In yesterday’s article 2 Attitudes for Small Church Transformation, Ron Crandall’s study pointed out how evangelistic growth in the small church is rooted in relationships and need strategies to increase the number of first time church visitors.
Larger churches may have lots of programs to help attract them and integrate people quickly. Smaller churches may not have the programmatic resources. Their strength has to be relational.
In turnaround churches,
“new faces and families in church enable members to believe again in a brighter future and invest again in their buildings, their witness, and their efforts to please God.”
15 Efforts to Increase First Time Visitors in the small church
Crandall surveyed pastors on their intentional church growth efforts.
He wanted to learn which efforts seemed fruitful to reach new people and increase the retention of first time church visitors.
- Emphasis on Invite a Friend
- Utilize advertising — phone, letters, ads, signs
- Start new programs
- Welcome visitors better
- Encourage lay visitation
- Follow up with visitors
- Conduct pastoral visitation
- Focus on children’s ministries
- Deliver visitor welcome packets and baked goods
- Offer pastoral care to the community
- Redirect existing programs outward
- Clarify the meaning of being a Christian
- Pray intentionally for unreached people.
- Provide opportunities for new people to serve
- Plan for special evangelistic events.
The key result here is that small churches must do well at making relational contact.
What surprised me is how high advertising ran on this list — which isn’t personal at all.
How new people come to church for the first time
Now Crandall’s original study was done in the late 1990s, when church growth scholarship was really studying the impact of such advertising. From research done some time ago and still in print from Amazon (Source:The Inviting Church, 1987 p. 44), here is what was found:
- 2% by Advertisement
- 6% by the Pastoral Invitation
- 6% by organized evangelism campaign
- 86% by friends or relatives
I don’t know if there has been any new research to show these numbers to have changed or remain the same.
At least the statistics show that for most growth to happen, personal invitation is still the best. I was glad to see that is still #1 on the list.
Invite a friend
There are some formal campaigns that you can create to run “Friendship Sundays” or “Friends and Family day” or something like that. The idea is pick a Sunday and build momentum for invitation, programming and the like. That’s one approach.
A Twitter follower bought a 10 week packaged campaign off the Internet in 2009 and laughed at it’s 1980s content, down to the poster art and the plastic lapel pins. At least the tapes were updated to CDs, though the manual still referred to tapes.
But it doesn’t take a lot of resources to run such a campaign.
Read these 6 steps to host an invite a friend campaign
Successful evangelism in small churches
But Crandall’s research revealed that
Successful results in outreach, evangelism, and church growth in smaller churches depends on
- Having a pastor who leads in evangelism
- Training, planning, and goal setting for growth
- Inviting friends and family to church
- Designing programs to reach new people
- Visiting all prospects
- Enhancing the church’s image through promotion and advertising
- Holding special evangelistic events
- Clarifying the meaning of being Christian
- Praying for God to touch lives
- Using the gifts of the body for the work of the kingdom.
This list highlights for me the role of a pastor in church growth. Yet the challenge that I keep encountering is that many pastors have no formal seminary training (confirmed by Martha Reece’s research and Ron’s Research), nor do many pastors (at least mainline anyway) have a lot of personal experience in personal evangelism.
They may be able to set the goals for growth and hope other people help make it, but pastors need to lead in evangelism.