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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.
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.
A couple of years ago I read one of the most challenging and informative books on this subject called The Art of Neighboring: Building Genuine Relationships Right Outside Your Door. Here’s a few great quotes from the book that should get you thinking about how to live out your faith in your neighborhood:
- “The majority of the issues that our community is facing would be eliminated or drastically reduced if we could just figure out a way to become a community of great neighbors.” – local small town mayor
- We are often moving too fast to notice that those who are right around us need a good neighbor.
- To love someone, it helps to actually know their name.
- It’s vital to take a step back and ask ourselves if we live at a pace that allows us to be available to those who live around us.
- In this life, we can only do a few things really well; I think it’s a good idea to make certain that one of those things is what Jesus says is most important.
- Love and hurry are fundamentally incompatible. Love always takes time, and time is the one thing hurried people don’t have.
- If you don’t set your priorities, others will do it for you.
- God is already working in your neighborhood. Being a good neighbor simply means slowing down and being aware of what he is designing.
- Jesus didn’t tell us to become acquaintances with our neighbors; he called us to love them, and that means we need to have an actual relationship with them.
- We don’t love our neighbors to convert them; we love our neighbors because we’re converted.
- If we live out the Great Commandment, an environment is created where the Great Commission can be effectively obeyed.
- Good neighboring – you walk alongside those in need and help them find their way.
- Behind every door is a story.
- What would happen if every Christ-follower made it a point to know and befriend their literal neighbors?
- Do I live at a pace that allows me to be available to those around me? And if not, are all of those things I’m doing more important than taking the Great Commandment literally?
- What are the activities you most enjoy doing, and how might they become tools for building relationships with your neighbors?
- Which of your neighbors do you feel God calling you to spend more time with?
Find some great resources that go with the book at ArtofNeighboring.com.
What do my REACTIONS say about me? and about what’s in my heart? A lot! I love C.S. Lewis’ notes on our reactions being like rats in the cellar.
what a man does when he is taken off his guard is the best evidence for what sort of a man he is… what pops out before the man has time to put on a disguise is the truth. If there are rats in a cellar you are most likely to see them if you go in very suddenly. But the suddenness does not create the rats: it only prevents them from hiding.
what we are matters even more that what we do… what we do matters chiefly as evidence of what we are.
C.S. Lewis, from Mere Christianity
My reactions to insults, interruptions, corrections, questions from people I have hidden angst against. My snapping at my spouse or kids or coworkers. These reveal what’s really in my heart. I can excuse it, call it an exception, blame it on my ancestors, but ultimately its pointing to something that’s amiss in my life. Christ’s work in our hearts produces “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23). These do not always automatically appear in our lives. They’re born out of being convicted of our sin and going to God for help.
Ask: What are my reactions saying about what I am? Ask Jesus, to reveal and replace for his glory.
Lewis finished this thought with a reminder of our need for God:
the change which I most need to undergo is a change that my own direct, voluntary effort cannot bring about… After the first few steps in the Christian life we realise that everything which really needs to be done in our souls can be done only by God.
Three new church plants added this month in Louisiana. That brings us to 18 for the year & 142 since 2010.
Pray for these Church Plants & Planters:
>> Connect Church Northshore, in Covington. Planter Matthew C. Smith. Sponsor: New Zion Baptist in Covington. Association: Northshore Baptist Associations. In just a few months, Matt has gathered 20+ & already had one new commitment to Christ!
>> Lakeshore Church, New Orleans. Planter George Ross. Sponsor: Canal Street Mosaic. Association: New Orleans Baptist Association. This will be the 19th replanting project in our current slate of church plants. Replanting of Pontchartrain Baptist, which is in a historic spot just north of where the 17th Street Canal breached & flooded New Orleans in 2005. Brings us to 8 plants in New Orleans this year, topping last years high of 7.
>> Seeds of Faith Baptist Church, Lake Charles. Planter Felix Harris. Sponsor: Emmanuel Baptist, Lake Charles. Association: Carey Association. Felix & his wife lead the Lake Charles Charter Schools. He is a former Florida State Seminole Running Back. Scored his first TD against our LSU Tigers. All is forgiven. Look fwd to how God will use Felix in Lake Charles. This is our 7th African-American plant of 2016. 32nd since 2014.
We’ve got at least SEVEN starting next month! Yea! Need 12 more to reach our goal of 30 for the year.
Thankful for the generosity of Louisiana Baptist churches in giving to the Cooperative Program, Georgia Barnette State Missions Offering, & Annie Armstrong Offering for North American Missions which allows us to provide some resources for great church planting projects like these. Let me know if you know an area in need or are considering a multiplication project. You can email me at email@example.com or check in on one of our upcoming networking opportunities:
- Summer Church Planting Network Luncheons.
- Multiply Louisiana Conference at New Orleans Seminary, August 29-30.
- Greenhouse: Basic Training for Church Multiplication, Acadia Baptist Center, September 15-16.
There is a mindset that hinders growth of people & organizations, especially volunteer organizations like churches. It’s the mindset that says leaders are FOUND. The opposite in a lot of ways is the mindset that leaders are DEVELOPED. Churches that multiply & grow exponentially have found a way to develop leaders instead of just hoping they find some.
Finding Leaders often means:
- Hoping leaders show up.
- Trying to talk leaders from other churches or organizations to come lead in your church or organization.
- Never seeing the potential in the people God actually sends you.
- Limiting the capacity of your church because you don’t see the potential in everyone.
- Always seeing who you don’t have instead of who you do have.
- Staying safe & never taking risks on people that don’t seem “ready.”
- A few leaders filling lots of roles.
- Little trust in people (and ultimately in God).
- Fear of Failure.
- Big back door as people come to understand they’re not needed.
Developing Leaders often means:
- Expecting leaders to show up.
- Seeing potential in every person that walks through your doors.
- Having intentional processes & systems to move people from where they are to where God wants them to be in leadership.
- Embracing tension & releasing people into leadership roles when they may not seem “ready.”
- A lot of trust in God the Holy Spirit to work in & through people.
- Failure as a valuable tool to teach & train.
- Sending people intentionally as their value expands to other organizations & churches.
Are you hoping to find leaders or intentionally developing leaders?
Planting in Unreached Avoyelles, Realistic Church Planting Expectations, and Other Things from this Week
1. Replanting on the Northshore
Last week I reported that there are 18 ongoing Re-Starts or Re-Plants going on in Louisiana. Met this week with leader of one of the latest going on in the Covington area. Derek Kitterlin is replanting Pilgrim’s Rest Baptist Church near Barker’s Corner. FBC Mandeville is providing sponsorship. A Re-Plant is one in which a church dies to become something new. Usually includes a building, but not always. New identity & organization is birthed. Systems are restored that lead to evangelism & discipleship. We’re seeing great success across Louisiana with up to 1,000% turnarounds in attendance on sites that were struggling. Attendance is already doubled at the site of the former Pilgrim’s Rest. Looking forward to seeing how this develops. Another great turnaround in the works!
2. Planting in Unreached Avoyelles
Got to meet this week with church planters in Avoyelles Parish. Avoyelles is one of Louisiana’s poorest parishes. It also had several towns that have NEVER had a SBC church. That is changing now!
- Life Point Church was planted in 2007 in Marksville. They’ve since moved to Mansura & have spawned a mini-church planting movement.
- Point-of-Life Church is being planted by Norris Landry in Plaucheville. So many great stories already coming out of this work. Bro. Norris retired to plant a church. I tell him, he flunked retirement J. Land has been purchased already. Despite some mild persecution by the local Catholic church, the work goes forward.
- Bayou Life Church is being planted by Louis Charrier in Cottonport. Louis has planted 19 churches in Louisiana. Great work going on in one of Louisiana’s largest towns without a SBC Church.
- Grace Point Church is being planted in Simmesport by Jacob Crawford. Simmesport is a key stop between Baton Rouge & Central Louisiana. It also has a ferry into the Angola State Penitentiary. Looking forward to seeing this work develop.
- James Baptist Church is being planted in Bunkie by Reginald Arvie. This is a partnership between one of Louisiana’s oldest churches, St. James Bayou Chicot, started by Joseph Willis in the early 1800’s, & one of Louisiana’s newest churches, Life Point Mansura. Great story!
3. Church Planting FAQ: How Am I Doing Really?
Most weeks I meet with church planters whose works are not meeting expectations. Their own expectation &/or that of the sponsor church(es). We’re establishing some standards for average & median attendance & giving in church plants at certain points in development in Louisiana to help planters & partners manage expectations. And Lifeway has provided a helpful study called The State of Church Planting that gives Average & Median attendance figures among other data. Here’s some of the numbers:
- Average Attendance in Church Plants in Louisiana – 49.8
- Median Attendance in Church Plants in Louisiana – 35.5
- Lifeway’s Average Attendance for Church Plants Year 1 – 51, Year 2 – 74
- Lifeway’s Median Attendance for Church Plants Year 1 – 30, Year 2 – 45
This is usually encouraging to planters who expect to be at 200 by the end of year two. Very seldom happens that way. Probably less than 5% of the time. However, it is important for works to be on a growth trajectory. I wrote two post with these conversations in mind this month:
4. A few reports from the Missions & Ministry Office this week:
- 13 new churches planted so far in 2013. 6 in New Orleans. 7 Non-Anglo. All 13 in South Louisiana. 20 in development for 2016. 137 new churches planted since 2010.
- 76 baptisms, 336 new commitments to Christ reported Jan-Mar 2016 by church plants in Louisiana.
- Since 2010 – 1,804 baptisms & 9,532 new commitments to Christ. Hopefully we’ll pass 2,000 baptisms & 10,000 new commitments to Christ this year.
- New Orleans – Since 2012 when Send New Orleans launched – 27 new churches started, 348 baptisms, 1,352 New Commitments to Christ. $972,508 in Cooperated Funding provided from Louisiana Baptists Missions & Ministry office for Church Planting in New Orleans.
5. Tangible Kingdom Primer Small Group Study
Taking our third tour through the Tangible Kingdom Primer with a Small Group on Thursday nights this Spring. TK always challenges us to develop & create opportunities for sojourners to experience the kingdom. Some of the things that have birthed out of these groups:
- Guy with mad Billiard skills committed to use them for outreach to other billiard lovers.
- Guy with poker skills committed to invite friends over once a month to play poker & talk about life & God.
- Mother with music background felt led to begin singing in the Community Choir.
- Family decided to begin monthly Block Parties for kids in their neighborhood.
- Highly recommend the TK Primer to help get groups postured outward, primer on missional living, & to open eyes to opportunities that God given gifs, abilities, provisions have provide for us.
Check out a few previous posts on the TK Primer:
- Tangible Kingdom Primer
- The Tangible Kingdom: Posturing Toward Others
- What is Community?
- Outcome Didn’t Matter, Faithfulness Did
- What Does Missional Look Like?
6. Great Moments
A Father baptizes his daughter at Bridge Church on Sunday. Love these moments. Greg Chester actually baptized three of his kids: Grace (pictured), Joshua, & Caleb. These pics never get old.
7. How Many Sacks is Your Church?
Someone proposed a new way to track the growth of Louisiana church plants: How many sacks of Crawfish does it take to feed the crowd? Bridge Church has grown from 2 to 8 sacks now! How many sacks are you?
On the Blog This Week:
Yesterday our church kicked off Advent with a number of simple service projects that any church, small group, family, or individual can afford. These make a big impact with a small investment of time & money.
1. Gift cards for ICU Waiting Rooms. At any given time in your community there are people reeling from traumatic events or devastating illness. Their families can be found in waiting rooms at your local hospital. Pick up a handful of Gift Cards to the closest restaurants & coffee shops, drop by & give them out with a “Praying for You” card from your church. Offer to pray for anyone you get to talk with. Simple act of kindness can breathe life into someone that is overwhelmed with bad news. If no one is there, give them to the nurses desk & they’ll pass them out for you. These nurses could also use prayer & encouragement. Call ahead & find out when visiting times are so that you know when people are in the waiting rooms. $100 for 5-10 gift cards.
2. Care packages for the Homeless. If you live in a metro area or near the interstate, you probably get an invitation to serve the homeless everyday at area red lights. Should I give them money? is a constant question. Few of us carry cash anymore. Doing nothing is not desirous for most believers. How about make up some simple care packages with some goodies that that can be passed out the window of a car. Keep 3-5 in your car at all times. $10 per bag.
3. Christmas Decor for Nursing Home Residents. Go to your local nursing home & ask for a list of residents with no local family. The reality for these residents is often few visits if any, few seasonal decorations for their walls, few convenient items like warm socks or lotion. Offer to pray for them. Find out what they want or need & plan a return visit. Spend some time listening to their story. Yesterday, some of our team got to meet a lady who was 105 years old! Incredible story. $25 for a few Christmas decorations & simple cards colored by kids.
4. Fruit baskets for Elderly shut-ins. Local shut-ins are lonely. They often feel trapped. They often have simple to-do’s around their home that can be taken care of in less than an hour. Making up fruit baskets to deliver to them gives you a reason to encourage them with a visit & find out other needs that your faith community can take care of on their behalf. $25 for a bowl or basket & fruit & other goodies to go int them.
All day I’ve been hearing stories from those who delivered these items to people in our community. Simple acts of kindness make a big difference & the holidays offer many opportunities for us to extend kindness & plant seeds in the hearts of people in need.
What other similar outreach ideas have you or your church done at Christmas?
“You Were Different Before!”
I had a friend from Syria in college. We had several classes together & it seemed we ended up sitting next to each other in most of them. He was muslim. He was full of life. He was always smiling. He was always joking. He was very interested in American life. We did set some things on fire in the chemistry lab, but he had no ulterior motives, except getting an education. Religion came up a lot, especially after my second speech in Speech 101. 7-minute informative speech on a particular aspect of a historical persons life. I chose the miracles of Jesus. I talked about the first & last miracles of Jesus, how many miracles are recorded in the New Testament, & then about how John said that if all the works Jesus did had been written down, the world couldn’t hold the books (John 21:25). Then I finished by stating that miracles still happen today even though you may not see one yourself. And then about how the greatest miracle is how God changes human hearts through a relationship with Christ & I gave my personal testimony of that change. I sat back down & my Syrian friend was visibly disturbed. He whispered to me with an angry look – “I want to talk to you after class!” Well, I didn’t know much about muslims at that time, but I’d read a few issues of Voice of Martyrs, so sweaty palms & extreme possibilities filled my mind. When class ended, I tried to shoot out quickly, thinking he may forget about it, but he caught me. Forcibly & loudly, he began putting his finger in my chest & almost shouting over & over again, “You were different before! You were different before! You were different before!” I said, “what are you talking about?” He said, “Your story. You talked about how you were changed on the inside. You were different before you found religion! And that there was something powerful that happened inside your heart!” He went on to tell me how he is pulled back & forth between his religion & the world & how there’s no power in his religion to change his heart. We skipped our next class to talk. I shared the gospel with him & about how Jesus does change us inside out when we confess him as Lord & believe in him & his work. He said it just seemed too simple & that being Muslim was a part of his family identity, like it probably was mine. I asked him to share his faith with me on several occasions, but he would just say, “It isn’t as good a story as you have.” The last few years of college we had fewer & fewer classes together & he moved on to a different campus for our senior year & we lost touch. But I’ll never forget that day in the hallway. It’s been a reminder to me of the power of the Gospel – “You were different before! You were different before! You were different before!” There’s real power in the gospel to change people from the inside out. That’s the hope we see lived out in the lives of other believers around us everyday. That’s the hope that keeps us sharing the gospel with others. That’s the hope that our muslims friends around the world & in our neighborhoods need to know about, & what many of them, like my friend from Syria, may be looking for.
Christian, you were different before! Live it! Share it! Never forget it!
Since 2010, 124 new churches planted in Louisiana with 8,987 new commitments to Christ reported in the first 36 month of these churches. That’s 72 new commitments to Christ per church plant.
How could 72 new commitments to Christ impact your community?
And that doesn’t account for a now lifetime partner in fighting community issues like addiction & hunger, a new partner in global missions, total evangelism as new believers get involved in new testament relationships & serving. Church Planting makes a difference.
Missiologist Peter Wagner said, “Planting new churches is the most effective evangelistic methodology known under heaven.”
Tim Keller says, “The continual planting of new congregations is the most crucial strategy for the growth of the body of Christ.” (get his great article Why Plant Churches).
Keep exploring the question “Does My Community Need a New Church?” HERE.
Check out these resources to help you get started:
- 10 Biblical & Practical Ways to Get Involved in Church Planting
- Every Church Can Encourage Church Planting and Multiplication
- Every Church Can Be a Church Planting Partner
- Your Church Can Be a Parent to a New Church or Campus