The NORMAL Church
You have all been to this church. I am in them every week. They are not particularly purpose driven, or missional, or hip, or seeker driven, or simple or whatever the emphasis du juor is in these days. In fact, you probably attend the normal church. The question is: can a normal church be alive, growing, effective and happy? Can it be used by God without becoming some new-fangled church?
If I were a pastor reading church books today, I think I would be a little frustrated thinking I had to become multi-site, or mega, or cell-based or somehow super-cool to be used by God. Can God still use normal churches? My answer is, "Yes," if. .....
Normal churches can be effective for God, but they might not be. In fact, many of them are not. But, here is the rub: they can be used by God and still be normal. They can be used by God without becoming hip, or cool, or sexy, or seeker, mega, missional, simple, or something they are not. Here is how.
Study your church
The Bible says, "Know well the condition of your flock." Do some analysis as far as growth history, velcro factor and magnet factor. For details, see my book or video on You Can Double Your CHURCH in FIVE Years or Less. It is part of the Big Double Bundle.
For MP3s, see
Improve the music
There is too much talk about style of music and not enough talk about quality of music. The question is not "Is it contemporary, edgy, traditional, blended, or my new favorite: organic?" (Can someone explain to me what organic music is? )The question is, "Is it any good?"
Get a focus group--a Sunday School class might do--and ask them: what is working for you about the way we do music? What do you not like? What can we improve? Constantly improve your music.
You actually don't need a focus group. Search your own heart. When was the last time you were moved to tears in your worship service. Forget about style. Did it move you? Did it move anyone? Did you want to clap or stand shout or say AMEN?
Improve the preaching and teaching
The number one predictor of the growth of any church is the preaching ability of the pastor. 90% of pastors see themselves as above average. Think about that one.
The best way for a pastor to improve his preaching is for him to teach his Sunday school teachers how to communicate. You work on improving their communication skills and everyone improves. Take them through Disciplemaking Teachers and 10 Marks of Incredible Teachers. Take them through Seven Laws of the Learner and Seven Laws of the Teacher.
Train the workers
Cell groups don't work. Visitation doesn't work. Sunday School doesn't work. Seeker services don't work. Giving Friday nights to Jesus doesn't work. What works? People work. Cell groups will work if you train the people to lead them properly. Visitation can work if people work it. Seeker services are clearly working in some settings. Giving Friday nights to Jesus works, but only works when we work it.
Practice doesn't make perfect. In fact, it can just burn in bad habits. We need practice combined with instruction. But, training without practice won't work either. You can't learn to play tennis by watching tennis videos. Sooner or later you have to get on the court. We need both instruction and practice.
Consistently train your workers in these five areas:
- Evangelism/ how to grow a class skills
I have a new series in the works called Saturday Morning Training. The idea is to gather a dozen or so teachers in a home around a big screen TV. The DVD is interactive where you will watch for a while, discuss for a while, watch for a while and discuss for a while. Each session will be sold separately and will be affordable for any church. Quantity discounts as well as reproducible licenses will also be available.
Preach a gospel of joy and grace
The gospel is a gospel of good news. It is a message of joy and grace that God loves us and will forgive us of all of our sins. He will give us a life of meaning and purpose. He will show us, through His word, how to live the best life possible in an often inhospitable world.
Being in several hundred churches has taught me that the theology in growing churches is often different from the theology in non-growing churches. Growing churches preach grace with a smile. Declining churches teach grace with a scowl. There is a difference.
Model and vision cast about doubling groups
Speed to the leader; speed of the team. If the leadership is not joyfully involved in a doubling group, it is not likely that doubling groups will ever become a movement in your church. Show me a pastor who consistently stands before his people and says, "I am in a group that is doubling; I want you to be in a group that is doubling" and I will show you a doubling church. Show me a pastor who consistently stands before his people and says, "I am in a group that is doubling; I want you to be in a group that is doubling." and I will show you Andy Stanley. He says it all the time. Pastor, you should too.
Take care of the visitors
Most churches have plenty of visitors. To find out, check our step #1 above. The key is taking care of the visitors you have. Part of that has to do with improving the preaching, music and teaching as outlined above. The only thing left is to take care of the people God sends.
Here is a goal. Try to see that every visitor gets at least three invitations to do something fun in the first three weeks that they visit. These invitations might include things like:
- An invitation to go to lunch with the pastor or staff member
- An invitation to a Sunday school party
- An invitation to the home of a Sunday school teacher on a Friday night.
- A Sunday lunch with a Sunday school class
Take care of the details
Success is often in the details and everything matters. It matters that your nursery doesn't smell like a dirty diaper. It matters that the words are speled wright in teh buliten. It matters that the soloist sings on key.
Go after kids
I heard David Francis (head of Sunday School for Lifeway) speak recently at Glorieta. He said that he had a statistician look through the numbers that we turn in and this is the conclusion the statistician came to: The number of people who come to faith in Christ after they leave their teenage years is statistically inconsequential. If you want to test this, ask this question at any church gathering: how many of you came to faith in Christ before you reached age 20. Nearly every hand will go up. There are two applications to this: #1 we probably need to do a better job of reaching adults. #2: we ought to go after people while they are reachable. They are reachable when they are young. They are reachable when they are kids.
Love God; love people
Don't get so focused on getting church right that you fail to keep your relationship with God right. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. And love people like you love yourself. Love covers a multitude of sins.