Developing a Strategy to Reclaim Church Members

Originally Hosted on March 12, 2021
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Webinar Transcript

– We are attempting today a topic that certainly is on the minds of church leaders. If you’re in a church in any capacity, right now, you are wondering where 10, 20, 30, 40, 50% of your folks are, again, depending on where you are, maybe the size church. And so it’s a topic that we’ve heard a lot about, we’ve had questions, and so we, again, we want to try to tackle this in a way that pleases the Lord and will help a local church. And it could be that this is one of those, you may get a point or two in there, a nugget somewhere along the way and prayerfully, just thinking through as you’re with us. And it may be something that the Lord just reveals to you as you’re just thinking through this process. So again, welcome. My name is Ken Allen in the office of leader care and church health. George Yates is also in that office, as our church health specialist. George has written a few books on coaching and on church health and revitalization teaching as well. So we’re grateful again for his leadership among us. And certainly we are grateful to have Mark Gainey. Mark is pastor at First Fultondale. He is also one of our state missionaries, newly minted. And so we’re grateful that he’s here with us as well. Certainly Mark is the one that has his boots directly on the ground in the local church, but George and I too are interim pastors. And so we’re aware of issues related directly to what we’re talking about today. So we’re looking at reclaiming or developing a strategy for reclaiming church members. We’ll maybe have a bonus at the end depending on how much time we have and just looking at attendance in general. So kind of a return revival. You’re wanting to create some momentum toward getting people back in church and what that means, and maybe taking a fresh look at what church is as well through all of this. So again, thank you guys for being here with us. I’m gonna lead us in a word of prayer. Thank you again for your grace and mercy. Thank you for life in Christ that is full and abundant. Lord, we thank you that you are over all in the midst of whatever is taking place in our world, with pandemic, whatever, we can turn to you, we can have the fruit of the spirit as a part of our walk Christ and Lord, we can collaborate together. We’re kingdom people, We should be talking and praying and moving together as a church. And so we pray that’s part of that today. And may you be honored as we are here again. Thank you, Jesus, in his name, we pray, amen. And again, just to remind you there’s a Q&A section at the bottom. If you’d please use that, and use chat to just talk among ourselves and maybe any resources that you may know of, put that over there in the chat section as well. So good morning guys.

– Morning, good to be here or be there, wherever you’re at. I’m glad to be with you

– Mark has got his swig of coffee. So he is doing well. I’ve had my cup and a half or so this morning and plan on another one at lunch, but anyway, good to see you guys. So we’re collaborating together, the three of us and what we’re sharing this morning, I’ll say from the outline that I’ve put together is, it’s a compilation of things that I’ve heard, both national as well as personal experience. And then these guys are gonna kinda help me through this and I praise the Lord that they are and that they will be. So in a typical year, your average church is going to lose anywhere from five to 10% of church members. We all know that as church leaders. So if you’re a church of a 100 you can almost count on five to 10, depending on your circumstance, age of the church, whatever it is that you’re going to lose. And so in order to maintain where you are, you’re going to have to reach five to 10 people every year through baptism, if somebody moves into the area, we hope that a lot of the transfer growth is that way. We know that it’s not always that that’s the case but you want healthy certainly transfer growth, if that’s the way it happens, but more than anything else, it certainly would be great to reach people with the gospel. So you’re going to lose 10. I was talking to a friend the other day, and he is in a church pre-COVID of 225 to 250. And right now they have maxed out their facility, socially distancing at 100. So think through that for a moment, that’s a tremendous percentage. So as we think through where people are and what’s going on, that’s what we’re looking at. Two key words through all this patience, okay, patience, trusting the Lord in the whole scheme of things and planning. Sometimes we’re just rocking along, we see it, we wonder what can we do, but developing a good plan with your leaders, and just again, talking to other pastors and church leaders is a good way to really handle too, what’s going on here. So let’s kind of start in here and I’m going to attempt to do a bit of a screen share here and look at this. So the first point that we’re looking at in this is we’re looking at a change of perspective could be needed. All right. So it is easy to get negative in the state of circumstances that we find ourselves in and begin to try to guilt people into coming back, or where are you? I see you at the ballpark and you’re not here or see them at Walmart. And it’s like, you’re here at Walmart, why aren’t you at church? Walmart’s a large gathering. So you can be here as well. So when you are using the negative it doesn’t really bring about the real change that we’re looking for. The positive aspect of being a part of church, the biblical, are we frustrated? Certainly we go through frustration as leaders. There’s no doubt about that, but what is the positive way? And I hope these points that we look at will turn into that which is positive with all the excuses that we’re hearing. We’ve got to really watch that thought life, man, it can easily move over into that area. Guys, what are you thinking as you’re looking at it, Mark, as a pastor?

– I agree, I think a perspective change may be the most beneficial thing coming out of all of this. We talk about it all the time, and George and I have talked about this too, I tend to view the pandemic and COVID and the struggle, the challenge, I tend to view it as a gift. Certainly it’s a struggle and a challenge, but I tend to view it as a gift. And there’s a couple of reasons why, because it is a change of perspective for me. and it’s kind of a wake up call. I think sometimes we were lured into this idea that if people show up physically on campus that they’re engaged and what we’ve discovered and come to find out is they’re really not engaged. And the reason we can’t get them back as easily as we thought we could was because they weren’t engaged in the first place. And so for me, it’s a positive perspective change to say, okay, well then how can we engage them? How can we do a better job of engaging those people online, digitally, in-person, all those things. That’s my Google Phone. And then the other reason I think that it’s a positive, and you mentioned it Ken, you alluded to it is, is, and we’re going to talk about it in a minute, about church health, but it’s a great opportunity for us to step back and say, okay, what really matters here? And I think that’s a positive.

– I agree, and Ken, what you mentioned, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, and I’m sure you all have too, a pastor or someone used the Walmart analogy that you used. And I think I’ve shared it with Ken, I know, I don’t know Mark, if you’ve been in one of the conversations where I shared this too, I’ve even heard pastors go as far to say, from the pulpit, while they’re online. If you’re not back in church already, then you’re not saved. Well, that’s surely a way you’re going to get people back in your church by saying something like that. That’s the negative perspective and what we’re trying to say is, how do we move them to the positive? If they’re not ready to come back yet, then what can we do as ministers, as pastors, as leaders, to encourage them to live that Christ-like life, to get involved. Today’s blog is about serving and how to serve, the one that I wrote, that came out today, and then that’s it. And I’ve been sharing that with, Mark’s been on some conferences with me and what we’ve talked about. And what can you do to get those people there, that may not be ready to come back in, but how can they serve the community? How can they serve the church, the other people in the church, who are in the same boat that they are, what can they do? There’s still things we can do without bringing them, that they have to be back in the worship service. I gotta bring them back when, if they’re not ready, when he’s ready. So we need to find those ways.

– Well amen, George, let me see if I can get here to our second point, there we go, all right. So as we’re continuing to make our way through this, church health is church revival is personal revival. So what does this mean? When we think through where the church is today, what we needed likely before COVID, during COVID, post-COVID is revival. And may it begin in me. So look at where you are, I look to where I am, when I’m thinking through where I am as a pastor and their need for revitalization. I think through my own personal need for revival how can I lead them unless I am leading myself, in essence? As a leader, the first place to be a leader is leading yourself in the personal discipline of prayer and scripture before the Lord. So make sure you’re where you need to be. And I encourage accountability. Those disciple huddles that we had in our state, man, they’re so good. So any kind of accountability, someone that’s older than you, been in ministry longer, whatever it may be, that type of relationship, again, just being healthy and leading others back to spiritual health and spiritual renewal too. Great resource, “Return to Me by Claude King,” that I’ve used where I’m in as just one resource. How about it guys?

– Well, I agree, and “Return To Me” is great. I’m taking the church that I’m doing interim pastor, right now, we’re doing a sermon series on it. And they’re also doing the Bible study. I think that’s great, but you’re right, it’s one tool. There are other tools out there that you can use as well. And Ken, we throw around the term church revitalization and revitalization, and part of my theory on that is I didn’t use that word for several years because it had gotten such a negative connotation to it. But church revitalization is just one part of church health. And so my title as a church health specialist and church health strategist. And that’s because it’s not just about revitalization, And as Daniel Edmunds likes to say, every church needs revitalization because there’s always room for improvement and if there’s always room for growth and improvement. And what you’re talking about Ken, is if I’m not growing personally myself, how can I lead the church to grow? I can’t stand in front of the church and say, hey, you got to do this. I may not be doing it in my life, but you’ve got to do this. And that’s what I’m saying at the church where I’m at right now, and I’ve said at other churches too is, I’m preaching to myself when I preach to them. And I’m telling you there a lot of preachers out there today that are a lot better at this than I am, but I must struggle with this the week before I can bring it to you. I can’t stand in the pulpit on Sunday morning and talk to you about something that I’ve not struggled with personally in my life this week. In other words, it may be something I’ve conquered, that I don’t have to deal with, but still, that week as I’m preparing to deliver that message, I need to prepare to deliver it first from my heart, house my heart with that first and then carry on.

– Yeah, absolutely, you know what, I was a church planner for nine and a half years. And obviously I’m older and wiser hopefully now than I was in those young days. My ministry, process, my leadership, wasn’t all that different, but I didn’t see a lot of success. In fact, that church plant was a failure. And I tell people all the time, it’s a couple of things, number one, it’s God’s grace, but I was not personally walking with God like I should, and I wasn’t seeking his face like I should. And of course, he’s not gonna bless the ministry when I’m not even seeking him like I should. And look, this opportunity in 2020 and now 2021, is a great opportunity for us to focus on our own personal spiritual health. Look, I feel like I did good in 2020, being flexible with all the changes and the craziness. And then I got COVID in December. And I realized in January, that there was something that was an idol in my life, whatever it was, because I was angry. And so I had to consult my anger and say, okay, what am I holding on to do? And it was a great opportunity for me personally, to give up, surrender again, and to follow Christ more closely. And I think this is a great opportunity for us all to do that so that we can lead our churches to a healthy spot.

– Oh, good, let me just follow up on that Ken, before you take it back. “Return to Me” does do that, that’s the one thing that I love about “Return to Me,” Claude King wrote it, of course he co-wrote “Experiencing God” and it’s a shorter course, but he really does help each person that goes through that to deal with those idols. And I mean even one day’s topic is remove the idols from your heart, I think. And it’s such a good thorough cleansing. If you allow God to do it and you go through it directly. So again, that’s just one tool, but it is a tool that God has brought together. It just came out in March of 2020. So perhaps there was a reason for that.

– Yeah, God’s timing.

– Yeah, incredible timing, as a matter of fact. Mark I’m right there with you, I can remember a tough church situation, young in ministry and it affected my preaching, the quality of my preaching, the time I put into it. And so I learned from that and I said, Lord, by your grace, may I never ever do this again, coming out of that, I recognized it and repented. And there are times when we need just simply to repent and turn afresh to the Lord. Guys, I’m the tech guy today with this PowerPoint. So, thank you for your grace. We’re looking at the third point here, make membership meaningful, make membership meaningful. Again, we’re going back to positive motivation here to come into our congregation with the biblical point of view of what membership really is, what fellowship means biblically, what our mission is. So, matter of fact, we may do just a complete webinar on what meaningful membership looks like. I think it would worthy of just a webinar on it’s own, for all of us, really, both in the midst of what we’re going through as well as we come out of it too, to really, as Mark was saying earlier, learn from, opportunity making from all of this. And so again, we’re looking at what it takes to really be the member of God’s church, the way he intended followers of Christ to be functioning together. So in there, again, there are other resources out there. “I Am a Church Member,” by Rainer, but again a unifying member. Determine, one of his I Wills is I will determine, I will not let church be about my preferences. When I was pastor of East Side and Coleman, a tornado hit our facility. And there were a lot of preferences and opinions about things then. It did not cause a tremendous amount of division, but it could have. And so I just remember one Sunday, I said, guys, on Monday one of you said this to me about something, and on Friday somebody said the exact opposite, neither one were wrong, but we come at things from our point of view, from our perspective, from the way that we were brought up, to the way that we view money and on and on and on it goes. And it’s not a matter of being right or wrong, but it’s a matter of preference, but we don’t want to let that preference become, hey, my opinion is more important than your opinion. So how about it guys, making membership meaningful.

– I think that’s so key. Not just for now, I mean, it’s key at all times. We have a membership seminar, it’s all virtual right now, and probably will remain that way for a long time. It’s called Starting Point. And in that seminar, we lay out, the expectations, all that, our doctrine, which is important. But I do say in that seminar, a couple of times I say, listen, this is kind of what our church is about. I talk about our mission, love God, love people, make disciples. And I said, it’s not for everybody, and I explained to them, if you’re looking for a church that’s attraction based, emotional, that kinda thing, trying to draw a crowd. Our church isn’t for everybody. And look, if you’re not comfortable in agreeing to the membership covenant then you know what, we’re not for you. And I give him permission, it’s okay, we love you, we want you to be here, but it’s okay for you to seek something else if this is not what you’re looking for. And we try to make membership meaningful in that way. And I would just add one thing to that. So we’re talking about reclaiming church members. And so when you make membership meaningful, they understand why they need to be there, but we also need to make, if you want to get people back on campus you’ve got to make that meaningful too. So, you have to ask yourself, well, why should they show up? Because the old answer of fried chicken and fellowship, that’s not going to cut it. What are they going to get by being physically present with the body of Christ that they cannot get in a virtual setting? And you’ve got to ask those hard questions of yourself, your staff and and then determine how can we make membership and participation physically meaningful too.

– If you’re gonna get them back, you got to get them engaged, whether that’s bringing them back in or like we were talking about a while ago, sending them out. And we need to be, in many respects, we need to be more of a sending church now. And that’s another thing that I think COVID has taught us. We need to be more of a sending church than a gathering church, not to forsake the gathering together, we understand that but to go out, and Mark, those are good questions that you’re just asking And I agree, it’s not just about fried chicken and fellowship, you got to have mashed potatoes too. When I saw this, when you sent this outline out, Ken, make membership meaningful. I’ve got an entire conference that I used to do on that. It was Sunday school based. But it’s simply saying the things that you guys are talking about, I mean, if it’s not meaningful to me, why would I show up? And if it’s not compelling me to want to be there, then there’s something that we, the church have not done good enough to keep people wanting to come back. And so we need to retool those things. We need to look at those and retool. What are the things that, Sunday school, small groups are great, but what needs to be retooled? This church that I’m doing this interim at, they were without any small groups until two weeks ago, we started small groups back up by doing “Return to Me” and doing one in person and one online. And immediately we had like, it’s a small church, they’ve been running about 20, 25 and we’ve run 35 to 40, the last three weeks. And this Bible study, just the in-person one, this past weekend, we had 14, 15 there, and there’s people coming in that hadn’t been in the church, in the building for a while. So it’s finding something that, and it’s not me, I’m not a gifted preacher or speaker, but it is what God is doing speaking through what we’re using and helping convict people and convince people and people wanting to come back together now.

– Amen. I recently heard someone that’s heavily involved in church conflict, was reading a book, and this fellow had been doing church conflict for 20 years, 20 plus years. He said, never seen a church in conflict that were unified around mission, vision, and purpose. And if they clearly know where they’re at, it leaves a little room for conflict

– So good, that’s so good

– All right, number four, let’s see, number four, Relationship is the key to staying. I’m gonna ramp us up a little faster here and just say that when I was, when the tornado destroyed our building in Coleman, we lost, I would say maybe upwards of 20% of our attendance. So why did the other 80 stay? If 20% left and 80% stayed, why? So I’m going to hand this off to George and let him share the 30, 90, 180. How about it George?

– All right, that’s Ken’s name for it, I never had a name for it, so I thank you for that. The 30, 90, 180, when someone first comes to your church, this is how important relationships are. In fact, I’ll give you two different scenarios here, but the 30, 90, 180, that he’s talking about is that when someone first comes to your church, or is introduced to your church, whether they come to the service or not, when they’re first introduced to your church. They have 30 days to begin at least one new deep developing relationship, not just, hey, how are you? Glad to have you here, glad you’re here, don’t forget to put money in the offering. That’s sometimes what we try to do, but 30 days to start developing at least one new good relationship inside the church. Then you’ve got 90 days to get them engaged in some type of ministry. Now I’ve had deacons stand up and say, you mean, we’re supposed to let them do something and we don’t know who they are? And I said, that’s exactly what you’re supposed to do is get them engaged, get them involved in something, anything. And I’ve got to where I ask, does it take someone being baptized, to be a member of your church, have gone through all your memberships, classes or whatever, before they can hand a bulletin to another person? No, it doesn’t. But I’ve been in churches where that was the case. You couldn’t handle both, you couldn’t open a door. I’ve seen this, does it take being baptized, being a member of your church before you can open the door and greet people and let them in the church. And people will say, no, you don’t have to, and that’s true, you don’t have to, but I’ve been in churches where I’d much rather have the guests open a door for me than some of the people that are almost doors. And I’ve seen some of the grumpiest people in our churches are the ones that are manning the door. And I’m thinking, man, you’re really going to help bring people into the church today. But it’s about building new relationships and then giving them an area of responsibility, just give them an area of responsibility. You’re not going to let them preach, you’re not gonna let them teach a Sunday school, you’re gonna not let him work with your kids ’till they go through all of the screening processes. But there are things that they can do in the church that we can help get them engaged and involved. And we know research shows is the more they’re involved, the more they’re engaged, the more they’re apt to stay. And what happens is within 30 days, they begin developing a relationship, at least one. Within 90 days, they need to have an area of responsibility. And within 180 days, if we don’t do those first two, they’ll be gone. And you’ve seen it in your church. ‘Cause I’ve seen in just about every church I’ve been in and churches that I’ve worked with. Is you can look at somebody say, hey, whatever happened to Bob and Mary Jane? We really thought they were going to be good and committed. They must not have been as committed as we thought they were. And who did we put the blame on for not being there? We blame them, we don’t think about, did we really help them to get involved, to get engaged, to be a part, we forget what it’s like to be new. And we’ve got to help them to understand, we’ve got to go back and remember what it was like for us to be new, to be able to break into that, you might say. I’ll stop there and let Mark share.

– I’m just going to say, ditto, we say you can belong before you become.

– Good, yeah.

– Good, all right, well, super, I’m not even ready here, you’re so quick. Yes, thank you guys for sharing, it’s so important, relationship is the key. Guys, you may be saying or thinking to yourself, well, you’re not giving me a way to reclaim. Well as a part of going forward, it may be that you’re then reconnecting them in relationship off-campus, that you’re creating bridges in relationship is a key to building that bridge. How can you create the stages to get them back in to church?

– Ken, let me just give a shameful plug here. If you don’t receive my blog, you can get it. it comes out through, I send it out and goes out to, I don’t know, several hundred people. But then it also is on Alabama’s website. And the last couple have been about connecting, how to connect people and how to connect it to reboot, you might say and I’ll be doing more about that. And if you don’t get that and you wanna get, it comes out every Tuesday, it’s only once a month. You can email me or we’ll try to, maybe Doug can find that real quick, at soncare.net/Georgesblog/ and put that on the chat for us there, if not, I’ll try and get to it in a few minutes, myself. but man, it’s so key and research keeps showing us the more that people build relationships. And you can do that even now, as Mark keeps saying, has said a couple of times, it doesn’t have to be in person. It can be through these internet things or whatever, you want to use other things to help people get involved and engaged. The more they have, and I could give you a couple of different research projects that show five to seven relationships, people will stay. But if they’re only, if they’re developing two or less, then they’re not going to stay over a five-year period with that one. So we know research keeps showing us that over and over again, helping people to connect, and that’s what the blog posts have been, how to get people to connect, even in these times.

– Create a new group or class. So think through something that could be something that would attract people from the outside, both reclaiming members, as well as people who are outside of the church that don’t know the Lord or whatever. It could be, that they’re an inquiring mind that simply wants to know more about a particular area. And make it short too, that could be four weeks or eight weeks, and survey the whole Bible and in six weeks or something. And it may be that, oh man, I would love to gain some knowledge about the whole Bible in that amount of time. So that may be something, how about it, Mark, any thoughts?

– I think, anytime you can create a new opportunity for relationships to form or to deepen, you’re gonna make your church stronger and more healthy. And we said it over and over, but you may want to consider doing that virtually too. There are gonna be some people, there are people right now that are not comfortable coming to a physical in-person gathering or a group, and they’ll be uncomfortable for awhile, it’s not going away with the vaccine and they’re comfortable where they are. And so you may have to find new ways to connect with them. And that’s one way you can do it.

– Yeah, and an online group, that’s again, six sessions, eight sessions that have a concrete beginning and end. And this is what we’re looking at, it could appeal to people on the outside.

– Really, yeah.

– Anything else, George?

– No, I agree with what y’all said and it’s good, again, going back to this morning’s blog post was about that, is that a church that went from, they couldn’t do Sunday morning, not because of the COVID, this was pre COVID, they just ran out of space. And it wasn’t a large church, when you read the article, you’ll see that, but they moved off campus. And one of the things that they built in, and what the main theme of the post was this morning, is they built in that every small group would do a missions project together every month. And they would get engaged in mission, well, they had to go and do it. They couldn’t, well, let’s just put it together in a shoe box and send it. It was, they had to go and work together, they had to do things together, building those relationships, whether you’re online or in person, you’ve only got a limited time in a classroom or group setting to build relationships. And so doing things outside the church will do that. And you say, oh, well, people aren’t ready to come back yet. You can still do things and get people to come together. Are you going to get everybody to do it? Probably not, but you couldn’t do it pre-COVID either. Not everybody would show up for everything, but you’d build in things that will cause people to want to be there, to work with one another, to do things with one another. We’ve done it with workday at churches for years, we’ve done it with raking leaves for the neighborhood or whatever that is. So what are those things that we can do today to help people to build those relationships so that they want to do more and more Christ-like discipleship in action?

– Yeah, and I think there’s a question here from Steve, I agree with relationships and engagement, can you or others share specific ways to engage and build relationships? And you were you were answering that question. One of the ways is by coming together and doing things together, that was a part, I think too of your blog, but doing things together. When you go somewhere with a group, when you go on a mission trip, I trained search committees, I say to them, you’re going on a journey together, at the end of this you guys are gonna have such a bond.

– Absolutely.

– And so you think that in terms of your small group, think of it in terms of three that get together for coffee or whatever it is, just where there’s a will, there’s a way. And then the three of you or the four of you or whatever, you think of ways that you can serve together, minister together and in doing so, that creates such strong relationships. Confidentiality too, is a part of building those strong relationships as well. Anything else guys, Mark?

– I would say, don’t be afraid to go old school and get on the phone and get people calling people, ’cause I know Steve, your question was a lot of people are gonna be on the sidelines with things like Zoom and that’s true, some people won’t have the technology. So don’t be afraid to use the phone and to to foster relationships that way. And I would encourage, again, if they’re comfortable, gathering in small numbers, have a watch party. So they don’t know how to watch online or whatever, or get on a Zoom gathering. Well, have a watch party where you got three or four people in a house, that they’re safe, they’re distanced, they’re wearing a mask, whatever. And you’d be amazed at how starved people are for connection and how willing they are to do something like that. We have some people in our church, we have about three or four houses that every Sunday, they’ve got three or four people and they’re having a watch party and they watch online.

– Good stuff, good.

– Thank you, let’s see if we can move here to number six. Great stewardship with church ministry. Again, you’re wanting to get as many people involved as possible. And as part of returning may be, hey, we need help with, and then fill in the blank there. Prayer ministry, working on the building, you may be in a situation where you need paint, spring cleaning, make it an event, have a box lunch, truly again, that’s another one of those ways of building relationships. Guys, coming together to do something together, and get as many people there as you safely can in this time, just looking for ways for people to serve. If you’re doing a lot as a leader, look at how you can hand off some things that maybe you don’t quite like as much or want to do. And to see who else can be a part of sharing that. George, anything?

– Yeah, I think, what you’re talking about is so good because none of us are good at everything. None of us have been gifted to do everything. And so God has put around us, whether you’ve got paid staff or all volunteers, God has put around you, people who have gifts and talents and skills to do the things that you don’t like. You don’t have a passion for them, you don’t like doing them because God didn’t gift you to do them, but he has put somebody around you that has. And so find those people, always be in search and watch for those people who talk about the things that you really dread doing or don’t want to do, or that you would put off to the last of the day, every day, that you keep putting off, find those people to join you in that mission, whatever that is and being a good steward. That’s being a good steward right there, just finding those people, because you’re enabling them to use the gifts and talents God has given them. And I could go on and on, but I’ll let Mark share.

– I would agree, a tornado hit our community two weeks ago. And one of the things that I hate to do is to organize major movements of people and it’s just I’m not good at it. And God provided people to step up and I let them do it and I’m weak in that area. And I know it, and so you’re right, it’s about stewardship.

– We’re not supermen.

– Exactly, and I think that that’s one of the keys first there is to identify and recognize your own areas where you’re not a strong man. And to say, hey, I’m not good at that, run with it, take it and run with it. Instead of saying, you do that, but I want you to do it this way. Well, if you’re not the one gifted in it and they are let them do it. They may not do it exactly the way you want to, ministry can be messy, but that’s okay.

– That’s right.

– They’re gifted with it, let them run with it, let them do it, Mark, that’s a good point.

– Brief question on COVID. Someone mentioned that you and I, Mark, Kevin, COVID, how can you help people? We had someone to bring us meat that lasted a while. As a matter of fact, we have some in the freezer right now, just being available to help people. And oftentimes when you say I’ll help you out, I’ll do anything that I can, really, what you need to do is just do things. Just do things for them and go at it from that perspective. Sometimes the appetite’s involved in COVID too, that’s not good. And so there’s a minimal amount of food. I lost about five pounds through the process, but anyway, any other thing, Mark, that you went through that you think would be helpful?

– Man, let me tell you it kicked my rear end. I have asthma too, so it was rough. For three weeks, honestly, it was rough. And the thing that I gained most out of it is the people who did exactly what you said, Ken, they just stepped up, and not because I was a pastor, just because the relationship, they just brought stuff by, it could be a gift card, it could be food. And they were creative in some of the things they brought by. But just the text messages, all that, just make sure people are, because isolation is real when you have to quarantine like that. I mean, I have a family of six. I was quarantined in my bedroom, and eventually my wife got it so she was quarantined with me. But, for a while there, for several days, it was just pure isolation. And I think just, try to stay connected with them is what I would suggest.

– Yeah, three of the four of us got it. I don’t know how, that other one must be living right, that daughter, she didn’t. All right, screen share here again. Let’s go up here, all right.

– While you’re getting there, Ken, if you don’t mind, there’s another question about ideas for youth oriented activities. Somebody said her daughter’s or his daughter’s missing Sunday school but unable to restart in person classes due to space limitations. I would just say on that one, I would suggest gathering again in homes. That’s what our student ministry did. It wasn’t because of limitation on campus, but we started meeting in homes weeks before they showed back up on campus. And that’s certainly what I would suggest. And you have to get creative in how to get them there, but that’s what we did.

– I think too, I’ve seen and heard of other youth groups where they’re encouraging, especially their stronger kids, to reach out to the others. They’re used to using technology, reach out to them. Our church has started, not just for the youth, but I thought of this the same way, is we’ve gone back to the to the GROW thing, G-R-O-W, a different team every week. And all we’re doing is writing cards, just coming in and writing cards. And even a teenager received something in the mail, and maybe something, they didn’t grow up with it like I did, but it’s something that still means something when they get something from somebody, one of their friends that says, hey, I’m missing Ben in Sunday school, I know you are too. I look forward to the time we get back together. Just something simple like that to reach out to them.

– Let’s see, all right, it’s a question. Some prophets already talked about how things will be different post COVID. Is it too early to make predictions such as no more large groups in small Sunday school rooms Some say online is with us forever. And this may be easier to predict. Quick comments guys. I think we’re still maybe a little bit early on in this process to really see where long term we’re going to be. We can kind of see a little bit short term. I have a, it looks a little foggier long-term.

– Yeah, it’s definitely foggy. Here’s what I would say, church has changed forever. And if you’ve got this idea that we’re gonna ever get back to what it was post COVID, I’m pretty confident in this prediction, that that’s never going to happen. We will never ever experience church as we did pre-COVID. The world has changed. And when the world changes in such a dramatic fashion, it’s just silly to think that the church will get back to what it used to be. And look some churches may, but those churches aren’t going to thrive, let alone survive. And so I would say yes, Michael, I think we need to begin to redesign facilities to facilitate smaller groups, smaller gatherings, which by the way, we should have been doing anyway. And so I do think that’s something we need to be thinking about.

– I agree wholeheartedly, and I’ve said that. And I have been one maybe that’s, been giving some of those predictions over the last year is we’re never going back to what it was. It started with getting back to normal, and even as early as April last year, I was sitting there, normal has gone. And we started using the term new normal. And then as Mark knows, I switched to using the term new reality, because there is no new normal, things are changing everyday. And I think they’re going to continue to change. And it’s not just society that’s changed, culture has changed. And the outside culture, Mark’s right, on the outside culture has changed. So we, the church, the culture inside the church must change as well. And that’s not getting away from God or God’s word, the church has changed over centuries. And so we just need to be ready to adapt to what God is doing. It goes back to the old “Experiencing God” lesson is where’s God at work and where does he want me to join him in that work?

– That’s right. When the printing press made God’s word readily available to everybody, that changed everything. We’re going through that same level of change now. And I think the church will eventually be better for it.

– Hey, this next point, I’ve shared this point before with someone and it kinda hit a bit of a spot with them. When people are out and you meet them at Dollar General, you meet them at Walmart, you’re talking to them on the phone, whatever it may be, get their opinion. Now do it with safe issues, we all know, when he’s talked about masks or anything political stay away. But if you’re able to say, hey, what do you think about us doing blank? This small group, this online, this whatever, that’s safe, and then listen, don’t share, but, after they share what they have to say, and including them in that, give them some ownership in it from someone like that, that’s out there, can begin to build that bridge toward a return. And I think it’s the cumulative effect of everything that may be a part of the return. How about it guys?

– Certainly, and I think another question to ask is is those people who are not back especially, is ask them what would bring them to the comfort level of growing in Christ with other people as they did pre-COVID? And let them know, it may not be coming back together right now, but in your mind, in your own opinion, what would bring you back to that level of comfort that you had coming to Bible study classes before? Finding out from them, getting their opinion, and then again, say, well that that’s never going to happen. Like you said, don’t give them but afterwards.

– Yep, I agree.

– All right. Last major point in this. And then we’ll see if we’ve got some time for a couple of bonus things here. Creating a shepherding culture. Guys, and again, this goes back to the very first point of changing perspective, be their shepherd, be their pastor, and create that across the board in the church. If you’re hearing a theme of, I don’t get a call or I don’t hear from anybody when I’m going through this or that, or my husband died and I hadn’t heard from the church through all of this, hey, go to them, say, hi, I’m so sorry. We are finding some deficiencies during this time. And we are putting some things in place to correct those deficiencies. Boy, it is hard to come back when somebody says, man, I was wrong. It’s hard to, well, you should have done, it diffuses some of what they wanting to do with the ammunition that they have. And so creating that culture of shepherding, getting together to pray for people who aren’t there, and genuinely caring for them, looking for ways to touch their lives and being mindful of that. How about it guys? Anything else?

– I think that is spot on, and I tell my people all the time that is a weakness of mine. I mean, the shepherding aspect of being a shepherd, in being a pastor is not my strong suit. God never gave me the gift of mercy. I’m a people person, but that’s just not my strength. That doesn’t mean I don’t do it as part of my calling. But I think what you said, Ken, is so important, create that shepherding culture. So, if you’re like that, if your schedule doesn’t allow or whatever, where you contact every person, then figure out a way where your deacons or where your life group or Sunday school teacher, list, make those contacts. And so we realized that early on, we realized, oh my goodness, there’re going to be people who can’t come to worship. And we had no idea how long it would go on. So we did two things. I had all my deacons call their families. And then I had all my staff divvy up the different members and we contact them. And so a couple, I guess about a month later, we decided to do it again. And so a few months later we did it again. And that’s part of that culture where they’re not necessarily expecting you the pastor to call them but they’re getting contact from somebody that’s then feeding that to you. And if there’s issues, then you address those. I think that’s important.

– Amen.

– Building a shepherding culture is not just the shepherd himself, it’s not just the pastor but that culture means we’re teaching everybody. We’re training everybody, we’re encouraging everybody to reach out so that when we do hear somebody say, you know, the pastor hadn’t called me at all during this whole thing. So, well, the pastor’s got a lot of things, I’m sorry, that I messed up. Not just the pastor, but I should have been calling you too. But we’ve got to train our people, not just our deacons or elders, whoever, Sunday school teachers, it goes on down. It just keeps going down to the lowest levels of the church, that everyone is doing it. And that’s one of the ways you reclaim, you reclaim them by building in that culture of shepherding.

– That’s right.

– People are not going to come, if you don’t care, if they don’t think you care. So you’ve got to build that in.

– All right, so guys today, just a bit of a bonus and shift here, and I’m going to, what I’m going to do is I’m going to share all four of these. And then if you guys, as you see these, and make a comment on these and we’re going to end with that, just making any kind of comment through each one of these. But reclaiming attendance and by attendance, I’m talking about people, not just simply the generic form of, hey, we just need to have numbers for numbers sake, we’re really talking about people. We’re talking about heaven and hell, genuinely making disciples shift focus to conversion growth, too, not just reclaiming church members, but genuinely being a part of the great commission. It may be just not a return revival, but a great commission revival as well. So what you intentionally plan to do, that’s what you’ll do. So plan to make disciples. Mark would be more than happy to engage you in that conversation. Daniel Edmonds, Passion Tree Organization. We do have some resources that can help you with that. option for worship. And examine another option for worship. As a pastor, way before COVID all right, once or twice a year, we would do an outdoor service at a local park, Sportsman Lake there in Coleman. And I guarantee you every time, there were people that would never come inside brick and mortar that would go to this service. They would go to this service. So try options, try something outside of Sunday, try outdoor, do something that’s just different with it. And you might see something happen along that lines as well. Utilize prayer to reach people, genuinely care for people outside the church that don’t know the Lord. You’d be surprised at people who seemingly never had anyone that really genuinely cared for them. And when you ask, how can I pray for you? And you genuinely pray for that person and then follow it up, depending on the need, two, three, four weeks later, hey, how are you doing? I’ve been praying for this particular situation. How’s it going? And then examine what is biblically necessary. This was alluded to at the beginning. See COVID, this is almost like a wrap-up, see COVID as an opportunity to, when all is stripped away, all right. And then coming back at it from what is the essentials of church? What is the essentials to church? What should be prioritized and what is God’s agenda? And get on it, that’s been mentioned as well. All right, guys. So these final four, any things that you guys can share very quickly?

– Couple of things I’ll do real quick here. I’ll try to do real quick, it’s not easy for me, but we’ll try to. Shift focus to conversion and growth. We’ve talked about that on some of these webinars, one that we did about a month ago on connecting to the culture and how to connect to the culture. And we gave a lot of practical ideas and things. I know 10 that we did to the business, I think business community, just ways that you can connect to the business community. We’ve got to get more outward focused. And now I think that’s one of the things that COVID should have taught us is it’s not about coming into the building, because we couldn’t come into the building for a while, it’s about how do we go out? How do we send our people out? How do we encourage our people to do these things? And there’s a list there in that, you can go to go to the Alsbom Website and you can find any one of these many conferences, webinars that we’ve done, where you can see it, and you get some examples, you get some ideas or thoughts or just email one of us. And we’ll be glad to give you what we can offer those as well. But if we don’t shift to conversion growth, we’re going to see greater decline in our church than we’ve seen in the past. And we know that up to 80% or some have seen greater than that have been in decline prior to COVID, much less now coming out of that. And I’ll say one thing real quick, about number four, examine what is biblically necessary and come back. We’ve got a, what’s it called, a ministry evaluation on our Alsbom Revitalization webpage, that you can download for free and use it. And I encourage churches to use it every year with every ministry. I think every church should evaluate every ministry every year pre all this stuff that we’ve been going through in 2020, and now in 21. But just to evaluate it, doesn’t mean you’re going to get rid of them if they’re not working but it just helps you to say, okay, is it lining up? Have we drifted from the original intent of this ministry? It was to reclaim members, or it was to reach new people, but what can we do otherwise now? Mark, I’ll let you share.

– Sure, and I’ll just go real quick, kind of bullet point through some of this. In shifting the focus to conversion growth. Here’s what I say all the time. 100% of the people attending your church, 100% will leave, 100%. They’re either going to die, they’re going to move away, or they’re going to change churches, 100%. And so it would be silly not to plan for the eventual departure of the 100%. And the way to replace it is through winning people to Jesus and making disciples. The church, again, this was already happening, I think COVID accelerated it, it’s a wake up call for us, it’s a positive wake up call for us to focus on not just preaching the gospel, but training our people to be gospel conversationalists. And I’ll just say this real quick, on our website, if you want to go to our church’s website, we created a page this week or last week, we talk about impacting our community. So it’s at myffbc.com/impact. And it’s nine videos to train them practically how to make an impact and share the gospel. So we know that we need to do a better job in our context of doing that. And we’ve talked about examining a better option for worship, and I’ll just say this, to reach people you aren’t currently reaching, you need to do things you aren’t currently doing. That’s just a logical statement but that’s what we’ve gotta realize. And my friend and partner in crime, Andy Frazier, we do the Church Leadership Podcast together. We just celebrated actually today, 100th episode, but he says this all the time. What’s mission critical? And it’s a question that is a restated question there on number four, what’s biblically necessary? What’s critical to the mission? If it’s not critical, it can go, doesn’t have to go, But it can, especially if it’s taking attention away from what the mission is.

– Well, we have examined a lot of areas. I hope there’s at least a couple of points that you’re able to take away from today. Again, if you-

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