Just because people show up for a gathering doesn’t mean they’re becoming more like Jesus.
For years, churches have over-relied on large gatherings like services, events, or conferences. In fact, a lot of people on church staff teams all over the world would probably tell you that large gatherings are what churches are all about. As a result, wins are measured by how many people show up or by how often people show up.
But there’s a problem with that paradigm: Just because people show up for a gathering doesn’t mean they’re becoming more like Jesus.
Instead of filling spaces so people can experience an event, we need to focus on helping them get from where they are now to where God wants them to be.
Everyone is on a personal spiritual journey.
Everyone has a next step they can take—no matter where they are on their spiritual path. So we need to get serious about helping people identify, understand, and take their next steps.
And that requires flipping our script.
We used to have large gatherings that would funnel people into smaller groups. The pandemic has turned that upside down. Now, you have to start small and make connections so those connections may eventually lead people to the larger gathering. The wind has shifted from attendance to movement.
It’s not about people showing up for events. It’s about people taking next steps.
In the past, as we consulted with churches, we used to leave those steps open for the churches to decide based on the specifics of their ministry and community. But as time has passed, we’ve found some common key next-steps that work well among churches.
Establishing a clear Discipleship Path is all about helping people move from where they are now to where God wants them to be. Everyone has a next-step they can take:
- A person new to faith may need to concentrate on biblical teaching and spiritual disciplines.
- A more mature Christian may need to take steps toward reaching those outside of the faith.
Each step on the Discipleship Path must have an easy to access on-ramp. And there should be in-person and digital opportunities to take each step.
Tip: The clearer your Discipleship Path, the more likely people are to share it with others. People who have been transformed are eager to share that experience with others. Their enthusiasm for what they’ve experienced and genuine care for people in their lives is often the best marketing your ministry will have.
Your discipleship path should be, and will be most effective, if it’s aligned with the 5 stages of a person’s spiritual journey.
Everyone’s spiritual journey is unique . . . sort of. The specific details of how we first encounter Jesus, wrestle with the idea of grace, and accept our need for a Savior are singular. We all have a personal set of people, places, and events that moved us step-by-step toward a relationship with God.
However, we also have a lot in common. Most of us pass through 5 stages on our spiritual journey:
That’s why you need a ministry strategy for each of these phases—both in person and digital.
That’s why the 5 stages of a person’s spiritual journey matter to church strategy:
Even though our spiritual journeys don’t begin when we put our trust in Jesus, most churches act like they do.
Most churches spend the majority of their time and resources investing in moving people across the line of faith and then discipling them once they’ve become believers.
Those are important things for any church to do… But if we’re going to embrace both types of engagement, we have to come up with strategies that meet people—insiders and outsiders—where they are.
And that means having a plan for stirring interest in the uninterested and walking alongside the spiritually curious while they explore.
Webinar: What's Working in Large Churches NOW
Tony Morgan and Amy Anderson recently sat down with senior leaders Chris Hodges (Church of the Highlands), Omar Giritli (Christ Fellowship Church in Miami), and Miles McPherson (Rock Church) to discuss what’s actually working in their large churches now to reach new people and engage people in the life of the church a few years post-pandemic...