Why Young Adults Don’t Attend Your Church

I used to visit a restaurant that had two separate dining areas, one slightly larger than the other. The larger dining area was always where I sat to eat, even though I had to walk right by the smaller dining area to get there. To be honest, it never occurred to me that I could sit in there if I wanted to. The reason was quite simple. It was where all the ‘regulars’ sat, who were also all much older than me. There was sort of an ‘exclusive club’ feel to the place. Everything about that space screamed, “Private Party” even though it wasn’t.

Sadly, our churches often send this same message to the younger generations, without even realizing it.

Let’s split up the ‘younger generation’ demographic into two categories, those (1) not interested in God and those (2) interested in or pursuing God, and focus on the latter group. It’s not hard to miss these people in our churches today, especially in the small to mid-sized churches. 

Why aren’t they attending more of our churches? 

I suspect the following 5 reasons might answer that question.

1. It feels like an insiders club.

Young people aren’t interested in learning the secret handshake so they can be part of the church. If they visit the church a few times and feel like an ‘outsider’ for very long, they’re not going to stick around. It is super important church leaders ask the question, “What (formal & informal) hoops have we created that people have to go through before they are accepted and integrated into the life of our church?”

In other words, how long will it take & what needs to happen before they are treated like family? More than any other age group, we need to be intentional about making this process simple, both practically and emotionally. 

2. It reminds them of their ‘mom & dads’ church.

I’ve heard young adults echo this phrase many times over the years. They leave the church they grew up in and find themselves at college or on their own. Eventually, they check out some churches in the area. From the moment they walk through the doors until they leave, their experience reminds them of church growing up. Only, for many of them, the Sunday morning experience growing up wasn’t for them, it was for the adults, for mom and dad. 

Although technically “adults,” many young people aren’t interested in acting like the ‘older’ adults they’ve been around their whole life. They want to express themselves as the younger generation. Churches who are actively reaching this group of people are also finding ways to enhance the Sunday morning environment to better appeal to them.

3. There is nothing interesting for them to do.

Despite the fact that young adults have a history of sitting in front of their devices, TV’s and xbox’s growing up, they don’t want to just sit around at church. They’ve grown up having a lot more freedom and control over what they get to see and do than those before them. And they are going to get bored real quick if they are forced to just do and go where everyone tells them to. They want to have a say in what’s going on and they want to do something important and interesting.

Churches who are thinking of this generation will quickly get them involved in ministry. They will encourage them to reach out to felt needs in the community. And they will provide lots of fun activities that are designed to keep young adults engaged with one another and the church family.

4. There is no one interesting to hang out with.

Many young adults who visit your church are looking for new connections. Surprisingly, not just with peers, but with people who can act as mentors and leaders in their life. That said, peers are important. Many a young person will walk in a church, scan the crowd, and determine to never return simply because there is no one else around their age. Churches that can reach a small ‘quorum’ of young adults have the beginnings of a foundation to build on, relationally.

It shouldn’t stop there. One of the best ways to truly connect to this auspicious group of people, is by inviting them into the homes and lives of your church families. I’ve never heard of a young person who turned down an invitation to dinner and who doesn’t secretly enjoy experiencing ‘family’ away from their own family.

5. Their questions are not getting answered.

Young adults hate watered down and pat answers. They have questions and they are genuinely interested in the answers. They want to know the Truth. But they have little patience for flowery speeches, big words, and long explanations. They want it simple. They want to get it. They want it fast.

Communicators need to brush up on their skills and not assume what worked ten years ago will work today. They need to know how to tell great stories and they need to be consistently asking themselves how they can connect with young adults. More than ever before, church leaders must, “be prepared in season and out of season.”


What other reasons are young people staying away from our churches?

Five Questions Every Church Must Answer

The answer to these five questions will drive what you do as a local church. They will impact the activities and programs you host. Ultimately, they will determine your effectiveness in reaching both your community and your congregation for Jesus Christ. 

1. How do we attract people to our church?

Sadly, many church leaders fail to seriously address this question. They assume people will visit the church because they see the church building and a welcome sign on the front lawn or they assume regular attendees will regularly invite people to the Sunday Service. They scratch their heads and wonder what people’s problem is. One pastor once told me that first time guests were often heard making comments like, “Your church is the best kept secret in our town!”

In Matthew 5:14-16, Jesus said, “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

Your community doesn’t need to see your building, they need to see “the light of the world” in you and your congregation. They need to see that your church is a place where transformation takes place. Where lives are changed. Where people meet the True and Living God. You need to find ways to shout from the mountain that God actually shows up at your church each week. People need to get the feeling they are missing out on something important.

What is your church’s strategy to attract people?

2. How do we assimilate guests into our church?

Of the five questions, this is what pastors ask me more than any other. It can be very frustrating to see 3-4 guests walk through the front doors every week and yet not experience growth as a church. Sometimes guests will even return for a second or third visit, but eventually they sort of just disappear and we never know what happened. What makes matters worse, they usually tell us they really enjoyed the service! We can’t help but secretly ask ourselves: Was it something I said? Did someone offend them? Are we weird and just don’t know it? Why won’t they come back?

More often than not, the problem is that church leaders and longstanding members have blinders on. They are unable to properly see the church environment through the eyes of a guest or newcomer. This is fairly normal and to be expected, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good thing. Creating a ‘guest culture’ should be high on every church’s priority list and should include finding ways to ensure guests have a positive experience and are tactfully invited to come again.

Another reason why this question is hard to answer is because we fail to properly define ‘assimilate’ when we ask it. Is it when they have visited 3 times or 6 or 8? Is it when they join a small group or get involved? Is it when they become a member? It may be different for every church, but at some point, newcomers need to feel like they are one of the ‘insiders’ at your church. We need to make that as easy as possible!

In Acts 15, Paul said, “It is my judgement, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for Gentiles who are turning to God.” In other words, we need to pay special and close attention to our new attendees as they are “turning to God.” 

What is your church’s strategy to assimilate people?

3. How do we connect people with one another in our church?

I often tell church leaders, “You can make a lot of mistakes as a church and people will keep coming if they are connected.” Certainly, the answer to this question is an important part of ‘how do we assimilate people.’ But it’s more than about just getting newcomers to stay. It’s about having a church where people truly care about one another, and show it in practical ways. A church that successfully accomplishes this doesn’t have to rely on the pastor(s) to do all the ministry in the church, because people organically minister to one another all the time. 

In today’s culture, getting people to ‘connect’ with others in the church is a LOT easier said than done. But it is a necessity if we are to go beyond the ‘superficial’ in ministry to one another. And despite the indoctrination of social media in the world, nothing will ever truly beat face to face interactions. Getting people to actually do that is a challenge some pastors have literally given up addressing. No matter how discouraging or hard it may be, we should ‘not grow weary in doing good’ and continue forward until we have discovered ways to do it for our church community.

The author of Hebrews so aptly reminds us, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” That passage isn’t just talking about the Sunday morning experience. It’s talking about small groups, medium groups, even 1 on 1 connections – all so we may “spur one another on toward love and good deeds.”

What is your church’s strategy for connecting people?

4. How do we disciple people in our church?

Any church leader who doesn’t know what the “Great Commission” is has missed his calling. It’s Christ’s final mandate to His disciples, and to each one of us. Entire sermons, series, books and even volumes of books have been given to us to explore Jesus command to us to spread the Gospel around the globe, as well as in our own communities. It’s hard to miss the four primary commands found in this passage:

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Matthew 28:19

Go. Make Disciples. Baptize. Teach.

From what I’ve seen, local churches can be all over the place on answering this question. Some of the reason may be differences in opinion or even theology. But I think the biggest difference is in intentionality. Are we doing church the way we’ve always done it, because that’s what church’s do? Or are we intentionally choosing to do {put program/activity/service here} because we really believe it will disciple people? Only you (and God) can answer that question!

Either way, discipleship should be a critical part of your church’s service to the congregation. This is going to include helping people learn how to discover God for themselves through activities like Bible reading, prayer and missions trips; teaching them Godly principles regarding evangelism, parenting, relationships, stewardship, etc.; and equipping them to overcome the world, the flesh and the devil by living a victorious life.

What is your church’s strategy for discipling people?

5. How do we engage people in our church?

An indicator of a healthy church is found in the level of involvement of the attendees in the ministries within your church and to your community. When the congregation relies almost entirely on the pastor, something is broken. The “body” has turned into a malformed entity that will never effectively serve it’s mission in the community. Last week I spoke at a small rural church that is run entirely by volunteers. It’s an active church with several great programs and activities for it’s attendees. But there is nobody on staff. They are hopeful to eventually hire a part time pastor, but in the meantime, they have discovered something powerful – when the body works together, ministry can and will happen.

Getting people involved tends to be something many church leaders talk about a lot, but struggle actually doing. The barriers they face are often complicated to completely unravel. It often seems easier to just do things themselves and rely on a few key influencers in the church to handle the rest. But this cripples the body of Christ. Paul was quite clear in 1 Corinthians that we all make up different parts of the body of Christ:

“But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.” 1 Cor. 12:18-19

Helping people find their place in the body is going to serve both the volunteer and the rest of the body. Even if people aren’t placed perfectly, the whole body will benefit and grow. That growth will bring change, which will force people to adjust what they are doing and where they serve. With good leadership and a lot of time, people will eventually drift towards their sweet spots of ministry. 

What is your church’s strategy for engaging people?

Seats on the Bus

In his book, Good to Great, Jim Collins says, “We expected that good-to-great leaders would begin by setting a new vision and strategy. We found instead that they first got the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats – and then they figured out where to drive it. The old adage, ‘People are your most important asset’ turns out to be wrong. People are not your most important asset. The right people are.”

He hit the nail on the head. Ministry is not just all about having people around doing things; it’s also about paying attention to what they are doing as well. Unfortunately, I think this ideas sort of locks many of us up. We think, “How am I supposed to find the exact right seat for everyone?” Ugh. Some of us can hardly figure out where WE fit in, much less trying to figure out which seats on the bus everyone else is supposed to fit.

MY RECOMMENDATION: START WITH SECTIONS.

What if we just started by getting people in the right section of the bus instead? Generally, we have three kinds of people in our church: Creatives, Doers & Leaders. Yes, I know. Sometimes people can be a mixture of one or more of those. But generally speaking, if we know what kind of people we’re dealing with, we can seat them where they fit best and worry about finding their exact seat as time goes on.

The back of the bus – Creatives

Everyone knows that the troublemakers like to sit in the back. If you’re sitting back there, you probably want to be far away from what’s really going on. You aren’t interested in where the bus is going right now. You just want to utilize your creativity to dream, talk, and get into just enough trouble that the bus driver doesn’t notice. 

This is where strategic thinkers and creatives sit. They are big-picture people. They like to try new things. They are sometimes critical thinkers (I didn’t say critical people!) They are the ones you want in the room when you’re dreaming about the future, evaluating how things are going and discussing creative, new things to do or ways to do them. 

These people don’t need a lot of authority to make choices, they just need a platform for their thoughts and ideas to be heard. Great leaders will gather them together to hear them out and learn from them. They also tend to be early adopters, ready to jump in with both feet when it’s time for change.

The front of the bus – Leaders

If you’re sitting at the front of the bus it’s likely because you want to be close to the action. You want to see who’s coming in and out the door. You want to talk to the bus driver. You want to see where the bus is going next and you want to play a part in how you will get there.

This is where the the leaders sit; the ones who make decisions. These are the people in your organization who will actually decide the future and direction of the church. Sometimes the Creatives & the Leaders are the same people. However, often it’s wise to have them sit in a separate section of the bus. Of course, if you’re driving a small bus (a small church/ministry) you don’t always have that luxury. 

In a perfect world, the Creatives come up with some great ideas, feedback and insights and the Leaders can then determine which one’s will work best for the bus based on it’s mission and where it’s going.

The middle of the bus – Doers

If you’re sitting in the middle of the bus you are likely in your own world. You’ve got your iPod in or your just hanging with everyone else in that section. Sometimes you like to listen in on the talk in the back of the bus and sometimes you like to sit near the front to get a feel for the action, without having to be involved. You aren’t cut out for the intensity of the back of the bus and you aren’t really super interested in where the bus is going. You just like being IN the bus.

This is where the doers sit. These are the people who will do whatever is necessary to keep the bus moving and support the vision of the leaders. They are the ones who will dig their heels in and grind out the plans you have made. Your doers don’t make a lot of decisions, and they don’t want to. They do the work based on the decisions that have already been made, and they do it well.

About Your Bus

Here are a few closing observations about how these sections work (or don’t work) in different ‘buses’ or ministries.

  • In my experience, the middle of the bus (Doers) is where the vast majority of people sit, like 90%. There are usually only a few seats in the front and a few seats in the back dedicated to Creatives and Leaders.
  • If a bus has too FEW Doers, it end up coming up with a lot of ideas/plans that never get done. Innovative ideas & new paths don’t get built. The bus doesn’t stop when it should to take on new passengers. It sometimes doesn’t get cleaned properly and needs a fresh coat of paint. You get the idea.
  • If a bus has too FEW Leaders, the bus tends to take loopy circles and gets distracted going places it doesn’t need to go. It also runs inefficiently and needs to spend a lot of time in the shop with repairs. Often, the bus looks great but is going nowhere important.
  • If a bus has too FEW Creatives it takes the path it’s always known, even when there are better paths to take. The bus stays old and eventually becomes uninteresting to prospective new passengers. 
  • The smaller the church, the more Creatives and Leaders have to double up and also be Doers. There is less of a clear demarcation between the different seats.

Four Terrible Assumptions Church Leaders Make

I was standing in the lobby of a local church talking to an unchurched first time guest. It was one of the first times he had ever visited a church and he knew nothing about God or christianity. The service had just completed and people were filtering out of the sanctuary and collecting in small groups, visiting with one another. It was a warm, friendly atmosphere. I was so glad when the pastor noticed me and came over to talk to us.

Alas, my joy was short-lived. The pastor introduced himself to my new friend and then proceeded to talk about his sermon and how important it was for “us Christians.” It was sort of an “insiders” conversation. I wanted to step on his toe or something. I wished he could read the urgency in my eyes. In desperation, I finally interrupted him and blurted out, “Pastor, I didn’t know if I mentioned this or not, but this is our friend’s first time here this morning. Did you get to meet his wife and kids yet?” I’m still unsure if the pastor got the message, but I was at least able to distract him from the unhelpful conversation and redirect it to a more safe topic. Ugh.

I happen to know this pastor has a heart of gold. He’s a great guy, a seasoned minister, and truly loves both his congregation and the people in the community. I know he has a heart for the lost.

But he has fallen into a trap. One that, unfortunately, is very easy for pastors and church leaders to stumble into. He’s forgotten that the people who sit in his congregation are not like him. He’s making several bad assumptions about the people in his church, and I’m afraid it’s potentially turning them away.

Four Terrible Assumptions Church Leaders Make:

Since I visit a lot of churches as a ‘Mystery Guest,’ I have the chance to experience their church from a very unique perspective. Following are four terrible assumptions I have seen church leaders make way too often. 

Assumption #1: Guests Know What To Do

It saddens me greatly when church leaders assume guests have experience attending churches and know what’s going on, what they are supposed to do, where they are supposed to go, etc. They forget that the church environment, one they are intimately familiar with, is a brand new environment for many guests. Even those who have, perhaps, attended church before may still be in the dark, especially if their ‘church experience’ was from a different denomination or style of church.

Imagine visiting a place that you have never visited before, where everyone but you feels at home and nobody thinks to help you get acclimated. Even better, go find that place and check it out. Perhaps your local health club or golf club, I don’t know, try the New York Stock Exchange. Visit that place and be reminded that your guests are experiencing something similar.

They don’t know what to do with their kids. They don’t know the words to the songs, and probably feel a little uncomfortable singing them. They don’t know if they are supposed to give money or take communion. And they don’t know when to stand, when to sit or what to say. At one church I visited, everybody quotes, from memory, the Lord’s Prayer and sings the Doxology every week. Your guests know neither of those things.

Assumption #2: Guests Know the Bible.

Walk up to just about any adult in America and you will discover that they know how to drive a car. It’s a given – and it’s pretty much assumed. After all, everyone we know eventually ends up behind the wheel. Sometimes we ride with them while they drive. That sense of familiarity has seeped into many churches regarding the Bible. Church leaders spend a ton of time with other people who read the Bible, understand what it’s about, and know all the stories. So it’s not that great a leap for them to assume that anyone who is in the church has Bible knowledge.

Imagine walking into an advanced physics class at your local university. Even better, go visit it sometime. Don’t tell anyone who you are or why you are there. Just let the instructor & students talk to you as if you’ve already been through the other physics courses, like everyone else. You get the picture.

You’re guests probably don’t know where to turn in the Bible, if they even own one. And it’s likely they don’t know the story of Jonah, David & Goliath, the parting of the Red Sea, the Last Supper, Pentecost and quite possibly even the story of Jesus’ death & resurrection. You learned all that as a kid in Sunday School; they didn’t. For many of your guests, the most they know about the Bible and it’s stories is from what they’ve seen at the movies. Do you really want to briefly mention Noah after they just watched Hollywood’s rendition of the story? 

Assumption #3: Guests are Christians

Perhaps one of the worst assumptions church leaders can make is that guests are already Christians. The tragedy behind this assumption is that, by making it, there is little to no room to actually open up the most important conversation that individual may ever have. When we assume someone has already discovered Christ’s love and forgiveness, we no longer think to share the Good News with them. Even worse, when we talk to unbelievers like they are already believers and part of the family, we may even give them the false impression that they are, in fact, Christ followers. They may end up attending and serving in the church for months or even years, and have never truly grasped the simple, yet profound message of the Gospel.

Imagine being invited to a football party with a bunch of people you don’t really know. What if, without being asked, everyone assumes you’re rooting for the same team as everyone else in the room? When a touchdown is made, everyone cheers and slaps five and nobody even stops to think that you aren’t rooting for that team, and maybe don’t even like football! Is it possible that our Sunday morning environment and the way we talk to and treat guests aren’t too far off from that hypothetical situation?

There is no guarantee your guests know God, or understand God. Jesus Christ may simply be a religious and historical name. Salvation? Forgiveness? A loving God? Atonement? All may be totally foreign words or concepts. The next time you shake the hand of that guest, assume nothing about their faith in God. Realize that they could be completely unchurched, or an atheist or agnostic; or to complicate matters, even possibly a Mormon, Buddhist, Muslim . . . you get the idea.

Assumption #4: Guests have it all together.

I’m convinced most Christian leaders would make terrible police officers. We have no idea how to truly profile another person. I’m pretty sure if we were sitting in the police car with an officer, watching the same people, we’d point out the nicest people as being potential criminals and totally miss those truly guilty. Sad to say, but I think a lot of church leaders look at our guests and falsely assume that, if they’re smiling, dressed well and friendly, then they are happy, well off and emotionally healthy; and if they’re scowling, dressed poorly and want to make a quick exit, then they are grumpy, in loads of debt and emotionally unstable.

Think about what you’ve gone through, personally, this year. I know you’ve faced a few challenges of your own – we all pretty much do. If this has been a good year, then go back a couple years until you hit that particularly difficult situation. Now, how many of the employees knew about your challenge at the local supermarket when you were buying milk? No. They thought you were fine. 

Philo of Alexandria once said, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.” That includes your guests. We don’t know if the battle is a recent loss, an addiction, a broken relationship, a serious illness, major debt or a lost job. Whatever it is, you aren’t going to see it when you introduce yourself and welcome them to the church. Don’t be fooled. They need the hope, love, healing, peace and forgiveness of Jesus Christ.

How about you. Which assumption are you most guilty of making?

Behind the Mixer

I hear a lot of pastors express frustration about the people behind the mixer. Evidently, getting the right mix, sound, volume, etc. is nearly impossible. I know. I was in that place for many, many years. In fact it’s what prompted me to write the following posts:

And finally, I strongly recommend you ask your sound techs (and worship leaders) to subscribe to behindthemixer.comBesides some great ongoing articles on running a mixer, there is also a section entitled, “Church Audio 101”. Check it out!

Behind-The-Mixer

www.behindthemixer.com

 photo credit: fensterbme via photopin cc

9 Reasons Why People Don’t Delegate

People chuckle when I say, “I like to delegate.” I guess it must be true. To me, delegation is part of the Ephesians 4 process of ‘preparing God’s people for works of service.’ When I can successfully release, equip & empower others to serve it seems as if I am propelling them towards their God-given purposes and calling. It helps that I can do more of what God’s called me to as well!

But I also have a very personal understanding of why we tend to procrastinate when it comes to delegating tasks, projects and leadership to others. Here are 9 reasons I can think of why we don’t delegate.

  • Not Enough Time
    It’s ironic, but true. The very thing we don’t have time to do is what will eventually give us more time. Getting started is often the hardest part. When will we find the time to recruit, train & keep track of what others are doing? Honestly, I wonder if it’s not really that we don’t have the time. Perhaps it’s simply that we haven’t made delegation a priority? Just a thought.
  • Losing Control
    When we invest a lot of time, energy & passion into a project or ministry, it can simply be real hard to let it go. Delegation requires some calculated risk-taking. It means we won’t be holding the steering wheel anymore. Which also means we won’t be able to control how things are done. Of course, when we give into this fear, what we’re really saying is that nobody can do it better than us – which probably isn’t really true. Giving up control is a basic ingredient of leadership. If you can’t do it, you’re not leading.
  • Not Getting Credit
    I don’t know anyone who doesn’t enjoy some praise every once in a while. For some of us, this is more important than others. But ultimately, this motivation is simply self-centered. If I’m not releasing others to lead, manage or ‘do’ because I’m addicted to back patting, then what I’m really saying is that I’m more important than the potential team I have sitting around me. 
  • Losing Tasks You Love
    This is a more complicated excuse for not delegating. On the one hand, I could argue that it’s self-centered to keep the tasks we love for ourselves. However, it could be that the reason you love to do them is because it’s what God has for you. I know people who have intentionally refused promotions in the workplace simply because they don’t believe the next rung in the ladder is what God has called them to do. That said, when this is the challenge we face, I believe hitting the floor and submitting the issue to God is the best solution you can find.
  • You Can Do It Better
    At the beginning, this is almost always true. It’s also probably the number one reason why we don’t delegate. Years ago, a mentor told me this. If someone else can do it 80% as well as you, it’s probably worth releasing it to them. Here’s the key: as long as I’m committed to equipping and training them, this can work. Over the years I’ve watched a lot of great people rise far above their leaders. But they rarely began that way. It didn’t happen until those leaders took the risk and let them struggle and fail at times.
  • Delegated Out of a Job
    Every once in a while our reasons might be purely due to the worry that, if I give away my responsibilities, maybe I might find myself out of a job. I have two thoughts about this. First, maybe that’s true. If so, then I can only assume that it’s for the best. If others can do what you’re doing better, then it may be time to trust the Lord’s leading for both you and where you are working. This releases you to find the place where you can shine. Second, and this is more likely to be true, if you can successfully delegate leadership to others, you will very likely prove your value to your leaders. True leaders rarely get rid of others who know how to lead. 
  • You Don’t Trust Others
    It’s a fact of life. Other people are sometimes not trustworthy. It’s very important that, when we delegate, we do so to the RIGHT people. That said, often our mistrust of others can end up crippling our leadership. We can end up ‘throwing the baby out with the bathwater’ if we’re not careful. Leaders take calculated risks. So calculate and take some risks.
  • Saying ‘No’ For Them
    In my 20+ years of ministry I’ve heard more reasons why people CAN’T do things than I have ever heard why they can. What’s ironic is that it’s not the actual person who had those reasons. It was the leadership team that was considering calling and asking them to get involved! We sit around and tell ourselves, “They’re too busy.” or “They’ve been going through a hard time.” or “They are already involved somewhere else.” When we do that, we are stripping those people from the very opportunities they may unknowingly be waiting for. Don’t say no for others, let them do it instead, if they want to.
  • You Don’t Know How
    It’s hard to recruit and delegate others. In ministry, we tend to assume that if I’m the leader or director of the ministry then I should know how to recruit others to join the team. That’s presumptuous. Businesses spend millions of dollars every year training and paying for professional communicators to promote and recruit people to their causes. I recommend you stop assuming everyone knows how to recruit & delegate and begin getting books, articles and speakers in to train your team instead. A great little book you might consider starting with is Andy Stanley’s, “Making Vision Stick“.

What other reasons can you think of why we don’t delegate?

This article was originally published on this blog in December of 2013. photo credit: JD Hancock via photopin cc

Get Your .church Domain While You Can!

A couple years ago I remember my wife and I discussing the idea of picking up a particular toy for one of our gradeschool kids for Christmas. We looked it up and saw that there were a few available. The problem was that we hadn’t decided if we wanted to get it or not. So we waited. And we missed our opportunity. A few days later, they were out of stock and we were hard-pressed to find it anywhere at the price we could afford. It was a serious bummer.

Believe it or not, YOUR church is likely in that same place.

You have a very UNIQUE opportunity to get something for your church, right now, that may not be available later. This past July, the ‘powers that be’ in the internet world, released a new web domain to the public. A web domain is the last few letters of your website, after the dot. So .org is the domain of my website here: www.waynehedlund.ORG.

What’s cool is that you can now get a .CHURCH domain. And if you’re quick, you can get “JUST THE RIGHT ONE”. I suspect some of you still don’t get why this is cool. Let me give you a couple of examples of real churches I know of right now. 

Current Web Address (as of today) Could Actually Be:
www.elimgospel.org www.elimgospel.church
www.elimgrace.org www.elimgrace.church
www.lovejoy.org www.lovejoy.church

 

By adding the .church domain, you are pretty much giving your community the literal name of your church. It looks professional and sounds good. 

What about all the people who are used to our current web address?

Not a problem. You can still keep your current web address. Many people don’t realize it, but you can actually have SEVERAL web addresses and have them all point to one real address. So you could own www.yourchurchname.com, www.yourchurchname.net and www.yourchurchname.church all point to www.yourchurchname.church. If anyone typed in any of those three, the web will automatically redirect them to the one you prefer. 

Why do I have to hurry?

It’s pretty simple. Eventually, a lot of churches will also figure this out. If they have the same name church as you’re church and they get the .church before you, then you missed it. After all, you probably don’t want to have your website named: www.elimgrace2.church! 

So if it’s still available, you should grab it up before someone else does. For all that matters, you DON’T EVEN HAVE TO USE IT right now if you want. Just get it so nobody else can snatch it first! This is called ‘Brand Protection.’ With an entire globe having access to .church domains, there’s a good chance someone, somewhere beats you to it if you don’t leap soon.

How much will it cost?

It will probably cost you between $20-$30 for the first year. After that, you might have to pay as much as $50/year. Hopefully, those prices will get lower as time goes on. But if you wait until they’re ‘lower’, you still might miss out.

Where do I go to buy it?

As of the time of this writing, 1and1.com is offering a special discount, allowing you to get your .church domain for $19.99 for the first year. I recommend you check them out at www.1and1.com/church-domain.

What do I do next?

After you’ve bought your new domain, you’ll want to talk to your web programmer or someone in your church who understands this stuff, and ask them to set it up for you. It’ll be up to you how much you want to promote the new domain name or not. For instance, do you want to replace all of your promotional material with that new name? Food for thought.

Here’s another idea for you. If your whole website is in need of an upgrade anyway, perhaps it would be a good time to give your whole website a facelift. Check out my website services, created specifically to help churches with their web presence, at www.tlsites.com.

Invite Your Guests To Come Back!

guest-follow-up2

I recently visited a church for the first time with my family. I had a great experience. We were welcomed at the door, handed materials at a Guest Services table and told what to expect and where to go. The people seemed friendly and interested in us, without being pushy or fake. The service was interesting and engaging. We were even ‘greeted’ after the service by a few random people as well as one of the pastoral staff. My wife and I left that afternoon encouraged and relaxed.

We also proceeded to do what nearly all other guests do after their first visit to a local church. We went to work, shopped at the store, fixed dinner, put kids to bed, took the car to the shop, mowed the lawn, watched some tv, cleaned the house, went for a walk, bused our kids all over the place, worked on our budget, and a million other little things. In other words, we got back to our daily lives. Our church experience became a back-burner memory that we might drudge up again that next weekend, if we weren’t too busy with other things.

Which is why we were so impressed when we received a personal letter from the pastor later that week. Not just a cookie-cutter letter with the same three paragraphs I’d expect to see on a thousand other church follow-up letters. No. A personal letter. It may have been typed up nice and neat on church letterhead, but we couldn’t miss the fact that the pastor mentioned my wife and I by name in the letter as well as all four of our kids, by name. He also made mention of a conversation we had together for our brief moment together that previous Sunday morning. It was personal and real.

The letter was an invitation to join them again at church. It wasn’t pushy. It was just a simple note to let us know he’d love to have us come back to church. And he told us about a couple other things happening in upcoming weeks we might be interested in.

Truth be told, we decided to make another visit to the church that very next week.

Guest follow-up isn’t the answer to all your assimilation problems, but it is one proven strategy that will help you along the way. You might want to consider checking out my other posts about the Guest Friendly Church right here.

Here are a few ideas to help you with your guest follow-up.

  • Treat your guests like VIP’s when they visit.
    It doesn’t matter what kind of follow-up you have, if your guests don’t feel noticed and valued, if they don’t have a positive experience at your church, then they’re not going to be interested in returning. Think of that restaurant you visited for the first time who gave you bad service. You never went back. Neither will they.
  • Give them something to take home.
    I’m not talking about your Sunday morning bulletin. Ideally, you’ll give them some sort of gift and a little information about the church. It’s icing on the cake if you also give them some information about an upcoming activity that might interest them. Make it look clean and nice and keep it simple. There’s always a chance your guest will pick that up off the kitchen counter during the week and look it over. It’s an indirect way to encourage your guests to think about you again that week, and come back.
  • Get contact information when people visit.
    It’s kind of hard to follow-up with your guests if you don’t know their names, email address and/or physical address. You need to strategize how you will collect their information when they visit. This can be a challenging task, but it is possible. Stay tuned for further posts recommending ideas on this topic.
  • Send a note.
    It can be an email, a letter in the mailbox, even a Facebook message, but find a way to send a note to your guests letting them know you’re thinking of them. 
  • Keep it simple.
    Don’t try to say everything in the note and don’t preach. Just acknowledge their presence that previous Sunday. Let them know you are glad they got to join you. Communicate that you are available if they have any questions about the church or their experience on Sunday. And invite them to come back again sometime. No pressure. Just an invitation.
  • Keep it real.
    The note needs to be personal. Not the whole thing, but at least the opening and closing couple of sentences. Your guests need to know you took time out of your day specifically for them. They need to feel special. Acknowledge them by name, not just in the ‘Dear’ line. If you can, mention their kids. Mention something about that past Sunday that either happened during the service or that you talked with them about personally. 
  • Send it from the preacher.
    Notice I didn’t say from the ‘Pastor’. I said from the preacher. That is, from whoever spoke that Sunday, unless it was a guest speaker. Your guests will connect best with the person they heard from in the pulpit. If it’s possible, let that person be the one to send the note. If not, then let it be from the Lead Pastor.
  • Send it soon.
    Statistics seem to indicate that the sooner first time guests receive a note from the church, the more likely it is that they will return. It is often recommended that the follow-up happen with 24 hours of the Sunday morning experience, or by Monday afternoon.

What other ways can you invite your guests to come back?

photo credit: tanakawho via photopin cc

Undercover Jesus

This article was originally posted in April of 2012. I thought you’d appreciate reading it (or reading it again!) Enjoy!

What if Jesus began attending your church, incognito? There’s a question worth considering! I wonder what His experience would be? Would He feel welcome? Would His experience be relevant, engaging and impacting? What would it be like if He came as ‘Undercover Jesus’?

I’d like to share a very familiar Scripture and then make two intuitive leaps. Stay with me, I’m pretty confident you will be challenged in a unique way by the end.

In Matthew 25 Jesus shared the very vivid illustration of the sheep and the goats. Among other things, He was communicating that there will be a sifting on judgement day; not everyone will be accepted into the kingdom . . .

“He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.  “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’””

Intuitive Leap #1
Jesus’ obvious intent is that we are active in feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, welcoming the stranger, clothing the poor, caring for the sick and visiting the inmate. However, the audience of people He expects us to minister to and care for is much larger than that select group. ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine….’ That statement changes a lot. Jesus is not JUST interested in people who are experiencing one of those unique challenges. He is interested in anyone with a felt need. That is the common denominator among circumstances like hungry, thirsty, sick, etc. Christ is exhorting us to expand our reference of who needs care to the hurting, the needy, the lost, the lonely, the broken . . . you get the idea. This especially includes people considered ‘the least of these brothers of mine’.

That pretty much covers your congregation and community. Specifically, it includes church attendees who are particularly needy. It includes every guest that darkens your door “the stranger”. It includes the people who don’t have much of a voice in the life of your church “the inmate” as well as those who suffer from physical or mental disorders “the sick”.

Intuitive Leap #2
The final four words of this passage also requires major consideration: “you did for me.” This passage is much more than a declaration of the kinds of people we should reach. Jesus is clarifying a very big “WHO?”. The answer of ‘Who?’ goes way back to our childhood Sunday School days. It was the only answer that nearly always worked when asked a Bible question: Jesus.

Jesus made it personal. He didn’t stop with, “Care for those needy people.” He played a very different and unexpected card. He connected every single thing we do (or don’t do) for this group of people to His personal relationship with us. Our personal devotions is no longer carried out in the privacy of our home, all by ourselves. It’s public. It’s out there with every person we touch. Jesus told us how to connect with and care for Him. He showed us the key to His heart. And in this passage He vividly declared that it matters.

When we combine these two ideas, it’s clear how important it is that we honor, respect, and genuinely care for every individual in our church, regardless of their circumstances, character or influence.

How does this reminder affect your ministry teams? Do you think you and your leaders genuinely love and care for individuals in your church as if they were Jesus Christ Himself?

Image from pxell66 at istockphoto.com

Why I Began Offering Web Services

laptop-supportOver the years I have had the distinct honor of working with some absolutely amazing pastors and ministry teams. As I got to know them more, I became increasingly impressed with all that they were doing to fulfill their respective purposes; each and every one of them making a difference in their communities.

At the same time, I often noticed a major problem. I found their website to be grossly inadequate and out of date. I am very discouraged when this happens. In today’s culture, the website is usually the first place guests and prospective clients visit. It determines how interested they will be in pursuing the ministry or services they are searching for. In cases like these, people’s first impression of the organization are always way off the mark.

Attempting to address the issue usually didn’t help. It’s one thing to tell a pastor or leader they should really get their site updated. It’s another thing altogether to expect them to get it done, despite their deep desire to do so. The fact is, websites are often forgotten or neglected because leaders already have too many irons in the fire. It can be very overwhelming to try to figure out what to do to get the website fixed.

So I decided to offer a solution. I began TL Sites (the TL stands for ‘Transforming Leader‘) to offer web services to churches, ministries & small businesses who are struggling with developing & maintaining their organizational website. I and my team take pride in each website we develop and are committed to ensuring our clients are truly happy with their new website.

I’d love it if you’d visit the TL Sites website to explore options for you and your ministries website! If you have any questions at all, feel free to let me know.

THERE ARE ONLY A FEW DAYS LEFT TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF MY SPECIAL OFFER TO TRANSFORMING LEADER READERS! Click here to learn more.

      

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