Don’t Settle for a “Lesser Than” Vision

I was talking to our church staff recently about a counterintuitive idea. At least, it’s counterintuitive to many: the higher the standards, the stronger the team.

Why is that counterintuitive? Because we tend to think that raising our standards will thin the ranks and weaken what we have. We feel the need to accommodate people, not challenge them.

So here we are, attempting to cast the vision for Christ’s mission in our deeply fallen world, to live lives individually and collectively that serve the least and reach the lost, to kick at the darkness until it bleeds daylight…

… and what do we do?

We lower the bar on all things related to the cause of Christ and, as a result, we train people to minimize the significance of it or blow it off entirely.

Consider the following comparison:

A youth soccer team coach tells a parent that if their child misses practice before a game, they won’t play that week. Period. And if their child misses more than three practices, they are off the team.

The effect on the parent?

They move heaven and earth to never miss a practice.

Let’s say that same parent is a volunteer with their church’s children’s ministry. They consistently arrive late, cancel at the last minute or, if they do show up, are unprepared.

The response of the children’s ministry leader?

There often isn’t one. The idea is that every volunteer is doing them a favor by even feigning to serve.

The effect on the parent?

They continue to treat volunteering as unimportant and inconsequential.

Here’s our fear: if we raise our standards and enforce them, we will lose people. And, no doubt, that is true. But did you really ever “have” them to begin with? No. You will lose the ones who were already demonstrating a lack of commitment. But the people you do “have” who are open to the challenge will begin to take the cause of Christ more seriously. And they should. The church is the hope of the world; youth soccer is not. Yet we treat soccer like it is and the church like recreation.

That must change.

We must remember that there is no greater cause than the cause of Christ. We must cast the vision of that reality to those we lead. We must hold them, and ourselves, to the highest standards of commitment and excellence.

Which means the goal cannot be to accommodate,

… but to disciple.

> Read more from James Emery White.


 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

James Emery White

James Emery White

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which he also served as their fourth president. He is the founder of Serious Times and this blog was originally posted at his website www.churchandculture.org.

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COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I am a senior citizen who has lived in many areas of the US, the farthest south being Virginia DC area. There are several church plants in the area--some failed, some doing well. One of the sadist failures was a plant in NW Washington near a large Presbyterian Church (I had been an elder in the church, so I knew the area) where changes in church doctrine was driving many away from the PCUSA churches. There were many mature Christians who lived in the area who were very willing to participate and give generously to the church. Its failure was a loss. The pastor and his wife lived in a VA suburb, wanted something that would appeal to their tastes, which included "praise music". There was a professional piano teacher and several people who had sung in choirs in the area. Their suggestions were completely ignored. Forget that there was joyous participation in singing hymns and silence by many for the praise music. The experienced church leaders that were attending were expected to seek the wisdom of the pastor who did not live in the area rather than have any role in leadership. There is another church plant in Northern Virginia that seems to be going the same way. My take: the pastors should get past their high-school and college days culture and get to know and appreciate the people of the community. Do not try to reproduce Intervarsity or Campus Crusade. Hymns are not a sin and "uneducated" (never graduated from college) should not be ignored as uninformed or stupid. People who have served in and/or live in the area are needed in leadership and not just to serve coffee and give. We all need to pray together and serve God in the community in which there is to be a plant. Glenna Hendricks
 
— Glenna Hendricks
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I like it Mac and do agree with your opinions on the matter. Thanks much
 
— winston
 
comment_post_ID); ?> In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
 
— Russ Wright
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

It Takes This to Truly Be a Church for the Unchurched

When people hear that Mecklenburg Community Church (Meck) experiences more than 70% of its growth from the unchurched, their mouths drop open. They want to know what we do to achieve such a ridiculously high percentage. There’s obviously a host of things we do, but I tend to answer in one simple way.

I say that everybody talks about being “about” the unchurched, but we really are. In fact, those who hang around Meck from other church backgrounds almost always comment (after even just a few weeks), “Wow, you guys really are after the unchurched.”

The reality is that most churches have outreach in their rhetoric, but not in their reality. The decisions we make at Meck to stay focused on our mission would floor most church leaders, as they fly in the face of raw “numbers” that we could have obtained. Yes, we are a very large church, but we would be so much larger if we focused on transfer growth.

So what does it mean to make the countless decisions we make for an unchurched guest who has been invited by a friend (which is the number one way the unchurched come into our orbit)?

This past weekend I received an email from a member of our staff following our Saturday night service describing the experience a friend of theirs had at Meck when attending for the first time that evening. I offer it in the hope that it will be eye opening to what it really means to be a “church for the unchurched.”

Here’s the email:

I had first-time guests here tonight… He is a Christmas/Easter Catholic and she (raised agnostic) said she never went to church before she married him. I was SO curious to see what they would say about the service.

They were super kind about the whole experience. They mentioned the building and how they were taken aback but yet completely at ease coming in with what appeared to be other “normal people who seemed like they weren’t being dragged to church.” They mentioned being greeted and thought it was just because they were guests, but then realized everyone was getting the same kind of greeting (that really stood out to them). They left the kids with the sitter but were asking me about MecKidz because they saw a “ton of kids running ahead of their parents to… church? Are they giving them free candy or something?” (Which, of course, was a great conversation about MecKidz). They stopped in The Grounds… and said they loved the coffee and the whole vibe. They loved the music and mentioned the diversity on stage… he is Iranian so he “saw himself” up there. I asked him about the music and they said while they didn’t know any of the songs they really enjoyed watching people who did know the music engage it. They of course asked if the band was hired and where they played during the week (ha!). They loved the “personal-ness” of the whole service.

He told me he’s never been to a church service where he didn’t feel guilted into giving money. He couldn’t believe we’d say “don’t give” and then not say “but give to this” later! He told me he actually leaned over to his wife when you started [the message] and said, “How long before he starts talking about money?” He was shocked you didn’t! He said about 10 minutes into the message he forgot to even be listening for it.

I asked him how he felt about the message and he said what I can only attribute as the highest compliment I can give. I’m paraphrasing, but it was something like this: “I knew the message was about me – I mean he said that right at the beginning. And while I should’ve maybe felt awkward or uncomfortable about that, I kind of felt… cared for. I mean, it’s like he said, ‘If you’ve got something you think I need, how much do you have to hate me not to tell me about it?'”

Your stature and being a “man’s man” made him feel like this “Jesus/church stuff” wasn’t a big emotional crutch (which is the conversation we have regularly). And then before they left, they both turned to me and said, “Thank you for inviting us.”

Wowwww.

I forgot… he also said “going to church, you expect to hear about God; I just didn’t expect it to be so compelling.”

I could tease out the various dynamics this person experienced into teaching points, but I think you can do that yourself. The point is that the ultimate test of whether you are a church for the unchurched is simple:

… if an unchurched person thinks you actually are.

> Read more from James Emery White.


 

Want to know more about becoming a “church for the unchurched?” Connect with an Auxano Navigator to learn more.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

James Emery White

James Emery White

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which he also served as their fourth president. He is the founder of Serious Times and this blog was originally posted at his website www.churchandculture.org.

See more articles by >

COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I am a senior citizen who has lived in many areas of the US, the farthest south being Virginia DC area. There are several church plants in the area--some failed, some doing well. One of the sadist failures was a plant in NW Washington near a large Presbyterian Church (I had been an elder in the church, so I knew the area) where changes in church doctrine was driving many away from the PCUSA churches. There were many mature Christians who lived in the area who were very willing to participate and give generously to the church. Its failure was a loss. The pastor and his wife lived in a VA suburb, wanted something that would appeal to their tastes, which included "praise music". There was a professional piano teacher and several people who had sung in choirs in the area. Their suggestions were completely ignored. Forget that there was joyous participation in singing hymns and silence by many for the praise music. The experienced church leaders that were attending were expected to seek the wisdom of the pastor who did not live in the area rather than have any role in leadership. There is another church plant in Northern Virginia that seems to be going the same way. My take: the pastors should get past their high-school and college days culture and get to know and appreciate the people of the community. Do not try to reproduce Intervarsity or Campus Crusade. Hymns are not a sin and "uneducated" (never graduated from college) should not be ignored as uninformed or stupid. People who have served in and/or live in the area are needed in leadership and not just to serve coffee and give. We all need to pray together and serve God in the community in which there is to be a plant. Glenna Hendricks
 
— Glenna Hendricks
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I like it Mac and do agree with your opinions on the matter. Thanks much
 
— winston
 
comment_post_ID); ?> In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
 
— Russ Wright
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

3 Lessons for the Church from the Collapse of Xerox

“I need a Xerox of this.”

“Xerox this for me, will you?”

“We’ll just Xerox off a copy.”

It was a verb as ubiquitous as “google” in its day. To “Xerox” was to make a copy on a copier. That’s how strong the brand was, akin to how “Google it” is used to describe a search on the web or “ask Siri” is for your smartphone. And when it was introduced in 1959, Xerox was considered as cutting-edge as the 2007 announcement of the iPhone.

“But just as Xerox made carbon paper obsolete,” notes the New York Times, “the iPhone, Google Docs and the cloud made Xerox a company of the past.” So earlier this month, after 115 years as an independent business, Xerox combined operations with Fujifilm Holdings of Japan, signaling the end of a company that was once an American icon.

Consider the verb past tense.

What happened?

“Xerox is a poster child for monopoly technology businesses that cannot make the transition to a new generation of technology,” said David B. Yoffie, a professor at the Harvard Business School. Xerox isn’t alone. It joins fellow tech companies like Kodak and BlackBerry that “lost the innovation footrace.” Or, more to the point, Xerox fell into the “competency trap,” where an organization “becomes so good at one thing, it can’t learn to do anything new.”

“Can’t” or “won’t?” The distinction is important as we apply this example to the church.

For a short period of time following my graduate studies, I worked for the Baptist Sunday School Board of the Southern Baptist Convention as its Leadership Consultant for Preaching and Worship. The “Board” was the catchall agency of the nation’s largest Protestant denomination for all things local church—preaching, worship, church growth, discipleship and, of course, Sunday School. But did you notice something odd about that list? All were aspects of the mission of the church, but only one – Sunday School – was a program or method. And yet it was the very name of the agency.

Why?

Because it was a method/program that had become enshrined to the level of orthodoxy.

Yet my job was to study the fastest-growing and most effective churches and then to teach about my findings to other churches. I used to joke that it was the seminary education nobody gets in seminary. During my short tenure, I published a book on my findings titled Opening the Front Door: Worship and Church Growth. It was a controversial book at the time, endorsed by renegade outsiders few had heard of [Rick Warren wrote the foreword; Bill Hybels and (ironically) future head of the BSSB, Thom Rainer, wrote endorsements].

And it was controversial for a reason.

The premise was simple: weekend worship services had eclipsed traditional age-graded Sunday School in terms of weekend attendance (and had since 1971), and was now the “front door” of the church. As a result, the worship service needed fresh attention in terms of ensuring it was an open door to the unchurched. Sunday School was not the wave of the future nor what fueled the fastest-growing churches; weekend services were.

Today? A tame and mainstream idea.

Then? Oh my.

The mindset, even in the early nineties, was simple: Want to grow your church? Sunday School. Want to disciple believers? Sunday School. Want to increase stewardship? Sunday School. Want to end global warming? Sunday School. Again, even the name of the catchall agency for all things local church was called the Sunday School Board.

My ideas were deeply resisted. Turf wars reigned. Programs and curriculum and jobs had to be protected. “Doing church” a certain way became more important than doing church the most effective way. Those who knew how to do church through a Sunday School-centric method became threatened by any other “centric.”

Make no mistake. The Sunday School Board had a monopoly on Sunday School. It was beyond competent at doing it. It made a lot of money – most of it on Sunday School curriculum.

Just like Xerox.

Today, the Baptist Sunday School Board does not exist. They wisely changed their name away from a particular program to something more mainstream (LifeWay Christian Resources). But the lessons remain:

1. Just because you are comfortable with doing something a particular way, and competent at it, doesn’t mean you are being effective with it. Always strive for effectiveness, even at the cost of comfort or learning curves related to competence.

2. Never confuse a method with the message, or tradition with orthodoxy. In other words, don’t protect a program as if you are protecting the Gospel. The message is timeless, but our methods must be ruthlessly evaluated in light of their effectiveness at fulfilling our mission.

3. Constantly innovate. Try new things. If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always be where you’ve always been. For most of us, that’s not good.

All to say, when it comes to Xerox and the church,

… don’t Xerox Xerox.

> Read more from James Emery White here.


 

Want to learn how this applies to your church? Connect with an Auxano Navigator today!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

James Emery White

James Emery White

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which he also served as their fourth president. He is the founder of Serious Times and this blog was originally posted at his website www.churchandculture.org.

See more articles by >

COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I am a senior citizen who has lived in many areas of the US, the farthest south being Virginia DC area. There are several church plants in the area--some failed, some doing well. One of the sadist failures was a plant in NW Washington near a large Presbyterian Church (I had been an elder in the church, so I knew the area) where changes in church doctrine was driving many away from the PCUSA churches. There were many mature Christians who lived in the area who were very willing to participate and give generously to the church. Its failure was a loss. The pastor and his wife lived in a VA suburb, wanted something that would appeal to their tastes, which included "praise music". There was a professional piano teacher and several people who had sung in choirs in the area. Their suggestions were completely ignored. Forget that there was joyous participation in singing hymns and silence by many for the praise music. The experienced church leaders that were attending were expected to seek the wisdom of the pastor who did not live in the area rather than have any role in leadership. There is another church plant in Northern Virginia that seems to be going the same way. My take: the pastors should get past their high-school and college days culture and get to know and appreciate the people of the community. Do not try to reproduce Intervarsity or Campus Crusade. Hymns are not a sin and "uneducated" (never graduated from college) should not be ignored as uninformed or stupid. People who have served in and/or live in the area are needed in leadership and not just to serve coffee and give. We all need to pray together and serve God in the community in which there is to be a plant. Glenna Hendricks
 
— Glenna Hendricks
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I like it Mac and do agree with your opinions on the matter. Thanks much
 
— winston
 
comment_post_ID); ?> In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
 
— Russ Wright
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

What 2017’s Most Popular Tweets Reveal About Our Culture

There are many ways to gain a quick snapshot into culture. One of the more revealing ways is to look at what has trended – or is trending – on Twitter. So for a crash course in all things “now,” here is a sampling of Twitter’s most popular tweets and accounts of 2017:

Most retweeted tweets:

1. The Wendy’s chicken nugget challenge
2. Barack Obama’s Charlottesville response
3. Pennsylvania State University raises money for Houston
4. Ariana Grande responds to the Manchester concert shooting
5. President Obama’s last “thankful” tweet as POTUS

Most tweeted about celebrities:

1. K-pop group @BTS_twt
2. South Korean record label @pledis_17
3. Singer @Camila_Cabello

Most tweeted about elected world leaders:

1. President Donald Trump @RealDonaldTrump
2. Narendra Modi, the prime minister of India @narendramodi
3. Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro @NicolasMaduro

Most tweeted about TV shows (US-only):

1. Game of Thrones
2. Stranger Things
3. Big Brother
4. 13 Reasons Why
5. Saturday Night Live
6. The Walking Dead
7. Grey’s Anatomy
8. The Voice
9. Supernatural
10. Pretty Little Liars

Most tweeted about movies (US-only):

1. Wonder Woman
2. La La Land
3. Dunkirk
4. Spider-Man: Homecoming
5. Justice League
6. It
7. Beauty and the Beast
8. Thor: Ragnarok
9. Black Panther
10. Fifty Shades Darker

Most tweeted activism hashtags (US-only):

1. #Resist
2. #MAGA
3. #ImpeachTrump
4. #TrumpTrain
5. #WomensMarch
6. #NotMyPresident
7. #BlackLivesMatter
8. #NoDAPL
9. #TakeAKnee
10. #BoycottNFL

Now, ready for your homework? If any of these made you feel clueless, put Google to work and catch up.

It’s the world in which you live.

Read more from James Emery White.

Download PDF

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

James Emery White

James Emery White

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which he also served as their fourth president. He is the founder of Serious Times and this blog was originally posted at his website www.churchandculture.org.

See more articles by >

COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I am a senior citizen who has lived in many areas of the US, the farthest south being Virginia DC area. There are several church plants in the area--some failed, some doing well. One of the sadist failures was a plant in NW Washington near a large Presbyterian Church (I had been an elder in the church, so I knew the area) where changes in church doctrine was driving many away from the PCUSA churches. There were many mature Christians who lived in the area who were very willing to participate and give generously to the church. Its failure was a loss. The pastor and his wife lived in a VA suburb, wanted something that would appeal to their tastes, which included "praise music". There was a professional piano teacher and several people who had sung in choirs in the area. Their suggestions were completely ignored. Forget that there was joyous participation in singing hymns and silence by many for the praise music. The experienced church leaders that were attending were expected to seek the wisdom of the pastor who did not live in the area rather than have any role in leadership. There is another church plant in Northern Virginia that seems to be going the same way. My take: the pastors should get past their high-school and college days culture and get to know and appreciate the people of the community. Do not try to reproduce Intervarsity or Campus Crusade. Hymns are not a sin and "uneducated" (never graduated from college) should not be ignored as uninformed or stupid. People who have served in and/or live in the area are needed in leadership and not just to serve coffee and give. We all need to pray together and serve God in the community in which there is to be a plant. Glenna Hendricks
 
— Glenna Hendricks
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I like it Mac and do agree with your opinions on the matter. Thanks much
 
— winston
 
comment_post_ID); ?> In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
 
— Russ Wright
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Discover the Largest Social Media Platform that Few Churches Are Using

In my latest book, Meet Generation Z, I detail the importance of the visual for Generation Z. In a new survey, Adweek confirmed the pre-existing research and conclusions.

Teaming up with Defy Media, they asked a group of nearly 1,500 teens ages 13-20 what they think about everything from social media platforms to digital video to the new breed of online celebrity.

The overarching headline that reflects the deeply online nature of their lives and their almost entirely visual orientation is that nearly all of them use YouTube (95%), and half “can’t live without it.” Not surprisingly, Instagram came in second in terms of usage (69%). Snapchat has now climbed to equal Facebook usage (67%), but when it comes to keeping in touch with their friends, Snapchat rules.

All of you Millennials still using Pinterest will find only 33% of Generation Z even know what you are talking about. Even Google is used only by 37% of their peers.

The combination of growing up online and their orientation to the visual has led them to value online, “social” celebrities more than mainstream celebrities. They trust their advice/endorsement more when it comes to everything from beauty products to tech gadgets.

But make no mistake: it’s all about the visual, and they are getting that visual primarily (for now) through YouTube.

It’s the primary way they get their news, tied with Facebook (23%).

It’s the number one place, by far, to get a good laugh (51%).

It’s the top go-to for shopping recommendations (24%), followed by Instagram (17%).

So what does this mean for the church?

Let’s go for low hanging fruit here: start using YouTube!

Here’s five simple ways to begin using YouTube to reach a YouTube generation:

1. Start a YouTube Channel.

It’s increasingly common for churches of all sizes to self-produce videos that are used in weekend services, student ministry and children’s ministry. Why not start your own YouTube channel for those videos? At Meck, we are developing multiple channels, and probably putting the most energy into the one for MecKidz, our ministry to children birth-fifth grade. This not only reinforces what they learned/saw on the weekend, but is in an easy way to share it with friends.

2. Use YouTube Videos.

If the most popular form of communication and discourse is visual in nature and housed on YouTube then, for goodness sake, use what people are talking about! Viral videos can be used as sermon illustrations, talking points, even for the basis of showing a point of view you wish to disagree with. If I can “show” something instead of “tell” it, I go for “show” every time. Sometimes they can just be a fun way to get into a topic that everyone can identify with or enjoy. For example, I did a 4-week series titled “Viral Verses” on the four most popular verses popping up on Bible apps and social media. Each week, I began by showing the most viral comedic video trending that week.

3. Develop YouTube-Style Videos.

When you develop videos – and as mentioned, many churches of all sizes find this feasible – consider the kinds of videos that are popular on YouTube. Most are not polished, but they do have identifiable styles and cuts, angles and vibes. Our children’s ministry team continually studies the most popular YouTube channels oriented toward children to stay abreast of style, and then develops our videos in similar fashion as a cultural bridge. For adults, think of the enormous popularity of DIY (do-it-yourself) videos, or TED talks. Take cues from what’s clearly popular when you develop your own.

4. Study YouTube Videos Culturally.

If we are an increasingly visual culture, and YouTube is the primary medium housing those visuals, then start studying YouTube culturally. Consider it “Missiology 101.” If you were to be dropped deep into the Amazon basin to reach an unreached people’s group, you would intuitively study their language, dress, music and more. The reality is that you are a missionary. And in most Western countries of the world, that is going to mean studying YouTube. When you do, here is what I would suggest you look for: 1) topics that seem to be of interest; 2) how people communicate, both stylistically and actual verbiage; 3) what are the most popular/viewed videos, and what seem to be their themes; and 4) obvious ways of thinking being manifest that you can either take advantage of or must learn new apologetics to counter.

5. YouTube Your Website.

Generation Z won’t read an ad, but they will watch one. They may not read a book, but they’ll see the film. So when it comes to your website, they may not read much of your written copy, but they’ll watch a short video. So rethink your website and move away from extensive writing to numerous short videos that present information about the page they are visiting. Emphasis on short. If you visit Meck’s website (mecklenburg.org), you’ll find very few pages that do not have an embedded video.

This is, of course, a very narrow set of suggestions related to one visual repository. The idea of becoming more visual in light of a culture that is increasingly visual can take on any number of forms – how you present music, how you illustrate a message, how you convey a story, how you capture attention, and how you move someone emotionally.

But let’s state the obvious:

… start with YouTube.

> Read more from James Emery White here.


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

James Emery White

James Emery White

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which he also served as their fourth president. He is the founder of Serious Times and this blog was originally posted at his website www.churchandculture.org.

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COMMENTS

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Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I am a senior citizen who has lived in many areas of the US, the farthest south being Virginia DC area. There are several church plants in the area--some failed, some doing well. One of the sadist failures was a plant in NW Washington near a large Presbyterian Church (I had been an elder in the church, so I knew the area) where changes in church doctrine was driving many away from the PCUSA churches. There were many mature Christians who lived in the area who were very willing to participate and give generously to the church. Its failure was a loss. The pastor and his wife lived in a VA suburb, wanted something that would appeal to their tastes, which included "praise music". There was a professional piano teacher and several people who had sung in choirs in the area. Their suggestions were completely ignored. Forget that there was joyous participation in singing hymns and silence by many for the praise music. The experienced church leaders that were attending were expected to seek the wisdom of the pastor who did not live in the area rather than have any role in leadership. There is another church plant in Northern Virginia that seems to be going the same way. My take: the pastors should get past their high-school and college days culture and get to know and appreciate the people of the community. Do not try to reproduce Intervarsity or Campus Crusade. Hymns are not a sin and "uneducated" (never graduated from college) should not be ignored as uninformed or stupid. People who have served in and/or live in the area are needed in leadership and not just to serve coffee and give. We all need to pray together and serve God in the community in which there is to be a plant. Glenna Hendricks
 
— Glenna Hendricks
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I like it Mac and do agree with your opinions on the matter. Thanks much
 
— winston
 
comment_post_ID); ?> In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
 
— Russ Wright
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Reaching the 20Somethings

Quick: Who are you trying to reach?

Please don’t say “everyone.” If you are crafting a strategy to reach “everyone,” you are virtually guaranteed to reach “no one.” Think of light. Light that is diffused does very little in terms of penetration. Focus it through a magnifying glass and you can set something on fire. Focus it into a laser and you can cut through sheet metal.

So let’s get focused on who we are trying to reach for maximum impact.

First, if we really are talking about outreach, then you are not after the already convinced. So let’s rule them out. Let’s rule out the de-churched, too. Sure, they should be in a church, but they are already believers.

Let’s be hardcore.

Which means we’re talking about the unchurched unbeliever. The raw meat for evangelism. The testosterone for the mission. The person far from God. The one who doesn’t give much thought, if any, to Jesus, to heaven and hell, and certainly not to a church.

But we’re still not done.

Who is the average person in this category?

A 26-year-old. Yes, 26. Right now in the United States, 26-year-olds are the largest single cohort, numbering 4.8 million. And just in case you want to know, 25-, 27- and 24-year-olds follow close behind (in that order).

They live on the cusp of many of life’s most defining moments: choosing a career, buying a house and having children.

But there is a challenge.

They need remedial education in… well… almost everything. Take a cue from the marketplace, which is, as usual, ahead of the church on such matters. As reported in the Wall Street Journal, “The Scotts Miracle-Gro Co. has started offering gardening lessons for young homeowners that cover basic tips – really, really basic – like making sure sunlight can reach plants.”

Jim King, senior vice president of corporate affairs for Scotts, said: “These are simple things we wouldn’t have really thought to do or needed to do 15 to 20 years ago. But this is a group who may not have grown up putting their hands in the dirt growing their vegetable garden in mom and dad’s backyard.”

This shouldn’t be a surprise for a generation with “over-scheduled childhoods, tech-dependent lifestyles and delayed adulthood.” They are so different, in fact, “that companies are developing new products, overhauling marketing and launching educational programs—all with the goal of luring the archetypal 26-year-old.”

So companies such as Scotts, Home Depot Inc., Proctor & Gamble Co., Williams-Sonoma Inc’s West Elm and the Sherwin-Williams Co. “are hosting classes and online tutorials to teach such basic skills as how to mow the lawn, use a tape measure, mop a floor, hammer a nail and pick a paint color.”

In other words, they need the education before they can even begin to consider a purchasing decision.

Or even a purchasing need.

I hope you smell the application coming.

If you want to reach a 26-year-old unchurched unbeliever, you will need to go remedial. The heart of evangelism, and the apologetics that softens the ground for evangelism, will have to pay fresh attention to explanation.

For example, we did a series titled, “How to Bible.” As in, how to read it, how to apply it and how to believe it. Right now we are in a series called “Thru the Bible in 7 Weeks.” It’s an overview of all the big themes and ideas of the Bible, including introductions to all 66 books. In today’s climate, it’s critical to offer the most basic of introductions to the identity and nature of Jesus, Trinity, grace, prayer and sin. Beyond theology, when it comes to a relationship with God, there needs to be practical attention paid to such practices as prayer, worship and community.

Remember, you are trying to reach a 26-year-old who needs remedial education on all things in life, and this includes the spiritual.

Give it to them.

And then watch how your newly focused outreach to the unchurched actually starts reaching them.

Read more from James Emery White.


 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

James Emery White

James Emery White

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which he also served as their fourth president. He is the founder of Serious Times and this blog was originally posted at his website www.churchandculture.org.

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COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I am a senior citizen who has lived in many areas of the US, the farthest south being Virginia DC area. There are several church plants in the area--some failed, some doing well. One of the sadist failures was a plant in NW Washington near a large Presbyterian Church (I had been an elder in the church, so I knew the area) where changes in church doctrine was driving many away from the PCUSA churches. There were many mature Christians who lived in the area who were very willing to participate and give generously to the church. Its failure was a loss. The pastor and his wife lived in a VA suburb, wanted something that would appeal to their tastes, which included "praise music". There was a professional piano teacher and several people who had sung in choirs in the area. Their suggestions were completely ignored. Forget that there was joyous participation in singing hymns and silence by many for the praise music. The experienced church leaders that were attending were expected to seek the wisdom of the pastor who did not live in the area rather than have any role in leadership. There is another church plant in Northern Virginia that seems to be going the same way. My take: the pastors should get past their high-school and college days culture and get to know and appreciate the people of the community. Do not try to reproduce Intervarsity or Campus Crusade. Hymns are not a sin and "uneducated" (never graduated from college) should not be ignored as uninformed or stupid. People who have served in and/or live in the area are needed in leadership and not just to serve coffee and give. We all need to pray together and serve God in the community in which there is to be a plant. Glenna Hendricks
 
— Glenna Hendricks
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I like it Mac and do agree with your opinions on the matter. Thanks much
 
— winston
 
comment_post_ID); ?> In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
 
— Russ Wright
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

8 Strategic Decisions that Serve Your Mission

At the church I pastor, Mecklenburg Community Church (Meck), our mission is clear: to help spiritual explorers become fully devoted followers of Christ. In our culture, we’ve observed that the “nones” – those with no religious affiliation – are on the rise and, as a direct result of this, Generation Z is proving to be the first truly post-Christian generation.

In order for Meck to be effective at not only reaching the unchurched, but unchurched nones and (specifically) Generation Z, we realized that we had to make some decisions. Eight decisions, to be precise, that have proven to be strategic in serving our mission.

1. Rethinking Evangelism

It is time to rethink evangelism, and that begins with capturing a new understanding of evangelism; one that sees evangelism as both a process and an event. When someone comes to saving faith in Christ, there is both an adoption process and an actual decision event. In light of today’s realities, there must be fresh attention paid to the process that leads people to the event of salvation. The goal is not simply knowing how to articulate the means of coming to Christ, but how to facilitate and enable the person to progress from a point of having no relationship with Christ to one where they are even able to consider accepting Christ in a responsible fashion.

2. Adopting an Acts 17 Model

In Acts 2, we find Peter speaking to the God-fearing Jews of Jerusalem. His sermon wasn’t even the length of a good blog, yet 3,000 repented because they had a good, foundational knowledge of the Scriptures.

Move forward to Acts 17, with Paul on Mars Hill speaking to the philosophers and spiritual seekers of Athens. Here was a spiritual marketplace where truth was relative, worldviews and gods littered the landscape, and the average person wouldn’t know the difference between Isaac and an iPad. Sound familiar? Paul couldn’t take an Acts 2 approach here, much less give an Acts 2 message. He had to find a new way to connect with the culture and the people in it. He had to go all the way back to the beginning of creation and work his way forward.

This is precisely where we find ourselves today. Which means our primary cultural currency needs to be explanation.

3. Being Cultural Missionaries

I think we all know what a good missionary would do if dropped into the darkest recesses of the Amazon basin to reach an unreached people group. They would learn the language, try to understand the customs and rituals, and work to translate the Scriptures – particularly the message of the Gospel – into the indigenous language. When it comes to worship, they would incorporate the musical styles and instruments of the people. They might even attempt to dress more like them. In short, they would try to build every cultural bridge they could into the world of that unreached people group in order to bring Christ to bear.

Why is it that what would be so natural, so obvious, so clear to do in that missiological setting is so resisted in the West?

In being cultural missionaries, we must be laser sharp in our focus, which means pulling out all the stops to reach the unchurched in our city.

4. Skewing Young

One of the natural flows of the church is that left to itself, the church will grow old. It will age. And that means, by default, you will not reach the coming generations. So while the goal is not to simply be a church for young people, neither is the goal to be a church for old people – a church that will have one generational cycle before closing its doors. This means the leadership of the church must invest a disproportionate amount of energy and intentionality in order to maintain a vibrant population of young adults.

At Meck, we’ve used three simple strategies to accomplish this goal: 1) To attract young people, you have to hire young people; 2) To attract young people, you have to platform young people; and, 3) To attract young people, you have to acknowledge young people.

Bottom line? Sometimes bridging a cultural divide is as simple as who you hire, who you put on stage, and who you acknowledge.

5. Targeting Men

At Meck we unashamedly target men in our outreach, in our messages, in our… well, almost everything. We have become convinced through years of experience that if you get the man, you get everyone else within his orbit – specifically, his wife and his children.

What does it mean to target men? It means you think about male sensibilities in terms of music and message, vocabulary and style. One of the most frequent things we hear from women is: “My husband loves this church. I could never get him to church before. But now he comes here even when I don’t!” And she will go where he wants to go. Get him, you get her. Get him and her, you get the family. It’s as simple as that.

6. Prioritizing Children’s Ministry

At Meck, we prioritize children’s ministry above every other ministry. Why? Because it is the most important ministry for the mission of the church. Too many churches treat children’s ministry as a necessary evil. It’s often severely underfunded, understaffed and underappreciated. Wake up. Children are the heart of your growth engine. And if an unchurched person ever was to come to your church uninvited, it would probably be for the sake of their kids. And if they come because they were invited, what you do with their children will be a deal breaker. If you want to reach Generation Z, realize that many of them are in your children’s ministry right now or will only be reached if they choose to enter it. Make sure that when they do, it is an experience that will have them begging to come back.

7. Cultivating a Culture of Invitation

At Meck, a culture of invitation is both cultivated and celebrated. That’s what we do and what we’re after. We talk about inviting our friends and family all the time. We create tools to put in the hands of people to use to invite their friends all the time. We celebrate and honor people who invite people all the time.

Such tools can be something as simple as pens with the name of our church and our website to hand to someone needing a pen, or empty pizza boxes with a card inside inviting them to Meck and a voucher for a free pizza – no strings attached – to bring to someone when you see a moving truck. For special times in the life of the church, like Easter and Christmas, we design tools to be fun – fun to give and fun to receive. People use these things all the time to reach out to their unchurched family, friends, neighbors and anyone else they interact with in their orbit.

8. Discipling Your Mission

I cannot begin to express how important it is to “disciple your mission.” I’ve never heard that phrase, so let me coin it. To “disciple your mission” means that you develop your discipleship, first and foremost, around who it is you are trying to reach. We are trying to reach the unchurched, and even more than that, the nones, in view of the pressing challenge of the rise of Generation Z. So our discipleship is going to be two-fold: serve the needs of our existing believers for missional engagement, and disciple the newly converted on the most foundational aspects of Christian life and thought.

So where does discipleship find its home at Meck? It’s not in the weekend service and it’s not even through small groups. We created the Meck Institute, a community-college approach to discipleship that offers classes, seminars, experiences and events designed wholly for spiritual growth and formation. They are offered on all days of the week at a variety of times, and we also have online classes.

So those are our eight strategic decisions. But here’s the secret sauce – the ingredient behind all of those decisions.

We really are on mission.

We really are turned outward. We really are after the unchurched. Really.

Our mission is one of the most important values that we hold as a church and one that shapes everything we do. What is killing the church today is having the mission focused on keeping Christians within the church happy, well fed, and growing. Discipleship is continually pitted against evangelism and championed as the endgame for the church.

The mission cannot be about us…

… it must be about those who have not crossed the line of faith.


 

Read more from James Emery White

 


Contact an Auxano Navigator to learn how strategy can serve your mission.

 

 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

James Emery White

James Emery White

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which he also served as their fourth president. He is the founder of Serious Times and this blog was originally posted at his website www.churchandculture.org.

See more articles by >

COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I am a senior citizen who has lived in many areas of the US, the farthest south being Virginia DC area. There are several church plants in the area--some failed, some doing well. One of the sadist failures was a plant in NW Washington near a large Presbyterian Church (I had been an elder in the church, so I knew the area) where changes in church doctrine was driving many away from the PCUSA churches. There were many mature Christians who lived in the area who were very willing to participate and give generously to the church. Its failure was a loss. The pastor and his wife lived in a VA suburb, wanted something that would appeal to their tastes, which included "praise music". There was a professional piano teacher and several people who had sung in choirs in the area. Their suggestions were completely ignored. Forget that there was joyous participation in singing hymns and silence by many for the praise music. The experienced church leaders that were attending were expected to seek the wisdom of the pastor who did not live in the area rather than have any role in leadership. There is another church plant in Northern Virginia that seems to be going the same way. My take: the pastors should get past their high-school and college days culture and get to know and appreciate the people of the community. Do not try to reproduce Intervarsity or Campus Crusade. Hymns are not a sin and "uneducated" (never graduated from college) should not be ignored as uninformed or stupid. People who have served in and/or live in the area are needed in leadership and not just to serve coffee and give. We all need to pray together and serve God in the community in which there is to be a plant. Glenna Hendricks
 
— Glenna Hendricks
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I like it Mac and do agree with your opinions on the matter. Thanks much
 
— winston
 
comment_post_ID); ?> In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
 
— Russ Wright
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

10 Solutions to Consider When Your Church Isn’t Growing

It’s one of the most pressing questions pastors and church leaders ask themselves:

“Why aren’t we growing?”

To be sure, not every mission’s soil will yield the same fruit. We’re not talking about overall size, but rather the idea that biblically, we can assume that God wants every church that honors His name and proclaims His message in Christ to grow and that He is willing to empower it to that end.

Churches are living things. Living things grow. If you’re not growing – even if just in compensation to what you’ve lost through transition – something is wrong.

Again, it doesn’t have to be by much. Those churches in smaller communities who are growing by five people a year may actually be growing at a higher percentage of the available population than the “mega” churches.

So take heart.

But if you are not growing at all, or declining…well, God isn’t the problem. We are.

Here are ten areas to consider as to “why”:

1. Leadership

It’s been said that everything rises and falls on leadership. Perhaps a more accurate way of putting it would be that no organization will rise above the level of its leadership.If, on a scale of 1-10, the current leadership is around a “4,” then it will be difficult for the church to grow beyond that level in terms of vision, effectiveness, strategy and impact.

Solution: Ensure that people with the spiritual gift of leadership are actually leading, and that they are committed to developing that gift by reading about leadership, getting around other leaders for insight, and exercising their leadership gift in challenging settings.

2. Communication

There are few things more critical to a church’s growth than an effective communicator for weekend teaching. The dilemma is that many who serve as the primary communicators in their church aren’t Spirit-gifted teachers. They like to speak, and the group that gathers around their teaching seems to benefit from it, but the majority of listeners tend to vote with their feet. At the very least, the teaching doesn’t seem to be catalyzing the congregation to invite their friends.

Solution: Make sure that the point communicator has the spiritual gift of teaching and is actively working at developing that gift by listening to other gifted communicators. Don’t be afraid of developing a team-teaching approach to shore up weakness, or to adjust responsibilities so that various roles more accurately reflect gifting. In other words, perhaps someone has been serving as lead communicator when their gifts are better used in another area. This is a difficult maneuver for, as stated above, people who are speaking tend to like to speak and have a (perhaps) distorted view of their effect.

3. Quality of Worship

The quality of the worship experience is more important even than its style. If the service itself seems slapped together, incoherent or unable to be embraced, then it will not provide the traction needed for ongoing growth. To be sure, worship is not about what we get out of it, but what God gets out of it. But the better that service is at helping people connect with God, the more people it will attract. And lest we forget, the weekend service is the “front door” of the church. So it’s where we “win” or “lose” people. Which means part of the “helping people connect” dynamic will include helping those far from God connect to God through what we offer.

Solution: Review the music, presentation, style and quality of the worship experience of your church in light of its ability to optimally serve and engage people. View the services of larger, faster-growing churches that you feel are biblically and theologically sound for benchmarks. If you are continually plagued by forgotten lyrics, missed notes and awkward transitions, consider planning meetings for your services and run-through rehearsals of critical parts. And by all means, look at your service through the eyes of someone far from God and deeply unchurched.

4. Atmosphere

Every church has an atmosphere, but not all have an atmosphere of friendliness and acceptance. Let’s put it bluntly: every church thinks it’s friendly. But what that often means is they are friendly to each other, friendly to people they know, friendly to people they like or friendly to people who are like them.

Solution: If you haven’t already, consider developing an entire ministry around first impressions and the creation of a friendly, welcoming atmosphere. At Meck, we call it “Guest Services,” and it oversees parking lot attendants, greeters, ushers, hospitality and so much more – all geared toward the experience of first impressions and friendliness. It’s one of our largest and most strategic efforts. In fact, one of the leading reasons people return to Meck is our friendliness.

5. Location

The physical location of a church, if you want to grow by inviting people to attend, is decisive. If it is hard to find, hard to get to, too small in size, has insufficient parking, is difficult to enter or exit due to road traffic,

…then you are artificially limiting the size of your church.

In essence, the shoe tells the foot how big it gets.

Solution: Much of solving location problems is logistical in nature. Hire off-duty police to help people enter and exit your services. Increase the number of your services. Develop a capital campaign to help pay for increasing the size of your auditorium or parking. If needed, simply move to a new location. That may seem dramatic, but it’s often critical. Going “multi-site” is also proving to be a helpful strategy for many churches facing location issues.

6. Structure

Most church structures are not “structured” for growth, much less unity. As an organization, you have to be able to seize opportunities, streamline decision-making and unleash the leadership gift. There is so much that could be said on this, so…

Solution: Read my chapter on “Rethinking Structure” in Rethinking the Church. Do away with committees, across-the-board majority rule and endless policies. Read the chapter and you’ll see why.

7. Methods

Values and doctrine are timeless; methods and strategies are not. Think of a method as a very time-bound approach to solving a problem or answering a challenge. A vast number of churches are employing methods that simply aren’t viable. They hold on to them out of an unfounded sense of loyalty, or even worse, a sense of orthodoxy. Methods don’t fall into that camp.

Solution: Go to school on other churches and their methods. Further, make a list of all of your methods that haven’t been evaluated in five years. That’s your “to do” list.

8. Blind Spots

Blind spots are interesting…they are what you do NOT see. Others can, but you can’t. It’s been said that we all have them – actually, many of them. Do you know yours? Do you know where you are weak, outdated, sloppy, understaffed, wrongly staffed, poorly funded…

Solution: Bring in “mystery” worshipers, or outside consultants, to observe you, talk to you, counsel you. Get 20/20 vision on as much as you possibly can.

9. Not Fueling Growth Engines

Every church has one or more “growth engines.” These are the ministries that fuel whatever growth you have. Most will think of their weekend services; and to be sure, that is a powerful growth engine. But many of your sub-ministries offer the same, if not more, of your overall growth power. For example, at Meck our weekend services may be a powerful engine, but we tend to think that MecKidz is even MORE powerful. So we give it what it needs to grow. Right now, it has the largest staff and the most square-footage of building space of any ministry.

Why?

It grows our church.

Solution: Fund your growth engines. Repeat: FUND YOUR GROWTH ENGINES. And look beyond the weekend. The biggest growth engine of all, in most churches, is the children’s ministry.

10. Unity

Jesus made it clear that unity would be THE verifying mark on His message. A unified church is a growing church. Period.

Solution: Do the hard leadership work of confronting division, dissension and disunity. See the chapter titled “No Tolerance” in What They Didn’t Teach You in Seminary (Baker).

One Last Thought

The most important principle I could pass on is this: think like a lost person.

Really.

Think like someone far from God, divorced from church, coming to your church, would think.

Then…

…change things.

Not the message. Heaven forbid. But do change anything and everything that would be a barrier to this person engaging Christ that does not involve altering the message of Christ.

Read more from James.


If you’re not satisfied with your church’s growth, start a conversation with our team. We’re glad to offer our input. Your vision is at stake, so let’s talk.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

James Emery White

James Emery White

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which he also served as their fourth president. He is the founder of Serious Times and this blog was originally posted at his website www.churchandculture.org.

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COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Jonathan Schultheis — 01/12/18 3:07 pm

Thank you for this article! I'm the pastor of a small church. My gifting is in teaching and we are known for aiding Christians in becoming Biblically literate. Visitor's often comment on God's presence being very real in our services. But we just don't seem to be growing. I have some soul-searching, etc. to do and this article provides some solid ground from which to proceed. Thank you again.

Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I am a senior citizen who has lived in many areas of the US, the farthest south being Virginia DC area. There are several church plants in the area--some failed, some doing well. One of the sadist failures was a plant in NW Washington near a large Presbyterian Church (I had been an elder in the church, so I knew the area) where changes in church doctrine was driving many away from the PCUSA churches. There were many mature Christians who lived in the area who were very willing to participate and give generously to the church. Its failure was a loss. The pastor and his wife lived in a VA suburb, wanted something that would appeal to their tastes, which included "praise music". There was a professional piano teacher and several people who had sung in choirs in the area. Their suggestions were completely ignored. Forget that there was joyous participation in singing hymns and silence by many for the praise music. The experienced church leaders that were attending were expected to seek the wisdom of the pastor who did not live in the area rather than have any role in leadership. There is another church plant in Northern Virginia that seems to be going the same way. My take: the pastors should get past their high-school and college days culture and get to know and appreciate the people of the community. Do not try to reproduce Intervarsity or Campus Crusade. Hymns are not a sin and "uneducated" (never graduated from college) should not be ignored as uninformed or stupid. People who have served in and/or live in the area are needed in leadership and not just to serve coffee and give. We all need to pray together and serve God in the community in which there is to be a plant. Glenna Hendricks
 
— Glenna Hendricks
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I like it Mac and do agree with your opinions on the matter. Thanks much
 
— winston
 
comment_post_ID); ?> In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
 
— Russ Wright
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Excellent & Efficient: What the Church Can Learn from Chick-Fil-A

My oldest son and his wife recently gave birth to our fourth grandchild. On our way to the hospital, while his wife was still in labor, our son asked us to pick up some breakfast. The only place by the hospital was a McDonald’s.

We went through the drive-thru and couldn’t help but notice the trash in the parking lot and the beat-up feel to the entire locale. When we reached the menu/order station, we were greeted with a monotone, bored voice, “Can I take your order.”

It wasn’t even a question. Just a statement.

When we pulled around to the first window to pay, the woman never made eye contact with us; she just took our card and handed it back with the receipt.

I said, “Thank you.”

She never even replied. She just closed the window.

We pulled to the next window, got our order, and at least this time we were met with a brief, “Thank you.”

Later that same week, we went to Chick-fil-A. We always like going there because they have good food, it’s clean and bathed in a Christian ethos with impeccable customer service.

The difference between Chick-fil-A and our McDonald’s experience could not have been starker. The drive-thru line was served by energetic and pleasant young people with mobile devices able to take our order and payment to speed up the process. We were greeted with eye contact, smiles, “How can I serve you?” and, if you know Chick-fil-A well, lots of “My pleasure!” in response to any and all requests. I was told to have a great day. I was asked if there was anything else I needed. I was told how much I was appreciated.

I remember turning to my wife, even though we’ve been to Chick-fil-A a thousand times, to say: “It just doesn’t take that much to have good customer service. Why don’t other places do it like Chick-fil-A? It’s just not that hard to be nice and courteous and friendly.”

Chick-fil-A costs more than McDonald’s. The lines are sometimes longer (because it’s popular). They only serve chicken.

But I don’t care.

One “My pleasure!” is worth a thousand burgers.

What does this have to do with the church?

A member of our staff was serving this past weekend at one of our newer campuses and sent me an email following the experience. She was teaching a class there through the Meck Institute titled “Find Your Fit.” She met a woman who, through the class, decided she wanted to join our Guest Services Team.

Why?

Here’s the rest of her email:

“She said that’s what drew her to Meck because they made her feel so at home. Her kids noticed it too. A friend of hers asked her middle school daughter, I believe it was, why she likes going to Meck so much.

“She said, ‘Everyone is so nice and so welcoming. Let me put it this way. It’s the difference between the customer service at McDonald’s and Chick-Fil-A.’ I thought that was such a sweet (and creative) compliment to our Guest Services Team.”

I did too.

> Read more from James Emery White.


 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

James Emery White

James Emery White

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which he also served as their fourth president. He is the founder of Serious Times and this blog was originally posted at his website www.churchandculture.org.

See more articles by >

COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I am a senior citizen who has lived in many areas of the US, the farthest south being Virginia DC area. There are several church plants in the area--some failed, some doing well. One of the sadist failures was a plant in NW Washington near a large Presbyterian Church (I had been an elder in the church, so I knew the area) where changes in church doctrine was driving many away from the PCUSA churches. There were many mature Christians who lived in the area who were very willing to participate and give generously to the church. Its failure was a loss. The pastor and his wife lived in a VA suburb, wanted something that would appeal to their tastes, which included "praise music". There was a professional piano teacher and several people who had sung in choirs in the area. Their suggestions were completely ignored. Forget that there was joyous participation in singing hymns and silence by many for the praise music. The experienced church leaders that were attending were expected to seek the wisdom of the pastor who did not live in the area rather than have any role in leadership. There is another church plant in Northern Virginia that seems to be going the same way. My take: the pastors should get past their high-school and college days culture and get to know and appreciate the people of the community. Do not try to reproduce Intervarsity or Campus Crusade. Hymns are not a sin and "uneducated" (never graduated from college) should not be ignored as uninformed or stupid. People who have served in and/or live in the area are needed in leadership and not just to serve coffee and give. We all need to pray together and serve God in the community in which there is to be a plant. Glenna Hendricks
 
— Glenna Hendricks
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I like it Mac and do agree with your opinions on the matter. Thanks much
 
— winston
 
comment_post_ID); ?> In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
 
— Russ Wright
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Welcoming the Unchurched to Church

I recently read an article from a professional “mystery worshiper” who works with churches to help evaluate and improve their friendliness and guest relations.

It was a good and helpful article. I found myself nodding in agreement with almost all of it.

Almost.

Not every guest who ventures to visit your church is created equal. On the broadest level, there are churched guests and unchurched guests. By churched, I mean they have a church background, are relatively comfortable and familiar with church world, and are there as a consumer. The unchurched do not have a church background, are not comfortable or familiar with church world, and are there (at best) as an explorer.

What difference does this make?

Quite a bit.

Consider one of the most commonly suggested steps to making a first-time guest feel welcome: designated parking. I’ve seen this done in many ways, such as signs that direct first-time guests to turn on their headlights (and based on that, they are guided toward special parking), or signage that simply directs first-time guests toward a designated parking area.

The parking is clearly marked for “Guests” or “VIPs”. Beyond being close to the church, those parking there are often met by volunteers who greet them, offer first-time guest materials, and even escort them into the church and through any children’s ministry registration needs they might have.

It sounds impressive.

In practice it looks impressive.

But who wants this kind of treatment?

Only the churched.

Churched people want to be welcomed, recognized, get questions answered, meet staff and, yes, park in designated guest parking.

The typical first-time unchurched guest wants anything BUT recognition. They don’t want to be singled out. They don’t want to be targeted. We used to joke that they didn’t want to “say anything, sing anything, sign anything, give anything or do anything.” We find that many first-time guests do not even want to take advantage of putting their child in children’s ministry.

At least, not at first.

It’s the same with special tabs on websites for “planning your visit”, which can include preregistering your child for children’s ministry, being escorted around by a volunteer, and more.

Again, that’s good.

But for churched people.

(I couldn’t help but smile at one church’s “planning a visit” page that also housed their online giving portal. Forget “churched” or “unchurched” – I’m not sure they understood the idea of “guest.”)

So design your guest experience any way you want. Just remember to put yourself in your guest’s shoes.

And know which guest that is.


 

> Read more from James.

Download PDF

Tags: , , ,

| What is MyVisionRoom? > | Back to Execution >

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

James Emery White

James Emery White

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which he also served as their fourth president. He is the founder of Serious Times and this blog was originally posted at his website www.churchandculture.org.

See more articles by >

COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I am a senior citizen who has lived in many areas of the US, the farthest south being Virginia DC area. There are several church plants in the area--some failed, some doing well. One of the sadist failures was a plant in NW Washington near a large Presbyterian Church (I had been an elder in the church, so I knew the area) where changes in church doctrine was driving many away from the PCUSA churches. There were many mature Christians who lived in the area who were very willing to participate and give generously to the church. Its failure was a loss. The pastor and his wife lived in a VA suburb, wanted something that would appeal to their tastes, which included "praise music". There was a professional piano teacher and several people who had sung in choirs in the area. Their suggestions were completely ignored. Forget that there was joyous participation in singing hymns and silence by many for the praise music. The experienced church leaders that were attending were expected to seek the wisdom of the pastor who did not live in the area rather than have any role in leadership. There is another church plant in Northern Virginia that seems to be going the same way. My take: the pastors should get past their high-school and college days culture and get to know and appreciate the people of the community. Do not try to reproduce Intervarsity or Campus Crusade. Hymns are not a sin and "uneducated" (never graduated from college) should not be ignored as uninformed or stupid. People who have served in and/or live in the area are needed in leadership and not just to serve coffee and give. We all need to pray together and serve God in the community in which there is to be a plant. Glenna Hendricks
 
— Glenna Hendricks
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I like it Mac and do agree with your opinions on the matter. Thanks much
 
— winston
 
comment_post_ID); ?> In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
 
— Russ Wright
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.