Stan Granberg, PhD, Kairos Executive Director
There’s a lot of interest and activity surrounding discipleship today, and that is good! As I hear and read a lot of this discipleship talk, it often seems to be in the context of maturing those who are already believers—often lifelong believers. We need to continually remind ourselves that the discipleship journey includes life from unbelief to mature discipleship.
When we follow Jesus’ ministry we see a fairly seamless process as he meets people where they are and moves them from unbelief to active believer. Look at the Samaritan woman in John 4:1-42. When Jesus encounters her at the well she’s not a Messiah believer. Jesus begins by establishing relationship. Then the two engage in a series of back forth questions and statements. Ultimately, Jesus gets to the heart of her life,
Jesus: “Go call your husband” Woman: “I don’t have a husband”
“You’re right, you have 5” “I see you’re a prophet”
“Believe me woman” “I know that the Messiah is coming”
“I am he” “Come, see. Could this be the Messiah?”
By the end of this story the woman is confessing her commitment of belief to her towns people, who by this time are ready to go and see for themselves. I believe this is a classic story demonstrating how Jesus met this woman on her terms, then deliberately led her to conclude that he was the Messiah of promise and worthy of discipleship.
Here’s the question you need to answer: Do the activities your church provides give people a clear, well-defined pathway to faith in Jesus then growth towards active discipleship? Here’s a simple, effective five-step system that you can use to create a discipleship funnel to help your church create disciples while it grows in numbers and health.
Step 1: Encounter. If we believe that God is searching for and gathering people to himself, how do we meet these people? You must learn to turn encounters into meeting events. Your church needs specific meeting activities where you get to encounter people. Good meeting points often include one off events such as neighborhood parties, Vacation Bible Schools, and holiday activities. What truly characterizes a meeting point is you have to collect contact information, at minimum first and last names and their phone number or email. If you don’t get these, you can’t follow up. Not only do you leave people stranded, but all that energy you expend doesn’t do you any good. Your goal for encounter is to get to know people, listen for their spiritual story, and provide them opportunity for a next step. What are your most effective encounter activities that help you meet new people?
Step 2: Engage. Engagement is where people have opportunity to hear the gospel, ask questions, consider the gospel’s implications for their lives, and see how they fit with you, God's people. Good engagement activities are short-term, well-defined studies such as the Alpha course, Story of Redemption, or Let’s Start Talking. What I think makes these some of the best engagement activities is because they occur in small groups where there are multiple seekers. These small groups allow discussion and question asking; people get to think and process together so they gain a multi-dimensional look at the gospel. The believers in these engagement groups act as guides and gospel illuminators; they’re not teachers. The goal of engagement activity is to provide seekers the opportunity to make a valid decision about the lordship of Jesus in their lives. What activity do you repeatedly use so people can engage the gospel?
Step 3: Commitment. People need to have the opportunity to make a specific commitment to Jesus. Even more than that, they need people who care for them to ask them if they are ready to give themselves to Jesus. Good commitment activities include events like baptism days, special preaching series, and weekend retreats or summer camps. It's always important to give people the opportunity to respond to God's big ask in their lives. The goal of commitment is for people to make their confession of faith in Jesus and give themselves over to him in baptism. When and how do you ask people to make their commitment to Jesus?
Step 4: Essentials. When people are new Christians they need specific information, ideas, and guided experiences that help them integrate their new belief into practical life. In Kenya we had a year of specific teaching that oriented new believers to the Bible and we guided them through the basic practices of Christian life. Specifically prepared Bible classes and small groups for new believers provide good opportunities for new Christians to grow in an environment designed for their needs. The goal of the essentials period is to give new Christians the essential insights into Christian faith and life so their newly acquired faith can grow. What activities do you provide at your church where new Christians can be oriented to both scripture and their new life in Jesus?
Step 5: Experience. Again, in Kenya, we found it took several years of experience and growth for faith to become firmly rooted in people's lives. There was often a trial during this time where their faith would be tested. Sometimes they would make it, sometimes not, sometimes they would succumb then later return. Our role was to help them consider the possibilities and consequences of their decisions. Good preaching series, ongoing small groups, solid Bible classes and accountability groups are all good activities that allow experienced Christian living to form. How do you support your people through the trials of life that test their faith?
If you think of these five steps as a funnel, you want to always be putting new people into the wide end of the funnel where they can move down through these five sequential steps. The structure of such a process gives everything you do intentional purpose that creates movement. Without such structure, most churches find their activity becomes a hodgepodge of ever repeating events that simply maintains what they have. We find ourselves very active but without much movement or results.
I hope these ideas are helpful to you as you obey God’s great commission and make disciples of Jesus Christ.
by Stan Granberg, Executive Director
Is anyone else tired of the New England Patriots? Season after season New England rules the NFL, almost no matter who is on the team.
Tony Morgan, chief strategic officer of the Unstuck Group, developed a useful look at the church lifecycle with a unique twist to it. While the lifecycle idea is standard, the twist is seeing the two sides of the curve through the lens of “what got you here, won’t get you there.”
The left of the lifecycle curve is the growth side. As a church planter gathers, launches and builds momentum he can become the center of gravity for growth. Momentum growth can be accomplished on the basis of personality, individual relationships, and sheer effort. But once the new church breaks through the crowd size of 80 and into the low 100s, personality-based growth momentum typically stalls.
What got the planter through launch and into the momentum growth phase is insufficient to break through the barrier to strategic growth. Strategic growth is based around developing perpetuating processes that shift the focus away from a single person to a defined process, i.e. a system. This is master’s skill of Bill Belichick. Belichick has created a system for the Patriots that has been able to sustain itself despite the constant change of players.
If a church gets stuck at or below the 80 level it’s a SYSTEMS problem.
The right side of curve is the maintenance side. The issue here is one of focus. When the focus of the church turns inwards, towards its own people, the slide to decline begins. It’s pretty easy to test for a maintenance problem. Throw out a new idea and listen to the feedback.
If feedback to a new idea centers around how “our people” will respond,
It’s a MAINTENANCE problem.
If your church is stuck on the left side of the curve, build your systems.
If your church is stuck on the right side of the curve, refocus your priorities to people not yet in your church.
Creating Missional Partnerships to Lead Community Shalom, Justice, and Healing
excerpts from an article by Ron Clark
Church Planter at Agape Church of Christ
After twenty years of preaching/ministry in established congregations (rural and urban), my wife and I felt called to plant a new congregation in downtown Portland.
I was beginning to “detox” from the traditional church growth teaching I received in graduate school. Preaching in a large congregation was a constant reminder that we were experiencing and pandering to what John Drane labels a McDonalization of Christianity.15
I was also aware that Christians in both leadership and congregations were failing to engage their culture. While it did seem as if many Christians felt that they were in [exile], it was even more clear that there was little being done to connect with their communities or offer a fresh view of Jesus. It seemed that we who were following Jesus were reacting to change rather than affecting it.
After launching Agape, we became intimately involved with local agencies through our work with houseless individuals, with those living in transitional housing and camps, with those in prostitution/sex industry, with addiction support groups, with survivors of Intimate Partner Violence (IPV), with college students, with millennials, and with married couples. By developing relational communities, Agape’s home groups became public gathering spaces for people from various locations in Portland. These home groups enabled others to develop relationships and offer services to their own community through spiritual gatherings and inclusive communities. This comunitas(a community that gathers in the context of a shared ordeal or mission that lies beyond themselves) for captives became a pattern with Agape people serving their neighbors.27
Our beginning work with PUAH (Portland United Against Hate) has indicated that some of the group members perceive those who profess Christianity as the authors of many hate crimes and attacks on the LGBTQ community. Law enforcement, houseless advocates, and community trafficking/prostitution agencies strongly believe that faith communities need to partner with them in addressing social justice . . .
We believe that we are called to develop relationships with those in our local agencies through our ministry and expressing agape love, while restoring a positive view of Christians and the God of the Bible. Missional theology provides opportunities to heal open wounds from those hurt by people of faith . . .
We have also been able to work with anti-trafficking agencies and anti-prostitution groups by addressing cultural masculinity and its role in the sex industry and in the oppression of women, children, males, and transgendered youth. The God of mission continues to call Agape to partner with our community as leaders and with other leaders to offer a vision of hope, justice, and shalom.
For the full article, which includes the development of Agape's theology and the way its dedication to practicing what Jesus taught on love, social justice, and the incarnation, go to http://missiodeijournal.com/issues/md-8-2/authors/md-8-2-clark
By Stan Granberg
New Year’s resolutions, you either love them or hate them. If you’re someone who likes to challenge yourself and has inordinate self-discipline, you probably love New Year’s resolutions. But if you’re like most of us, resolutions last about a month before they slide into the sunset. In fact, U.S. News reports that 80% of all resolutions fail by the second week of February.
As a missional church leader, January should be one of the most powerful months of the year for you. Take advantage of the forward movement of January to create an Annual Plan that will not only get you off to a great start, it will get you working on those things that will help the new year be a good one.
Here are three questions that will guide you to create a powerful New Year’s Plan:
By Patty Slack
Would it surprise you to hear that between a quarter and a third of our regular Kairos staff meetings are spent in prayer? Or that in an hour-long meeting of church leadership, we might spend 30, 45, or even all of that hour praying? We regularly note evidence that our time spent in prayer is having an effect in the battle happening in realms we cannot see.
So, when we say we covet your prayers for church planters, we are not just paying lip service. We are inviting you to join us in battle. Church planters are on the front lines of the spiritual war. They know the enemy is real and they face him boldly, but they do not face him alone.
Here are 10 prayer prompts. Choose one or all to help you focus your prayers.
1. Pray for . . . God to raise up new planters
2. Pray for . . . God to protect the planters who are facing attack
3. Pray for . . . a church planter by name (if you don't know any church planters, leave a comment and we'll send you a list)
4. Pray with . . . faith that He hears
5. Pray with . . . a church planter, a minister, a person who is struggling
6. Pray against . . . Satan's attacks, which can get very personal
7. Pray in . . . unity with other believers
8. Pray for . . . someone you know who does now know Jesus
9. Pray around . . . your neighborhood, your park, your schools
10. Pray until . . . your prayers are answered, and then pray some more!
To get regular prompts on who to pray for, join the Kairos Prayer Movement!
By Gena Granberg
About 10 years ago I added a weekly time of solitude with God to my schedule. At the time, Stan and I had just started a new church planting ministry and I was keenly aware of how this could not be done without God at the front and center as our guide. I was desperate for him.
I struggled for quite a while to get this regular solitude time to take hold. Eventually, I found for me, the essential piece was dedicating a place to be in solitude with him.
When we lived in Portland, OR it was the Columbia River gorge with its mighty cliffs, deep valley, mighty river, and majestic Mt. Hood above it all. Now in Jonesboro, AR my place looks quite different with its playgrounds, picnic pavilions, fishing pond, and walking path. Wherever my dedicated place for solitude, here are some things he teaches me when I’m alone with him.
I’ve got a confession: I am totally overwhelmed by social media and marketing. It blows me away and I’d bet that you probably feel just the same way. Social media marketing is so confusing. I’ve spent hours trying to get a handle on it. It’s a drag. And I’m not sure I’ve made much progress to tell you the truth.
But I’m pretty sure I’m not alone, especially among churches and campus ministries. So I thought I would begin to blog my journey into the marketing world. Not that I intend to become an expert—an experiment is more like it—and put it into a blog.
Up to this point I’ve done web research and engaged with work by Chris Jefferson at Prodonos.com, Justin Wise (ThinkDigital.com), Ryan Wakefield at ChurchMarketingUniversity.com, and Hubspot.com. Each company has taken me deeper, but I’m still searching for the whole in the midst of all the pieces.
What I’ve found is many different approaches that form a miasma (a fancy way of saying a mess) of options, statistics, social media platforms and more “buy my product and you too can succeed” than I ever thought imaginable.
Here’s why I’m doing this marketing work:
This whole process is probably going to feel piecemeal itself as I learn pieces then figure out how to get them to work together as a whole. I’ll share those pieces with you as I journey this broken process. Hopefully my journey will help you and if you have insights, tools, and even things you’d never do again, share them with me and together we’ll push to the future.
Upward and Onward
by Stan Granberg - Originally published 09/28/16
"At what point did pastoral ministry become so draining, so challenging, that a gifted veteran would question his ability to go the distance or cause a bright and talented newcomer to consider dropping out of professional ministry?" Lilly Foundation, Sustaining Pastoral Excellence, p.
Today's pastors often feel:
As a result, the best people often shy away from professional ministry or they burnout and leave ministry as a vocation, sometimes even leaving God in the process.
If you're a minister, a church leader, a friend of a minister, or a church member, you owe it to your minister, yourself, and your church to help your minister engage in healthy soul care.
Recently I was blessed to be at a meeting of church planter executives where Alan Ahlgrim presented five levels of pastoral soul care. Every pastor should have plans for the first four levels and options for level five.
Friend to Friend
Close friends provide regular, personal interaction where they can speak into the pastor's soul with love and support.
Everyone runs into situations that challenge them beyond their current level of ability or maturity. Mentors provide pastors the investment of experience and expertise to help them meet the challenges of pastoral work.
These are retreats, seminars, and training events where pastors can learn from experts and each other to sharpen the myriad of skills pastors may be called to perform.
These are small groups of fellow leaders who commit from one to three years together to hold each other close, allowing them to reveal their fears, their doubts, and their missteps without fear of repercussions.
Covenant groups are not about fixing. They are about listening carefully, asking clear questions, and keeping each other out of the ditch.
Sometimes despite the best precautions, but most often because levels one through four were not exercised, pastors reach crisis where professional help and intervention is needed.
God has provided exceptional people who can help pastors in deep distress regain balance and wholeness to their life and ministry.
Share these five levels with your church leaders and pastor. You may save a life gifted for God's glory.
By Stan Granberg
Within our Kairos Church Planting network we say this, "Vision brings hope and a Plan brings confidence." This is a memorable way to recognize that we need to know where we headed and how we're going to get there.
We also say, "If it's in your head it's a dream; if it's on paper it's a plan." The power of putting something down on paper (yeah, that's figurative, as I'm writing this on my iPad) is amazing. More things will actually get done when we see it written then when they just rattle around in our minds.
If making a plan and writing it down are so powerful why is it that so many of us don't do it? My answer is we often overthink planning. We think planning means spending days agonizing over the issues, researching all possible answers, and preparing that way too long, no one will ever read it, doorstop of a plan. If that's what it takes--count me out! I can't do that kind of planning. Let's leave that to the Pentagon.
Instead I use this very simple 5 question planning process:
What needs to happen to move the ball down the field? There are always many things that beg to be done. This question helps us clarify what will actually help us do what needs to be done.
Why do I think this goal will move the ball? Answering the why question raises our confidence that we're putting our energies into something that will actually help us make progress.
What is the measurable outcome I'm trying to achieve? If your outcome isn't measurable how in the world will you know when you've accomplished it and how well it was done? By having a measurable outcome you'll know it when it happens. (Oh, and this makes celebrating the victory so much more satisfying).
What actions will get me there? By creating an action list you take the big, overwhelming thing and break it down into pieces you can handle. It's the answer to the old African question. "How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time!"
What's the logical sequence for those actions? Now you sequence those actions into the logical order that you can put into your work calendar. Now you know not only what you need to do but when you have to have it done by. For about half of us (yeah, us iNtuitives and Perceivers in the Myers-Briggs or Influencers in the DiSC) it gives us that deadline we often need to get us going.
Most of the time, even for long term, complex processes, you should be able to put all this on one sheet of paper. Do that and you've got a pretty simple but darn good plan.
Remember even an idiot with a plan is more likely to succeed than a genius without one.
Good luck. Why don't you sit down and make a plan right now. if it fits on one page (one side only) send it to me. I'll love seeing what you're working on.
By Stan Granberg - Orginally published 10/06/2016
Is that a bold question to ask? Why do I think I know so much that I can assume your church is not planting new churches? I do it with 97% certainty.
Before I answer the question here's a quiz for you to take:
Over the past eleven years Our Kairos team has talked to hundreds of churches in our fellowship of the Churches of Christ. The good news is that across those eleven years over 160 churches have contributed in some way toward planting new churches through Kairos Church Planting.
That's 1.3% of our current 12,260 congregations.
The bad news is that we are losing far more churches than we are planting and we can only expect the rate of decline to accelerate. Thus the question,
Why is my church not planting new churches? Here are five common answers we hear.
Our church isn't growing, how could we start something new?
For over twenty years now the general research is that 80% of American churches are declining or plateaued. The result is that when a church is not growing, it's difficult to imagine that growth of any kind is possible. Planting new churches is our research and development. New churches can help us learn how to grow again.
It's not a good time for us.
I've heard this reason many times. When I've followed it up with "When would be a good time?" the typical answer is 10 years. But what will be different 10 years from now if we do not make the decisions to change?
Can we control a new church?
What we mean by this statement is we want to make sure a new church will look, act, and think just like us. Yet, can we defend the idea that our existing churches are perfect? Have we truly made a perfect church?
New churches are engaged in a deeply creative process to engage our dynamic culture in faith. The best control we can offer is the trust that those we have raised in faith will pursue their task with humble obedience to God's word.
We don't know how.
Twenty years ago our knowledge of church planting was limited and individualized. Today, however, there is a great deal of information available.
Kairos has identified three seasons of planting, each with five critical tasks that will help a new church successfully come into being. Our challenge is not really knowing what to do, it is learning how to execute what we need to do. Contact Kairos for your first steps.
We can't afford it.
Individually, few churches can afford the cost of planting new churches (approximately $250,000 over three to five years). Yet God has not left us without resources.
First, what if we worked together with several churches forming a support group? By distributing the costs it becomes much more affordable. Second, we need to faithfully close many older, dying churches that have finished their course in order to plow those resources back into the future.