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?

The Strategic Process Summary

strategicI’m a firm believer in using The Strategic Process (developed by Erika Andersen in her book, “Being Strategic“) to help you think through the various challenges you face as well as to build plans for your ministry’s future. However, there are a lot of differing ideas on what Strategic Planning should look like for the local church. In fact, one of my favorite bloggers recently claimed that ‘Strategic Planning’ doesn’t really work anymore. As I drilled down the article I realized he was talking about a model of planning that was embraced by businesses and organizations in the 80’s and 90’s – and one in which I don’t personally promote.

That said, let me walk you through what I call the Strategic Process. These five steps can be very helpful in dealing with the various challenges your organization faces. For example, recently a pastor told me his church was struggling getting their teens involved in the church’s youth group because another larger church offered a youth group experience that was attractive to teens, but not very relevant spiritually. This is a great example of a challenge which The Strategic Process can help find solutions for.

The Strategic Process will also be a great tool to walk you through long range strategic plans for your church or ministry. For example, let’s say you have a vision to build a powerful children’s ministry that reaches all sorts of families in your community. The Strategic Process will force you to think through this challenge strategically and critically, allowing you to build a plan towards your goal that is much more likely to succeed.

The Strategic Process Summary
I need to give credit where it’s due. Much of these ideas have been generated and enhanced from Erika Andersen’s book, “Being Strategic“.

  1. Define the Challenge
    Your first step is to clearly define what your challenge is. You’ll do this in no more than 3-4 sentences. This step is critical in that it helps you stay on task during the rest of the process. Without a clearly defined challenge, you may be tempted to get sidetracked and end up creating a strategic plan that won’t really solve your problem. To learn more about how to ‘Define the Challenge’, visit THIS PAGE.
  2. Clarify ‘What Is?’
    In your next step you will stop and take stock of what is. This is where you determine what your current resources are, what you are presently doing to tackle the challenge, and how effective your efforts have been to date. Perhaps you’ve heard the term, “SWOT Analysis”. This is the step in which you engage this tool to evaluate where things stand right now. To learn more about how to ‘Clarify What Is?’, visit THIS PAGE.
  3. Envision ‘What’s the Hope?’
    You can’t effectively build a plan towards a desired future until you’ve determined what you hope that future will look like. In this stage of strategic planning you will build a realistic and fairly detailed picture of what you hope to eventually accomplish. To learn more about how to ‘Envision What’s the Hope?’, visit THIS PAGE.
  4. Face ‘What’s in the Way?’
    Your almost ready to build your plan. Before you do so, there is one more critical step you should first accomplish. You need to acknowledge any barriers which may be in the way of accomplishing your goal. Some barriers may be external barriers – situations or circumstances that may get in the way; other barriers will be internal barriers – attitudes or ways of thinking that could derail your plans. To learn more about how to ‘Face What’s in the Way?’, visit THIS PAGE.
  5. Determine ‘What’s the Path?’
    Finally, you are ready to build your strategic plan. This is where you lay out all the information gathering and research you’ve done in the first four steps to identify how you will most effectively get from ‘here’ to ‘there’. There are actually two VERY IMPORTANT pieces to this step. The first is to identify your top three or four ‘Strategic Steps’. These steps should tackle your most relevant barriers and be the most obvious ‘first steps’ towards your goal. The second piece of the path is to clarify your ‘Tactical Steps‘. This is where the rubber meets the road. Until now, everything has been in the realm of ideas, dreams, and hopes. Your tactical steps are sometimes the hardest to identify and fulfill – because it means somebody actually has to DO something. However, without your tactical steps, you’re plans will remain on paper and all of your time has been wasted. To learn more about how to ‘Determine What’s the Path?’, visit THIS PAGE.

One final note, we don’t often think to utilize ‘The Strategic Process’ enough. There are many times when I will speak to a staff person or leader who has been trained to utilize these steps and who are struggling with a problem and don’t know what to do. It’s obvious on paper, but not so obvious in real life – walk your problem through ‘The Strategic Process’! You may also find THIS STRATEGIC WORKSHEET a great help as well.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Strategic Planning Worksheet

 

A few months ago I introduced the five step “Strategic Process” through a series of posts which have become quite popular. The post series was entitled, “Guest Experience“. I even provided a worksheet to help you get started utilizing the process in everyday challenges you face. Since that time I have been in communication with the author of the book “Being Strategic“, Erika Andersen. She has graciously given me permission to provide her version of the “Strategic Process Worksheet” to my readers. I’ve discovered I like hers better than mine.

Feel free to download and use this worksheet as often as you like. It will be of great assistance to you in strategic planning and critical thinking.

 
Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Being Strategic

The last couple of weeks I’ve walked through a blog series called “A Guest Experience.” If you followed along at all you discovered that I was using a unique strategic process to solve a problem in the context of the church environment. I’ve said many times to my colleagues and friends that I wish I had this book available to me many years ago.

That said, I’d like to give credit where it is rightfully due.

Erika Andersen is a business thinker and the author of the book “Being Strategic“. Nearly all of the ideas and methods I have introduced in my most recent blog series are directly from that book. There is a lot more in the book I haven’t talked about. Being strategic with groups, building a culture of strategic thinking and the art of facilitating meetings are a few.

I highly recommend this book to you. You can pick up a copy right here at Amazon.com.

You may also go to Erika Andersen’s website to learn more about her at erikaandersen.com or visit her blog at Forbes.com.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Guest Experience #5 – Tactical Planning

You ever have the mildly embarrassing situation where you are looking for something, like your hat or glasses, only to discover it’s on your face or on your head? It was so obvious we missed it.

In my final installment to this rather lengthy series on Strategic Planning I want to talk about something just like that. It’s called tactical planning. There are five key steps to Strategic Planning as outlined in the book, Being Strategic by Erika Andersen. Feel free to click on the links below to explore each step in the process as I walk through a hypothetical scenario where a church is trying to discover a way to encourage first time guests to return as second time guests. The focus of this series of blogs has been on the strategic process more than the solutions presented in the church scenario.

The Strategic Process includes Five Steps:

  1. Define the Challenge
  2. Clarify ‘What Is?’
  3. Envision ‘What’s the Hope?’ (Part 1 / Part 2)
  4. Face ‘What’s in the Way?’
  5. Determine ‘What’s the Path?’
Tactical Planning is the process by which we put flesh and blood on our strategic plan. It’s not enough to say, “Here’s what we want to do.” Someone needs to do it too!
In tactical planning you close the loop you created with Determine ‘What’s the Path?’ by answering several key questions for each strategic step:
  • What needs to be done?
  • Who will do it?
  • When will it be done or completed?
  • What resources will need to be created or released?
Let’s do it:
All right. We’ve identified the several strategy steps in Determine ‘What’s the Path?’  Here are a couple of those strategic steps with some tactical steps attached to them:
Build greeters into the Sunday morning experience.
  • What needs done?
    We need to recruit four greeters who will serve every other week on Sunday mornings.
  • Who will do it?
    The newly recruited Host Ministry Directors will serve as one couple and will recruit two more people.
  • When will it need to be done?
    Within the next 10 days.
  • What resources need to be created or released?
    None.
  • What needs done?
    We need to create a space for greeter supplies in the usher’s closet as well as name-tags for the ushers.
  • Who will do it?
    Pastor will identify space for greeter ministry. Host Ministry Directors will create name-tags.
  • When will it need to be done?
    Within the next 15 days.
  • What resources need to be created or released?
    Closet space. A budget of $50 for supplies.
Train ushers and new greeters in how to greet and host guests.
  • What needs done?
    We need to identify quality training material to use to train our hosts, probably through one or two books or an online resource.
  • Who will do it?
    Host Ministry Directors.
  • When will it need to be done?
    Within the next 15 days.
  • What resources need to be created or released?
    A budget of $50 for training resources.
  • What needs done?
    We need to schedule a training date and communicate said date to all greeters and ushers.
  • Who will do it?
    Host Ministry Directors.
  • When will it need to be done?
    Date will be chosen and communicated to all within 20 days.
  • What resources need to be created or released?
    Classroom space at the church.
  • What needs done?
    All preparations for greeter training including room setup, refreshments, training materials, etc.
  • Who will do it?
    Pastor and Host Ministry Directors.
  • When will it need to be done?
    By the designated training date.
  • What resources need to be created or released?
    $20 for refreshments. Paper supplies for training materials. Tables/chairs.
You get the idea. Amazingly, we often just assume someone will think of these things and they will get done all by themselves.

Go to “Guest Experience #5: Determine ‘What’s the Path?'”

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Guest Experience #5 – Determine ‘What’s the Path?’

We have been walking through the “Strategic Process” based on the book, “Being Strategic” by Erika Andersen by exploring the guest experience in a hypothetical church scenario. In this installment in the series we will be looking at step 5 – Determine ‘What’s the Path?’

If you haven’t read the rest of the series, you’ll want to so you’ll understand the overall context of this conversation. You may do so by clicking on any of the below links.

The Strategic Process includes Five Steps:

  1. Define the Challenge
  2. Clarify ‘What Is?’
  3. Envision ‘What’s the Hope?’ (Part 1 / Part 2)
  4. Face ‘What’s in the Way?’
  5. Determine ‘What’s the Path?’
So we’ve gathered a lot of information. Our final step is to review all of this information and identify the necessary steps to reach our hoped for future. It took a while for us to get here, but it was well worth it. Had we attempted the path before the prior steps we would likely have ended up with a complicated path with a lot of twists and turns – and it’s very possible we would never have reached our desired goal. At the very least we wouldn’t have understood the full scope of our problem and all of the possible solutions.
We’ll want to apply the following principles to this step again. We’ve also seen some of these principles in previous steps:
  • Be a “Fair Witness”. (be honest and objective)
  • Pull back the camera.  (look at the big picture)
  • Sort for F.I.T. 
Here’s what we mean by “F.I.T.”:
  • Feasibility. (Can we reasonably do this?)
  • Impact. (Is it worth it to do this? – Count the cost.)
  • Timeliness.  (What should we focus on first, and what should wait?)
So we’re going to look at all the data we’ve collected. We’re going to keep the big picture in mind and honestly assess what we should focus on first and what the most reasonable path might be for us to take. Incidentally, you’ll also discover that creative thinking is greatly enhanced due to us following this process from start to finish.
In this blog entry I’m going to focus on one of the three areas of focus we identified in “Guest Experience #3 – Sort it Out“. Remember, there were several categories we identified to focus on in this step. We sorted them out and came up with these three to focus on first:
  • Host Ministry: greeters, parking attendants, cafe host (coffee), friendly, trained to host guests in building, chairs saved for guests in sanctuary.
  • Sunday Sermon: relevant, application oriented, opportunity for salvation, opportunity to respond to God.
  • Guest Follow Up: email from pastor, phone call from member.
Focusing in on “Host Ministry” we will also remember to take into account the internal and external barriers while we build our path.

Here we go:
Here’s my first stab at building directional choices towards a desired future (a strategic plan) in the area of host ministry:
  • Cast the vision to the church leaders and then the congregation about hospitality and reaching our community.
  • Recruit one couple to champion a new “Host Ministry” for the church.
  • Build greeters into the Sunday morning experience.
  • Train ushers and new greeters in how to greet and host guests.
  • Create simple “Welcome Packets” for each guest (welcome letter from pastor, info about church ministries, map of building, etc.)
  • Free up 10-12 chairs near back of sanctuary for easy access to guests.
That’s a start. It’s the beginning of a strategic plan to cover just one of the many areas we identified we know needs addressed in order to create a guest friendly environment on Sunday morning and encourage first time guests to return. 
We aren’t finished yet!
I want you to realize one very important thing. We aren’t finished yet! There is one final step to finish this strategic plan. It’s called the “Tactical Plan”. Coming up with several directional choices isn’t enough. We also need to identify what steps need taken, who will take them, when they will be finished, etc.
Coming up next…Tactical Planning.

Go to “Guest Experience #5: Tactical Planning”


Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Guest Experience #4 – Face ‘What’s in the Way?’

“What’s in the way?”

This is part 4 in my series of posts walking you through the “Strategic Process” by exploring the guest experience in a hypothetical church scenario. The premise of the strategic process is based on the book, “Being Strategic” by Erika Andersen. You may read the rest of the series by clicking on the links below.

The Strategic Process includes Five Steps:

      1. Define the Challenge
      2. Clarify ‘What Is?’
      3. Envision ‘What’s the Hope?
      4. Face ‘What’s in the Way?’
      5. Determine ‘What’s the Path?’

Today we will Face ‘What’s in the Way?’ In this step we hope to identify any external or internal roadblocks that might prevent us from reaching our goal. This is where we compare the results of Clarify ‘What Is?’ with Envision ‘What’s the Hope?’  What might prevent us from reaching that goal? What’s standing in the way?

Understand, there’s a difference between the brainstorming you did in Clarify ‘What Is?’ and Face ‘What’s in the Way?’  The big difference is this.  In Clarify ‘What Is?’ we are looking at what we know about ourselves, the good, the bad, and the ugly. In Face ‘What’s in the Way?’ we are identifying what could end up stopping or sidetracking us from reaching our goal. It is a fine but very important distinction.

  • Internal Barriers: There are barriers that I would identify as internal barriers. These are the mindsets, beliefs, habits, fears, etc. that may prevent us from getting ‘there.’ For instance, there are key leaders in your church who are very critical of this vision, you have a fear of failure or the pastor before you already tried to address this area and failed These would count as internal barriers.
  • External Barriers: There are also barriers that I call external barriers. These are physical things or situations that may come against your goals. For instance, you and all of your leaders are already maxed out and have not time, nothing has been budgeted to address the area you want to improve.

Note: It’s not important that you identify a lot of barriers, or any barriers. What is important is that you take this step seriously and ensure you haven’t missed any barriers that may be present.

In Face ‘What’s in the Way?’ we will follow three guiding principles. you’ll find these are the same principles we applied to the question, Clarify ‘What Is?’:

  • Become a ‘Fair Witness’   (try to be objective in your evaluations)
  • Pull Back the Camera   (look at the big picture)
  • Sort for Impact   (identify what is most relevant to your problem and it’s potential solution and organize them into groups when possible)
Here we go:
Let’s apply this step in our hypothetical situation regarding the Guest Experience, and in particular regarding the goals regarding the host ministry we identified in my last post.

HOST MINISTRY: greeters, parking attendant, cafe host (coffee), friendly, trained to host guest in building, chairs saved for guests in sanctuary.
  • INTERNAL BARRIERS: many at church like the back seats in the sanctuary for themselves, some may have a hard time with us selling coffee/pastries in the sanctuary – feeling it is inappropriate.
  • EXTERNAL BARRIERS: we are in the middle of a capital campaign, many of our leaders are focused on the campaign.
Go to “Guest Experience #5: Determine ‘What’s the Path?'”


Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Guest Experience #3 – Sort it Out . . .

Sort it out . . .

If you have been following along in my series of blogs on applying the “Strategic Process” to the guest experience at church, you will have just read a couple of days ago: Guest Experience #3 – Envision ‘What’s the Hope’. I’d like to complete what I started in that blog entry here. If you remember, we dreamed about a future that looks something like this:

  • WHAT WOULD I WANT A GUEST TO SAY DURING HIS OR HER VISIT? “I feel welcome at this church. The people are friendly and I believe they are glad I’m here. Everything is done with excellence. My whole family enjoys being here and feels cared for. They teach the Bible in a relevant way and I’m learning how to apply it in my everyday life. I am experiencing God here, and I know He’s transforming me. I feel I am part of something great, and I look forward to inviting my friends and family. I can’t wait to find out how I can get more involved.”
  • WHAT WOULD IT LOOK LIKE AS A GUEST ARRIVES?  As guests drive up to our church they see a well groomed lawn and building on a paved parking lot. There is someone outside dressed as a parking attendant just greeting people and offering to help with the elderly or little children. As they enter the building they are greeted warmly by a married couple and are given clear directions to the childcare programs, with an offer to accompany and help them get acclimated to out kids’ rooms. There is upbeat, contemporary worship playing in the halls, plenty of light, and a smell of fresh brewed coffee. They will be given a Welcome Packet with information about our church and asked to fill out a very simple guest card before entering the sanctuary.

The sanctuary is well lit and offers comfortable seating. There are special lights and props on-stage supporting the sermon series. Once the couple enters our sanctuary they are handed a simple bulletin and easily find seats near the back where they won’t feel too uncomfortable. The worship is new to them, but they notice that people seem to genuinely love God and are obviously singing to Him. Everyone on-stage communicates in a friendly and clear manner when they address the congregation. The sermon is delivered with passion and is completely relevant to their lives today. There is an opportunity for guests to make a fresh commitment to Christ near the end. etc. etc. etc.

  • WHAT WILL THE GUEST EXPERIENCE AFTER THE SERVICE IS OVER? The guest will receive an email from the Senior Pastor by the end of the day letting them know he was glad they were able to visit the church today and encouraging them to reply to the email, letting him know what they thought of their experience. By Wednesday, the guest will also receive a phone call from a church member who will simply ask if they had any questions about their experience in church on Sunday and to “look him up” should they choose to visit again sometime.
Wow! That’s a great vision! I’m sure that, as time goes on your team would refine and clarify hopes and expectations for the future. That’s an important part of the process too.
Why it’s important . . .
The more you clarify what you want the future to look like, the less likely it will be that you and your team strays from that future as you strive to reach it. Putting in black and white what you are hoping for is one of the best ways to ensure unity and focus as the weeks, months, and potentially years go by. A dream like this transcends people and will likely stay alive even after key members of your team (and maybe even you) have moved on to other things or other churches.
Sort it out . . .
Here’s what we didn’t do yet. We need to sort out the key elements of this dream into categories. This is important for us to be able to Face ‘What’s in the Way?’ and Determine ‘What’s the Path?’  So I’m going to attempt to sort out some (probably not all) of the key elements that we will want to focus in on in the weeks and months to come (in our hypothetical church setting).
START BY LISTING THE INDIVIDUAL ELEMENTS YOU SEE IN YOUR VISION: people are friendly, excellence, whole family (children/teens), care, relevant Bible teaching, Application in Bible teaching, experiencing God, equipped to invite friends, equipped in how to get involved, facility appearances (external/internal), signage, seating, lighting, greeters (outside/inside), coffee, guest seating, welcome packet, guest card, staging, simple bulletin, contemporary worship, congregation worships, opportunities to receive Christ, email guest, phone call to guests.
NEXT, GROUP THEM INTO CATEGORIES:
  • Host Ministry: greeters, parking attendant, cafe host (coffee), friendly, trained to host guests in building, chairs saved for guest in sanctuary.
  • Production: welcome packets, guest cards, simple bulletin.
  • Core Values: excellence, caring, relevant.
  • Worship: contemporary style, congregation engaged.
  • Children/Youth Ministry.
  • Sunday Sermon: relevant, application oriented, opportunity for salvation, opportunity to respond to God.
  • Facility: outside, clear signs, comfortable seating, good lighting, (sanctuary/hallways/lobby), stage is relevant to series.
  • Guest Follow Up: email from pastor, phone call from member.
  • Other: way to invite friends, opportunity to get involved, (Next Steps).
FINALLY, IDENTIFY THE AREAS MOST IMPORTANT TO YOU RIGHT NOW:
  • Host Ministry: greeters, parking attendant, cafe host (coffee), friendly, trained to host guests in building, chairs saved for guest in sanctuary.
  • Sunday Sermon: relevant, application oriented, opportunity for salvation, opportunity to respond to God.
  • Guest Follow Up: email from pastor, phone call from member.
Final Thoughts
At this stage you may discover a couple of things.
  1. There is a lot more to a solution than we thought. Praise the Lord! Consider what would have happened had you not walked through this process! No wonder we often feel like we are trying to make progress, but never get traction. Often it’s because we haven’t really identified all the important elements necessary to see our vision successful.
  2. We didn’t do an adequate job in step two of the Strategic Process.
    Now that you’ve clarified what you want the future to look like, you will likely discover that you didn’t really think through step two: Clarify ‘What Is?” Now that we’ve drilled down to the areas in our ministry that we really want to focus on, we should really go back and do some more clarification. For instance, if you compare the above list with our ‘What Is?’ list you will see that we haven’t really clarified how well we are fulfilling our core values in the lobby, worship, sermon, children’s ministry etc. We should clarify where we are strong and where we are weak in each of those areas.
  3. Some of the things we want to focus on will impact much more than what we intended.
    Awesome! You identified that you want the sermon to include opportunities for people to respond to the Lord when they are over. That will not only impact guests, but everyone! You decide you’d like coffee in the lobby. Cool! That will help stimulate fellowship among everyone in the church.

Guest Experience #3 – Envision ‘What’s the Hope?’

This is part 3 in my series of posts walking you through the “Strategic Process” by exploring the guest experience in a hypothetical church scenario. The premise of the strategic process is based on the book, “Being Strategic” by Erika Andersen. You may read part one here and part two here to catch up.




The Strategic Process includes Five Steps:


       1. Define the Challenge
       2. Clarify ‘What Is?’
       3. Envision ‘What’s the Hope?’ (Part 1 / Part 2)
       4. Face ‘What’s in the Way?’ 
       5. Determine ‘What’s the Path?’

Today we will Envision ‘What’s the Hope?’  This is my favorite part of the strategic process because we get to dream about the future. We are going to brainstorm the most perfect future we can think of for our particular church and situation. We’re going to pull together everything we know God has spoken to us about the future and pray for more wisdom and discernment. We are also going to include anything we have learned through workshops, books, personal experience, etc., that might play a role in what we believe the future should look like. When finished, you and your team should have a sense of excitement about the possibilities.

In this step, we will engage four key elements:

  • Pick a time frame for success . . .
    (When is a realistic goal that you believe you can reach one or more of your “hope” objectives?)
  • Imagine yourself in that future . . .
    (Mentally put yourself “there” so that you can accomplish the next objective below.)
  • Describe what success looks and feels like . . .
    (Very important. You give details as to what you see, hear, smell, touch, and feel about your environment. This should be written in the present tense, not the past or future tense.)
  • Select the key elements . . .
    (Sort out your brainstorming and future-casting into several categories or key elements.)

Note: Sometimes you will want to describe the future from several different perspectives. This will help clarify for you later all of the different elements that are really important to you.

Here we go:
In our hypothetical situation described in parts one and two we’ve already completed “Define the Problem?” and “Clarify ‘What Is?'”. Now let’s pull together some ideas of what the future might look like for our guests.

  • WHAT WOULD I WANT A GUEST TO SAY DURING HIS OR HER VISIT? “I feel welcome at this church. The people are friendly and I believe they are glad I’m here. Everything is done with excellence. My whole family enjoys being here and feels cared for. They teach the Bible in a relevant way and I’m learning how to apply it in my everyday life. I am experiencing God here, and I know He’s transforming me. I feel I am part of something great, and I look forward to inviting my friends and family. I can’t wait to find out how I can get more involved.”
  • WHAT WOULD IT LOOK LIKE AS A GUEST ARRIVES?  As guests drive up to our church they see a well groomed lawn and building on a paved parking lot. There is someone outside dressed as a parking attendant just greeting people and offering to help with the elderly or little children. As they enter the building they are greeted warmly by a married couple and are given clear directions to the childcare programs, with an offer to accompany and help them get acclimated to out kids’ rooms. There is upbeat, contemporary worship playing in the halls, plenty of light, and a smell of fresh brewed coffee. They will be given a Welcome Packet with information about our church and asked to fill out a very simple guest card before entering the sanctuary.

     The sanctuary is well lit and offers comfortable seating. There are special lights and props on-stage supporting the sermon series. Once the couple enters our sanctuary they are handed a simple bulletin and easily find seats near the back where they won’t feel too uncomfortable. The worship is new to them, but they notice that people seem to genuinely love God and are obviously singing to Him. Everyone on-stage communicates in a friendly and clear manner when they address the congregation. The sermon is delivered with passion and is completely relevant to their lives today. There is an opportunity for guests to make a fresh commitment to Christ near the end. etc. etc. etc.

  • WHAT WILL THE GUEST EXPERIENCE AFTER THE SERVICE IS OVER? The guest will receive an email from the Senior Pastor by the end of the day letting them know he was glad they were able to visit the church today and encouraging them to reply to the email, letting him know what they thought of their experience. By Wednesday, the guest will also receive a phone call from a church member who will simply ask if they had any questions about their experience in church on Sunday and to “look him up” should they choose to visit again sometime.
Go to “Guest Experience #3: Sort it Out”


Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Guest Experience #2 – Clarify ‘What Is?’

Define ‘What Is?’ — Self Evaluation

In my last post I started working through “The Strategic Process” by exploring the guest experience. The premise of the strategic process is based on the book “Being Strategic” by Erika Andersen.

The Strategic Process includes Five Steps:

  1. Define the Challenge
  2. Clarify ‘What Is?’
  3. Envision ‘What’s the Hope?’
  4. Face ‘What’s in the Way?’
  5. Determine ‘What’s the Path?’

So far, we have been able to Define the Challenge here.

Now let’s Clarify ‘What is?’  In this step we want to evaluate where we are right now. This is an honest assessment of our current resources. It is also our opportunity to identify what we are doing right now, what we aren’t, what’s working, and what’s not. One tool we can use to do this is to utilize the acronym, S.W.O.T. (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats).

Emotionally, this is probably one of the hardest steps. It can be very difficult to be totally honest with ourselves, and it’s easy to feel discouraged when facing what’s not really working well. This is where we can be very tempted to cheat the process by not being fully self disclosed. It’s also a great opportunity to set the stage for true change.

In Clarify ‘What Is?’ we will follow three guiding principles:

  • Become a ‘Fair Witness’   (try to be objective in your evaluations)
  • Pull Back the Camera   (look at the big picture)
  • Sort for Impact   (identify what is most relevant to your problem and it’s potential solution and organize them into groups when possible)

Enough talk. Let’s tackle our hypothetical problem and move to step two in the process: Clarify ‘What Is?”

NOTE: The below ideas are completely hypothetical and do not represent the actual ‘What Is?’ for Elim Gospel Church or any other church that I am aware of. Also, this list is a very basic list and does not fully represent what the list would actually look like if several team members sat down to this discussion in a lengthy brainstorming session.

Define ‘What is?’ S.W.O.T. analysis:

Strengths:

  • We have a welcoming facility with good, clear, signs.
  • We have an awesome worship ministry that is contemporary, professional, and Spirit led.
  • We have a nice welcome center in our lobby.
  • Our ushers greet everyone as they arrive to church every morning in a friendly way.
Weaknesses: 
  • We do not have anyone greeting people at the door or helping visitors when they arrive.
  • Our services are not very visitor-friendly.
  • The messages tend to be full of a lot of christianeze and often presume that everyone is already a believer.
  • We have no way of identifying who our visitors are and getting info from them for the future.
  • We do no follow up with visitors.
  • Signs outside the building are not clear. 
  • We do not have any visitor parking areas.
Opportunities:
  • We just purchased several books with great ideas to help us along.
  • Mary Smith recently expressed a strong interest in helping in this area.
Threats:
  • There are already a number of visitors who have come through our church who may have expressed a negative opinion to their friends/neighbors about us.
  • We don’t have anything allocated in our current budget to develop this important area.
Go To “Guest Experience #3: Envision ‘What’s the Hope?'”


Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
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