See the Full Article on the Wineskins Site
A disturbing prospect looms before us as the fact of our decline of Churches of Christ (CoC) has moved from unbelievable to undeniable. The question we must answer is no longer, “How are we doing;” our question is now, “What shall we do about it?”
I've written articles for The Great Commission Journal and in collaboration with Tim Woodroof addressing the urgent need to plan for the future of Churches of Christ before it's too late. In my most recent article at wineskins.org, I offer 3 of the biggest challenges facing the Churches of Christ and 3 strategies to meet those challenges.
If God has invested heavily in this branch of the tree of Christianity, can't we do the same?
What belongs on your website?
In the olden days of a decade or more ago, the internet was the Wild, Wild West. Everyone “needed” a website, but didn’t know what to put on it. So, they included everything. At Kairos, we over cluttered our website with the best of them. But web audiences have changed and tastes have become more refined. If you want your church website to work for you, here are a few tips for clean and effective design.
There are two main camps when it comes to church website design. One camp says that your website is the main vehicle of communication. You should put everything your church does up on there. You should have a blog, a church calendar, streaming videos, every outreach ministry should have their own page and blog. And on, and on. The other camp says a website should be simple, well-designed, and have just the essential information about your church. That’s the camp that I belong to, and here’s why. Technology changes all the time! When you build a large website that has all the bells and whistles, it is difficult to keep up to date and it takes a LOT of work. Because of all that it becomes old very quickly.
Who Is Your Website For?
One way to view your website is as a glorified billboard. It should have just the basic information that people are looking for and they should be able to find that information quickly and on any device. That should make you ask two questions: 1. Who are the people looking at your website? 2. What information are they looking for? You might be surprised that the majority of people that view your website are not your members, but people that are trying to find a church. It’s guests that look at your website. And what information are they looking for?
• When are the services?
• Where is the church located?
• What are the church’s core beliefs?
• How can I and my kids get involved?
That’s it! That’s your churches website. You don’t need any more than that. Now, there is an obvious piece missing from this idea, and that is the interaction between the church and the members. How do you tell people what events are going on, how to volunteer for those events, what prayer requests are there, what Bible studies are going on, and so on? In today's world, those things are done through a church app. (More on that in a future post.)
What Should Your Website Look Like?
Your Website should have, at most, 3 colors—one primary, one secondary, and one for accent or Pop! If you don’t know how to find a trio of colors that matches, coolors.co can help you pick out a great, contemporary color palette.
Fonts, like colors, can work for you or against you. Limit yourself to three fonts. More than that is just too visually confusing. Just like with colors, there is a great website to help you out. FontPair.co has all the latest fonts already paired up for you to use.
Running a website can be super complicated, where you hire a designer or a developer and any time you want to make changes, you have to run them through that person. If I may be so bold, just stop it! We want to be 21st -century churches, so let’s use 21st -century technology. Two companies that I think are great for a church are SquareSpace and Wix. Both of these companies provide hosting and have great looking templates for your site. They are basically a one stop shop and are very reasonable prices. If you just really want more flexibility you can use Wordpress.
You can get go a lot more in depth on website design, logo design, and choosing a theme or template, but these basics will get you started. Use your website as a way to delegate and develop leaders. And use it to give potential guests a first glance of what visiting church might look like.
The first century church didn’t like art all that much. In that time, it was too closely connected with their suppressors, the Roman Empire. Through the centuries, the church has, in turn, embraced the power of art, and rejected it. In 21st century America, it’s good to embrace it. Americans today are more aware of good and bad design than ever. We have grown into sophisticated consumers who are familiar with fonts and videos, colors, and photography. We know what we like and what we don’t like, even if we can’t put a finger of exactly why design or lack of it makes us feel a certain way.
1. Good design speaks to people who are not listening.
The world these days is constantly changing. There’s always a new iPhone coming out, a redesign on your favorite website, a new display at the grocery store. When things look the same, they become invisible.
By changing and refreshing your church’s design, you make the message visible in new and engaging ways. When we do the same things with the same look for years on end, old habits become old hat. Keep the message True, but use design to change the way it looks, whether it’s by changing worship order, stage design, web or print design.
2. Good design helps people receive your message
Do you learn by seeing or by hearing? Some of us are visual learners and some of us are auditory learners. And to make things more complicated, however you gather information through any of your senses, you have to process it emotionally, socially, and intellectually.
In that order.
The first step to any of that, though, is in sensing. When someone visits your church, what they see, hear, smell, taste, and touch are giving them the information they need to make a judgment on whether your church is the right one for them.
By choosing aesthetically pleasing, consistent design, whether on your website, in print, or on the screen at church, you are allowing the message of the Gospel to land easily where there are fewer barriers to it being received.
3. Good design matters to God.
God is the ultimate designer. At the end of each phase of his ultimate design project (the creation of the universe), he stood back and said, “It is good.” Not, “it’s okay,” or “I’ll do better next time,” but “It is good.” In the same way that he put care and thought into the design of the earth, we can reflect Him by putting effort into design that moves people into deep, reflective, glorifying worship.
Impacting Your City With Your City's Help
If you want your church to make an impact for your city, you might think you have to go it alone. But partnering with organizations in your area can strengthen your networks and provide opportunities for you to make connections. Partnering with your city and its organizations uses Missional muscles and takes advantage of existing structures in your local setting. You can work with proven, established services, while using their resources to help accomplish your church’s mission in making disciples.
Many civic and non-profit agencies have great budgets but run short on volunteers. By helping them out, you can use their resources to accomplish your goals. Some of these local organizations might be:
8 Guidelines for Community Partnerships
Start with connections across a cross section of your community. Don’t limit yourself to working with only one organization. Partnerships tend to grow and deepen with time, but it’s hard to know up front which partnerships will yield the best fruit.
3 Marks of Coachable Leaders
I’ve been blessed to coach great leaders who are starting new missional churches around the country. The best leaders are hungry for wisdom and insight! Here are things I’ve noticed in them. Look for these qualities in yourself and other leaders you are trying to add to your team.
1. Coachable leaders get the concept of spiritual authority.
Our world is full of authority based upon titles and position (the boss, the supervisor, my elders). In church work we tend to recognize Christ as our leader and everyone else is just on the same level as we are. But Scripture recognizes leaders based upon their accomplishments, their sufferings, and their character – whether they have a title or not. Good leaders will try something they don’t even want to do out of respect for the one asking them if the asker is one of spiritual authority. Peter was a good leader when he said, “Lord, they aren’t biting tonight; but because you have asked me, I’ll drop the nets again.” It’s no wonder Jesus was willing to entrust so much to Peter. Good leaders have an open spirit to doing hard things when asked by those who have earned the right to ask hard things.
2. Coachable leaders are action-oriented.
Almost all the leaders I work with love discussing their work. Who doesn’t love a good coffee and brainstorming session? The good leaders though are bent toward doing something to show the love of God in a tangible way. In a coaching session I take notes of what I discuss with other leaders. At the bottom of the page is a title labeled “Assignments.” It’s just a list of what the leader has decided he is going to do based upon our coaching time. If that label is left blank, we may have a tremendous discussion, but we have not coached. Leaders catalyze activities. Paul urged a hesitant Timothy to not neglect his leadership giftings and get back to the doing side of his work. Few leaders will build the city of Rome, but all good leaders are active in building something. Do you just want to talk about God or do you want to serve him?
3. Coachable leaders are humble
Regardless of endeavor, being coached can be a brutal exercise. You know the play you want to run. You know the outcome you desire. But somewhere between staring at our phones and parenting our kids, the play you said you would run does not happen. How are you going to respond afterwards when asked, “Say that conversation you said you were going to have, how come that did not happen?” Our response to accountability questions will reveal so much about our maturity. Satan bombards us with shame and criticism constantly. It’s very easy for him to twist a healthy question of accountability into an accusation. Will we puff up with pride or will we own the results of our declarations? This is one of the often overlooked strengths of having Christ inside of us. We no longer have to defend our ego; that is now Jesus’ job. Because of his faithful love we are now free to examine our gaps in follow-through and work on them without fear of condemnation or shame.
So what kind of leader are you: are you easy to talk to or are you quick to cover up? Let's be an absolute pleasure for Jesus to coach.
Don't let a bad first impression be a lasting impression
When people step into a church worship event, they should come in contact with numerous volunteer teams that are all there to make sure the experience is a great experience. We want guests to say “Wow! I’m impressed,” within the first 10 minutes of their visit. We want people to know that they are important to us by providing a warm, and safe environment for them to take their next step toward Christ.
First Impressions Matter
First impressions are lasting impressions. We’ve left restaurants, hotels, and stores because of our initial impression.
· It smelled badly.
· It was dirty. Or worse, unsanitary.
· It just seemed unsafe.
· The first person we met didn’t care.
· There was no one to meet. No one.
· We waited. And waited. And waited no longer.
· Some of these places we’ve endured for the first visit, but as we left we knew: we’d never be back!
What are the first impressions of your church worship event?
· Do people know where to park?
· Do people know where to enter the building?
· Is there significant amount of signage that will help guide guests to the best area of greeting and information?
· Is the entrance inviting or awkward?
· How many people do guests interact with before the Worship Experience Starts?
· During the worship experience, can they understand what is happening?
Below are some specifics things to put in place to help make a great first impression.
C.T.U. (Chairs, Tables & Ushers)
These teams serve in snow, rain and sunshine to assist guests in finding an open parking space.. They also provide security during the services, throughout the facility. They welcome guests with greetings from the curb to the front doors to the entry of the auditorium. Once inside the auditorium CTU offer assistance in finding a seat.
E.P.A. (Environmental Protection Assistance) Guest Services
These teams provide information at the information table, hand out bulletins to partners, attenders, and guests. Coffee & refreshment tables are catered and prepped. These tables are maintained throughout the service by the EPA. During setup the EPA also makes sure all signage (I,e, Children’s areas, bathrooms, and specialty tables are prepared and manned throughout the service.
Here are some tips for your EPA team:
Main Door Greeters:
· Greet every person coming through the doors
· Shaking hands is not required – read body language
· If someone needs further help of any kind, offer personal assistance if possible, or take them to another team member who can help them
· Minimum of 2 greeters at the main doors
· Remain at door 15 minutes after service begins; longer if traffic flow dictates
· Return to your door position immediately following the service to hold the door for those leaving
Auditorium Door Greeters:
· Distribute bulletins or handouts
· If someone needs further help of any kind, offer personal assistance if possible, or take them to another team member who can help them.
· Offer assistance to parents with young children; direct them to age-appropriate ministry
· Encourage people to sit toward the front, even though there may be adequate seating elsewhere. They’ll be able to see full facial expression up close! Remember, the front row is always open!
· Set up all brochures in an attractive, eye catchy yet not eye obtrusive manner.
· Read up on and familiarize yourself with all information in the bulletin so that you can answer guests’ questions and provide the best possible guest service.
· Be ready for guests by 1/2 hour before services start.
- Smile! Look approachable, friendly, and willing to help at all times.
· All other guest service volunteers should come out from behind the kiosk to intermingle with the guests without the kiosk as a barrier.
· When the auditorium is full, help usher/greeters with the set up of the Atrium (chairs, noise level, worship atmosphere, taking the offering, etc.)
· Be able to free yourself up to assist newcomers to the downstairs area for their children, provide a tour of the facility, etc.
Remember, first impressions matter. Don't let a bad first impression be a lasting impression.
Ways to Make the Ask
As a culture, we've become wary of making the ask. We're afraid of offending someone or pushing too hard, but often the response is, "I would have done it sooner, but no one asked me." Below are some ideas to help you make the ask to call people into life with God.
Ways You Personally Can Practice Reaping
Ways to Reap as a Small Group
Pick an activity that everyone in the group enjoys. This could include:
Consider who to invite to your small group reaping party. (Open Your Eyes to people around you.)
The evening of the activity, Open Your Ears. Listen to hear where people are coming from.
Take care of the people who come. Open Your Hands.
Reaping as a Large Group
There are, of course, many ways you can use large group events to pull people in and help them experience the love of God. Here is one example, what we called the Anybody Thirsty? Worship Gathering. Below, I've laid out a sample schedule for the gathering.
6:00–6:30 p.m. Meet & Greet Time
Gathering room with seeker friendly environment. This could include:
Whenever you're in reaping mode, asking someone to respond to what God is up to, there are a few things to keep in mind.
Be tactful, but not timid.
It is true that when Jesus interacted with people, He carefully controlled the volume of truth He shared in portions that matched the individual’s capacity to receive. Most people tend to err on the side of being overly cautious about just the right timing and delivery. So, don’t be overly concerned about tactfulness. Be bold in proclaiming the Good News about Jesus.
Spend less time talking about evangelism and more time actually sharing Good News.
Jesus knew that talking and training versus action could be the tendency of His followers. So he gave his disciples opportunities to share what they had seen and experienced.
“Calling the Twelve to him, he sent them out two by two and . . . they went out and preached that people should repent.” Mark 6:7, 12
If we are faithful in proclaiming, God will be faithful to draw people to himself..
“Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.” 2 Corinthians 9:6
Reaping Whats, Whys, and Hows
In the last two blog posts, we covered cultivation and planting. Next comes reaping. Simply put, reaping takes place when you challenge friends to respond to the truth of God's Word. It is the natural result of cultivating and planting. If we cultivate in love and plant in God's truth, the result will be the challenge and joy of the harvest. (Ecclesiastes 3:1–2, 2 Corinthians 9:6, Galatians 6:9)
Reaping a response to God’s truth involves an understanding of the difference between our job and God’s job in the reaping process.
Our job in the reaping process of evangelism is to:
This partnership with God calls for bold proclamation with prayerful dependence.
Skills That Need to Be Developed to Do Our Job
To fulfill our part of the reaping process there are two skills that can be developed to enhance our effectiveness.
Enhancing Our Reaping Skills—Presenting the Gospel
One of the hindrances to reaping is best expressed by this statement: “I would love to tell my peers about Christ but I don’t know how to share the essential elements of a Gospel presentation.”
I suggest starting by memorizing Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Do you believe it? Then, live it!
Enhancing Our Reaping Skills—Calling for a Response
Jesus was a master communicator when it came to getting individuals to respond to spiritual truths. He would often paint a word picture and then ask people questions that caused them to evaluate their spiritual condition. He always made space for their response.
Calling for a Response in Practice
You can use the same two steps to call for a response. First, paint a word picture, like this:
Then, ask these questions:
In my next blog post, I'll show you a variety of ways reaping might look.
5 Simple Ways to Plant God's Truth
We can begin to plant the seeds of God’s truth into the cultivated hearts of our spiritually lost peers using any of the following five simple ways.
1. Share What You Learn
For the next 30 days every time God teaches you something, share it with a Christ-following friend. As an overflow of your walk with Christ, you will soon find it more natural to share the same truths God is teaching you with your spiritually lost friends.
2. Share It Again
Maximize every opportunity for your friend to hear God’s truth and meet other Christ-followers. Remember, most people need to hear the Gospel seven times and know several Christians before they are ready to trust Christ.
We can plant seeds of God’s truth as we live out genuine Christianity by confessing our sins and seeking restoration in relationships.
Get to know where your friends are coming from… what’s their story?
“Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.” 1 Timothy 4:15–16
Sharing what God has done in your life is a persuasive tool for communicating God’s truth.
Revelation 12:11 affirms the power of personal experience: “They overcame [the accuser] by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony.”
It Goes Two Directions
God created us to live in a VERTICAL relationship with Him. He loves us and we love him.
God also chose to create us to live in HORIZONTAL relationships with each other in community.
It is Biblically incorrect to conclude that all we need is God. A more accurate statement is that we all need God and one another. God has designed us that way.
God created us as NEEDY people. Just as we need water to drink, air to breathe and food to eat, so God also created us needing healthy horizontal relationships.
The 10 Valid Needs of People
In The Great Commandment Principle, David Ferguson identifies ten needs that are met in different ways throughout life—by God through His Word and our relationship with Him. We can partner with God in meeting these horizontal needs in the lives of other people. These ten needs are:
1. ACCEPTANCE —dignifying others by accepting them
“Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.” Romans 15:7
2. AFFECTION —expressing care and closeness; saying “I love you.”
“Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. ‘I am willing,’ he said. ‘Be clean!’ And immediately the leprosy left him.” Luke 5:13
3. APPRECIATION —expressing thanks for the efforts of others
“Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.” Romans 12:10
4. APPROVAL —affirming the importance of a relationship
“And a voice came from heaven: ‘You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.’ ” Mark 1:11
5. ATTENTION — showing genuine interest in another’s interests
“We should have equal concern for each other.” 1 Corinthians 12:25
6. COMFORT — easing the hurting with words, feelings and touch
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” 2 Corinthians 1:3–4
7. ENCOURAGEMENT — stimulating others to love and goodness
“Think of ways to encourage one another to outbursts of love and good deeds.” Hebrews 10:24
8. RESPECT — treating another as having importance and dignity “Show proper respect to everyone.” 1 Peter 2:17
9. SECURITY — harmony in relationships
“Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Romans 12:16, 18
10. SUPPORT — helping to carry another’s burdens
“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2
By partnering with God in meeting these valid needs of those around us in our horizontal relationships, we can fulfill the Great Commandment of loving God and loving others.