7 FAQ’s About Visiting Church Easter Sunday

Immanuel

Visiting a church for the first time, or after not having been for a while, can be intimidating at times. You often don’t know what to expect. You’d love to ask, but you’re not sure who to ask or even if your question sounds silly. It’s not. Probably others have the same question as you.

I was asked a question recently about what someone should wear Easter Sunday if they visited Immanuel. It was such a great question, because it made me think. What if someone didn’t come, because they didn’t know the answer? I get that. It would almost be easier not to visit than to wear the wrong thing. Less complicated. The safe choice.

This person asked. And, so I was able to answer.

It made me think some other questions people may have about visiting a church the first time. I thought of some of the more common. This post actually originated in one of our lead staff meetings. Someone suggested, “Why don’t you compile a list of of the top questions people may be wondering, but haven’t asked, and write about it?” Okay, here you go.

Keep in mind, this is written for Immanuel, but I suspect most will be true for many churches you’d visit Easter Sunday. And, I’m nearly positive about this — most pastors would prefer you ask rather than wonder and not visit at all. So, if you don’t know, ask. Please.

Here are 7 frequently asked questions about visiting Easter Sunday:

What should I wear?

I posted this answer on my Facebook recently. At Immanuel Baptist Church, you’ll see all styles of dress. Some will wear suit and tie and dresses and hats for women. Some will wear jeans and t-shirts. We may even see shorts if the weather is warm enough. To answer your question, choose an outfit you already own, one you feel comfortable in, and join us. (No speedos please, but that’s just a personal request, otherwise, you’ll be fine. :) )

What will we do? What can I expect?

We will have a fairly typical worship schedule. We will sing some songs, have a short greeting time, I’ll share a message (my intent will be to share hope), we will sing some more. We will attempt to have a blend of songs and music all ages can enjoy. And, yes, in full transparency, and in case you’re wondering, we will receive an offering. Our offerings support the full range of ministries we offer in the church, community, and around the world. You are not required, however, to participate during this time unless you choose to do so.

Will you embarrass me?

I certainly hope not. It will be a primary goal not to do that. I don’t personally like to be embarrassed when I visit somewhere new, even in a church — and I’m a pastor — so my goal is to create an environment that is comfortable for all. You WILL NOT be singled out as a visitor. We don’t make visitors stand, raise their hand, or even fill out a card if you choose not to do so. (You certainly won’t be asked to sing a solo, unless you sing really, really loud — and then you’re on your own. :) )

How long will the service last?

Slightly more than an hour. I’d love to say an hour, but sometimes the service ends up being an hour and 5 or 10 minutes frequently. At the most, you’ll be with us for an hour and 15 minutes. (Walking to and from the car time and all.)

What time should I arrive?

That’s a great question. And, I’m really trying to help when I suggest you get here a few minutes early. Maybe even as many as 10 or 15 minutes early. It takes a little while to make your way through our building, especially if you have children to check into our children’s areas or this is your first time. We especially want you to find a seat where you are most comfortable (some want up close — some want in the middle), and you’ll feel more acclimated to the room if you have a few minutes to adjust before the service begins. We have a special Easter bulletin you can be reading while you wait for the service to start.

Do you have something for children?

Absolutely. Birth through 5th grade have their own activities designed especially for them. They will enjoy a worship experience that will engage them at their level. Of course, we don’t keep you from bringing children with you in the worship service if that is more comfortable on a first visit, but our experience is that they truly do enjoy the service designed for them. Either way, we love when entire families join us Easter Sunday.

Can I only come one time? Really, for what am I signing up when I come Easter Sunday?

There’s no obligation beyond Easter Sunday. It’s a “free look”. Promise. Being honest, we do ask you to fill out a contact card and, if you do, we will follow up with you. And I hope you do. I love seeing who God brought to us as visitors. I love meeting visitors. But, even if you fill out a card, we allow you to tell us how you want to be contacted. Phone, email, social media, or visit — or none — you tell us. We won’t put any unfair pressure on you to ever come again. We hope you will, and we’d love if Easter triggered that desire in you, but that’s your call — not ours.

I hope that answers some questions of those who think about visiting our church. I’d be honored if you are our guest.

What other questions do you have? Seriously, I’d rather you asked. 

My Top 7 Goals to Accomplish on Easter Sunday

Easter-Graphic

Easter. It’s a time of year when churches have an opportunity second only to Christmas in attracting visitors. Hopefully all of God’s churches will be packed Easter Sunday. That’s my prayer.

We’ve had months of praying, planning and preparing. We’ve done all we can do, but God is ultimately in charge of all that happens in our church — and yours.

I’m often asked, however, what I hope to accomplish on Easter Sunday — such an important day in the life of any church. It could seem overwhelming if we try to accomplish too much in one day, so what do I, as a pastor, have at the top of my list of goals for Easter Sunday.

I shared a guest post with Lifeway’s pastor blog about 7 ways a church can prepare for Easter. In this post, I want to share what I actually hope we accomplish on Easter Sunday. Only 7 things. If we accomplish nothing else, and there are probably many other things we will accomplish Easter Sunday, I hope Immanuel Baptist does these 7 well.

Gospel is shared – Duh! But, after we’ve made all the preparations, it would be like inviting people to a turkey dinner with no turkey if we don’t share the Gospel. Once we’ve worked hard to gather people into a room, we must not neglect to share the simple truth that Jesus lived, died, and rose again and by Him and through Him alone we can be saved. We must give people an opportunity to hear the Gospel — if for the first time or one of many other times. The Gospel is Good News for all people. All times. After all, that’s what we are celebrating Easter Sunday.

People feel welcome – I hope everyone who enters the doors of our church feels welcome. Regardless of what they are wearing, what side of town they came from, what they do for a living, their education status, whichever “side of the tracks” from which they arrived — let them feel the genuine love and kindness of God’s people. There will be those who don’t feel “worthy” to be in a church Easter Sunday (because they don’t yet understand than none of us are apart from grace). What better day to “love one another” than Easter Sunday!

Next is highlighted – I want people to leave knowing where the church is going next. For example, we will be studying some of the Psalms in our next series. People need to know that — in hopes that they’ll want to return.

The church is presented well – This is the Sunday, even more than others perhaps, where I hope our people are willing to sacrifice for visitors. I told our deacons Sunday night I hope they are the ones willing to move to the center of an aisle first, to make room on the ends of a row for visitors. I hope Immanuel people help visitors in the parking lot, even if they’ve never before worked in the parking lot. I hope people who seem to be looking for the bathrooms don’t have to look long before someone helps them. I hope the building is cleaner than ever. (That’s why we have a cleanup day scheduled Saturday.) Just as when visitors come to your home for the first time, this is the time to be ready to receive guests warmly. I also want to answer as many questions as people may have about the church, so we are printing a special bulletin designed to give insight to visitors about who we are, what programs we offer, and easy places where they could quickly become a part of Immanuel.

Our people are encouraged – I hope people who call Immanuel their home church — even if they’ve been there over 70 years (and some have been) or just arrived in the last few weeks (and there are lots of those), will leave encouraged by what they experience Easter Sunday. I hope there will be a God-honoring pride that we did all God would expect us to do to present an atmosphere conducive for people to ultimately hear the Gospel. I hope they’ll be challenged for the days ahead and willing to sacrifice and serve even more, directly as a result of what God allows to happen Easter Sunday.

Children are safe and have fun – If parents entrust their children to our care they should be assured their children are safe and well-protected. In addition, I hope children leave telling their parents how much they enjoyed being at Immanuel this Sunday. Children have a raw honesty about them. They don’t always know the words to say, but parents know whether or not this is a place their kids will be welcomed. Children are often a huge door to the families eventual active involvement in a church.

People leave with hope – Second only from hearing the Gospel, I hope people leave our Easter services with a sense of hope. Actually, that’s my goal every Sunday. The world can be a scary place. There will be lots of brokenness among us Easter Sunday. As followers of Christ, we believe we hold the answer to hope for the world. It’s in the Resurrected Savior — whom we are celebrating — the King of kings and Lord of lords. I hope people don’t leave more confused or feeling guilty about their life, but rather they live knowing their is A Way, there is an answer — there is HOPE — in Jesus Christ!

Easter Sunday is coming. I’m praying for my pastor friends, for the church of Christ, and for those who will enter our gathering places this Sunday, joining the Church in Easter worship.

7 Ways I Stay Forward Thinking as a Leader

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One of the responsibilities of a leader is to be consistently looking forward for the organization. A leader has to continually be asking the question: What’s next? That’s a critical key to continued growth of the organization.

The problem for me comes with the immediate demands on my time. The now cliché statement goes “Sunday’s coming” is always true for a pastor. There are always immediate needs of people in the church. It seems there is something that continually occupies my immediate attention.

Still, if our church is to continue to grow and face the challenges of a changing community, I must discipline myself to pick my head up from the daily routines to think long-term.

Here are 7 ways I keep myself looking forward:

Read – I try to read something everyday and I read an equal balance of leadership and Christian books. In addition, I follow dozens of blogs with a variety of focuses, from technology, to culture and leadership. I take notes of ideas sparked along the way using Evernote.

Explore – I attend several conferences each year. I go to discover new techniques, strategies and ideas, but also to network with people doing what I do. The world of social media (Twitter, Facebook, etc.) has made it easier to connect with other leaders and I take advantage of the opportunities and ideas presented.

Hang out with a younger crowd – I love the idealism of youth. The newest ideas always seem to come from the younger generation at the time. One reason I like to be around college students is that they keep me fresh in my thought process.

Hang out with risk takers – I often need to be where creative energy isn’t limited by practical reasoning. There’s a place for that too, and I’m a realist by nature, but I don’t want to quit dreaming the impossible either. I certainly don’t want to be around those who have “It will never happen” as their first response. That’s another reason I love the idealism of youth. The newest ideas always seem to come from the younger generation.

Invest in others – As I invest in others I am personally energized. I feel I have even more to offer and have a stronger desire to keep a fresh approach when I think others value what I have to add to the discussion.

Let others invest in me – Sometimes I have to release power to others on my team and allow them to lead me. I’m stretched to dream bigger by the people on my team. I also have several people who regularly speak into my life. I surround myself with good, creative, seasoned leaders. When I stop dreaming, I find it necessary to allow others to push me.

Rest - When I’m tired or stretched personally I’m less likely to dream.  I have to discipline myself to stop sometimes, but it’s always productive when I do. In the busiest seasons, I am most likely to build into my schedule a day away more frequently.

Exercise – The best mind-stretching time for me is when I am running or exercising. The key for me is to break the monotony of busyness and allow my mind room to think. Something about exercising gets the blood flowing through my body to my brain. On especially busy days, I try to build in an hour in the gym or on the road. I keep exercise clothes at my office.

How do you keep focused on the forward picture, without being bogged down in daily routines?

Why the Church isn’t Reaching my Unchurched Friends

young people

This is a guest post by my friend Jordan, who lives in Louisville, KY where she works as Account Coordinator for Heartland Communications Consultants, Inc. She enjoys blogging on a variety of topics including career, family, God, or most often, the awkward moments of the twenty-something life. To read more of her blog, go to www.jordansblahblahblahg.com.

I am 23 years old and I go to church.

I am rare.

In fact, many of my closest friends are not involved in church at all.

Some of my friends simply don’t believe in the Christian faith. Others call themselves Christians, but church is just not a necessary part of their lives.

Why?

By now, it is no secret that my generation, or “Millenials” as we are called, is largely unchurched. There has been an extensive amount of research on the issue, and churches have made extensive changes to combat the problem.

Changes often include ridding of choir robes and organs in exchange for skinny jeans, drums, and fog machines.

But still, why are so many of my friends anti-church?

I grew up in the church my entire life, so when I went away to college, finding a church was at the top of my priorities. Unfortunately, finding one didn’t come easy. For a while, I found myself in the same category many of my friends are in. I loved Jesus, but I simply did not have a desire to be a part of the churches I was visiting.

And I visited every type of church. From traditional to “hip”, from small to big. I didn’t want to join any.

My reasoning was simple and it came down to one word.

Fake.

Nothing seemed authentic.

Don’t get me wrong; I was full of teenage/twenty-something know-it-all cynicism and arrogance, I am sure. Churches are definitely not the sole problem. People are the problem. Because people are sinners-the church going ones and the non-church going Millennials.

But despite the associated arrogance, I truly think my generation is on to something in our desire for authenticity.

You see, the hardest years of my life came in college. For a while, it seemed like every week brought a new disaster that I had never faced before. As one event piled on top of another, I became a mess. My usual happiness turned to sadness, my usual good decisions turned to bad decisions, and my usual faith turned to nothing but questions.

I desired to be a part of a church that got it.

That got my struggles. My sin. My doubts.

All I wanted when I entered the doors of church was to find people who would bear my burden and remind me of whom God was, because quite frankly, I wasn’t sure anymore. Unfortunately, so many times, it seemed like the God people were pointing to was one that would want nothing to do with me and, if I was being honest, I didn’t know if I wanted anything to do with him.

Either everyone was really happy all the time with no problems, or they were being fake…and I was in no position to play the Fake Game.

In fact, I don’t think my generation in general wants to play the Fake Game when it comes their desire to find and know God.

We’ve played the Fake Game enough. The Fake Game surrounds us in advertisements, tweets, and Facebook profiles. When it comes to seeking God, we don’t want to play anymore. We want to find Him.

We want to ask questions.
Voice our doubts.
Explain our struggles.
Confess our sins.
Confide our fears.

And we want the church to do it with us.

We want Pastors to admit their weaknesses.
Leaders to confess their sins.
Sunday School classmates to confide their struggles.
A church to recognize its shortcomings and rely joyously on God’s grace.

We don’t just want church-goers and pastors to hang up their suits and ties for t-shirts and jeans because its “cool”. We simply want people to be who they are Monday through Saturday on Sunday, too.

We want to come to God as we are.

And we want to be a part of churches full of people who do the same.

Because that is the Gospel we are interested in. And the cool thing is…that really IS the Gospel.

If you want to reach my unchurched friends, it’s simple.

You be you. Really.

And let God be God.

But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

Immanuel Annual Report

Gather Grow Serve

We’ve received great response to our annual report, so I thought I’d share it here. We had an amazing year at Immanuel Baptist Church and, borrowing from ideas we’d seen elsewhere, we decided to produce our first annual report.

We had a talented young couple in the church help us with this. The staff provided input and I was able to share it with leadership of the church.

Here’s how we unveiled it:

One Sunday evening we invited anyone who leads in any area of our church to a meeting. They could serve as a deacon, Sunday school teacher, or ministry leader. We even included our top 100 givers. (Some people serve with the gift of giving.) We weren’t trying to be exclusive. We turned no one away and even made a general announcement on a Sunday morning. We were trying to fill a smaller room than our large worship center with those we knew would be most invested and interested in the report. Combined this made a group of several hundred people, of which about 200 were able to attend. I walked through the report as a slide presentation. Of course, we later shared it online with the entire church. It was an opportunity to celebrate, give God the honor and challenge us for the new year.

You can view the report HERE.

Here’s to a great 2014 Immanuel!

Stay tuned for our new website release — coming soon!

Does your church do something similar?

Point me to a link in the comments of this post. I’d love to get ideas from you and celebrate with you!

10 Traits of a Great Church Member

Church service

Obviously, God builds the church, but He uses people to build it.

What kind of members does God use to build a great church?

As a pastor, I have noticed some trends among church people who help move the church forward. The following is a list of characteristics of those type of people. Not everyone will have every quality, but it’s the combination of each of them in people that builds a great church.

Great church members:

Believe and love God’s Word.

Joshua 1:8 “Study this Book of the Law continually. Meditate on it day and night so you may be sure to obey all that is written in it. Only then will you succeed.

Great church members let the Bible guide them and the church.

Grow in prayer.

Ephesians 6:18 “Pray at all times and on every occasion in the power of the Holy Spirit. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all Christians everywhere.”

Great church members pray more than worry.

Build on faith.

Hebrews 10:38 “And a righteous person will live by faith.”

Great church members are willing to walk by faith as God leads, even through the most challenging times.

Put God’s will first.

Mark 3:35 “Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.

Great church members put God’s will ahead of every other agenda.

Enjoy meeting with God regularly.

Amos 4:12 says, “Prepare to meet your God,

Great church members look expectantly and often for opportunities to worship God and experience Him with other believers.

Support the pastor and the church.

1 Corinthians 16:10‑11 “When Timothy comes, treat him with respect. He is doing the Lord’s work, just as I am. Don’t let anyone despise him.

A pastor is always looking for someone to call friend. Great church members are that friend. The pastor isn’t always right, but great church members look for ways to support more than complain.

Encouragers in the church.

1 Thessalonians 5:11 “So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.”

Great church members are a part of the solution, not a part of the problem. They look for ways to help, invite their friends and neighbors, and volunteer without having their arms twisted.

Don’t think everything is about them!

Matthew 16:24 “Then Jesus said to the disciples, ‘If any of you wants to be my follower, you must put aside your selfish ambition, shoulder your cross, and follow me.”

Did you know everything may not go your way? Great church members are willing to allow the best to be done for the church even when it sometimes goes against their personal desires.

Think outside the walls of the church.

Acts 1:8 “But when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, you will receive power and will tell people about me every where‑‑in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.

If we are not careful, our churches could be hard to tell apart from a Country Club. Great church members think of those not yet in a church…and support the church in reaching them.

Maintain a friendly church.

2 John 6 “Love means doing what God has commanded us, and he has commanded us to love one another, just as you heard from the beginning.”

Great church members make sure guests never stand around long with no one to talk to. They are welcoming and friendly to everyone, with or without a title to do so.

I’m so thankful to be in a church with so many who make this list easy to write.

What would you add to this list?

7 Ways Christians Should Behave Online

Social media on Smartphone

I have had an online ministry for over 15 years. God has humbled me with the way He has chosen to use this influence He has given me. I try not to take it for granted.

One thing that has changed since I began ministering online…and it’s changed for all of us…is the rise of social media. Whether you believe it’s a good addition or not, we cannot deny it’s impact on culture or even on the church. Personally, I have chosen to use it for good as much as possible.

Still, it disturbs me some of the ways I see Christians respond on social media. I can post one thing…whether serious or not…and I do use humor intentionally as a part of my online presence…and it never amazes me how someone might respond. I have referred to the practice as a slam and run. I just have to thank God at times for the delete option. :) But, it’s an example of a bigger problem. Christians aren’t always behaving well online. What we’d never say offline we have no problem saying online.

Seriously, this isn’t a personal plea. This is a Kingdom plea. Just as the world is watching how Christians respond in public they are watching how we respond online. We must be careful then with what we post. All of us will be misunderstood. But, we shouldn’t be blatantly offensive.

Here are 7 ways Christians should behave online:

No soapbox -We are told to “do everything without arguing or complaining.” (Philippians 2:14) That doesn’t mean we can’t support causes we believe in, but they should be moral and Biblical issues, not personal agendas.

No public bashing – Unless you’ve practiced Matthew 18 principles, and even then it would be rare, don’t address your problems with others online. It’s not helpful and never promotes peace. (Romans 12:18, Hebrews 12:14)

No little jabs – We shouldn’t say things about others that may be misinterpreted as a stab against them. Guard your online tongue. (James 3). I see this especially as a passive aggressive tactic. We feel “safe” evoking insults or cuts to another person online that we would never say to their face.

Encouragement – Social media can be a great way to encourage others. We shouldn’t spam with massive amounts of posts. Few appreciate the person who reshares everything they see, but most everyone likes to read an encouraging word pointed especially to them. (Ephesians 4:29)

Do to others – As we’d have them do to us. We should always think before we post. Pause. Breathe. Think. Post. Ask yourself how you would be impacted by the post before you post it. (Luke 6:31)

Guard against pride – We have to be careful with self-promotion and bragging about ourselves online. Granted, this is coming from one who has built an online platform online and I frequently encourage other pastors to do the same. It’s one of the best ways currently to engage people for Kingdom building. But, this is a reminder for me too. We must check our motives, guard our hearts and never allow our egos to rob glory from what God wants to do through our online presence. (Proverbs 11:2, 13:10)

Not allow it to be a replacement for community – It’s easy to post “Happy birthday” or reply “Praying for you” without really doing so. We shouldn’t trade the functions of the Body for an online presence. (Acts 2:42-47, Hebrews 10:24)

Those are 7 that come to my mind. What would you add?

(Be general please and not specific in your comments, so as not to violate the purpose of the post.)

What can the church learn from a coffee shop? (Update)

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Can/Should, the church learn from a coffee shop?

You may recall a post I did earlier this year about a new coffee shop in town. They are doing things that, honestly, I think the church could learn from them. Read that post HERE.

Well, they are at it again. Recently, thieves broke into the coffee shop. How they responded is getting citywide and even national attention.

Check out THIS local article and THIS national article. And there as many more.

Again, what can the church learn from a coffee shop?

Good job A Cup of Commonwealth!

Some of my takeaways questions:

  • How would the church respond to a break in at the church?
  • How would the community come to support us?
  • What are we doing that’s causing a community to take notice?
  • Are we making our community better?
  • Would our community say it’s a better place to live because of us?

Please add yours…

7 Suggestions TO DO When the Church is in Decline

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I recently posted 7 suggestions NOT to do when the church is in decline. (Read that post HERE.) As expected, I had numerous requests for the companion post. And, this is that post. I chose a picture of growth for this post. Thinking positive!

It should be noted that this is a more difficult post to write. There are no cookie-cutter solutions for reversing a church in decline. Churches have unique characteristics, because they have different people. They are different reasons that cause decline. It could be anything from poor leadership, to being locked into the traditions of men or simply a change in population in the community. It’s difficult to copy what someone else has done, because the causes are so different.

I do have a few suggestions. When I’ve worked with a church in decline I almost always give at least some of these same suggestions.

(Now in any post like this I explain…I don’t know what I have to other than I’ve been blogging long enough to know some of the responses I will get. GOD IS IN CHARGE. Period. Listen to my preaching…pick any Sunday…and you won’t hear otherwise. I have a philosophical and even Biblical mindset that God has given us responsibility to lead His church well. We are under His direction and work by His strength, but He gave us minds and creativity to use for His glory. )

Here are 7 suggestions TO DO when the church is in decline:

Evaluate – What went wrong? What is going wrong? Why are less people attending? Why are new people not? Ask the hard questions. Is it programmatic? Is it a people problem? Is it a Biblical issue? Is your church just plain boring? If nothing has changed in the programs you offer in the last 50 years…I may already have your answer. But, ask questions. Ask for inside and outside opinions. This takes guts, but is critically necessary. You can’t address problems until you know them. You may need an outside perspective. You could trade with another church, by letting them evaluate you and you evaluate them. Ask visitors. Recruit a “secret shopper” attendee to give you an objective look at the church. You must evaluate even if you are afraid to know the answers.

Own it – The problems are real. Don’t pretend they are not. At this step, cause or blame is not as important. They were important in the first step, because they may alter your response, but now the problems are yours. They are not going away without intentionality. Quit denying. Start owning the issues. I see too many churches avoid the issues because they are difficult…or unpopular…to address. Find a Bible story where people of God were called to do something that didn’t involve a certain level if risk, hard work, fear or the necessity of faith. I suggest if you find one example you can refuse to own (and address) the problems.

Address major, obvious issues – This is hard. Perhaps the hardest one. If the church has “forgotten your first love”…repent. If the church holds on to bitterness and anger from the past…forgive. If walking by faith has been replaced by an abundance of structure…step out boldly. If the church is in disunity it must come together first. If you love the traditions of men more than the commands of God…turn from that sin. Now. And, if the problems involve people, don’t be a people pleaser, address them. (Told you this is hard.) Yes, this requires leadership. All we like sheep have gone astray. Church leaders lead. And, leadership takes us through the hard places to get to the best places. But, if there are obvious issues that need addressing, you can try hundreds of special programs or events and nothing is going to work, because there’s a roadblock to address first. (Side note here. Not every church can be saved, in my opinion. God promises the Church will prevail, but that promise is not given necessarily to Third Street Baptist…or Broad Street Methodist…or the church at Laodicea. If these issues can’t be solved it will be very difficult to move the church forward.)

Find alignment – Where does the church best find unity? What will everyone get excited about doing? This is many times a vision, or a moment in history that was special to everyone, or a common thread within the DNA. Find that and focus attention on it. In my experience, God will not bless a church in disunity, but churches have issues, causes or programs that everyone can get excited about and support. Working together builds enthusiasm, momentum and unity.

Regroup – At some point, regardless of how drained you feel from the decline, you’ve got to come to a strategy of what to do next. It needs to be written. You need a road map of where you are going in the next season. (It is Biblical to think ahead. Consider Luke 14:28) I’ve never personally been able to plan in great detail more than twelve months out and sometimes, especially in times of less clarity, only a few months, but you need a plan. Start with your overall vision and explore ideas of how to accomplish it again. Put some measurable goals in place to make progress….things you’ll do next week, next month, and in a few months down the road. It will hold you accountable if you have an action-oriented strategy. It will build momentum as people have something to look forward to doing.

Reignite – Put your energy and resources where it matters most. This often involves getting back to the basics of what it takes to achieve your vision. If you are a church with a heart for missions, for example, amp up your mission efforts. If special events are your wheelhouse…do them. It may mean not doing things that aren’t working. They tend to drain energy and resources. (And yes, this is difficult and often unpopular.) Look for what is working, or has the potential to work again…the fastest, and begin to stir energy around that program or ministry. You need quick wins so the church can feel a sense of progress again.

Celebrate – There will be wins. You may have to look for them some days, but when they occur celebrate. Celebrate big. Remind people that God is still moving among you. Now, it should be noted, for the overly celebratory types, that you can’t celebrate everything. If everything is wonderful…or amazing…then wonderful and amazing is really average. They need to be legitimate wins. If you celebrate mediocrity you’ll set a precedent of mediocrity. But, when you see signs of heading in the right direction, make a big deal out of it.

Those are seven suggestions. I strongly encourage you, if you want to see the church growing again…if the church yearns for health again…be intentional. Be willing to ask for help. Raise the white flag and invite honest dialogue. The harvest is ready…the workers are few…we need you! We are losing too many churches and not planting and reviving enough. Do the hard work. Pray without ceasing. And, trust that your labor will not be in vain. Praying for you.

What suggestions do you have for a church in decline?

5 Suggestions When People Leave a Church

church crowd

One tough reality of being a pastor is when people you thought were supportive leave the church. For a variety of reasons, people will leave.

Make any change and someone is not going to like it. Life changes and relationships often impact a person’s church attendance. Misunderstanding and unmet expectations cause some people to leave. There are a variety of reasons. I wrote about some of them HERE.

The point of this post is addressing how we respond as pastors and church leaders.

How do you respond when people leave?

Here are 5 suggestions:

Accept it happens – It actually happens in churches where everything seems to be working at the time. Regardless of the reason…people leave. We shouldn’t be surprised simply because they do or think it can’t or won’t happen in the church in which we minister.

Admit it hurts – God is in charge of numbers. I get that. People are responsible to God and not the church. I get that too. People may leave because it’s the best thing for them spiritually. I totally get that also. The bigger issue is whether or not a person leaves “the” Church or “a” church. If they are attending another church we should take comfort in that, but pretending it doesn’t still sting a little is like saying you didn’t feel the bandaid being ripped off your arm. You are human. It hurts. It is difficult not to take personally. Depending on the circumstances or way it happens it may hurt more sometimes than others but it always hurts.

Analyze the reason – This requires asking the hard questions, and admittedly, this too can hurt, but it’s helpful to know even if the answer is you. It requires humility to admit you’re not the church for everyone nor the minister everyone wants to shepherd them. But, you can’t address what you don’t know and there are often valuable lessons to be learned from why a person chooses to leave a church.

Adjust if necessary – Don’t be afraid to admit you could be wrong. If people feel the church wasn’t meeting their needs try to discern if it’s them or the church. If it was a matter of style they didn’t appreciate that’s one issue, but if it’s something lacking from the church’s offerings…that you should have…you may need to make some adjustments. Be willing to learn.

Attune your vision – Okay, it was obvious I was looking for an “A” word, but this is actually a good one. Attune means “to bring into harmony”. And that’s often necessary when people disappear from the church. Most likely their absence will affect others. You may need to realign people to the vision, especially when those leaving were previously and visibly committed. Assure people you are listening, and genuinely be listening, but in the end stay true to the God-given vision God has called you to lead.

Again, no one wants people to leave, especially if they are leaving upset with you or the church. But, it is a part of church leadership. Learning to process it will make us better equipped to minister to the ones who stay…and the new people God will bring.

Pastor, help me out with this post. What tips do you have for addressing this issue of what people leave the church?

(Update: the comments are already making this post better.)