4 Groups in EVERY Church

Through the years, I served as a pastor of a small mission church in an eastern Kentucky coal camp, a community church in the middle of the Hatfield-McCoy feud area, a county-seat church south of Cincinnati, and a regional church near Louisville. In all of these churches, the four groups identified by Dr. Gary L. McIntosh in his book There’s Hope for Your Church existed. All of these groups demand attention from the pastor, but a wise pastor will use his relational time strategically. A pastor only has a certain amount of time and energy to invest–often church revitalization hinges on which group gains his focus.

. . . church revitalization hinges on which group gains his focus!

4 GROUPS IN YOUR CHURCH

1. VIP’s – Very Important People:  Of course, everyone is important to the Lord, but this group is made up of church leaders who already share the vision of the pastor and will help bring about revitalization in the church ministry. If they are not already in key ministry positions in the church, the pastor seeking to bring about church renewal should work to place them in those positions as quickly as possible.

2. VTP’s – Very Trainable People:  Some people are not ready for leadership, but they show potential. They are the people the pastor should mentor each week and the people with whom he should share his vision.

3. VNP’s – Very Nice People:  The people in the third group are not current leaders in the church and will likely never be leaders in the future. They are loyal to the pastor and share the vision the Lord has given him for the church. They do not cause trouble and are generally supportive of all of the ministries of the church.

4. VDP’s – Very Draining People:  The last designation by McIntosh is a group of people who will be a barrier to church revitalization. They will often cause great pain to those who want to improve the vitality of the church.

If we desire to be a revitalization-minded pastor, we must decide where to invest our time. The natural tendency is to spend the majority of our time with the VDP’s because they want to be heard, but that is rarely productive. Instead, we should invest our time with the VIP’s and the VTP’s which will produce the most fruit towards church revitalization.

For more information about Church Revitalization, see the following posts:

Please contact me at the Kentucky Baptist Convention if we can help your church in any way.

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4 Marks of a PERFECT Church Member

The truth is–there is no perfect church member, so what is the target? How would we describe an ideal church member? Does the Bible give us any direction?

In the book of 2 Timothy, the Apostle Paul writes about a man named Onesiphorus. This man was a member of the church of Ephesus who made the long journey to minister to Paul when he was being held in the Mamertine prison in Rome. Paul shares several positive traits from the life of Onesiphorus that every church member should model.

4 Marks of An Ideal Church Member

1. He was a refresher. Paul said that Onesiphorus “often refreshed” him (2 Tim. 1:16). Every pastor and church could benefit from church members like that–men and women who are positive and encouraging. It’s very common to see the opposite, but this man refreshed Paul in Ephesus and in Rome.

2. He was loyal. We know from the Bible that many people deserted Paul when persecution accelerated. Among those were Phygelus, Hermogenes, Demas, and Alexander the metal worker. According to the Bible, Onesiphorus “was not ashamed” of Paul’s chains and the fact that he was in prison (2 Tim. 1:16). He stood with Paul in Ephesus when it was popular to do so and he stood with Paul in Rome when it was unpopular and dangerous to do so! Don’t you just love people like that? When the chips are down; they’re still around!

When the chips are down; they’re still around!

 3. He was diligent. It was difficult for Onesiphorus to locate Paul in the city of Rome since he was being held in a damp, dark cell. But, he “searched hard” for the Apostle until he located him (2 Tim. 1:17). He showed great diligence. Churches need members who are diligent to the task(s) to which God has called them.

4. He was a helper. Paul said to the Christians in Ephesus “You know very well in how many ways he (Onesiphorus) helped me in Ephesus” (2 Tim. 1:18). I’m not sure there could be a better title than “helper.” I would love someone to say about me, “you know how many ways that Steve Rice helped me.” May God give us more churches who are filled with “helpers.”

PRAYER: “Lord, help each of us to be ideal church members. Help us to be refreshers, help us to be loyal, help us to be diligent, and help us to be helpers. Lord, we ask this for the betterment of Your Church and for Your glory! Amen.”

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Old-Fashioned Church

Amish.2 A while back our  Church Consulting & Revitalization Team held a planning retreat in the Southern Indiana Amish country. Although I do not agree with much of the spiritual theology of the Amish, I have always respected them for their commitment to the “old-fashioned ways.” I believe that the modern church should strive to be old-fashioned in certain areas.

Don’t get me wrong, I love technology and would not want to give up my iPhone, iPod, iPad, GPS running watch, or any other smart device. I also love a lot of the new music being written for the church today. I prefer indoor plumbing over outhouses, air-conditioning over funeral home fans, and padded pews over pews that make your body go numb, but old-fashioned is still sometimes preferred.

An old-fashioned church is a church fashioned after the Book of Acts!

So, where should the modern church be old-fashioned and what is an old-fashioned church? An old-fashioned church is a church fashioned after the Book of Acts. It is a church with the same priorities of the early church. It is a church that, at it’s core, has the same purpose and focus of the church in the 2nd chapter of Acts.

Characteristics of an Old-Fashioned Church

   42  And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. 43  Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. 44  Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, 45  and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. 46  So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, 47  praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved. Acts 2:42-47 (NKJV)

1.  Doctrine. The church “continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine” (Vs. 42). Several translations choose the word “teaching” instead of the word “doctrine,” but they can be used interchangeably. The apostles taught the people the Word of God. An old-fashioned church focuses on teaching God’s Word accurately, consistently, and thoroughly. The apostles knew that it matters what you believe, so they led the people to believe God’s Word and sought to teach how Jesus the Messiah was revealed throughout the Old Testament.

2.  Fellowship. The word koinonia in the original language was used several times by the Apostle Paul, but Luke used it only once in Acts 2. The word is usually translated “fellowship” and it indicates that the early believers had an uniquely close relationship because of their connection through the Gospel. Their “fellowship” served as a witness to the world that something was different about them that greatly affected their relationships.

3.  Obedience. The early church continued in “the breaking of bread” (Vs. 42).  Many commentaries believe this included observing the Lord’s Supper together. Although the Passover meal was a long-standing Jewish tradition, connecting the symbols of the bread and juice to the body and blood of Jesus was new. Jesus told the apostles to continue the practice so they obeyed this new command.

I fear that many churches today do not possess these first three Biblical characteristics. Instead of teaching doctrine, they teach the opinions of man or woman. Instead of experiencing fellowship, they experience conflict and division. Instead of obeying all the applicable commands of the Word of God, they pick and choose the preferable commands that best fit their compromising lifestyle. Is it any wonder that many modern churches are not experiencing a mighty move of God’s Spirit like the churches in the Book of Acts? May God help us possess the characteristics of an old-fashioned church.

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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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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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Revitalization Pastors – Part Two

Weights
In the post, Revitalization Pastors – Part One, we looked at the first 5 characteristics possessed by pastors who lead churches to experience significant revitalization and health.  In this post, we will look at 5 additional characteristics.  These 10 characteristics are listed in random order and all are equally important.

10 CHARACTERISTICS OF A REVITALIZATION PASTOR

6.  Revitalization pastors demonstrate dependence on God.  This should not surprise anyone!  The Scriptures clearly teach our need for the Holy Spirit’s power in our lives.  Revitalization pastors seem to understand this fully because they consistently spend time with God in Bible reading and prayer, they often cry out to God for His blessing on the ministries of the church, and they lead the church to give God the glory when they experience a spiritual “win” as a congregation.

7.  Revitalization pastors are Lifetime Learners.  You’ve heard the saying “leaders are learners.”  We would add the saying “revitalization pastors are readers.”  Even those who are not avid readers find other ways to learn.  They often listen to other pastor’s sermons, attend conferences, participate in state convention growth opportunities, and meet with other pastors to learn best practices.

8.  Revitalization pastors develop leaders and laborers in the church.  Revitalization pastors agree with the Apostle Paul that one of the main roles of a pastor is “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12, ESV).  As a result, they develop a leadership development strategy for the church, regularly delegate ministry responsibilities to trusted people, and personally mentor a group of men in the congregation.

9.  Revitalization pastors lead the church to celebrate wins.  They celebrate wins by showing appreciation to church volunteers who serve faithfully.  They sometimes ask for testimonies of where people recently saw God at work.  They regularly focus on positive things that happen in the life of the church.

10.  Revitalization pastors lead the church to implement change.  Revitalization pastors spent time thoroughly explaining the reason behind a needed change and invested extra time with people who were slow to accept a needed change.  They bathed proposed changes in significant prayer and resisted moving too quickly when making a major change.

We discovered that revitalization pastors come in all shapes and sizes, but they share these characteristics.  We also discovered that there is a desperate need for Godly leadership in the local church.  It is not enough for a pastor to develop a vision for revitalization, but he must LEAD the people to fulfill that vision.  In many cases, it takes years to see stagnant churches become vibrant and healthy, so revitalization pastors tend to have longer tenures.  Many studies show a relationship between pastoral tenure and church health.

Here’s a survey that will help you determine how well you are doing as a Revitalization Pastor.

 

 

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Revitalization Pastors – Part One

Drinking Water
The Executive Director of the Kentucky Baptist Convention, Dr. Paul Chitwood, developed a structure that allows us to place a strong emphasis on church revitalization by creating a team called the Church Consulting & Revitalization Team.  On our 21-member team there are six men who serve as Regional Consultants.   They live in the region assigned to them and work directly with pastors, churches, church workers, Directors of Missions, and local associations.

Over the last four years, they noticed that pastors who had successfully led their churches to experience revitalization possessed consistent characteristics. In the next two posts, I’m going to look at those characteristics.  The list only scratches the surface, but these ten characteristics stand out to our consultants.

10 CHARACTERISTICS OF A REVITALIZATION PASTOR

1.  Revitalization pastors lean into conflict.  Some pastors avoid conflict at all costs.  They may develop a brilliant, God-given vision for the future of the church, but they scrap it just as soon as one or two people are critical.  Revitalization pastors do not necessarily like conflict, but they are willing to face it in order to fulfill the God-given vision.

2.  Revitalization pastors are willing to take risks.  It’s risky to help a church understand that they are being ineffective.  It’s rarely pleasant to confront difficult people or to seek restoration of a broken relationship, but revitalization pastors do what’s right instead of merely doing what’s easy and convenient.

3.  Revitalization pastors work hard on church relationships.  As a child, most of us learned the little hand visual that accompanied the saying “here is the church, here is the steeple, open the door and here are the people.”  As adults, we know that the symbolism is lacking because the church is not a building; the church IS the people.  Revitalization pastors understand that building a church means building people.

4.  Revitalization pastors take the lead in evangelism.  A church cannot be revitalized without reaching new people with the Gospel.  A revitalization pastor places emphasis on evangelism and leads by example in this area.  Methods of evangelism vary from church to church and community to community, but churches experiencing revitalization are making new converts for Christ.

5.  Revitalization pastors lead with a vision.  Visions are sometimes written, sometimes spoken, and sometimes written and spoken!  Revitalization pastors have a God-given vision for the church’s future and they share it regularly with the church.

Here’s a survey that will help you determine how well you are doing as a Revitalization Pastor. For more information please contact me.

Here’s a link to Part Two.

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