I’ve been saying this for years now, but I get tired of church marketing. The advertisements, the clever slogans, the social media strategies. Many churches try to achieve success by using the right tactics, by “appealing” to the right audience. But in some cases marketing is a barrier to the advancement of the Gospel message. It can actually be a hindrance for the church.
As you probably know from my previous writing, I’m a big proponent of engaging volunteers in the ministry of the church. Over the next few weeks, we’re going to start a practical conversation about mobilizing volunteers better in 2016. But before we get into some practical advice, I want to address one of the most important and yet often ignored aspects of equipping volunteers to do ministry: helping them identify and then use their gifts.
God gives every Christ-follower one or more spiritual gifts. He does this to strengthen the body of Christ. When God’s in control of these gifts in our lives, the impact of our mission, together, is incredible. It’s one of the ways God designed the church to reproduce itself.
But how do we help people determine their gifts?
We recently released an updated version of my eBook Vital Signs: Why Church Health Matters and 14 Ways to Measure It. In it, we look at 14 key metrics that help assess the true health of churches.
As we continue this discussion on church health, I caught up with J.R. Lee, Lead Pastor of Freedom Church in Acworth, Georgia to talk about the Staff-to-Attendees ratio vital sign, and hear how Freedom remains a rapidly growing church, while employing fewer staff members than would be expected for a church of its size. Check out the interview below.
Last week, we released an updated version of my eBook Vital Signs: Why Church Health Matters and 14 Ways to Measure It. In it, we look at 14 key metrics that help assess the true health of churches.
As we continue this discussion on church health, I caught up with Mike Mannes, Lead Pastor of Southside Church in British Columbia, to talk about the baptism rate vital sign, and how Southside is seeing so many people — 13% of their average attendance each year — take this step. Check out the interview below.
I don’t like the term “church consulting.”
Yes, it’s on my website. There’s a simple reason for that: Church leaders aren’t searching the web for “ministry health assessments” or “strategic planning,” though I wish they would. That would mean those things were top of mind — but for most pastors, they aren’t.
A “growth barrier” is an abstract wall, even though it can feel like a literal one. There’s nothing special about numbers that end in zero, but we often hear pastors express frustration that their church can’t seem to grow beyond 1,000 or 2,000 or whatever the number is.
When you’re feeling stuck, it’s easy to start grasping at all kinds of methods that larger churches have used to catapult you forward. The problem is, that’s not strategic leadership.
We help churches get unstuck. If you’ve been following us for any length of time, you know we do that through church consulting and leadership coaching experiences that help you focus your vision, strategies and action.
We believe we have a unique approach to how we serve churches, and we’ve been trying to capture it. Here’s the list we came up with. (And because we really like our over-sized note pads and Sharpies, we made a chart.)
We talk all the time about the ways churches get stuck and our perspective on how they can get unstuck. In our line of work, we meet church leaders who have some huge challenges in front of them. We are continually encouraged by the creativity and energy so many pastors bring to the mission.
So, throughout 2015, we made it a point to share stories from pastors we worked with all across the country when we thought they might encourage you. As we begin to wrap up the year, we wanted to share a recap of the pastor interviews we published this year.
Dr. Aron Willis | Indiana North District of The Wesleyan Church
Pastor Shayne O’Brien | Rockpointe Church in Leander, Texas
Pastor Kurt Nichols | New Song Fellowship Church in Valparaiso, Indiana
Pastor Jeff Price | Calvary Church in Woodstock, Ontario
Pastor Jeff Arnett | Thornapple Valley Church in Hastings, Michigan
Pastor Anthony Milas | Granite United Church in New Hampshire and Massachusetts
Pastors Ken Wooten and Gabe Kolstad | Westside Community Church in Beaverton, Oregon
Pastor Don Allen | The Church at War Hill in Dawsonville, Georgia
Pastor Phil Chorlian | North Jersey Vineyard Church in Teterboro, New Jersey
Thornapple Valley Church is a big church in the small town of Hastings, MI. The Unstuck Group team has been working with Pastor Jeff Arnett and the TVC team this year on strategic planning. We’ve been impressed by how well they know their customer.
So, how does a church grow large in a rural community? I asked Jeff to give us some insights into the TVC story.
TONY: Could you give us some background about TVC and Hastings, MI?
JEFF: Our church started in 1979 with a handful of people. We began meeting in an old Grange Hall (This is where farmers gathered to play cards). The only bathroom facilities were attached outhouses. Amazingly, the church began to grow and we were able to move to an older school building in a year—complete with indoor plumbing!
Through the decades, our passion has been to be an accepting and authentic church that speaks in a way that un-churched people can understand.
TONY: You are a large church in a relatively small community. What’s been your biggest hurdle getting to this point?
JEFF: We spent some years being a large church and trying to do ministry the same way we did when we were small. Learning to think like a large church has been somewhat slow and arduous for this blue collar pastor.
Also, because we are a in a rural area, incomes are not as high as more affluent suburban areas, and per capita giving is simply lower. We have adapted and have never been in financial trouble; however, it has meant a higher percentage of church income goes towards staffing.
TONY: What’s an opportunity your church has in a smaller community that churches in urban and suburban areas may not experience?
JEFF: Because of our commitment to serving, we are well-known and valued in our community. We have learned to partner with local community service organizations and have a great relationship with them. We receive many calls for help from those agencies. The size of our campus also provides unique opportunities to host large events in our county.
TONY: In recent years, you’ve opened a second location and have plans to expand into other rural communities. What prompted that multi-site initiative?
JEFF: We simply believe it’s the best way to expand the message of the gospel, as well as the accepting and authentic spirit that hopefully makes TVC what it is. We initially thought we should expand into more suburban communities—but we have learned that we are blue collar rural people, and that’s where we resonate the most.
TONY: What are you learning about implementing multi-site in a rural setting that may be different from other churches engaging in this strategy?
JEFF: It’s ok to be smaller. Each campus doesn’t have to be a thousand people. Every single decision for Christ matters!
TONY: You started the church over 30 years ago. Was there ever a moment when you considered throwing in the towel? How did you persevere?
JEFF: Like everyone, I’ve considered throwing in the towel plenty of times. Often I felt like if I had started pastoring in a suburb we would have so much more (oh vanity!). Each time I have seriously contemplated leaving, God has checked me. This is where I am called. This is who I am. More than that…I love these people with all my heart. This is my family.
Our team recently served Westside Community Church in Beaverton, Oregon with a strategic planning retreat. As we got to know their team, we were impressed by this church’s foresight in succession planning — something we see few churches doing well. I asked pastors Ken Wooten and Gabe Kolstad to share how they made a plan to ensure the health of their church through a dramatic shift in ministry strategy and in future seasons of transition.