2 Attitudes for Small Church Transformation

This entry is part 3 of 4 in the series church transformation

Of all the various observations that Crandall makes in Turnaround and Beyond: A Hopeful Future for the Small Membership Church about vision casting, effective leadership and managing conflict, there were a few items that really stuck out for me in terms of what successful turnaround and transformational churches have.

1.  A concern for outsiders.

SmallChurchWhiteCountrySmall churches are a family.

I know of a small church that has been functioning with give or take 20 members, most of them related to the same family, and it has been that way for most of the church’s existence.

I’ve preached there on a few occasions when they needed an ordained pastor for communion (a requirement in my tribe).

The cemetery next door has graves for multiple generations of this family.

About 2 years ago, they called their first pastor.

I spoke with their new pastor this week and he mentioned to me that the family system is so tight, they take care of themselves.

He often learns about members in the hospital after they get out, or prayer needs from reading the bulletin that Sunday.

Even though he is their pastor, the members still haven’t let him in that system.  They have been so used to taking care of themselves, that even the pastor feels disconnected.

For a church like this to turn around and grow into a new phase of life, Crandall observes that a pastor can’t just proclaim the importance of outreach, but lead the way.

“The pastor needs to engage in personal outreach and evangelism, most naturally to those who constitute the ‘extended family’ of the members. . . . Pastors who visit, reach out, and invite open the door outward and lead the way for the congregation to follow” (69).

This might also take the form of good questions to stimulate the imagination:

  • When was the last time you invited someone to church?
  • Who are the people around us who are not involved in church?
  • Why do you suppose they do not attend?
  • What difference might it make in our community if this church was overflowing?
  • What problems exist in our community that need to be addressed?  Can we do something about them?
  • What do you think Jesus had in mind when he told us “you will be my witnesses?”

As part of that, Crandall’s study pointed out that “a little success in seeing new faces and the return of old familiar faces long absent goes a long way to change the attitude of evangelistic outreach” (p. 70)

For my pastor friend in the small country church, his challenge is helping that congregation think of other people besides themselves.

They have been self-maintaining for so long that they haven’t included their pastor, even after two years.  They may welcome a new visitor on a Sunday, but that family system remains so tight that adoption won’t happen.

This isn’t a problem with just small churches — we have attended a church of 3,000 members that doesn’t use small groups.  After 18 months, we still haven’t been adopted and still only know about 4-5 people by name.  Even my Sunday school teacher had to ask me last week what my wife’s name was.

To reach new people, there must be an expansion of the family — adoption.

2.  Reaching new people

Evangelism in a small church is people centered.  Larger churches have resources and programming that can attract and integrate people, but the small church attracts people through the personal contacts and relational warmth of its members.

Crandall’s study revealed a list of growth factors in smaller churches (p. 84).  There were 20 of them, but grouped into 3  themes.

  • Inviting persons to attend warm and exciting experiences of worship
  • Intentional outreach: ongoing effort to contact and invite people to join the pastor and members to seek God’s blessing, pay attention to God’s word, and love and serve one another.
  • Giving new persons a place in the family. Laypersons are being trained and equipped to discover the joy of reaching out, and giving leadership to the congregation.

Behind all this suggests the role of hospitality and welcoming visitors to the church.

Crandall goes on to talk about hospitality, visitation, and attractional models of church growth, but also includes a section of ministries that engage the community.  There is both an attractional and missional component to effect people reaching, even for a small church.

He is also good at pointing out that laypersons and pastors need also to look for those moments when the gospel can be verbally explained.  “When these programs were also used as contact points to talk about personal faith and invite people to church, they became important points of entry for new people looking for a place in God’s family” (96).

Effective Christian witness involves many forms of mission and ministry, but the core of our witness is still that message of salvation and hope that no other organization can offer.  The heartbeat of every Christian congregation must be reflected int he words ‘offer them Christ’ if it can call itself alive and well.

Related Resources:

Connecting Worship and Evangelism

BlueQuestionMark123rfDuring January, I received a series of questions via Ask Evangelism Coach section.

Because of travel engagements in 3 different countries during January, I’m just now responding (though I’ve been thinking about these for a while)

A series of posts this week will focus on sharing these. It’s my hope that our readers will join in the conversation.

The question for today:

What is the difference between Evangelism and Worship?

EvangelismWorship
FocusAnother PersonGod, the Trinity
GoalRepentance, Conversion, DiscipleshipAdoration, Self offering
RelationshipHorizontal (peers, friendships)Vertical
??Human BeingsSpirit
??Proclamation of the CrossThanks for the Cross
??Create WorshippersBe Worshippers
Help discover God’s activityResponse to God’s activity

I use ?? because I haven’t yet found the words to describe the categorical difference that I’m making. If you have one, feel free to contribute in the comments.

Evangelism is geared towards helping others become worshippers: conversion.

Conversion marks the line between a person who is not a worshiper and one who becomes a worshipper. God seeks “true worshipers who will worship the Father in spirit and truth” (John 4:23).

Evangelism is geared towards the proclamation of Christ and him crucified. Worship is a response of thanksgiving to the proclamation.

Evangelism is communicated through words and actions, but focused on other people. Worship is expressed towards God in words and action.

What is worship Evangelism?

After making these distinctions, there is a style of evangelism called worship evangelism. The basic premise is

  • Two or more are gathered, there he is.
  • God inhabits the praises of his people.

The outworking of this is that God can choose to establish special awareness of his presence in response to our worship. Through song and prayer of worship, there comes a sense of God’s presence and movement of the Holy Spirit that I call a Kairos moment.

Sometimes it is experienced as

  • Holy hush that falls over the congregation.
  • Corporate or personal repentance and forgiveness
  • Manifestation of Spiritual Gifts (such as healing, prophecy, or tongues with interpretation)

The premise behind worship evangelism is that non-believers who are visiting the congregation may experience the sacredness of God’s presence and working.

That experience can prompt the next step in their journey towards faith.

Example of Worship Evangelism:

A husband and wife visited our congregation. They had been walking through some rough times and had a desire to go to church. They came to ours.

As we sang our worship songs and responded in prayer to what God was doing in our midst that morning — a sense of God’s presence descended on the congregation. We were tangibly aware that the Spirit of God was at work.

These two visitors felt it , but didn’t know what “it” was. (After wards, meeting with the pastor, they were asking “What was that?” Pastor helped them interpret their experience and expand their worldview).

However, though they couldn’t describe the presence they were aware of, they responded with repentance for their sin and in prayer they offered themselves to God.

Their conversion moment was happening in the back of the sanctuary, unknown to us at the time.

As we went on and prayed our prayers, preached the Word, proclaimed the meaning of communion — all which the Holy Spirit used to speak to them personally — this couple came forward to take communion for the first time.

Worship is not the same as Evangelism

The basic idea is that worship (singing, praying, offering, proclaiming) leads us into an awareness of God’s presence. God is present in the midst of HIS people. Experiencing the sacred presence of God can help the seeker make the next step in their journey to faith in Jesus Christ.

worshipevangelism Sally Morganthaler wrote the book: Worship Evangelism. I still agree with some of the basic premises of the book. Yet admittedly, there has been some unintended consequences.

One unfortunate side effect was “engineering” or using music to “manipulate” — she writes about it here (Broken link removed).

Another one is a worship driven subculture that has confused evangelism with worship. The church spends its time and money on perfecting worship and neglecting outreach — another form of “if you build it they will come.”

“If a contemporary worship service is the best witnessing tool in the box, then why give a rip about what goes on outside the worship center? If unbelievers are coming through the doors to check us Christians out, and if they’ll fall at Jesus’ feet after they listen to us croon worship songs and watch us sway back and forth, well then, a whole lot of churches are just going to say, ‘Sign us up!’ “

She goes on to write:

When I wrote Worship Evangelism, I’d had no intention of distracting people from the world outside. I only wanted to give them another way of connecting to it. I certainly had never meant to make worship some slick formula for outreach, let alone the one formula. I’d only wanted to affirm that corporate worship has the capability to witness to the unchurched if we make it accessible and if we don’t gut it of its spiritual content on the way to making it culturally relevant.

What about you?

Think about the worship service in your context.

  • Is worship “inspiring?”
  • Are people aware of God’s presence in their midst?
  • Is your church engaging the neighborhood or hoping people show up because of the quality of your music?

Join the conversation

How would you describe the difference or similarities between worship and evangelism?

Image credit: pilens / 123RF Stock Photo

For Greeters: What to say to A Church Visitor

UMCDoorGreetersSay

How often have you heard this excuse for not having church greeters?

Greeting church visitors is every one’s responsibility.

However, you know this doesn’t always get done.

Thus, many churches  have organized greeting teams to serve a few weeks in a row.

In my experience, some times people who are recruited as church greeters may not be sure exactly what to say or how to give a greeting.  Read: 20 Crazy Things Church Greeters say.

You’ll need to find ways to improve the greeting ministry of your church.

Your Greeters might be nervous

It can be a little embarrassing to say “I don’t know how to do this” so in the privacy of their own home, they search the Internet for

  • “How to say a welcome to a church visitor”
  • “Welcome Scripts for Church Guests”
  • “Greetings to 1st time visitors at church”
  • “A word of welcome for church visitors”
  • How to Say the Welcome Greeting at a church
  • “Words of welcome to/for church visitors”
  • “What to say to welcome visitors in a church”
  • “How to say a welcome to visitors at church”
  • “Tips on welcoming First timers in Church”
  • Welcome address to visitors in Church.”
  • “Church Welcome Address to Visitors.”

This list above comes from my search logs just in the past 3 days.

So let me share some possible starting scripts that you can use yourself, or develop more fully into a resource you can use at your church.

If you are a church greeting coordinator, perhaps you might want to consider giving a script to your new greeters.  Once people say something a few times, they might feel the liberty to relax and put their own flavor to it.

You can give your new greeter permission to mess up.  Consider these as guidance to offer them.

At Entrances:

Sample one line greetings for parking lot or entry greeters or for your members to say in a hallway:

Welcome to [church name] this morning!

God bless you.

We’re glad you are here this morning.

I’ve not met you yet!  Welcome.

From the Front:

During the worship service, the leader can say something like the following to welcome visitors.

We are glad that you are here with us this morning.

If this is your first or second Sunday with us, we are grateful that you have come to be with us this morning.  It is our hope that you experience the love of Christ this morning and His presence during our worship.

If your church does the passing of the peace handshake ritual, the worship leader can go on to say this to help the church greet visitors (See #5 in this list of 10 practices to welcome church visitors).

Get up, turn and greet someone that you’ve not met yet. Shake their hand, introduce yourself, and take a few moments to welcome them to God’s house.

See more tips at How to Say the Welcome Greeting at a church.

After the Worship Service:

During the fellowship reception time after the service, church members can be encouraged to look out for and intentionally greet people they haven’t met.

I have find it helpful to break the ice and initiate the conversation by saying:

“I’ve not met you yet.  I’m Chris.”

With that, I offer my hand to shake and I continue with a conversation.

Follow up: 20 Blunders in Welcoming Church Visitors.

Your turn

Put your answer in the comment fields below:

What things do you say to greet visitors to your church?  Add your thoughts below.

A note to the reader:  Did this answer your question?  If not, use the comment field below to ask me more specifically what you look for so I can create a future article.

Do you lead your greeter ministry?

Here are a few EvangelismCoach.org resources

Photo Credit: Roswell_UMC via cc

10 Practices to Welcome Church Visitors Part 2

Miss part 1 with number 1-5? You can read 10 Practices to Welcome Church Visitors Part 1 by following that link.

Here are Common Practices 6-10.

10WaysToWelcomeChurchVisitors

6. “Secret Greeters”

Some churches will go beyond only training greeters for points of entry at the church, such as the front door.

A good idea is to encourage others to be “secret greeters.”

These folks are part of the greeting team but are not in the obvious places like the front door or as an usher.

I had a fellow in my congregation who never served on a greeting team.  However, he was always in the sanctuary, taking the initiative to greet people personally and visit with them for a little bit.  He functioned as a “secret greeter.”  This someone beyond the “professional greeter” at the door or the welcome center.

If for some reason a visitor gets to the sanctuary with a greeting from someone, this person is there to continue that greeting.

Consider this resource:  2 DVD Combo Set of Greeter Training DVDs

7. Pulpit recognition

Most churches that I have experienced will have the worship leader give some kind of welcome to the greeter.

Here, the advice from McIntosh is best (source: Beyond the First Visit: The Complete Guide to Connecting Guests to Your Church, Gary McIntosh, Review)

Whatever you do, take great pains not to embarrass the newcomer.  Among other things this means you should not identify new people by placing a ribbon, flower, or nametag on them.

Do not ask visitors to stand and speak before the entire congregation.  A survey of one thousand adults 18 years of age or older reported that “making a speech” was the number one event causing adults to be nervous.  It ranked first, ahead of, in order, getting married, interviewing for a job, going to the dentist, a first date, and getting a divorce. (p 110).

My wife and I recently visited a church where this wasn’t done at all.  She commented that it simply feels nice and warm when the worship leader acknowledges the presence of visitors and encourages the church to say hello.

8. Friendship Pads, Fellowship Books.

These are books that gather attendance information and provide a place for visitors to identify themselves by checking a box on the form.

The idea is that other people in the row would see check in the visitor box and take the initiative to greet.  Church multi-purpose this form for attendance tracking.

However, I have been in churches where I check the box, and still no one greets our family.  This practice seems to be falling out of favor because the pads become a doodle bin, the pencils are hard to keep sharp and it’s becoming an administrative nightmare.

There are other ways of getting visitor contact information, particularly the response card system mentioned in Fusion: Turning First-Time Guests into Fully-Engaged Members of Your Church (which I think is the best Assimilation book available right now).  They use a Connection card that is distributed with the bulletin and every one (members, attenders, and visitors) fill it out as part of the service.  This information is used in their assimilation process, described in detail in their book.

9. Quality Snacks and Beverages.

The basic idea is a informal reception area where people can gather after the service.  For some, this is the lobby area (some call that a narthex).  For others, it could be in the fellowship hall or auditorium.

As our evangelism training ministry takes us to churches throughout the Americas, many American congregations provide some kind of coffee hour after the service, to allow for a social setting where people can talk one on one. (Observation: In my travels in 10 different Spanish speaking countries and countless churches, only one church practiced this idea).

Beverages:

CoffeeCupMake the coffee fresh and of appropriate strength.

It should not be reheated from last night’s fellowship event nor should it be so weak as to taste like colored water.

While it doesn’t take a lot of skill to make coffee, making it right is the challenge.

Coffee drinkers know a good cup of coffee, and a bad cup will leave a bad taste.

Don’t forget to make enough – sometimes the pot gets drained before visitors have had a chance to get to the urn.

Offer alternatives such as teas, juice, ice cold water.

If you choose to use bottled water, offer a recycle container for empty bottles.

Food:

MuffinsonTableCloseUpWhatever snack items are offered, make sure they are fresh.

Stale sweets, or frozen items (poke a little fun)  that had been thawed simply taste cheap and do not make a great first impression. Consider common food allergies and either avoid those (like nuts) or provide an appropriate sign.

In our health conscious time, provide healthy options for those that don’t want sugary cookies or sticky sweets.

Connecting:

Church members should be on the lookout for visitors again in this time.

Some visitors are obvious – standing around, reading the news items on the bulletin board, and generally being overlooked. Members ought to take the initiative and start a conversation.

This can be a time to help make connections and perhaps introduce people to the pastor. Pastors should make themselves available during this time to meet and greet people, not rush off to the study and prepare for the following service.

In the international church I served, we stressed the importance of introducing our visitors to the pastors. We had been told that many people from non-American cultures consider it an honor to be introduced to the pastor.

Read: The Best Visitor Assimilation Tool

10. Sunday School Greeters and Hosts

Some visitors will partake of the Sunday School offerings.  Many have a strong program here that attracts visitors who come for the first time.

I experienced a warm welcome in a 14,000 member mega church because of my experience in Sunday School.

I arrived early enough to pick a class.  Once I found it (a kind person in the hall pointed out where I needed to go) I was welcomed by a person and invited to a beverage and ushered to a place to sit.  The small talk was not intrusive but just enough to help me feel at ease in a strange place with total strangers (I was by myself).  When the Class was over, this person showed me to the sanctuary and took me to a usable seat.  After asking if there was anything else I might need, they left.

I learned later that this church was very intentional in their Sunday School program to welcome class visitors.  Each class had a person in charge of the beverage, the teaching, and the greeting.  I felt welcome, overcome the sense of being lost on their campus.

Next Steps

Do you want to discuss your where your hospitality system is stuck?

I offer a coaching call where I spend time on the phone with you or your committee, up to 90 minutes, where I help you trouble shoot and develop some action plans.   I can help you review your systems through a step by step flow chart that I’ve developed.  Read more about that hospitality coaching here.

Let me ask you this?

What did I miss?  I’m sure your church might do things a little different.

What practices do you do in your church that you’d like to share?

Feel free to share with us in the comments.

How To Welcome Church Visitors

The Definition of Church Hospitality

Hospitality is not EvangelismChurch Hospitality is not evangelism.

I’ve written in the past about the connection between Christian Hospitality and Evangelism, particularly as to the connection to welcoming first time visitors.

I’ve published stories of being a first time church visitor and experiences of welcoming church visitors:

But I want to develop a little more depth on church hospitality with regards to helping welcome church visitors who may be coming for the first time.

The Definition of Church Hospitality

In this context then let me define church hospitality as

Taking the initiative to welcome others and

inviting others to share in our community life.

This can extend beyond our group gatherings for worship and easily move into other areas of Christian Hospitality:

  • our small groups
  • our families
  • our home
  • our lives

However, for our purposes here at EvangelismCoach.org, we’ll focus specifically on the connection between church hospitality and Evangelism.

What I learn from the Hospitality Industry

All sorts of corporations that interact with the public have studied hospitality, implement training programs to improve their public interaction, and spend millions on hospitality consultants.

We see its effects in store personnel trying to greet us as we walk in the door, training customer service reps to speak gently on the phone and check out clerks that smile (in many stores anyway).

These corporations want you to remember the good experience that you’ve had in their presence and will likewise want to return.  They want to remove potential bad experiences so that you willingly spend money on their product, experience, or merchandise.  By creating a “good experience,”  you’ll want to return and spend more.

While the church is not to imitate a corporation, nor even mimic one, nor our our worship services a product to be sold or even consumed, a good question for the church is:

How can the local church lower the barriers to hearing the message that will be proclaimed?

Church Hospitality is only one tool in the church’s ability to be evangelistic.

Hospitality is not the only tool and should not be confused with evangelism itself.

Rather hospitality can lower and remove the potential barriers that can harm the gospel message during the worship service.

Church Hospitality is part of Pre-Evangelism

As I think of my experience visiting churches for the first time, and as I’ve listened to others who have made first time stranger visits, one thing has consistently risen to the surface.

Lots of anecdotal evidence suggests that the ability of a first time visitor to connect to the worship service was directly impacted by the warmth of the welcome experienced.

  • When no one says hello, the perceived coldness hinders your ability to remember what the sermon was about.
  • When people are staring at you for not dressing right, you want to hide, but feel trapped.  Can’t pay attention.

In both examples, the ability of the first time hearer to interact with the sermon (the central part of most worship experiences) is hindered.

However, when a guest is given a warm welcome, a greater openness and ability to engage and comprehend the sermon remains in place and a greater likelihood (from a human point of view) of greater connection to the local church during that stage of their spiritual journey.

A warm welcome is thus part of the pre-evangelism work necessary in a church’s mission to help people find faith in Christ.

Do You Welcome Church Visitors?

Take a personal moment and examine your heart on this matter.

  • How do you come across to others?
  • When people meet you for the first time, how do you think they perceive your personality, disposition or attitude?
  • When you extend a hand to shake when a guest walks through the church’s front door, are they interrupting your conversation with someone else, or do you offer them genuine interest along with a hand shake (a typical greeting in the US)?
  • How do you treat the unknown person who sits next to you during the worship service?
  • How do you welcome the visitor who sits behind you, or in front of you?

Do you

  • Ignore them?
  • Talk around them?
  • Look at them and say nothing?
  • Take the initiative to greet them?

Remember, we are Christ’s ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5.20). Our actions and reactions communicate who we are and who we represent.

Next steps I can help with

Do you want help developing your church hospitality?

In the EvangelismCoach.org store, I have several products for immediate download or on DVD that you might find helpful:

How To Welcome Church Visitors