Road to Membership

Developing and cultivating church members is not an automatic procedure.  In times past, a church need merely display their choice logo and voila visitors showed up faithfully proceeding with their denominational loyalty. If they were a Presbyterian there then they renewed their Presbyterianism here.  It was that easy.

However, the times have changed and dramatically so!  What they were there may obtain no more than a first visit here, with half a dozen more churches already lined up for sampling and review.

Many stages of becoming a church member have been provided.  Some list a simple 1 – 2 – 3 step plan.  Others extend it further to 20 steps.  Each poses good insights to consider.  This seven step process is presented merely for a frame work to consider how one evolves from visitor to prospect and finally to church member.

And please be fully conscious that a greater development is happening within individuals and couples, their personal relationship with Jesus Christ; Salvation!  Some church groups demand a quick two-minute point in time, which they would prefer to consider as step one and only!  While others perceive salvation as an ongoing process, perhaps to be experienced for one’s full life-time.

Romans 13:11, “. . . our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.”

Following is a loose step by step guide illuminating how the process works.  It is presented in outline form with hopes of enabling discussion among Elder or Evangelism groups.  The objective is for the “already convinced” to see intentional dynamics involved in each phase and how astute Disciple makers will best nourish the stages for fullest results.

1) Invite             

  • Media; newspaper, banners, signs, Web Site
  • Personal invite
  • Positive regard in community

2) Greeting

  • “Hello” At the door
  • “Hello” In the pew
  • Coffee fellowship

3) Welcome

  • Intentional contact
  • Interest, value & prioritize
  • Know name, home, job, hobbies

4) Include

  • Sitting with them during worship
  • Assisting with worship particulars and customs
  • Introduce them to the church
  • Personal invite to coffee fellowship
  • Say it: “Please return!”

5) Involve  

  • Invite to a Bible Study, concert, etc.
  • Invite participation with a mission project

6) Assimilate

  • Accept and share new values vs. “Nostalgia”
  • Welcome and include their new ideas

7) Salvation

  • Process: Experience acceptance of Fellowship
  • Creative a “safe” environment for soul-searching
  • Nurture fellowship with God
  • A church is obligated to provide this opportunity        

 

Reason Why People Attend Church (research conducted by Gallup)

  1. 23% – for spiritual growth and guidance
  2. 20% – keeps me grounded/guided
  3. 15% – it’s my faith
  4. 15% – to worship God
  5. 13% – the fellowship of other members (the community)
  6. 12% – believe in God/religion
  7. 12% – brought up that way (tradition)

 

Top 13 Reasons that Unchurched People Choose a Church (research conducted by Thom Ranier)

  1. 90% – Pastor/Preaching
  2. 88% – Doctrines
  3. 49% – Friendliness of Members
  4. 42% – Other Issues
  5. 41% – Someone at Church Witnessed to Me
  6. 38% – Family Member
  7. 37% – Sensed God’s Presence/Atmosphere of Church
  8. 25% – Relationship Other than Family Member
  9. 25% – Sunday School Class
  10. 25% – Children’s/Youth Ministry
  11. 12% – Other Groups/Ministries
  12. 11% – Worship Style/Music
  13. 7% – Location

Top 6 Things that Keep the Formerly Unchurched Active in the Church (research conducted by Thom Ranier)

  1. 62% – Ministry Involvement
  2. 55% – Sunday School
  3. 54% – Obedience to God
  4. 49% – Fellowship of Members
  5. 38% – Pastor/Preaching
  6. 14% – Worship Services

 

Wanted: Five Minutes

Can we have five minutes of your time?

In the grand scheme of life, five minutes is not a great request of our time.

In the course of one week that adds up to “0.0024801587301587” of your week.  (For the non-math types reading this, that is also known as “not much!”)

However that “0.0024801587301587” of your week is enough time to extend a hearty welcome to a visitor wondering about their place here.  Do people want them to stay or not?  Your intentional greeting may make all the difference for a prospect in doubt.

We have many invitations set in our community through the newspapers, internet, TV, visitor centers, etc.  People are encouraged to come and share in worship with us.  I believe God has a great part in sending people to us.  We have an urgent need to welcome them.  If you see someone you do not know on Sunday morning, why not give them a hearty good morning and let them know you are glad they visited and hope they will return?

Really, the coffee will still be there!

And you may also find another great benefit, the prospect of finding a good friend.  People come to church for intentional reasons.  Finding a place of worship and fellowship is at the top of their list.  The biggest question they bring is, “will they welcome and accept me?”  A simple smile and handshake can make a great difference in someone’s spiritual quest for peace with God.

 “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.”

                                                 Hebrews 13:2

 

Personal Invitations to Church

When Church Growth expert Win Arn was asked, “In your research, have you found that there’s one specific reason that visitors come to church?” He answered as follows:

The friendship factor.

We’ve asked more than 50,000 people over the last 10 years why they came to church, and between 75 and 90 percent of respondents say, “I began attending because someone invited me.”

Roy Oswald and Speed Leas note that visitors come to church by these statistics, (“The Inviting Church”, 1987, p. 44):

  • 2% by Advertisement
  • 6% by the Pastoral Invitation
  • 6% by organized evangelism campaign
  • 86% by friends or relatives

Other research confirms that:

  • Only 2% of church people invite an unchurched person (Thom Ranier, 2003)
  • 37% of Christians linked their conversion to being invited to church (Bill Johnson, p. 91, citing a 2003 study)
  • Martha Grace Reese (Unbinding the Gospel) showed 40% who joined first came because a friend invited.

It’s a matter of the heart.  Do members believe in their church or not?  Do they believe an invitation is worthy of good friendships?   Pastors may exhort, cajole, teach, rebuke, threaten, load up the guilt and shame, beg, grovel, plead all they may, but it’s the church member who decides about giving an invitation to church.  Until the people in the pews in the pews make the inviting effort, a church will be always treading water, just praying to survive.

 

Alleviating some of the Myths about Inviting

1) Dangerous

Fact: No evidence for any harm. Not life-threatening

2) Unhealthy

Fact: Inviting people to church has absolutely no connection to causing cancer or any other disease.

3) Illegal

Fact: Inviting people to church is an act protected by the Constitution.

4) People will hate you

Fact: Inviting people to church will gain their respect.  You will be known as someone who believes in something.

 

“See the People . . .”

A successful salesman was invited to be a key note speaker at a regional sales convention.  He was good at one-on-one conversations, but addressing a large audience?!?!?!?

Nervously, he wrote his speech on 3×5 cards and rehearsed and rehearsed over and over again.

The evening came for his big speech and his nervousness was worse than ever.  Just before he was to get on the stage . . . he dropped the stack of 3×5 cards.  What a disaster!  He timidly made his way to the podium and said the first point of his speech, “See the people . . .” and could not even remember what the rest of his point was, let alone the rest of the speech.

So he repeated the line hoping the rest would come, “See the people . . .”, but alas nothing else came to his mind.

One more time he said it, hope against hope, and still he could remember nothing more than “See the people …”

In utter personal defeat he trudged off the stage, thoroughly humiliated.

But to his surprise he heard loud applause from the audience.

The people had put it all together from his three word speech.  They thought that was his intention, to state the heart of what they needed to do.  It’s not about stats, canned programs and gimmicks.  It’s about focusing upon the real needs and “seeing the people,” paying attention to those we meet along the way.

It’s the people, not the things that make all the difference.

“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.”                                          1 Peter 4:10

 

Traveling Faith

People of the Bible have demonstrated great examples of faith in God by their willingness to respond and move forward.  Most notable are,

  • Abraham, who traveled over 500 miles from Haran to Canaan in obedient faith to God’s call, and this at the age of 75.
  • Paul the Apostle traveled over 11,400 miles in his missionary journeys.

With this perspective of faithful travel in mind, we are asking the faithful attenders of the 10:30am Worship service to do a little travel of their own.  Not Abraham’s 500 miles and certainly not Paul’s extensive travels, but more along the lines of traveling across the aisle and perhaps a few rows forward.

I realize we have made this request before, but we need to bring it up again before our fall season begins in order to develop better habits.  Our diaconate is rather stretched covering the entire sanctuary for communion and offering.  With our attenders somewhat scattered through the sanctuary they have to do some “traveling” themselves to cover the whole area.

If we could seat ourselves in the two center sections we could make their work a little easier.  And besides, wouldn’t you be happy to meet some new people?  Promise, it won’t be painful.

We are trying to make this transition without having to rope off the far right section of the sanctuary.  Surely we can make the move on a voluntary basis.  So come on over and find your seat(s) in the middle two sections next Sunday.

With good cooperation and a strong sense of Christian fellowship I believe you will find this transition to not be that difficult and it will certainly ease some of our serving issues.

Thank you for your help.  When we all work together we can find good solutions in serving our Lord.

 

Three Pews Forward

A church task group was called together to assess keeping two services or moving to one service.  A significant result of the meeting was that if people were to sit forward, closer to the front and leave the back area open, much of our concern would take care of itself.  The sanctuary would “look” fuller and more importantly, visitors would easily be able to find a seat when they entered the sanctuary and not have to walk [nervously] walk to the front.

On the lighter side, here are a few reasons you may consider for moving forward when you come to worship.  Here are my Top Ten Reasons why:

10) The front rows are so seldom used that the cushions are like new — very comfy!

9) If everyone moves three rows forward, visitors will have an easier time finding a place to sit when they come. We must be mindful of our job to welcome those seeking God.  If a first time visitor cannot easily find a parking spot or pew, studies show they will likely not stay for the service.

8) When we all sit closer together, community becomes stronger.  We feel more like a church united.

7) Give the servers a break.  Sit closer together.  Trying to get an offering tray over 10 feet of empty pew is something even Evil Knievel never attempted.

6) Others have reported that you can honestly hear better up front – really!

5) Give it a try – the climate just might be warmer/cooler for you down front.

4) When we sit closer together we encourage each other with our singing and we sound louder, better and have a greater awareness of God’s presence.

3) If everyone moves up three pews, those in the last row … will still be in the last row.  Think about that one for a moment.

2) You can see all the details in the stained-glass window up front . . . just for something to do during the slow parts of the service.

1) Do it for the Pastor . . . I feel so lonely down front all by myself.   😉

Hoping to see you closer next Sunday . . .

Top Ten Reasons for Sitting at the Front of the Church

10) Statistics show that the front of the church building is the safest in the event of natural disaster.

9) You can see if anything’s caught between the preacher’s teeth. Then watch him as you smile and point.

8) There’s still lots of padding in these seats since they’re almost like new.

7) You only have to comb the back of your hair and iron the back of your shirt/blouse.

6) It’s easier to trip the Ushers and Deacons.

5) No one will hear your stomach make all those “alien” noises.

4) You’re the Treasurer and want to keep your eye on the collection.

3) You want to justify that feeling you’ve always had that everyone’s looking at you.

2) You’re mad at everyone in the church and want to make sure no one sits beside you.

1) You actually love worshiping God and it’s your way of showing it!

 

“Top Ten Ways to Boost Church Attendance During the Summer”

Churches, among other groups, usually experience quite a drop in attendance during the summer months.  Our numbers at Sun City have held very well so far (apart from the snowbirds leaving), but here is a list, courtesy of “Grant’s Graceland”, that might help assure our numbers continue to hold steady.

10) Have your preacher preach from a Dunk Tank!

9) Offer free samples of “Hellfire and Brimstone” BBQ sauce to every new visitor!

8) Add a slide to your baptistery and advertise the church as a water park!

7) Offer a free tank of gas for every five sermons heard!

6) Convert your parking lot into an RV Campground!

5) Convert the sanctuary aisles into putting greens!

4) Replace your church sign with one that reads: “Tourist Information”!

3) Have your elders and deacons dress up in animal costumes (if necessary) and open a petting zoo on the front lawn!

2) Put up road blocks and tell people there’s a manhunt going on!

And the number one way to boost church attendance during the summer is:

1) Be there yourself!

See you Sunday.

 

Obituary of Someone Else

I know that all of you were saddened to learn this week of the death of one of our church’s most valuable members — Someone Else.

Someone’s passing created a vacancy that will be difficult to fill.  Else has been with us for many years, and for every one of those years, Someone did far more than the normal person’s share of the work.  Whenever leadership was mentioned, this wonderful person was looked to for inspiration as well as results.  Someone Else can work with that group.  Whenever there was a job to do, a class to teach, or a meeting to attend, one name was on everyone’s lips, “Let Someone Else do it.”  It was common knowledge that Someone Else was among the largest givers in the church.  Whenever there was a financial need, everyone just assumed that Someone Else would make up the difference.

Someone Else was a wonderful person, sometimes appearing super-human, but a person can only do so much.  Were the truth known, everyone expected too much of Someone Else.  Now Someone Else is gone.  We wonder what we are going to do.  Someone Else left a wonderful example to follow, but who is going to follow it?  Who is going to do the things Someone Else did?  Remember, we can’t depend on Someone Else anymore.

          (Attributed to many, but source is still unconfirmed)

How is Religion Doing, Lately?

Attention has been focused on a controversial question the media has been posing lately, “Is Religion Dying in America?”   We are being asked to evaluate the relevancy of modern religion.  Note the question mark.  They are asking us to comment on something.

Recall Time magazine’s big marketing thrust with their April 8, 1966, “Is God Dead?” issue?  It was the first time in their history they had ever released a cover with no accompanying image.  Large blood-red letters were posted against a black background, presenting the big question “Is God Dead?”

It resulted in their biggest sales in 20 years and elicited over 3,500 letters to the editor, the most ever at that time. Time magazine certainly hit a sensitive nerve in America with that question.

So what’s the answer?  Is Christianity really becoming extinct?  Has anyone checked with heaven to find conspicuous vacancies?   Perhaps a more precise question is, “Has our faith really become so anemic, that we just don’t care so much anymore?”

How is faith and non-faith doing in America?  In 1944, atheism registered a total of 4% adherents to their non-faith. The latest nation-wide survey showed a grand total of 4% admitting to atheism.  Doesn’t sound like much of an “explosion” of ideology.  Even in Russia, where atheistic education has for decades aggressively tried to destroy religion, the current report is no more than 4% adherents to non-faith.

Christianity, by contrast has consistently registered 96%, with slight variations over the past decades.  True, not all those confessions of faith have engendered massive revival, but the quest for God is still evident.   Faith is not so much the real issue, as the question of what to do with our faith.  How do we make faith in God a relevant part of our daily life?

That’s the real issue for the 21st Century church.  The masses are claiming to be on our side, but how well are we winning over those “good intentions” of faith?  Are we actively living what we profess to believe?  Jesus proclaimed it so well in Matthew 9:37-38, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.  Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

Are we ready to hear Christ’s call upon his church today?

Ap Athe Tic Virus

Although the origins of the Ap Athe Tic virus is heavily debated, its effects are none-the-less disastrous.  Some suppose the vius has Middle East origins where centuries old hostilities provide such fertile ground for its growth and rapid spread.

Speculation abounds on the manner of its spreading.  The natural theory of its spread by physical contact leaves questions regarding the afflicted who typically prefer to minimize all physical contact, if not to forbid it entirely.  Yet, upon second thought refraining from physical contact may not be a factor at all in its spread.

So does it spread air-born, which is always the worst case scenario of fear for the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia?  If the virus can travel through the air then what can prevent its spread except aggressive quarantine and isolation?  However, even diligent use of allergen masks prove of little effect in even slowing down its progress.  Test groups faithfully washing their hands for extended periods of time showed virtually zero impact in slowing down the virus’ spread.

Authorities have no doubt whatsoever of its strong contagious influence.  A single test subject may enter a room infected with the Ap Athe Tic Virus and begin to show signs of its effect almost immediately.

Symptoms include resistant behavior whenever in groups, loss of desire, passive emotions, irritable blaming and criticizing.  One infected with the Ap Athe Tic Virus will resist and degrade any fresh spirit which might arise in a group, especially in a church context.

If you should happen to notice anyone inflicted with the Ap Athe Tic Virus call local disease prevention groups immediately.  Until help arrives all you can do is try to sooth the irritable responses with compassion and patience in hope they may recover in time.  For all we know, the soothing effects of love may well be the only cure for the ill effects of the Ap Athe Tic Virus.

“And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.”                                         Romans 8:11


The World’s Greatest Enemy

In her memoirs Margaret Thatcher, the former Prime Minister of England, put many intelligence agencies on edge by revealing some of the international secrets which occurred during her administration.  One of her most fascinating insights involved her work with other world leaders to identify the most dangerous enemy confronting the world.  It was not Lybia, Iraq or the KGB, the three most feared entities of her time .. .

The greatest enemy threatening the world is:    Pessimism! 

How interesting that with all the terrorists, dictators and other malevolent sorts in the world, pessimism should be International Enemy #1.  Margaret Thatcher saw people struggling through hunger, anger, and constant disappointments.  She realized these struggles compromised their well-being and left them with so little hope.  This lost hope struck them to their core, causing a lot of ill-will toward the world and even themselves.  Desperation and pessimism were the natural results.

What message does the church bear for such suffering in the world?  I pray it’s more than a mere dream or nice rhetoric, this is the pain which Jesus instructs the church to address – we are to restore hope and it must begin at home, where we are right now, and then proceed to every corner where such darkness exists.

As Jesus explains Take heart! I have overcome the world (John 14:33).  Why should we live as though we were still defeated by this world’s anxieties and fears?  As Christians we have an obligation to demonstrate that another way of life is possible.   Violence and intimidation harms and breaks the human spirit.  Only renewed hope will bring long lasting healing to those who have lost their hope.  The world needs to see good models of Christian living  to understand and believe there is a good alternative way of conducting themselves.  Let the healing start with us.

“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”                                                  John 10:10

 

We Would See Jesus

An old church was struggling through serious issues threatening to tear their church apart.  The Pastor expressed expert opinions about every political and social issue that crossed his path.  Although no one could argue the rhetoric and homiletic excellence it seemed his sermons tended to miss something important.

Some of the leader of the church took matters into their own hands.  While the pastor was away the Elders of the church hired a skilled wood carver to work on the pulpit.  They had a plan to express the inner needs they felt for their church.

When the pastor returned and prepared for his first sermon back he found some of the changes made to the pulpit.  There carved into the wood just above the edge of his sermon notes were the simple words, “We would see Jesus.”

Their simple yet bold plan expressed a deep longing of their spirits.  They were not coming to church on Sundays just to hear the latest perspectives of the day.  They had a much more important yearning.  They craved spiritual transcendence which worship offered them.  The sanctuary was a safe haven to rest, heal and prepare for the weekly challenges they faced.  Temporal, worldly opinions simply did not measure up with what they really sought.

The gospel has a miraculous power to transform needy souls and satisfy the deepest longing of any heart.  It heals the worst pains we face in life and restores a vision of hope to lead us on.  How could we ever stifle such power?

Jesus reached people of all classes, age, race and political persuasions.  The message never became too complex or diluted with “other” notions.  One story of people seeking Jesus expresses such simple and direct truth,

“Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the Festival. They came to Philip … , with a request. ‘Sir,’ they said, ‘we would like to see Jesus.’”

John 12:20-21

Doesn’t this sound like a great strategy for our church?  Keep the message focused on the main thing and allow God the opportunity to speak to lonely hearts seeking a better way to live.

Transitioning into the Future

Let’s face it change is never an easy process.  Change always breaks into our comfort areas and makes us rethink new habits and strategies.  Take a look at how poorly some of these crucial innovations were received.

“This ‘telephone’ has too many short-comings to be seriously considered as a means of communication.  The device is inherently of no value to us.”

– Western Union international memo, 1876

“The wireless music box has no imaginable commercial value.  Who would pay for a message sent to nobody in particular?”

– David Sarnoff’s associates declining his investment in radio, 1920’s

“But what is it good for?”

– Engineer at the Advanced Computing Systems Division of IBM, commenting on the microchip, 1968

“There is no reason why anyone would want a computer in his or her home.”

Ken Olson, President, Chairman and Founder of Digital Equipment, 1977

Perhaps Julius Sextus Frontinus held the worst attitude in history toward innovation and change with his comment:

“Inventions have long since reached their limit,

and I see no hope for further developments.”

By the way, Julius said this back in … 100 A.D.!!!

True, change never comes easy, but sometimes it comes by necessity.  Sometimes we have to accept change because the ways we have always done things just don’t work anymore.  Our church is no different from any other church in this regard.  The times continue to change all around us and we can either fade away with the past or take courage and support each other into a vibrant and interesting future.

Together we can find exciting solutions to the challenges we, and every other church faces, in this ever changing world we live in.  The essentials of our faith shall never change, but the ways in which we express these truths must ever stay up to date with the world we seek to reach.

 

 

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