5 Questions for Churches that Are “Stuck in the Mud”

As a boy growing up in Eastern Kentucky, my brother and I rode bicycles and later motorcycles in the mountains a lot.  Occasionally we would get bogged down in a muddy area and get stuck.  Regardless of what we seemed to do, we weren’t going anywhere.  At that point, we had to try something different in order to get unstuck.  Sometimes a simple push would do the job, but one time we had to hook a rope to my motorcycle and pull it out with a truck.  The goal was always to get unstuck, so we could keep using the bicycles and motorcycles for their intended purpose–speeding along the trails.

Studies indicate that 75% of churches in Kentucky and 80-85% nationwide are “stuck” (plateaued) or “sinking” (declining).  Not surprisingly, 55,000 churches will close their doors between 2005-2020.

One of the things we are discovering as we visit churches across our state is that the churches that are “stuck in the mud” usually do not have a plan of ministry and those that have “traction” do have a ministry plan!  Here are some questions that will help as you think about a ministry plan.

5 Questions to Ask if Your Church is Stuck

1.  Does your church have a ministry plan?  You know the saying, “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail!”  Also, “if you aim at nothing, you’re probably going to hit it.”  A ministry plan does not have to be elaborate or complicated, but a Biblical plan that can be understood and followed can be the KEY to moving a church forward.

2.  Does your plan have a leader?  The senior or lead pastor is the key person in developing and communicating the ministry plan.  He is not the only person who is important to the process, but he is vital for success.  John C. Maxwell says that anyone can steer the boat, but it takes a leader to chart the course.”

3.  Does the staff know the plan?  Many church staffs are working hard, but they’re not working together–not working in the same direction.  In order to move a church forward, the staff must be moving in the same direction.  The staff must plan the work and work the plan–the same plan!

4.  Do the members know the plan?  It is common for the ministry plan to be lost between the staff and the pew.  The plan must be communicated over and over, again and again.

5.  Does the plan shape our decisions and ministries?  Sometimes the most difficult question is not what do we do, it is what do we no longer do?  “Churches tend to function day-to-day, week-to-week, month-to-month, and year-to-year doing pretty much the same things.  They assume that existing ministries continue to be sufficient for today’s needs and tomorrow’s opportunities”  (Gary L. McIntosh).  Being busy is not enough!  We must not just do good things; we must do God’s things, i.e., the ministries to which God has called us!

Let me know if I or one of my consultants can help you in any way as you strive to get your church unstuck!  You can reach me by email or at (502) 489-3571 or toll-free at (866) 489-3571.

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5 Ways to Follow-up

The KEY to all guest follow-up at church is to obtain the contact information of the guest, but what do we do with the information the following week? Here are a few suggestions that I have practiced during the years.

5 Ways to Follow-up with Guest Contact Information

1. Send a personalized email (Monday). Send an email on Monday just after lunch. Make sure to personalize the email as much as possible by using the name of the guest throughout and by mentioning something you talked about if you met in person at the service. Jot down a quick note after talking to a guest at the weekend service, so you can remember it in the Monday email.

2. Send a handwritten note with a gift (Wednesday). Write a brief note and mail it on Wednesday, so the guest will receive it on Thursday or Friday. Include a $5.00 gift card from your local ice cream shop as a special treat. There is something special about receiving a handwritten note since very few people write them in today’s fast-paced world.

3. Invite them to attend again. Make sure that you personally invite them to attend again the following weekend or a weekend in the near future. Do that in both the email and the personalized note. Say something like “John, again, I’m so glad you attended this past weekend and I want to personally invite you attend again real soon.”

4. Make a personal visit. Depending on the culture, a personal visit can be a good practice. Make it a doorstep visit and drop off a nice church information packet. As always, be sure to invite them to attend again real soon.

5. Remember their name next time they attend. This is hard work, but it can be accomplished with good organization. Make a list of the guests who shared their contact information along with the weekend they attended. Carry this on your phone or in your Bible. Look over the list often and memorize as many of the names as possible. Utilize the list when needed without letting the guest know that you are doing so.

For more posts on similar topics, also see:

Six Keys to Obtaining Guest Information

Churches and Car Dealerships

4 Things That Should Happen In the First 7 Minutes

7 Minutes and Counting

 

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5 Keys to Begin Making Disciples

Have you ever discipled someone one-on-one?  1-2-1 discipleship is arguably the most effective discipleship method.  If you are interested in this approach, here are 5 things to consider as you get started:

  1. Pray that God will lead you to the person He wants you to disciple.  I cannot overemphasize the importance of prayer in this whole process, so focus the process toward prayer from the very beginning.  God will match you with the person He wants you to disciple.
  2. Start by being a friend with that person (man to man, woman to woman).   By nature, this method works through relationships.  If God leads you to a person with whom you do not have an established relationship, take time to build a friendship before proceeding.  Don’t rush this step! For obvious reasons, this method works best man to man or woman to woman.
  3. Read a book together.  One great way to add structure to this approach is by reading a book together.  You can choose a book of the Bible or a good Christian book to read and discuss.
  4. Suggest classes at church.  When helpful discipleship classes are offered at church, encourage your friend to attend.  Better yet, attend a class or conference together and discuss the material during your 1-2-1 meetings.
  5. Model Christ to them in real life.  Involve your friend in your life and model Christ in your day-to-day living.

Prayer: “God, stir our hearts and help us to get real about your command to make disciples!  Lord, teach us that we cannot personally disciple everyone, but we can disciple someone.  Lead us to that person and give us the courage to get started for Your glory.”

For more posts on this topic, also see:

5 Reasons to Disciple One-On-One

The Skinny on Spiritual Growth

Grow Up

Make A List

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6 Keys to Obtaining Guest Contact Info

There is one KEY ingredient for effective follow-up to take place–you must get the CONTACT INFORMATION of your guests! The only way for an effective follow-up system to work is to have a way to communicate with guests the following week. Here are some tips for obtaining the contact information from your guests.

How to Obtain Guest Contact Info

1.  Guest parking. Save the best, most visible parking spots for guests. The guest parking spots should be near the desired guest entrance and parking lot greeters should be near the area where guests park. Making a good first impression in the parking lot relaxes guests and increases the likelihood that they will share their contact information when asked to do so.

2. Utilize good greeters. Every church should utilize a greeter team. Although the church may not need parking lot greeters in order to park cars, their presence is still vital. They can cheerfully greet guests and members as well as answer questions as folks are entering the facility. Greeters should be stationed at every outside entrance and greeters or ushers should be placed at all the entrances into the worship facility. If the building is large, greeters should be scattered throughout areas of the building as well.

3. Use a connection card in the worship guide. There are lots of ways to obtain guest contact information, but one of the best ways is to insert a connection card in the worship guide. A card that is attached to the worship guide is good, but it is noisy when someone tears off the perforated portion. Some guests are hesitant to tear off the card because they do not want to attract attention. When inserted in the worship guide, the connection card should be placed on fairly thick paper. Cards can be printed three-to-a-page on standard 8.5 x 11-inch 70-lb. paper. 70-lb. paper is better than the thickest 110-lb. card-stock because it will not fall out of the worship guide as easily. It is also good to have connection cards on the back of the pews or seats in case some guests do not get a copy of the worship guide as they enter the worship service.

4. Ask for less; get more. Most people ask for TOO MUCH INFORMATION on the connection card. As a result, guests avoid filling out the card altogether and follow-up does not take place. Ask for basic contact information such as name, address, email, best phone number, etc. Generally, when you ask for less information, you will get a higher rate of return from your guests. It’s better to receive less information from your guest than to receive none at all.

5. Recruit the right person to extend the welcome. In many cases, guests are never even acknowledged during the worship service. Of course, they should never be singled out or embarrassed, but it is helpful to acknowledge them and to thank them for coming. The church should recruit a genuinely friendly person who is able to communicate in a comfortable, relaxed manner. Many times the best person for this role is someone other than a staff member. At some point during the service, this person can verbally welcome guests and ask them to complete the connection card. Encourage the guest to drop the completed connection card in the offering plate as it passes or to hand their card to an usher after the service. It is best if the offering is taken up at the end of the service, so guests will have more time to gain confidence in the church leadership and more time to complete the information.

6. Offer a gift to those who complete the connection card. It is often helpful to offer a gift to those who complete the connection card. One effective approach is to place copies of a small Christian book on tables by the exits in the worship center. During the welcome time, guests can be told to pick up a copy of the book as they exit the service as a gift for completing the connection card. The church should place a generous supply of books and allow guests to take them on their own. That approach seems to say “since you are trusting us with your contact information we are trusting you with our stack of books.” The church demonstrates a generous spirit with this approach. Be sure to hide a letter inside each book that thanks the guest for coming and invites them to attend again in the near future.

These are not the only ways to obtain contact information from guests, but keep it mind, you MUST get the contact information from your guests in order to follow-up. For more information along these lines, check out the following posts:

Churches Are Too Much Like Car Dealerships

The Chick-fil-A Church

The 3-minute Rule

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4 Keys to Leadership

During my reading over the last few years, I have read dozens of books on leadership. Allow me to summarize four leadership keys that stand out to me from those books.

1. Leaders are born AND made. Leadership is defined as “the ability to influence others.” Leaders can lead people for noble purposes or for evil purposes. The question often comes up, “Are you born a leader or do you learn to be a leader?” The answer to the question is “yes” and “yes.” Some people are born with natural leadership abilities, but leadership can be learned as well.

2. Jesus was a servant leader. People will follow leaders who do not ask their followers to do something that they would not do. By serving others as leaders, we earn the right to lead. People “vest” us with true authority as a result of our service to them.

“The greatest among you will be your servant.” Matthew 23:11

3. Integrity is imperative. The real test of leaders is in their private life. Image is what people think we are; integrity is what we really are! Leaders need to be people of integrity—honest, genuine, consistent, and transparent. They need to have strong spiritual disciplines in the areas of Bible study, prayer, and church attendance.

4. Leaders need to carefully guard their time. Elton Trueblood wrote, “A public man, though he is necessarily available at many times, must learn to hide. If he is always available, he is not worth enough when he is available.” Gordon MacDonald asked one of the most profound questions a leader must face, “Are we going to order our inner worlds so that they will create influence on the outer world? Or will we neglect our private worlds and thus permit the outer sphere to shape us?” This is the choice we have to make every day of our lives. That’s what Paul seemed to say in Romans 12:2.

“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this [outer] world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Romans 12:2 (NIV)

“Don’t let the world squeeze you into its mold.” Romans 12:2 (Phillips)

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You Can Learn A Lot From Hiking

Laura and I have recently become interested in hiking. We don’t plan to thru-hike the Appalachian or the Pacific Crest trail anytime soon–we mainly focus on day hiking. As a result, we enjoy the trail with very little planning and minimal cost. I’ve noticed that there are a lot of similarities between hiking and everyday life.

4 Hiking Lessons

  1. Good equipment helps. Good hiking shoes, trekking poles, and backpacks make hiking more enjoyable and hikers more proficient. Likewise equipping ourselves as pastors, disciples, church members, and/or parents makes all the difference. We don’t know what we don’t know, so it helps to be equipped with new knowledge and abilities.
  2. Sometimes you hike uphill. We love trails that have lots of climbing. We seek them out when we plan. It’s great exercise to make your way up a long, challenging climb. It’s so rewarding when you reach the top. Life often seems like a long, challenging climb. Christians are not exempt from difficulty. Those difficult life moments often shape us into better people and mold us into more dedicated Christians.
  3. Sometimes you hike downhill. Trails that go up eventually come down. Going downhill is easier, but not without challenge. You can easily lose your footing because you are moving faster and with little resistance. Going downhill can lead to a lack of concentration and focus which usually ends poorly. Life is a lot like going downhill. When things are going well and success seems easy we often make quick and uninformed decisions that cause us to fall. “Downhill” makes us feel invincible which leads to decisions laced with arrogance. Solomon warned us that “Pride comes before destruction and an arrogant spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18, HCSB).
  4. You can do more than you think. Now that we are hikers, we’ve climbed hills we never imagined that we could. Slowly, steadily, step after step–eventually we reach the top! I’ve watched several YouTube channels of men and women who thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail. When they finished the 2,181-mile trek, they were amazed they covered the entire distance on foot. One guy said, “It blows my mind to think that I just walked from Georgia to Maine!” We should dream big and shoot high in life and in Christ! Through Him and over time we can do more than we could ever imagine (Phil 4:13).
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Leading a High-Powered Team

I am fortunate to lead the Church Consulting & Revitalization Team at the Kentucky Baptist Convention. This team consists of a group of multi-talented over-achievers to say the least. Several team members hold earned doctorates, some have published books, but all are viewed as experts in certain areas of church life.

So, how do you lead a team like this? Let me first say that there is no one correct way. Several methods could prove successful, but here’s my approach.

4 Keys to Leading a High-Powered Team

1. Be yourself. In order to lead a team like ours, I must be comfortable in my own skin! I can’t try to match up to the superstars on the team. I just need to be who God made me to be. Team members of this caliber will see through a fake leader in a heartbeat! Personally, I am a relational guy. As a result, I lead through relationships instead of through authority. If I need to show authority I am willing to do so, but it’s not the approach that fits my personally. Rarely do high-powered team members need to be shown authority. They work hard and show respect because that’s who they are and that’s how they have reached their current level of success.

2. Let team members be themselves. When I’m comfortable being who God made me to be it helps team members to be comfortable with who God made them to me. Each member of our team is different……unique…..uniquely gifted. I try to get to know them and meet them where they are. Of course, I don’t have different expectations or requirements–there must be consistency in certain areas, but I give each member space to approach their work in a way that matches them.

3. Stay out of the spotlight. I’ve heard it said that a leader “shares” the spotlight. My approach is to “stay completely out of” the spotlight when possible. Instead, I try to spotlight our team members. Why would I need to be in the spotlight when I have a team of superstars? Why would I want to do that when I desire to model a team core value of teamwork and putting others first? Certainly there are times when the team leader has to be up front, but I limit those times as much as possible. As often as I can, I try to put others in the spotlight and on the microphone.

4. Be honest. Even superstars need feedback, coaching, and occasional correction. Typically, it’s “big picture” coaching. An NBA superstar like Kevin Durant doesn’t need to be coached on his shot follow-through, but he does need coaching on how he fits into the overall team strategy. He needs to know the objective and the strategy for success. I try to be as honest as possible with team members and of course I reserve individual corrections for private settings. I have found that my team members are very open to suggestions on how they can be more effective. I also seek their input on how I can be more effective as well.

 

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