. Care and concern make relationships sticky and family-like.

4. Move people to Commit to God’s family by Connecting them with Christ.

Our ultimate goal is not to have family-like relationships. We can do that through other organizations and relationships. We want to move people to become real spiritual family members and we do that through connecting them with the person and work of Christ.

  • Share the story of Christ at every gathering.
  • Teach people to share their story of connecting with Christ as they build friendship in the community.
  • Offer a Family Connections Class or Workshop or New Members Class that teaches people how to become real spiritual family through Christ.

Don’t focus on what you can’t do as a church. Make it simple. Friendship + Family. Every church can make new friends in their community and stick with them long enough to become family.  

sgthanksgivingdinner

Grateful for these friends in our small group that our family is blessed to walk through life with through our church. Great stories around this table.

Church Revitalization Tools

Church Revitalization tools that churches I’ve been privileged to work with have found helpful. Good for churches assessing ministry systems at any level. These tools are designed to allow leadership teams to assess themselves and work together on a path forward. Let me know what tools have worked for you. Let me know if I can help or answer questions about these tools or successful church revitalization stories in Louisiana.

Worth Reading: Who Moved My Pulpit? Leading Change in the Church

who-moved-my-pulpit-3dLoved Thom Rainer’s short but extremely helpful book on leading change in the local church called Who Moved My Pulpit? Rainer shares lots of personal & real life scenarios from churches experiencing & going through change. A must read if you are a leader of a church in need of change.

Rainer’s Formula or Process of Leading Change:

  1. Stop & Pray.
  2. Confront & Communicate a Sense of Urgency.
  3. Build an Eager Coalition.
  4. Become a Voice & Vision of Hope.
  5. Deal with People Issues.
  6. Move from Inward Focus to an Outward Focus.
  7. Pick Low Hanging Fruit.
  8. Implement & Consolidate Change.

Lot’s of great how to info for each point of the process.

A few of my favorite quotes:

  • “I have never seen successful and sustaining change take place in a church without prayer. Never. Not once.”
  • “Coasting is for leaders who have stopped leading. But true change leaders expend a tremendous amount of effort. They face challenges and conflicts regularly. They have discouraging setbacks.”
  • “Effective change leadership in the church will not take place in human power; it can only come from God.”
  • “Too many of our church members treat their congregations as a religious country club. They pay their dues and expect to be served. It’s a “me-first” attitude that is endemic in the unhealthy churches in America.”
  • “If you are not being criticized, you are not leading.”
  • “If you know you have to make a difficult decision with someone, don’t delay. The situation will only worsen.”
  • “Great leaders are transparent leaders. Great change takes place when the leaders are transparent.”
  • “If you want to be comfortable, don’t lead change in the church. If you don’t want to be criticized, don’t lead change in the church. If you never want to put your paycheck at risk, don’t lead change in the church.”

Must read it you are one of the vast majority of pastors & churches in need of change across America. Can be read in a day or two & immediately applied whatever your situation. Resource Kit & more available with the book HERE. Get it on Amazon HERE.

From 15 to 175! Another Successful Revitalization

Another huge turn around on a property gifted to a healthy church from a church struggling to stay alive. Fellowship Church on Airline, planter/pastor Todd Blount, was gifted Immanuel Baptist Church on Airline Dr. in Gonzalez. Immanuel last reported 15 in worship. Fellowship has had between 130 & 175 since moving onto the property. Fellowship plans to construct a new building on the property later this year with the help of the Mission Builder Program (https://louisianabaptists.org/missionbuilder).

This makes at least NINE huge turn arounds in Louisiana through church mergers or gifting of properties in the last few years. At least three more in the works this year.

  • Is your church struggling to maintain healthy systems? Would merging or gifting your property be a good option for your community?
  • Is your church ready to multiply? Are you in a place where you could merge or take on an additional campus?

A few resources to help with these conversations:

Life Change Common Place at Christ’s Community Church

“When I first came to the church… I looked like something out of Sons of Anarchy… and this church just opened their arms to me.”

img_6005Christ’s Community Church of Denham Springs, Pastor Willis D. Easley, was profiled this month on OutreachMagazine.com. CCC baptized 135 people in 2015! And they’ve grown exponentially from 50 to 500+ in 5 years.

Check out the full story HERE.

Willis will be part of our breakout on “Creating an Evangelistic Culture in your Church” at the LBC Evangelism Conference at FBC Lafayette, Jan 25-26 (https://louisianabaptists.org/econ2016). Along with Checkerz Williams from Celebration Church & Jacob Crawford from Life Point Mansura. Hope you’ll come by & get to know Willis.

Planning for an Evangelistic Culture

wheatNew churches tend to be more evangelistic. As a matter of fact, data has shown that established Southern Baptist churches baptize 3.4 people per 100 members, and new SBC churches baptize 11.7 people per 100 members. Why? I believe, one simple reason is in the way we plan. As the pastor of a local church, I started my week with this mindset – “They’re coming, how do I get ready?” That is, the members will be coming to church on Wednesday & Sunday, so get ready for them. The insiders. How’s the sermon? How’s the building? How do I make the insiders happy?

When I became a church planter, that changed subtly to “They’re NOT coming, how do I get ready?” That motivated me to different means. How will I invite people & let them know about the gathering? How will I communicate so they will understand what church is about? How will I present the gospel? How will I GO into the world? How can I get this message out?

Creating and evangelistic culture is about living for those who are NOT there yet. And helping get ready for those who are NOT coming. When we can get every person, every ministry, every sermon, the longing of every heart in the church geared toward THEM, an evangelistic culture is beginning to blossom.

I want to live by, “They’re NOT coming, how do we get ready?” and get out & do all we can to invite, share, invest, & serve, so that they’ll do much more than just come to our church, but so they’ll be part of that great throng surrounding Jesus in worship for all eternity.

And folks, the reality is, THEY’RE NOT COMING. Evangelical church attendance is around 10% of the population or less across Louisiana. The assumption that most people go to church somewhere is just false.

So how are you planning this week?

When We Can’t Go On: Scenarios for a Church in Need of Radical Revitalization

PlantMany churches are experiencing dwindling numbers, changing communities, & the need for drastic change. Sometimes the picture gets so dim that the remaining faithful are forced to make hard decisions about the future of their church. Here’s a spectrum of scenarios that can bear fruit for the kingdom when a church can’t go on as it is.

1. Closing the Doors, for Now 

All living things have life cycles & we should not see churches as an exception. Closing the doors of the church often is seen as a failure, but it shouldn’t be. In reality, it’s having the courage to recognize that the life cycle of the current ministry has run its course & it’s time for God to use His kingdom resources in a different way. And remember, God sees death differently than we do (Psalm 116:15; John 12:24). With God, death is never final. And when a church decides to close the doors, the resources will be utilized to birth something new and the legacy of the former members who made that hard decision will be alive forever. This may be the best scenario for a church if the area has experienced considerable population decline & the location may no longer be viable for a church.

2. Replanting the Church

Planting a new church is an exciting venture that begins with a church planter & a core group or launch team seeking God’s will & dreaming of reaching new people for Christ & then designing ministry with the community in mind. So replanting would mean taking a step back to core group or launch team phase & re-dreaming & redesigning with a fresh look at how to reach the community. Most likely, one of the reasons for the decline of the church is the lack of fresh vision & ideas for reaching the lost. As church plants often begin with a sending or sponsoring church & infused resources from the denomination & association, there may be opportunity for a replant to develop these partnerships as well. This may be the best scenario for a church that still has some financial means & people who are willing & able to restore the systems of the church with the help of partners.

3. Merging with a Healthy Congregation

The scenario that is gaining the quickest turnarounds in Louisiana is the merger of a declining church with a healthy, growing congregation. In this scenario, the church in decline essentially gifts its building(s), assets, & autonomy to the growing congregation, who then multiplies their healthy DNA & church systems onto the property. We’ve seen churches with a dozen attenders reaching hundreds within one year as a result of a congregational merger. And, in many cases, remaining members of the declining congregation stay on, faithfully serve, & enjoy seeing the fruits of their giving & sacrifices over the years, increased in fruitful ministry to new generations. Without a doubt, the decision to move your church toward drastic changes like these will not be easy. Don’t think of it as the end, but as the decision to extend the influence & legacy of your church for future generations. How do we begin the process:

  • Pray & ask God for wisdom & direction as you seek what’s best for the future of your church & the community.
  • Contact your local Director of Missions for help with next steps, legal issues, & potential partners.

Check out some of my other posts that may help on your revitalization journey:

#ChurchRevitalization Story: The Grove

“a lot of change… that’s all nothing compared to the fact that you’re saving lost souls”

~ from a member of a church revitalization project

Broussard Grove Baptist Church had experienced an 80% decline in attendance in less than 10 years in one of the fastest growing parishes in Louisiana. They were struggling to keep systems alive in their congregation. Interim Pastor Larry Badon reached out to a sister congregation, Istrouma Baptist Church, for help. Istrouma adopted Broussard Grove a Multi-Site Campus Development, brought in a Campus Pastor / Church Planter, changed the name to The Grove, aligned ministries with to reach the community. Now, two years later, the congregation has experienced a 60% turn around in attendance & are seeing new people follow Christ. See the story for yourself:

Interested in Church Revitalization?

Interested in Multisite?

Real Life Scenarios of #ChurchRevitalization: Merging and Multisite

Got to sit down last week with leaders from First Baptist Church West Monroe & The Way Church in Denham Springs & talk about their successful Church Revitalization endeavors over the last few years.

The Stories: 

Fairbanks Baptist Church in Sterlington, LA, had a history of decline & was struggling to keep systems running in the life of their church. They reached out to First West & First West accepted the challenge of helping them revi through merging. Fairbanks Baptist became First West Fairbanks. A Campus Pastor was chosen to restart the work. Today, 250+ worship where 3 years ago there were 20.

The Way Church, 300+ worshipping in the Calvary Baptist facility.

The Way Church, 300+ worshipping in the Calvary Baptist facility.

Calvary Baptist Church in Denham Springs, LA, had a history of decline & was struggling to keep systems running in the life of their church. The Way Church was in their third year as a church plant & had baptized over 100 in three years by successfully reaching unchurched young adults in the same community. However, the Way Church was paying very high rent & began looking for other facility options. Their Associational Director of Missions connected Calvary & the Way & they began exploring the possibilities of merging. Calvary officially closed its doors in the Fall of 2014 & the Way took over the property & today 300+ are worshipping each Sunday, where last year there were only 20.

As I listened to First West (Pastor Michael Wood, Global Mission Pastor Mark Fenn, & Campus Pastor Chad Merrell) & the Way (Scott Cheatham) tell their respective stories, I wrote down 9 Keys to a Successful Church Revi Transition that includes Merging & Multisite:

1) Healthy Church Life & Multiplication Happening. Both First West & The Way were growing, multiplying leaders & groups. Healthy systems were in place & functioning at both churches.

2) Healthy Relational Networking Among Churches in the Community. Both First West & The Way are involved in their local Associations & relationships laid a foundation for the development of merger talks. The Way Church had even began hosting a quarterly community worship experience where they first met the pastor of Calvary & conversations were initiated.

3) Realization of Need by Declining Congregation. Both Fairbanks Baptist & Calvary Baptist had reached a point where they were willing to admit their need of help from the outside. For most congregations this will probably come in the form of financial struggles. Many will be faced with a loss of pastoral leadership. But something happens to initiate the idea that help is needed.

4) A Healthy Mediator. In both scenarios a healthy mediator began the conversation of merging. For Fairbanks, a Deacon at First West was good friends with some of their leaders & they ask him if First West would be willing to help. For Calvary & the Way, David Brown, the Director of Missions in the area served as a healthy mediator beginning & walking through the details with the congregations.

Baptisms at First West Fairbanks in 2014.

Baptisms at First West Fairbanks in 2014.

5) Everybody Seeking God’s Will & the Good of the Community. There had to be a declaration by all parties that we’re not seeking our own will, but God’s & the good of the lost community around us.

6) Defining Terms. There had to be a moment where hard realities were laid out & hard decisions made. In these scenarios, the older congregations had to come to understand that nothing would stay the same & it was time for their congregations to die that something new may be birthed for the good of the Kingdom.

7) Accepting Responsibility. These transitions WILL NOT be easy or cheap. Both First West & the Way said you can expect it to be costly. Broken systems can create some messy situations with taxes & debt & building needs. Jim Tomberlin with Multisite Solutions says you can expect to pay about $250,000. Both First West & The Way spent that in the transition period.

8) The Right People at the Right Time. Everything rises & falls on leadership. The Way Church was blessed to have Scott Cheatham, who had a business background & knew the right steps to take to raise money, get the property legal, & assure the Calvary faithful few that their church would be in good hands. First West also had a businessman, Chad Merrell, who knew how to build great relationships & solve problems. These were the right people at the right time.

FW Fairbanks gathered at Sterlington High School while renovations were made to the Fairbanks Baptist Church.

FW Fairbanks gathered at Sterlington High School while renovations were made to the Fairbanks Baptist Church.

9) Keep the Good, Retire the Bad. Fairbanks Baptist had 70+ kids coming on Wednesday night for a Kids program. Chad Merrell made the healthy decision to keep that ministry going. At the same time, they held services off campus at the High School for a season, to increase their capacity for attendance & build relationships with the community. Moving back to the campus of Fairbanks meant they moved back into the gym, because the worship center was too small.

Merging & Multisite is one healthy scenario for churches in need of revitalization. These 9 characteristics of a healthy transition may help guide you through a process with a partnering church.

What would you add or take away from this list?

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