Tag: church outreach

Shannon O’Dell Is Breaking All The “Rurals”

I admit to some ambivalence when I received Shannon O’Dell’s book, Transforming Church in Rural America: Breaking All The Rurals.  I write for small church pastors and leaders, and one of the themes I keep hitting is “small churches don’t have to be big to do meaningful ministry.”

Then I got my copy of Shannon’s book — the story of how a small church became a multi-site megachurch….in a rural county….in Arkansas.  The dream of many small church pastors is to take their small rural church, and turn it into a multi-site, mega-congregation reaching thousands.

Continue reading “Shannon O’Dell Is Breaking All The “Rurals””

Outreach in the Crises of Life

Outreach in the Crises of Life is the title of the workshop I’ll be hosting at the National Outreach Convention in San Diego, November 3-5, 2010.  This will be my 4th year speaking at NOC, and I’m looking forward to addressing this topic of reaching out to others during a life crisis.

I’m convinced that caring outreach is the most neglected opportunity for outreach for any church, large or small.  But small churches particularly can reach out to those who are hurting with caring and redemptive ministry.   And, one of the benefits is that this type of ministry is low-cost, relational, needed, and highly effective.

Life crises include sickness, death and grief, loss, trauma, divorce, crime, moving, job loss, loss of mobility or independence, and a host of other life incidents.  I’ll be talking about when we can offer care to those outside our church, and presenting examples of churches that are involved in caring outreach during a life crisis.  I hope you’ll be able to join us in November.

I know it seems early to be thinking about November, but that’s only 5 months away.  Plan now to join us.  If you’ve never been to NOC, you’ve got to experience it to believe the breadth of resources, and the variety of presenters that equip church leaders to effectively reach out to their communities.  See you there!

Two Churches Die, One Emerges To Reach Out

“I’m the most unsuccessful pastor in Pacifica,” Jonathan Markham observed four years ago.  Markham’s church in affluent San Mateo county southwest of San Francisco was growing spiritually he thought, but not numerically.  Church attendance hovered around 15-20 each week with few visitors attending.  Located near the Bay area, the coastal town of Pacifica boasts an upscale, affluent California lifestyle where churches compete for residents’ attention.  But Markham’s church had failed to attract many from the community.

In an unusual but providential twist, Jonathan Markham was asked to serve as interim pastor of a second congregation which met at a different time.  Attendance at this church ran about 30 each week.  It wasn’t long before Markham wondered if the two struggling congregations he led might become one.  He approached church leaders of both congregations with the idea of creating a new church to reach Pacifica.  By March 2007, both older congregations had disbanded and a new church was born.

This brand-new congregation, New Life Christian Fellowship, opened its doors to the community for the first time in September, 2007.  Attendance shot up into the 80s each Sunday.  But, the real confirmation of their church rebirth came on Easter Sunday, 2009.  The church packed 153 people into its sanctuary, and church members had personally invited each guest.

Here’s how they did it:

1.  One pastor led two congregations. In typical church mergers, two congregations with two pastors have to sort out vision, staffing, finances, and worship styles.  Jonathan Markham was uniquely positioned to guide both congregations toward one dream — a viable, effective church for their community.

2.  Discernment involved each church. An exploratory work group of six people, three from each church, was selected to answer one question posed by Pastor Markham: “Is it God’s will for two churches to die, and another one to rise in their place?”  Markham thought discernment would take six months.  Instead, the group unanimously answered, “Yes” by the end of their first meeting.  The positive responses of both groups created momentum for the new church.

3.  Everything old had to die. After the initial decision to combine congregations, details had to be worked out.  Both groups agreed everything was on the table.  Old church names were scrapped in favor of a brand-new identity.  Meeting space Continue reading “Two Churches Die, One Emerges To Reach Out”

Ed Stetzer’s new book, Lost and Found

41sx5b5rxyl_bo2204203200_pisitb-sticker-arrow-clicktopright35-76_aa240_sh20_ou01_2In their new book, Lost and Found: The Younger Unchurched and The Churches That Reach Them, Ed Stetzer, Richie Stanley, and Jason Hayes provide a comprehensive analysis of who the eighteen-to-twenty-somethings are and what churches are doing to reach them.

Ed outlines the purpose of the book by saying —

“This is a book about who the younger unchurched are and how to reach them.  Yes, that may be a little old school.  Many authors and speakers want to focus on fascinating and important questions like what is wrong with our belief system, how can we do this differently, and what will the future look like for churches? I have asked questions like that myself, and I will do more of that in my next book.  But, in this book, Richie, Jason, and I are asking one simple question: Who are the young unchurched and how can they be reached with the good news of Jesus Christ? (OK, that’s two questions.) ” Lost and Found, p. 3.

And, if you think you know everything about this group, think again.  They are amazingly spiritual, open to talking about spiritual matters, bugged by Christians, think about eternity, believe in God, sort of believe Jesus is special, and want to make a difference.

And, just to get you going here, a majority of younger adults wouldn’t like it if your church doesn’t ordain women, or doesn’t welcome homosexuals.  And you thought this was going to be easy, didn’t you?  But the authors give you some ways to address the gender and sexuality issues with this generation.

Based on  three large surveys of 1,000 18-29 year olds selected intentionally to reflect the diversity of their generation, the authors are quick to state that there is no one profile that embodies all 18-29 year olds.  Respondents included whites, African-Americans, and Hispanics in proportions consistent with the greater U. S. population.

The book divides into three main sections:

  1. Polling. This is the data and rationale of the survey including who they are, what they believe, and how they feel about God, church, religion, and Christians.
  2. Listening. Four characteristics of this group emerged as the authors surveyed and talked with them.  Young unchurched adults want community, depth, responsibility, and connection. More on these later.
  3. Reaching. This is the longest section of the book, and spotlights real churches who are effectively reaching significant numbers of young unchurched adults.  Surprisingly, the authors discovered that the young unchurched attended both alternative churches with really cool names, and more traditional First Church-types that blended generations in nurturing, mentoring, and serving connections.

The book is crammed with statistics, examples, characteristics, and stories about the young unchurched.  Several times I found my stereotyped assumptions of this group exploded by solid research.  For instance, a higher percentage of adults under-30 believe there is a God, than adults over-30.  And, those under-30 exceed their older counterparts in spirituality and openness to spiritual things.

Not surprisingly, the young unchurched are not all unchurched for the same reason.  The book helpfully categorizes the younger unchurched into four groups:

  1. Always unchurched. (Never involved)
  2. De-churched. (Attended as a child)
  3. Friendly unchurched. (Not hostile or angry at the church)
  4. Hostile unchurched. (What it sounds like)

Those categories create a starting point in building relationships with younger adults who are unchurched.  They are not all alike and a cookie-cutter approach will not be effective.  Actually, programs are less effective because this group, regardless of their unchurched orientation, is seeking relationships.

And it is the relational aspect of the book that is most encouraging to me as a small church pastor.  Reaching young adults is not about having a rock band (although some churches do); or about alternative worship (although some churches do that, too).  Instead this generational group seeks relationship, community, and even cross-generational connections.  As a matter of fact, the authors discovered that the majority of churches effectively reaching younger unchurched adults were doing so in a cross-generational context.

Lost and Found is not a how-to book for reaching young adults.  It is rather a here’s-what book — here’s what this generation is, here’s what they want, and here’s what churches are doing to reach them.  Stetzer says they intentionally titled the book, Lost and Found in order to showcase churches that are finding these lost-to-the-church young adults, and finding them effectively.

If you want to gain some eye-opening insight into the world of 18-29 year olds, get some handles on who they are, and read stories of churches reaching them, Lost and Found is the book you need.  Buy it, read it, talk about it; but better still, talk to some young unchurched adults yourself.  Learn some basics from the book, then have coffee with a college student home on break, or a young married couple just starting out, or young adult in their first post-college job.  Lost and Found can give you the background you need to start those conversations with young adults in your community.  I imagine that’s what Ed, and Richie, and Jason would really like to have happen.

Be clear about your outcome

When our church led the way in building the new $3-million community center in our town, we did not expect the outcome to be new members for our church.  We did expect the community center to become a gathering place for the community.

When we helped start the local Boys and Girls Club by hosting them in our building, we didn’t expect to get new members for our church.  We did expect to provide a safe after-school program for underserved kids.  

When we worked to establish a community music school that is headquartered at our church, we didn’t expect it to increase membership either.  We did expect it to provide quality music instruction for children. 

When we partnered with artists and educators in our community to start Soundcheck, the monthly teen open mic night, we didn’t expect it to bring new members to our church.  We did expect Soundcheck to be a venue for artistic expression, and to increase arts awareness in our town.

Because we understood going in to each of these projects that there probably would not be an immediate payoff for our church in increased membership, our congregation was not disappointed when no new members joined from any of those programs.  

Be clear about your desired outcome before you start a project.  Don’t try to sell every project as a membership project.   Churches can be on mission to transform their communities, too.

101 Outreach Ideas for Small Churches

I’m playing around here and this is the rough draft of  101 Outreach Ideas for Small Churches.  Any others you want to add?  I’d love to hear any stories you have about any outreach ideas you’ve used.  I’m working on a book, and would like to include real stories from real churches.  Time for your 15-minutes of fame!  Here’s a start —

101 Outreach Ideas for Small Churches

  1. Sponsor a school or classroom
  2. Angel Food Ministry
  3. Family movie night
  4. Super Bowl party
  5. Resource center for senior programs, etc
  6. Host a music concert
  7. Block party
  8. community festival
  9. Halloween alternative
  10. Community heroes
  11. Christmas nativity tour
  12. community garden
  13. art show
  14. build a labyrinth
  15. free hotdog lunch
  16. school supplies
  17. parents’ night out
  18. mothers morning out
  19. partner to raise money for a local cause
  20. invite former members back — homecoming
  21. themed worship
  22. recognize special groups
  23. pulpit exchange or joint worship with other congregations
  24. community vbs
  25. community thanksgiving service
  26. thanksgiving for singles, seniors, and others
  27. trunk-or-treat
  28. day camps
  29. multi-generational groups
  30. crafting, scrapbooking, quilt-making groups
  31. day trips for seniors
  32. senior adult programs, lunch
  33. talent show
  34. church yard sale
  35. blessing of the animals
  36. free carwash
  37. make a difference day
  38. martin luther king day events
  39. english as a second language
  40. computer access 
  41. computer training
  42. grief workshop
  43. grandparents day
  44. mothers day
  45. fathers day
  46. advent activities, booklet, devotion guide
  47. milestone celebrations — anniversary, debt-free, etc
  48. achievement recognition — ball teams, championships, etc
  49. election day activities
  50. county or state fair booth
  51. tradeshow booth
  52. tourism booth
  53. homebound ministry 
  54. grief ministry
  55. nursing home ministry
  56. report card rewards
  57. skate park
  58. soundcheck like event
  59. lock in
  60. lock out
  61. youth service corps
  62. door-to-door food collection
  63. christmas parties for seniors, kids, families, target groups
  64. school recognition
  65. college day
  66. financial peace courses
  67. driving courses that target very young or AARP groups
  68. election forums
  69. non-profit helping agency fair
  70. volunteer recognition and thanks
  71. social services, community action partnerships recognition
  72. literacy program
  73. addiction programs
  74. single adult programs
  75. single parent groups
  76. special needs events
  77. health screenings
  78. diet and cooking classes
  79. book discussions
  80. neighborhood inventories and assessments
  81. prayer ministry
  82. open sanctuary or prayer room
  83. daily office
  84. taize services
  85. community celebration events
  86. community unity events
  87. community newsletter or bulletin board
  88. newborn gifts
  89. newcomer welcome baskets
  90. graduate recognition
  91. community music program for children, seniors
  92. helping resource inventory and volunteer directory
  93. home blessings
  94. weddings and funerals
  95. boy scout, girl scout, b&g club sundays
  96. second sunday fellowships
  97. personalized invitation
  98. Easter, palm sunday invitations
  99. food, clothing, and cleaning supplies pantry
  100. civic club sunday
  101. family skate nights

Powerpoint: Small Churches Make Good Neighbors

Here’s the powerpoint I used in my NOC2008 workshop, Small Churches Make Good Neighbors.   I’m using the abbey church model, and discussing the 10 aspects of the ancient celtic abbeys applied to churches today.  The ppt is on SlideShare, so you can view and download the presentation, if you find it helpful.  I am going to edit and add to the notes, but I think you’ll get the thrust of the presentation as it is.  Let me know if you have questions or comments.