The Top 7 Reasons Guests Return To Your Church

By: Dan Reiland

Recently we came across the following article and believe that it has some wonderfully practical suggestions to help any local church leader.  Although our readers will know that we bristle against vocabulary that refers to “church” as a place we go to or something that can be “attended,” we trust that the wisdom provided here will be gleaned in spite of such language.

The most common reason people check out your church is someone invited them. The most common reason people leave your church is they don’t feel connected.

But what are the most common reasons people return to your church after their first visit or two?

There’s lots of conversation about church attendance patterns these days, and that affects how we measure guest retention rate, and the length of time it takes for guests to connect with your church.

Here’s a new reality, new people connect more slowly than in the past and disconnect more quickly than we’ve previously experienced. It’s a double-edged sword. It takes longer for new people to connect because they don’t necessarily attend every week. And, they disconnect faster because the best “connection factors” are relationally based and therefore depend on attendance!

We can’t change current culture, or can we?

Here are two big reasons why people attend church less frequently (not in order):

  • Families are busier now than ever. From demands in their jobs (travel etc.) to sports for their kids on weekends, people are on the go nearly seven days a week.
  • People get bored faster than lightning. If guests attend your church and it gives off even a hint of being out of date, not fresh, “seen this before” or in some way behind or irrelevant, they are gone!

That’s difficult to compete with, so perhaps competing is not the answer. We might be wise to focus just a little less on why people don’t come, and invest more energy into why people do come. Focusing on what church does best is a smarter approach. Doing it the way your church does it best, is smarter still.

That takes us back to the top reasons guests return to your church. Put your energy here.

Top 7 Reasons Guests Return:

1) The Presence Of God Is Felt.

There is an unmistakable awareness of the presence and power of God at work. It may be inspirational and filled with emotion, or a more quiet and peaceful stirring within, but however it’s experienced, the presence of God is felt.

2) The Key Leaders Are Perceived As Trustworthy.

Guests come to your church at varying levels of “readiness” to trust the leaders they encounter. But it’s surprising how quickly they can discern if they trust you or not. Even from only a message or two, or brief connections in the lobby, they intuitively have decided if they can trust you. Your level of authenticity and clarity of communication make a huge difference in this process.

3) The Worship Service Is Positive, Relevant, Biblically Sound, And Executed With Heart And Excellence.

You don’t have to compete with the other churches near you. The important thing is to be the very best that you can. For example, if the worship team isn’t strong, select less challenging music, and do it with excellence. If the preaching isn’t strong, make the message shorter. In all cases, keep practicing, so you get better. Make sure the service is positive, clearly biblical, and upbeat and communicates faith in an atmosphere of grace.

4) The Volunteers And Congregation Express Authentic Love And Care.

Genuine love and attention are unmistakable and irresistible. When people encounter it, it’s truly transforming. The source is God’s love, but the expression and experience come from the people in your congregation, both from your volunteer leaders and regular attenders.

5) They Hear Current Stories Of Life Change.

Connected to brief and creative communication of your purpose or mission/vision are stories of life change every week. These stories need to be communicated in a variety of creative ways. That is hugely compelling and draws people back. Life change is inspiring, and it gives hope that they too can experience positive and spiritually oriented change.

6) There Are No “Glaring” Shortcomings.

There are no perfect churches, we all have flaws. But there should be nothing that is an immediate turn-off, or so grossly out of line that it makes people feel awkward and uncomfortable. For example, I’ve seen nurseries that were unclean and unsafe. I’ve listened to worship music that was painfully unrehearsed. Or it may be something as simple as the building is in desperate need of a fresh coat of paint or signage that is clear and helpful. If you are not sure, invite a church consultant to come in for one Sunday, that’s all it takes!

7) The Children’s Ministry Is Outstanding.

Each of your ministries matter, but children’s ministry is the one that receives the least grace from your guests. Parents are justifiably protective and want the best for their kids. They don’t yet know you or what happens when they drop off their children. Candidly, guests will give an “average” service another shot, but if their child has a bad experience, they will not likely return. Invest great effort and energy in your children’s ministry.

These are the elements that inspire guests to return. This gives you the opportunity to make the “deeper connections.”

The most common paths to deeper connection – (longer term, greater commitment, and ownership of the vision) are:

  • Small groups
  • Serving opportunities
  • Deeper friendships

Make your next steps simple and clear.

Leading a local church is complicated. But sometimes breaking it down like this helps you become more intentional and know where to invest your energy best.

 

5 Steps for Disciple Multiplication – Part 2 of 2

By Dave Ferguson and Warren Bird

*This is part two of the article published in the previous post.

A Simple Tool for Apprenticeship

If Paul’s goal of developing four generations of apprentices seems unreachable for you and your church, then I have good news for you. It is not. This goal is very doable if you and your church follow five simple steps.

Eric Metcalf is a disciple multiplier, and he has used the five steps of apprenticeship with other leaders as often as anyone I know. Eric doesn’t shy away from a good challenge. The latest small group he led regularly drew 16 people, and it was a challenge. Some were solid Christ followers; most were not. Some were single, some living together, and some married. Some partied really hard! And some were new believers, including one person with a Muslim background, another with a Jewish background (and a Catholic girlfriend), and another with practically no religious background at all.

You might imagine the lively discussions and lifestyle issues represented in those gathering and conclude, “I think a pastor needs to lead a group like that!” Eric is the pastor for one of Community Christian Church’s locations on the north side of Chicago. He and his wife, Erin, especially enjoy that group, but Eric knew he had a bigger calling than leading this diverse group alone. From day one, he was praying about which member (or members) he could train as an apprentice to take over this group or lead a new group.

“Hey, I have this idea, and I want to run it past you,” Eric told the group. Then he continued, “For our group to reach more people, I’m going to ask some of you to consider moving into an apprentice leadership role and meeting with me on a weekly basis. We can meet for coffee or whatever, but during that time I will help you get to the place where you are confident and capable of leading a group.” Grace, one of the Christ followers, said to Eric, “I really see a need to take some of the women in the group deeper into accountability with each other. I think I can help them do that, if you would let me lead them.” Eric loved the idea, and she became his first apprentice.

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Eric used the same simple five-step apprenticeship tool with Grace that he had used with dozens of other leaders over the years to help them grow in their leadership. Over the next eight months, Eric and Grace used these five steps as a guide to develop her to the place where she was leading her own group. Here’s how it might have unfolded:

  1. I do. You watch. We talk. As the experienced leader, Eric leads the group and tells Grace, “You just observe everything that happens in our small group, and then we will find a time to meet and discuss what you observed.” Before the next small group meeting, Eric and Grace debrief, and this includes asking the following questions: “What worked?” “What didn’t work?” and “How can we improve?” This time for debriefing needs to continue throughout the five steps.
  2. I do. You help. We talk. In this step of development, Eric gives his apprentice, Grace, an opportunity to help lead part of the small group meeting. In this case, Eric asked Grace, “Could you lead the icebreaker time at the beginning if I lead the rest?” Grace agreed. Again, the small group meeting should be followed up with a one-on-one debrief between leader and apprentice.
  3. You do. I help. We talk. Now Grace transitions from helping Eric to taking on most of the leadership responsibilities for the small group. Since Eric has had an exceptionally busy week, he takes the opportunity to ask Grace, “Could you lead most of the meeting this week? If you do, I will handle the icebreaker at the beginning and the prayer time at the end, plus I will be there with you the whole time.” Grace agrees, and since she has seen him lead the group enough times, she feels very comfortable and does great. Eric is gradually releasing responsibilities to his new, developing leader.
  4. You do. I watch. We talk. The apprentice process for Grace is almost complete as she grows increasingly more confident in her role as a leader. Eric has her lead the entire meeting each week while he watches her, and he gives her the responsibility of finding a service project for the group. At their debrief time, Eric says, “I think you are ready for leadership; do you think you are ready?” With a smile, Grace says, “I think I’m ready.” With both leader and apprentice feeling ready for the next step, they begin to plan whether Grace will take over the group or lead a new group, and what Eric will lead next.
  5. You do. Someone else watches. This is where the process of multiplication comes full circle. Eric says, “Grace, you have done great! Have you started to think about who you can mentor and repeat this process with?” Grace says, “I already have two people who have expressed interest, and I’m meeting with one this week.” Grace, the former apprentice, is now leading, and she begins developing new apprentices. Since Eric has developed and released several apprentices, he continues to work with Grace and other leaders in a coaching capacity.

The five steps to apprenticeship are really that simple! If you will constantly use these five steps, you can develop other leaders who will already know how to develop other leaders.

A World of Disciple Multipliers in One Generation

In a commencement speech, Admiral William McRaven provoked graduates from the University of Texas with this exhortation: “If every one of you changed the lives of just 10 people, and each one of those folks changed the lives of another 10 people—just 10—then in six generations this class will have changed the lives of the entire population of the world, eight billion people.”

The admiral’s words are a great challenge, not only for college graduates but for me, you, and the church! To change the world, we need to not only change people but also mobilize those people as change agents. Since the church is far bigger than that graduating class, we’ve already got a running start. We also have the Holy Spirit in us, and the God of the universe wants it to happen. We can do it!

This article was originally published at: Christianity Today

5 Steps for Disciple Multiplication – Part 1 of 2

By Dave Ferguson and Warren Bird

A simple tool for apprenticing followers of Christ who can apprentice others.

I wonder if out of reverence for Jesus being divine, we sometimes dismiss his disciple-making practices and think, Well, that’s because it’s Jesus; he’s God. Of course he’s the best people-developer in the universe. So we admire how he mentored others who went out and changed the world, but we dismiss it as only possible for someone who is God incarnate. I’ve done that.

The apostle Paul didn’t make that mistake. He heard Jesus’ vision of God’s kingdom, how we can bring that to be, and he recruited a young apprentice named Timothy (Acts 16:1-3). I love that Paul picked Timothy, because Timothy was a guy who didn’t have a perfect life, and that makes him very relatable. Timothy’s dad was not around; either he was an absentee father or he had abandoned Timothy and his mom altogether. Scripture describes Timothy as timid (1 Cor. 16:10–11). He was very apprehensive about whether his life could make an impact.

But Paul grabs him and even writes to him how they’re going to change the world together: “The things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others” (2 Tim. 2:2).

How many generations of apprenticeship do you see in that verse? Paul is saying, in effect, “Timothy, don’t be content with being a Christ follower; think about others, the rest of the world. I know you have a hard time thinking about impact, but I want you to think exponential impact! Let’s live our lives so as to impact at least four generations.”

  • First-generation apprenticeship: Jesus to Paul
  • Second-generation apprenticeship: Paul to Timothy
  • Third-generation apprenticeship: Timothy to “reliable people”
  • Fourth-generation apprenticeship: “reliable people” to “others”

This verse calls us to mentor disciple multipliers to the fourth generation. That’s exponential impact!

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Paul was explaining to Timothy (and to us) that if we want to see disciples made in all nations—a movement of kingdom multiplication—it will happen through apprenticeship. Apprenticeship is the core competency of any movement of God.

What Paul discovered is the difference between impact and exponential impact. If we are Spirit led and committed to the mission, our lives can have an impact. But when we add the reproducing piece and even multiplying through apprenticeship, that is when exponential impact is possible. That’s when we begin to see a movement of hero makers.

*This article will continue in the next post.

Steps Nine and Ten: Organization and Looking To the Harvest Fields

This is the final entry, Steps Nine and Ten, in the series: “Ten Practical Steps For Planting New Churches,” written by Rev. Manuel Molina Flores.

Step Nine: Organization

From the beginning of the church-planting process, we must train with the goal of preparing the believers to take on the commitment to organize the church. We must apply the minimum structure necessary to ensure for the church’s healthy functioning, which generally means only naming the official church board. We do not have to form all of the ministries immediately. It is only necessary to identify the leaders of each department. As the church grows we can continue to implement roles as they become necessary.

Organization will be only a guide, not a straight jacket for the new work.

How is a church born?

In the process of founding churches, the moment will come when we must determine who is willing to formally and publicly commit to the new church.  We say a local church is born the moment the believers publicly commit to the Lord and to one another, as well as to Scripture (as it is expressed in the “Declaration of Faith” in the Manual of the Church of the Nazarene.

To plant a church is like beginning to build a house; the basic building blocks of the church are the converts.  It is so obvious that frequently we pass over this concept.  The primary focus of a church planter should be placed on the converts, and even though the structure and organization are not more important, they will help to conserve the results.  The success or failure of a church planter will be directly related to the fruit of his or her work in the souls of the new converts.  Missionary work should not be abandoned to dedicate ourselves to maintain the gains we’ve made.  Both of these– missionary work and maintenance – should happen simultaneously. 

Suggestions:

  1. Train specific leaders to perform their assigned roles.
  2. Meet with the new leaders and the new church board (in most cases, they will be the same cell group leaders or leaders from the home groups), to develop monthly plans and to move forward on district plans.
  3. Submit yourself to leadership above you and teach the new leaders to work as a team with the different levels of leadership within the denomination. We are all on the same team working towards the same mission.
  4. Make a plan that allows for local growth and growth in new communities.  In this way the church will not close itself in to its own four walls.
  5. Maintain a vision to raise up and train volunteer leaders.  Paid leadership has a tendency to slow down the advances of the new church.

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Step Ten: Look to the Harvest Fields

Keep the vision of new works as something natural in the life of the church.  Take Antioch in Acts 13 as a model.

Form a plan that allows for local growth and growth in new communities.  In that way the new church will not close itself in to its own four walls.  The temptation will be to settle for what has already been achieved, and new believers will want to be together and not allow the pastor to leave to explore new fields. One time a good brother said, “Pastor, if you go to another place, I’ll go back to the world.”  The pastor replied, “I thought you followed Christ, but it seems you’ve decided to exchange him for this useless servant.” This happens when koinonia become “koinonitis,” slowing the growth of the church.

Never stop doing the things that produce growth.  It is an error when church planters dedicate themselves to consolidate the fruit of the work and stop evangelizing. (This has happened in some instances, such as in the case of the project Vision 93-2000.  The goal was to organize a pioneer district in Chiapas, Mexico, and the progress stagnated.)

We have had to examine our focus to return to the original vision to plant churches in our chosen field.

***We hope that this series of practical steps for planting new churches has proven useful for you, the reader, in your ministry.  We thank Rev. Manuel Molina for his work in developing this material, and for his effectiveness in putting it in practice.

Step Eight: Corporate Worship

We continue with Step 8 from the series: “Ten Practical Steps For Planting New Churches,” written by Rev. Manuel Molina Flores.

 How to celebrate the presence and the power of God together

Corporate worship allows believers, who are growing and enthusiastic about their faith, to recognize the presence and the power of God together.

When two or more cell groups are functioning, the evangelist will work with the cell group leaders in order to plan joined meetings in which the believers will celebrate their faith in Jesus Christ.  If Bible study in the group is done well, the group will quickly be ready to celebrate a worship service and join in public teaching of the Word.

Principles: The value of corporate worship

When two or more cell groups are functioning, the church-planting effort has come to the point of uniting the groups periodically to worship God together.  Corporate worship will:

  • Introduce the new believer to the idea they are part of the body of Christ, which is large.
  • Give opportunities to use a variety of spiritual gifts, and allow them to develop specialized gifts that are difficult to maintain in a single cell group.
  • Give cell group leaders better control in issues of doctrine and lifestyle.
  • Protect from internal and external attack.
  • Offer a special dynamic for worship that usually generates larger groups.
  • Help individual believers learn their responsibilities as members of an organized church and prepare them for organization.
  • Help maintain balance and generate energy as victories, challenges and even failures of believers and cell groups are shared within the setting of the larger group and God’s work there.
  • Give the chance for teachers to exercise their gifts for the benefit of the whole body since many cell groups are not led by believers who have the gift of teaching.

Insist that the local leadership provide opportunities for new believers to participate. A true Celebration happens when we have reasons to celebrate. Believers who share their faith also tend to practice the disciplines of Christian growth and experience the family of God in action through mutual ministry.

We offer opportunities for corporate worship to celebrate how the presence and the power of God are visible in the lives of his children.

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Is it necessary for each church to have a building?

When we return to the book of Acts, we see a model of church planting that allows for the development of healthy churches that will reproduce other churches, especially in homes.  They can choose whether or not to find a building. When the church grows, it can make the decision to purchase land or rent or create a special place for their services.

Allow the emerging leadership to plan and lead the corporate worship and the most prepared leaders to preach publicly. Encourage the development of forms of worship that are culturally appropriate and biblically acceptable.  Do not copy readily available material (like YouTube videos, for example) that will confuse new believers.

Some suggestion on steps for planning corporate worship:

  1. When there are two or more cell groups, unite them periodically for corporate worship (public worship services).
  2. Begin Celebrations weekly, bi-weekly or monthly.
  3. Make sure the cell groups continue as the primary source of identity and mutual care in the church.
  4. Work with the leaders of cell groups to plan Celebrations. Make sure they are simple enough that emerging leaders are capable of leading the service effectively.
  5. Increase the frequency of the services when the emerging leadership is able to meet the demands created by additional activities. That will ensure that adding corporate worship will not result in a lack of care in other areas of ministry.

***In the next entry we will address the final two steps in this series.

Step Seven: Leadership Development: Model 222

In today’s entry, we are continuing with Step 7 in the series: Ten Practical Steps For Planting New Churches,” written by Rev. Manuel Molina Flores. 

How to recognize and train emerging leaders (2 Timothy 2:2)

Step Seven is about discovering and developing the men and women who are capable of implementing the different levels of leadership required by a properly functioning church.

When arriving at this step, the church planters will begin to step back away from intense, active involvement, such as in Step Five, in order to invest their time and efforts in the emergent leaders and focus on the new leaders’ training.

Identify, through real ministry situations, those who demonstrate they are “reliable” and “qualified” (2 Timothy 2:2) in order to begin a systematic training program to continue developing their character, Biblical knowledge and practical abilities.  This entails sharing your experience and knowledge with the leaders.

Principles:

We identify men and women who are “reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others” (2 Timothy 2:2).  Having seen their leadership, we begin a basic training program in which we invest in them and emphasize for each emerging leader areas of character, knowledge and practical skills that he or she needs to develop.

Training is what we offer the man or woman who demonstrates spiritual qualities and a divine call to leadership.  The question is not “who could be a good leader,” but rather “who is already leading” and “who demonstrates patterns of adequate spiritual growth and true love for others?”

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Training for leadership should include character elements as well as knowledge and practical elements.

Leadership training should be conducted in a way that assures simultaneous growth in three areas:

  • BEING (character): Character is developed through the disciplines for Christian growth (1 Timothy 4:12, 15-16), service (Matthew 20:25-28), faithfulness (Matthew 25:14-20), etc.
  • KNOWING (knowledge): This does not deal solely with knowledge of Biblical truths, but rather knowledge of how to study, interpret and apply the Bible to the needs of the people (Ezra 7:10, Acts 20:20).
  • DOING (practical): Potential leaders should know well and have practical experience in evangelism, discipleship and beginning a mission before moving on toward more advanced leadership training.

Leaders should grow in character (being), information (knowing), and practical abilities (doing).

***Find out about Step Eight in the next post.

Step Six: The Spiritual Community

Today we continue with Step 6 in the series: Ten Practical Steps For Planting New Churches,” written by Rev. Manuel Molina Flores.

How to create home cell groups or Bible study groups.

Generally we begin a church with a family that offers itself to Christ.  They offer their home to begin Bible studies, and then we invite other converts or contacts to attend one day a week.  The church planter or pastor directs the study. In that way we can open several homes or cell groups led by new converts.  These cell groups eventually join to give birth to the new church.

The goal is to create cell groups that promote a spiritual identity for each member and promote mutual ministries under the care of a spiritual leader or pastor. Discipleship focuses on developing the habits of a disciplined Christian life.  The spiritual community promotes the formation of identity and family responsibility through the practice of mutual ministry.

Specific activities will vary based on the needs and interests of the group.  They can include worship, Bible study, fellowship activities, etc.  There should always be chances to share victories, defeats, challenges and tests, and then an opportunity to pray for each other. There should also be a challenge for the members of the group to serve one another.  These meetings also serve as an opportunity to evaluate the spiritual health of the members. 

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From the beginning, insist on local leadership

Creating cell groups depends on discovering potential leaders (or the leaders of families).  As church planters, we should avoid the trap of organizing these groups around ourselves. We must motivate and empower leaders from the group itself.  Church planters should invest their time in preparing the leaders.

The main characteristics of a spiritual leader are:

  • An authentic spiritual life. He or she is growing spiritually and has something that is worthy of being imitated and shared.
  • Deeply loves the people. He or she is concerned with and involved in the needs and interests of the other believers.
  • Creates a sense of belonging. He or she encourages others so they feel part of the group.
  • Mobilizes others for service. He or she can motivate others to become actively involved in mutual ministry.

If our vision is that the new church grows through the Bible study or cell groups, we must send potential leaders to form those groups. (Keeping them “in their seats” without sending them out will mean the work will be centered only on the initial group.)

  1. Pray that God will raise leaders from among those who are actively following the Christian disciplines of growth. Try to identify the potential spiritual leaders within those who show love and who actively encourage others to grow in their spiritual life.
  2. Begin to meet with potential leaders; help them to develop and have a clear image of the concepts of identity, spiritual community and ministry responsibility. Practice the activities with them they will need to start a new church.
  3. Potential leaders should begin actively seeking those who they want to include in the new cell group they are trying to form. Resist the temptation to intervene in this stage. The leader will have the responsibility to maintain the cell group, and he or she should be the one who forms the cell group.

***We’ll move to Step 7 in the next post.