I’ve yet to meet a pastor who wants 2019 to be labeled by their church as the “Year Of Blah.”
Yet you know the struggle it can be for our congregants to attend regularly, or–especially–to engage.
I’ve noticed something significant among churches I’ve worked with this past year.
Neither attendance nor busyness equals growth. At least not anymore. Just because people come to church doesn’t mean they are engaged. And even people who actively participate may describe themselves more as being busy than as transforming spiritually.
However, spiritually growing people do tend to show up and engage. They invest time, energy, and finances. They invite others. But the motive behind those actions has far more to do with experiencing personal growth than it does with meeting a sermon-based list of expectations like church attendance.
I realize that pastors cannot force congregants to grow. Even Jesus stands and allows us the choice to open the door. But surely we can do some loud knocking. Here are 4 techniques that helped me engage the congregation to embrace spiritual growth.
1) Celebrate an announcement
It went something like this. “Who knew that the women’s quilting club could change someone’s life? But it did! We’re talking eternal impact, folks. You’ve got to hear this! Last Tuesday evening the group met like they do every week here at the church at 6:30, and they learned that a quilt they made for someone who lived in the neighborhood…” By the story’s end of what God had accomplished through the gift of a simple, home-made quilt, we all wanted to cheer. And so we did! That’s because even though we mentioned the time, place, and activity, it really wasn’t an announcement. It was a testimony of the Jesus-honoring fruit that comes from serving.
What would happen if every announcement put your church core values into action? They may become the highlight of the service. “Honey, get a move on, I don’t want to miss announcements.”
Consider the impact when a congregation realizes that spiritual growth is not just a talking point, but that it really and regularly occurs, and that it’s connected with serving. I just happened to start letting my congregation know through a story from the women’s quilting group.
2) Find a Secret Santa in July
Personally challenge an individual to anonymously sending another congregant to a significant equipping event.
After I served for about a year in my first worship leader position, someone gifted me with a worship conference. As a college student with barely enough gas money for the 500-mile drive, I slept in my van and ate bread and cheese, but loved the experience. Knowing that someone invested in the Lord’s desire to use me in ministry became a significant turning point in my life, eventually leading me into full time pastoral service.
I’m sure you can think of other ways to equip people to serve. Have Youtube-based impact preparation parties. Invest finances and staff time on equipping rather than completing the work yourselves. Require staff or volunteers to regularly report how they equip those they oversee. If that’s a stretch, bring in trainers (we’re out here, I can assure you). Share with the congregation how you personally equip yourself to serve, and (sometimes) let them see you doing it.
3) Send a postcard
People seldom realize when they’ve impacted another person significantly. Help your flock discover that their sacrifice mattered. All it takes is a little card.
A short, hand-written, personal “You made a difference” expression of appreciation goes an amazingly long way. I even created the cover artwork myself before sending mine off to an inexpensive online quick-print provider. I’ve seen my cards posted on refrigerators years after being received. As an added bonus, I’m discovering that my own awareness increases and I better notice the impact others make.
4) Have a church board member publicly come out of the closet
I’m surprised how often church board members tend to keep in the background. Speaking in front of the congregation is often a huge stretch for many of them. Ask (press, coerce, blackmail…) a board member to share a 3-minute testimony of a recent personal growth experience for an upcoming event. They’ll model that church decision-makers are people of spiritual growth rather associated with business, power, and control. By sharing their own stories of transformation, church leaders give life-affirming encouragement to others and teach that Christ-followers don’t withhold honoring the Lord as He deserves. If they’re nervous, remember that pastors typically are statistical oddities who enjoy public speaking, while most people list it as one of the most fearful activities imaginable. Taking time to rehearse with them may pay big dividends. When the leadership team shares, you extend permission for congregants to be open about their own experiences.
About the author
Timothy J Miller writes and works with church teams and leaders, particularly in the areas of worship arts, tech, and leadership. His newest book, Born For Worship: The Best You Can Be In Worship Ministry” is scheduled for February release on Amazon.com (2019). After 30+ years serving in worship ministry, he and his wife Anita live in Sarasota, FL. Follow him at www.htworship.com. He’d love hearing from you!