If they’re unchurched why are we talking about how far they'll drive to church at all?
That’s a fair question, so let’s talk about those who are becoming believers or who are new believers. When people cross that mental barrier of resistance and decide to explore faith they’re eventually going to attend a church worship gathering.
So how far will they go?
I’ve worked with church planters for the past twelve years, so I have a lot of anecdotal evidence, but I also have some research evidence that gives us a strong clue of how far people will go.
When I was teaching at Cascade College in Portland, OR in 2002, one of my students mapped the directories of people attending nine Churches of Christ congregations in the Portland Metro area. This is what he found:
Remember, these were highly committed Christians and highly committed to their specific, home church. When it came to people who are becoming Christians, the distances shrink dramatically.
People becoming Christians will typically live within 2.5 miles from where they will attend a church.
Remember, people who are becoming Christians are trying out faith. They want to see if faith makes sense in their life, if it fits their lifestyle. They don’t have strong attachments to any particular faith brand. “Becoming believers” will typically go to a church that:
To the person becoming a believer, one church is about the same as another, thus the 2.5 mile radius reflects the distance new people tend to travel to church.
The distance can go out to 5 miles when there are nearby connection points, such as neighbors who attend that church or a small group that meets nearby. These near-neighbor connections provide a conduit to the more distant worship gathering.
Beyond the 5-mile zone there has to be a strong, specific reason for people to travel that distance to church: brand loyalty, a specific worship experience or preacher, a family special need being met, etc.
If your church wants to reach new people, here are some ideas for reaching those who live near where you meet.
Hope these ideas help you think and act more carefully to those people who live close to your meeting place.
A Process for your Church Leadership Team
How does your church make decisions? Who makes the decisions? How timely are decisions made?
Step 1: Values
Your core values give your church its sense of individual identity, provide direction, and are foundation upon which decisions are made. Run the decision through your core values. Ask these two question to help you discern whether you can say yes to a decision.
1. Is this decision consistent with and connected to our core values?
Step 2: Mission
Now you are looking at how this decision connects with your church's mission, the statement that describes why your church exists. Your mission statement answers the question, Should we say yes to this decision?
Step 3: Vision
Your vision is what you wish to see come to being in the next few years. Ask the question, Does this decision contribute to accomplishing our vision? At this step you are answering the final question of, "Will we say yes to this decision?"
Can We Grow Again?
by Stan Granberg, PhD
I received a call recently from a church that began with this, “We’re tired of years of decline and want to know if anyone can help us grow again.” What a great statement and a statement that can break your heart. Yet I hear it over and over again. My perspective is that there is a dawning desperation among many church leaders. No matter what they do, it seems like people continue to leave their churches and few guests stick around to replace them.
Score the following statements using this system:
1 point= Nope. This isn't us.
3 points=I hope this isn't us
7 points=This could be us
10 points=Oh dear. This is us!
How did you do?
No matter where you find yourself scoring, there is help. I encourage you to contact the Heritage 21 ministry for a free consultation about what next steps your church might take.
Heritage 21 can help you update your legal documents, better understand your challenges, and suggest options for a God-honoring future for your church.
1) Ask yourself questions. Are they cheering for me when I head out the door? Or are they upset that I’m leaving again? Have they been given notice about my calendar? Do they understand my calling? Do they believe in it? Do they pray for me when I am on tough assignments? These answers reveal the health of my relationships.
2) Do not silo your family from your ministry. In the 60s and 70s, a lot of us grew up with “The church comes first.” The order was: God, church, biological family. If your biological family is part of the church (which is true for many of us) then they can be part of the first family after God. One of my mentors, Evertt Huffard, told me, “There are times when you have to ask your family to make sacrifices for the sake of the church. There are also times when you have to ask the church to make sacrifices for the sake of your family.” I really appreciated this balance. I do hear some guys going to the extreme the other way. They say “I need to put my family ahead of the church.” Well, I hear that, but in what other career do you even get that choice? Doctors, truck drivers, shift workers don’t always have that option. Do you want to hear from people in your church, “We had to put our family ahead of the church so that’s why we signed up for soccer on Sunday mornings for the next 12 weeks.” There is a true overlap between our family and God and church. Our lives should reflect that overlap with some times of spiritual priority distinction.
3) Do not silo your ministry from family. There are things you need to keep in confidence. But, for the most part, involve your family in your ministry whenever possible. This breaks down a lot of the church/family false dichotomy. Our wives and kids are involved with stuff they would never be involved with if we were doctors or lawyer. For the most part, that’s a good thing.
4) Help your constituencies understand each other. Inform folks about the other things you are involved with, not to brag, but so they know the different things God has called you to. I think that helps with their patience and understanding toward you. I have the privilege of serving on 3 boards now besides my home church. Frankly, it’s probably too many. But when I share the diversity of my ministry with those I minister to, it helps them see the call of God is wide and deep. It also provides a good model for how God truly can equip anyone to serve in many wonderful and different ways.
5) Have some non-movable stuff for you and your family. Nightly dinner. Friday nights. Lunch after church on Sunday. Have some times and places that, except for emergencies, you don’t let folks invade. This tells your family they are a priority. Does your family question how much time you are on your phone? This is an indicator that they are not feeling like a priority.
6) Make faith real at home. What does conflict resolution look like in your home? Does it sound like it comes from a modern psychology textbook or does it sound like “ya know Jesus asks us to ….” Problem solution that begins with “Jesus” as the first word tangibly roots your faith in your family. Pray at meals. Share thanksgiving and hardships at meals. Read from the Bible at your table. Maintain a consistent time of intimacy with your spouse. Sexual intimacy is a good barometer of the spiritual health of your marriage.
7) Truly take a day off. Beware of what one mentor called the “bastardized” Sabbath (time off work but cut-off from the Father). I struggle with this as it takes so much faith. Yet, I need a great one of these at least once a month. This means no phone calls and little or no texting. These great days off are “simple” in structure. Some times of prayer throughout the day paired with something outdoors is a great day off. A recent one for me was walking 18 holes of golf. Between shots I really tried to take in the sunshine and the presence of God in every vista. I focused on the calmness of God and prayed as he brought names and situations before me. I did not check out from life but engaged it with the strength of perspective that only God can provide.