One way for churches to begin to make a difference in their community and make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world is to identify the “felt needs” of the community. By meeting the “felt needs” of the community the church not only meets a real need in the name of Christ but also opens a door to introduce people to the answer to humanity’s ultimate or real need- Jesus Christ.
What is a felt need and what does this look like? A felt need is a very real need held by many in the community. For example, a felt need might be a part of the community wanting to learn better parenting skills. It might be a need felt in the community to get out of debt. It might be the need for after school care. It might be help for single mothers. It might be ESL classes for persons to improve their English. It might be helping the homeless transition to permanent housing. Felt needs are different in every community.
The church’s job is to discover these felt needs and then seek to meet them. This might look like offering a parenting class, offering a Financial Peace University program, starting an after school tutoring program and on and on. Incidentally, it is always best with whatever you offer to do it outside your church building. That is a post for another day, but suffice it to say there is almost nothing that can be done better inside the four walls of the church as opposed to outside the four walls of the church.
By meeting these felt needs the church then has the opportunity to build relationships with people in the community and offer an invitation to be part of the church community and ultimately an invitation to a life of following Jesus.
What are the felt needs in your community you can meet in order to introduce person to their ultimate need- Jesus Christ?
It is a well known statistic that over 80% of people (or higher) come to the church for the first time on the arm of a friend, relative, co-worker or neighbor. If this is true, then our churches and their leaders must be doing their best to instill a culture of invitation. In this episode of the ChurchIngenuity.Com Podcast, I share five ways churches can begin to instill such a culture of invitation.
These five ways are as follows:
1. Model It!
Pastor, staff and church leaders must themselves invite and tell their stories of how they invited.
2. Give your folks something to give out.
This could be message series specific invite cards or general invite cards to your church or CDs.
3. Link invitation to prayer.
Prayer is an integral part of creating a culture of invitation.
4. Spread some word of mouse.
Utilize Facebook, Twitter and HTML emails to help people invite.
5. Don’t Disappoint.
If your lay people are sticking their neck out to invite, make sure you are providing a quality worship experience.
If you have an idea for a podcast you would like to see or a question about an upcoming episode, please contact me.
When one opens the Saturday newspaper (for daily newspapers) or the Wednesday edition (for weekly newspapers) they will come across a page listing many of the churches in the area. Big churches, small churches, different flavors of churches all in different sized ads. This page might be a half a page or a full page depending on the locale. Most newspapers charge for this service as a way to generate ad revenue and the cost of the ad is based on size and maybe even placement.
By and large, I have come to experience in my ministry that these newspaper ads in the newspaper church directory are a waste of time and money. There are two kinds of people read the church directory in the newspaper- other Christians from other churches in your community and persons new to your community.
Most of the readers will be other Christians from your community. They want to see what is going on in the church world. Most persons who are not connected to the church aren’t going to even open that section. They will not find a church in the newspaper and more likely will go to the Internet to search for a church. This being said, you may be able to reach some new persons who have moved to the area through this church ad, but I imagine very few. You would be better of investing the advertising money you would use in the newspaper in a new neighbor outreach program where you are sending letters or dropping off gift bags to new neighbors in your community.
If you “have to” advertise in the newspaper, you might be better off in advertising on the most read page of the newspaper (the obituaries). If you cannot do that you might advertise in the section of your newspaper that you think most women will read as the woman in the family is the primary force that decides for a family to attend church.
One caveat. Every locality is different and I would be remiss to make a pronouncement that advertising in the church directory of the newspaper is a waste of time and money. Perhaps in some community it is the most effective and cost effective.
Is newspaper advertising for churches effective in your mission field (community)?
Here are some of the best resources (articles, blog posts, etc.) from around the web this past week.
7 Vital Components of Church Revitalization– Ron Edmonson– in order for church revitalization to occur there must be some vital components in place. Ron Edmonson shares 7 of these components out of his experience.
One Size Does Not Fit All– Tony Morgan– Every church is different and finds itself in a unique circumstance. Yet, there are foundational building blocks among all healthy churches. Tony Morgan lists these foundational building blocks shared by healthy churches as he has recognized them in his time consulting with churches.
Keeping It Real When Launching an E-Newsletter– Martin Davis via ChurchLeadership.Com explores ways to make your html newsletter more effective so it is actually read. Hint- include profiles of members of your organization.
Ten Things Pastors Like Least About Their Jobs– Thom Rainer– Rainer conducted an informal twitter poll that revealed what pastors like least about their jobs. Most of the things on this list are not surprising but for those serving a local church you will find you are not alone in whatever your frustration might be.
Children have either returned to school or will return to school shortly. Now is a great time to be a blessing to your community by supporting local schools and building relationships with administrators, teachers, staff and students. Below are five ideas that can help you be a blessing.
1. Hold a School Appreciation Sunday. Plan a special worship service around the start of the school year. During the service the pastor may preach a special message around the new school year that is encouraging and Christ centered. There may be a special time of blessing for teachers, administrators, staff and students. You may give a gift to each of these. Perhaps you invite children to bring their backpacks for a special blessing of the backpacks. To this service, you invite all the teachers, administrators, staff and students. Start early in inviting. Equip your people to invite by producing some postcard sized invites they can hand out. Send letters, emails and make calls to the local schools in your area.
2. Pray for your schools. You will certainly be praying if you do a School Appreciation Sunday but go the next step. Consider setting up a system whereby students are matched up with others in the church and students are prayed for and encouraged throughout the year with cards. Obviously, you will want to get parents’ permission to do this. Likewise, you can match up prayer warriors with teachers, administrators or staff.
3. Go meet your principal. While this is their busy time and you will want to wait and while they are busy at other times too, make a point even if it is just a quick introduction to go and meet with the principals of the schools in your area offering to be of assistance as they need. If they will meet for half and hour that is great then you can pick their minds about needs they see in the community. And while you are visiting the principal, bring some Krispy Kreme donuts to the front office staff as they will be your entry to see the principal and serve as gatekeepers. Continue to bring donuts or some other treat once a month just to be a blessing.
4. Hold a school supply drive. Let’s face it some parents can’t or for some unknown reason do not have the parenting skills to send their kids to school with proper supplies. Teachers often pay for this out of their pocket. Go see the guidance counselor and ask them what items are needed most. You may go so far as to adopt a classroom of the year providing the supplies needed.
5. Hold a back to school lunch for teachers, administrators, and staff. It may be their is an in-service day where they will be all together. It may be that you have to drop something off and the teachers graze at different times on their lunch. Chick Fil A is a good option here. Also, I have discovered teachers are just like preachers- most of them love chocolate anything.
What are some other ways the church can be a blessing at the beginning and throughout the school year?
Michaelangelo once said “criticize by creating.” In other words, if you do not like something, do not sit around and criticize it, but do something about it. Step up to the plate. Create something better. Volunteer. Start your own. Take a position of leadership where you can influence things.
A few years ago my oldest son Robert began youth basketball. As a former 5′ 8″ basketball star in high school (if you believe that I have some oceanfront property in Arizona to sell you), I thought the coach was horrible. He did not know anything and he was not that great with the kids. I sat and criticized to myself and to my wife. Then I came across the Michaelangelo quote and it changed my perspective. The next year I coached my son’s team. There was probably some parent that sat on the sidelines and criticized me.
All too often in the church we enjoy criticizing. Laity criticize the decision of the Council, the way the nursery is run or the fact that the fall festival was cancelled this year. Clergy criticize the laity and the District and the Conference for how things are done and what “THEY” are doing. I do not believe this is God honoring though I admit I myself fall into this trap of criticism.
Perhaps though we need to practice criticism by creation. Perhaps if we do not like something in the church we need to take some responsibility for changing it by stepping up. Perhaps we start our own. Perhaps we agree to serve on the committee that can affect change. Perhaps instead of engaging in non-productive criticism we actually do something about it. This may bring its own angst for us and for our churches but I believe it is more healthy in the long run. And, by the way, if you don’t like this post, create your own.
Where have you witnessed someone criticizing by creating?
God never ceases to amaze with God’s creative genius. God’s creation is a lesson in uniqueness. No two human beings are exactly alike, even identical twins. Of all the trillions of snowflakes that fall no two are exactly like. You get the idea.
So too, no two churches are exactly alike. Every church has its own respective DNA. Every church has its own unique collective memory and values. Every church finds itself planted in a mission field (community) that is unique in and of itself. Like all of creation, so the local church is unique.
The problem comes when a unique local church seeks to emulate another church. This happens when the latest successful church puts on a conference or their pastor writes a book. In fairness, the so called successful church does not intend for churches to emulate every single ministry, program or strategy that made them successful. However, when a local church does seek to emulate the latest successful church it ends up looking like a Frankenstein church. Because what happens is the local church takes this piece from this successful church and then another piece from another successful church and still another piece from somewhere else until the local church looks like it is made up of a bunch of pieces. Some have referred to this as Mr. Potato Head church. Scripture talks about it as putting on Saul’s armor to fight Goliath.
Should local churches then not ever learn from successful churches? Of course they should! However, the local church needs to do so recognizing that what works for one unique church in its own unique context made up of its own unique context will not necessarily work in their church. What we can learn from effective and vital churches is principles. We can use their template but we need our own content in our local church. We shouldn’t just cut and paste otherwise we will end up looking like Frankenstein instead of the unique local church God intends.
What are some principals you think we can learn from vital and effective churches that can be applied to our local churches?
Only listening to the people you agree with is a very dangerous thing. Even the people we disagree whether it be about theology or practice have some nugget or truth that we can learn from. I call this idea “eating the fish and leaving the bones.”
Eating the fish and leaving the bones means finding and taking that which is useful and leaving that which is not useful on the plate. For example, you might disagree with a presenter’s theological stance on a topic. Perhaps you even vehemently disagree. Instead of shutting oneself off to everything they say in their presentation because you disagree with 30% or 75% of what they are saying, eat the fish and leave the bones. In order to learn from someone or some group you do not have to agree with 100% of what they say and teach.
This was especially made apparent to me as I planted a church and read books, blogs or went to conferences where often the writers or presenters had a different theology or practice than that which I held. For example, they may have had a different view of women in leadership than I did. I did not let that stop me from learning from them. I ate the fish and left the bones and it was good and filling!
Sometimes, this happens by denomination. Methodists will only study “Methodist” curriculum or read books by “Methodist” authors. You can substitute the name of any denomination. While there is something to be said for being formed in one’s own tradition, if we only cocoon ourselves in that tradition we are missing out on so much.
Has there been a time when you have had to eat the fish and leave the bones?
Yesterday I posted about lessons for the church from Chick Fil A, and since I am on a roll with fast food restaurants and the church, I thought I would highlight lessons for the church from McDonald’s.
I am wiling to bet each one of us can make a hamburger that far surpasses what we could go to McDonald’s and get. We could go the store and buy some nice lean meat from cattle organically fed. We could then Google hamburger recipes and mix some ingredients with our meat to season and then pat out our burgers and get them ready for cooking. We could head out to the grill and cook the burger to perfection and garnish it with lettuce, tomato, and whatever else we wanted and we would have a burger that would far surpass anything McDonald’s could produce. It would be scrumptious.
However, while each of us could make a burger far better than McDonald’s we could not sell billions of our burgers across the world to hungry people looking for a quick eat. What is the difference between us and McDonald’s? It is not the quality of our burgers, it is the fact that McDonald’s has a system to economically and quickly produce, deliver, heat up and serve millions of burgers. McDonald’s has a system which sets it apart from the rest of us backyard grill masters and allows them to sell so many hamburgers though they are of lesser quality.
Like McDonald’s and every business, the church has systems whether we recognize it or not. We have a system for how we follow up with first time guests. We have a system for how we plan and implement and evaluate Sunday worship. We have a system for how we reach out to share Christ through evangelism or how we engage our community and world in evangelism. The church is made up of all kinds of systems. When those systems are healthy and tended to the church is vital. When those systems are either not present or sick then the church turns inward and becomes a club.
If McDonald’s falters in any of its systems (production, transportation, delivery, etc.) then the whole McDonald’s business is effected. What McDonald’s and any other business can teach the church is the necessity to pay attention to the systems. After all, we are offering something a whole lot more important than burgers. We are offering the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That is something even Ronald Mcdonald and Grimace can agree on.
What are other systems in the church the church needs to tend to to remain vital?
What can a chicken place teach the church so that the church might be more effective in making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world?
If we set aside our political leanings over the hot button issues of the day and the not too distant controversy surrounding Chick Fil A, we in the church might learn a few things from Chick Fil A. Compared to other fast food establishments Chick Fil A is a breath of fresh air. When one goes to dine or take away food at Chik Fil A they experience…
- Friendly hospitable service. The persons who take your order are enthusiastic without being ridiculous and are polite. They are also obviously well trained. They do not seem to take forever to offer service, act like you are inconveniencing them, and rarely mess up an order.
- Efficiency. Chick Fil A is efficient. No matter how crowded no one stands in line very long. They now have two drive thru lanes. Other fast food places do as well but theirs only makes the wait twice as long. They obviously have a system and have it down well. Great training leads to efficiency.
- Cleanliness. In the majority of Chick Fil A restaurants I have been in things do not stay messy long. Whether it be out in the dining room or fresh flowers in the restroom, I do not feel like I need to take a shower to get the grease off me after I leave.
- Culture. When one goes to a Chick Fil A it does not matter which Chick Fil A they go to throughout the country. One can expect a level of service, friendliness, efficiency and cleanliness at each restaurant.
As much as I can celebrate this successful business model and its culture of excellence I know that for us in the church we are doing something far more important than making chicken. We have the greatest message ever given to humankind. It is a message of freedom through Jesus Christ. Freedom from our brokenness, from our sin, from the world, from death, from grief and despair. We in the church have something Chick Fil A or any other cannot offer- the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
If we are selling more than chicken patties shouldn’t we be far surpassing Chick Fil A in hospitality toward those who walk through our doors? Shouldn’t our church systems result in a church that is healthy and vibrant where persons are equipped so the church is about the business of making disciples? Shouldn’t our facilities be ten times as cleanly so parents feel comfortable when dropping their child off at the nursery so that when they crawl they are not eating dust bunnies or bits of chipped up asbestos tile from 1954? I think the answers are clear.
The church can learn something from Chick Fil A and that is something even the cows can support.
What other lessons and principles might be taken away from the Chick Fil A experience?