I Am A Church Member (Thom S. Rainer)

Church MemberThe last few months I have been serving as the interim pastor of one of our fine Kentucky Baptist Convention churches.  I celebrate that the church recently called a sharp, young pastor who will lead them well in the coming years.

My last four Sunday messages I am choosing to preach through the passages and main points that Dr. Thom S. Rainer makes in his helpful new book, I Am A Church Member.  In his book, Rainer revisits the Biblical responsibilities of those who are privileged to be members of a local church.  He encourages each church member to make the following five pledges:

  1. I will be a functioning church member.
  2. I will be a unifying church member.
  3. I will not let my church be about my preferences and desires.
  4. I will pray for my church leaders.
  5. I will lead my family to be healthy church members.
  6. I will treasure church membership as a gift.

Here’s a little sample from page 6 of Rainer’s book:

“God did not give us local churches to become country clubs where membership means we have privileges and perks.  He places us in churches to serve, to care for others, to pray for leaders, to learn, to teach, to give, and, in some cases, to die for the sake of the Gospel….Many churches are weak because we have members who have turned the meaning of membership upside down.  It’s time to get it right.  It’s time to become a church member as God intended.  It’s time to give instead of being entitled.”

Pick up a copy of this book today!  As a matter of fact, pick up several copies.  They can be purchased from your Lifeway Store for $5 each when purchased in multiples of 20.  May the Lord use this timely book to renew our understanding of and commitment to God’s local church!

4 Things That Should Happen in the First 7 Minutes in Our Churches Each Sunday

FourToday, as I continue discussing Nelson Searcy’s book Fusion: Turning First-Time Guests into Fully-Engaged Members of Your Church, I will look at the 7-minute, pre-service period when first-time guests decide if they will return for a second visit. Searcy refers to this time as the time “from the street to the seat.” This is the time before the service even begins. Searcy says “Your pre-service mission is to make every effort to take your guests’ guard down and even put a smile on their face–before the service begins.

4 THINGS IN THE FIRST 7 MINUTES

  • GREETED: Welcomed with a smile. Searcy says we should memorize the sentence “everything speaks to first-time guests–everything.” He says we should strive for excellence and he defines excellence as “doing the best you can with what you’ve got.” Journey Church discovered from their surveys of first-time guests that one of the things they noticed and appreciated most were the smiling faces and the warm welcome as they entered the building. NEVER UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF A SMILE!
  • DIRECTED: Simply and politely shown to where they need to go. Guests should be directed either by a sign or a volunteer–preferably by both. When it comes to first-time guests, Searcy said the real estate axiom “location, location, location” should be replaced by “signs, signs, signs.” Searcy says that signs are the single best way to ensure that guests can find what they need. I strongly agree, but I think a church can overdo it in this area. You can get so many signs that none of the signs stand out. Having said that, I’ve only seen a couple of churches that had too many signs.
  • TREATED: Shown respect, and happily surprised with comfort food and a drink. Searcy says, “first-time guests want to feel respected and welcomed. They want to know that you are happy they’re there and that you are serious about making sure they have a good experience.” One of the best ways to convey that message is through food, but it should be well done. Searcy says, “Don’t skimp on food. This is not the area to try to save a nickel. Don’t halve foods to make them stretch. Don’t glare at the person who takes three donuts. Good food lets your guests know that you care enough to offer them something for free that will meet a need.” Provide a good, quality coffee with flavored creamers and large cups. Provide juice, bottled water, and a high quality donut. Some may also want to provide bagels and other alternatives.
  • SEATED: Led to comfortable, appropriate seats. If possible, guests should be led to a seat. It is often very awkward when they try to find a seat on their own. The usher will feel comfortable asking someone to slide over, but the first-time guests usually will not do so. Guests typically are among the last to enter. As a result, it is more difficult for them to find seats on their own. A great usher can strategically seat guests in sections that have people their age.

By the way, be sure to buy Searcy’s book, Fusion. We are only touching the highlights here, so you will want to read it from cover to cover. Here are a few of my other posts on similar topics.

7 Minutes and Counting

Stop-WatchToday, we continue talking about Nelson Searcy’s book Fusion: Turning First-Time Guests into Fully-Engaged Members of Your Church. Searcy titled chapter 3, Seven Minutes and Counting. In the chapter, he talked the importance of what happens to first-time guests during the first 7 minutes of their visit. He wrote,

 

Seven minutes is all you get to make a positive first impression. In the first 7 minutes of contact with your church, your first-time guests will know whether or not they are coming back. That’s before a single worship song is sung and before a single word of the message is uttered.

Common sense tells us that we never get a second chance to make a first impression, and unfortunately, first impressions are usually lasting impressions. If Searcy is correct in saying that guests are deciding whether they are coming back in the first 7 minutes, then the question becomes, “what’s actually being judged?”

Are they judging the building, the landscaping, the parking lot, the church sign, the entrance area, the lobby, the parking lot greeters, the door greeters, the bulletin? The simple answer is “YES“! They probably judge all those things, but keep in mind, they decide if they are coming back before they sing the first song or hear a word of the sermon.

As pastors, we usually spend a large portion of our week planning the worship service and preparing the message without being proactive in this important area. We should continue our practice of sermon preparation, but we should also give thought, time, and attention to helping our guests have a great first impression. As pastors, we should take the lead in this area.

In my next post, I will look at the 7-minute, first impression time Searcy refers to as the time “from the street to the seat.” Here are my other posts along these lines.

Churches Can Be Happy, Happy, Happy

Duck DynastyEvery time I watch Duck Dynasty I go away with a smile.  I’m encouraged, challenged, and sometimes emotionally moved.  In short, I go away happy, happy, happy.  Why can’t our churches be that way?  If our Baptist churches were a little more happy, I suspect that 75% of them wouldn’t be declining or on a long plateau.

Now, don’t misunderstand, I’m not talking about the heresy of prosperity theology that is expounded from so many mega pulpits today.  I’m simply talking about preaching the truth of the Bible in love and in the joy of the Lord.  Biblically, the Greek word for joy is the word chara.  The word occurs 59 times in the Word of God and is generally translated “joy” throughout.  Joy is not something that is derived from the world; joy comes from Jesus.

In a recent post at Thomrainer.com, Dr. Thom S. Rainer shared Nine Traits of Happy Churches.  Here’s Dr. Rainer’s list:

  1. The pastor was a strong leader, but not an autocratic leader. He was able to maintain that healthy balance of providing clarity of vision without imposing his will on every decision.
  2. The pastor regularly demonstrated and affirmed love for the congregation. In both his actions and his words, the pastor communicated clearly that he loved the members of the church. And he loved them regardless of their apparent feelings toward him, though most of the members genuinely loved the pastor as well.
  3. The pastor regularly demonstrated and affirmed love for the community where the church was located. Though he could not be omnipresent, the pastor made it a point to be involved in many of the affairs of the community. He genuinely loved people in the community and viewed the entire area as his mission field.
  4. The ministry staff liked each other, and they worked well together. If there are tensions among the staff, they cannot be hidden from the congregation. But if the staff is unified and banter in fun with one another, the members feed off that joy and unity.
  5. A high proportion of the membership was actively involved in ministry. When church members are doing the work of ministry, they have a sense of fulfillment and joy. When they aren’t, they often have extra time on their hands to be divisive.
  6. Business meetings were brief and friendly. These meetings were rarely a time of infighting and complaining. To the contrary, most of the members were too busy doing ministry to be negative (see #5).
  7. A high proportion of the members were in a small group or Sunday school class. Community grew in these small groups. People who are true members of a community tend to be happier people.
  8. The pastor’s time in the Word was protected. It is easy for a pastor to yield his time in the Word for the tyranny of the urgent. Thus he becomes frustrated, as he has to rush to complete a sermon, or as he does not have sufficient time to do the sermon well. The members likewise become frustrated because they don’t feel like the pastor is feeding them. A happy church makes certain that the pastor has adequate time every week to be in the Word.
  9. The pastor had a small informal or formal group to whom he was accountable. This group includes those members who clearly love the pastor. They offer both encouragement and accountability for him. The interchange between this group and the pastor is frank, transparent and, overall, healthy. And all communications take place on an unmistakable foundation of love.

If churches truly want to experience revitalization, this list should be reviewed from time to time.  Keep in mind, this IS NOT a formula for church revitalization, but let’s be honest, it sure couldn’t hurt!  People are much more likely to “tune in” to a church that is happy, happy, happy!