Good Questions Have Groups Talking

A group of 10 that doubles every 18 months will reach 1000 people for God in 10 years.

 

The Power of Wow!
by Josh Hunt

 

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Barry Posner did some research that revealed an interesting result of quality. People were 6 times as likely to talk about a business that they considered a 5 on a scale of one to 5 than they were to talk about businesses they rate as a 4. This is the power of wow!(1)

There is a reason Jesus taught us to shock people with above and beyond, "second mile" service. It is in the second mile that we get people's attention. It is in the second mile that people pay attention. It is in the second mile that people ask, "What does this guy have that I don't?" All the results come in the second mile. This is where people say, "Wow!"

I worked as an assistant manger for a while at a Wendys. One of my favorite moments was when a cranky customer came to complain that we had not prepared her hamburger just so. We were trained to handle this in a very particular and dramatic fashion. We would apologize politely for the mistake, whether or not it was our fault. Then, we would take the hamburger that was prepared wrong and lift it above a trash can. In plain view of the customer, would drop it ceremoniously into the trash can. Without saying a word, we would grab a fresh bun, hold it in our left hand, look the customer in the eye and say, "Tell me how I can prepare this hamburger for your satisfaction." In shocked disbelief they would stutter out their order. Often they would try to stop us from throwing it away. "No. . . no. . . no. . . I only needed you to ad pickles." "Plop." They would insist that it was their fault. No matter. We wanted to get their attention. We wanted to watch their mouth open as we dropped the hamburger into the trash in front of them. We wanted to impress on them that we were serious about customer service. We wanted to make a story they could go and tell their friends about. We wanted them to say, "Wow!"

The interesting thing about this approach is how calculated it was to the customer's response. You see, what I was taught to do at Wendy's is not so different than what many restaurants, stores and fast food places do. Many products and services routinely come with a money back guarantee. Whether it is stated or not, if you bring a hamburger back at McDonalds or Joe Bob's Grill they will generally take it back and fix you what they want. The difference is in the way we did it. Normally they take it to the back room and you, the customer, never really knows what happens. Do they salvage all they can and give you back the same meat but with a new bun? Do they just pull off the pickles and hope you won't notice the pickle juice? Do they take your sandwich and serve it to someone else? Do they put the preparation of your hamburger in line behind everyone else's order? What happens in that magic transforming back room? No one knows. What we did was remove all doubt.

We wanted to leave nothing to the imagination. We wanted to send a strong message to our customers that we were really sorry we had messed up their order. We wanted to visibly display to them that the were far more important to us than anything we might salvage from their sandwich in the back room. We wanted them to know that we were going to stop everything to get their order right. We were going to do it now, for all the world to see. We wanted them to say, "Wow, these people made a mistake, but they sure went the second mile to get it fixed. Wow!"

Churches ought to adopt the goal of causing people to say, "Wow!" We ought to do our advertising, our outreach, our preaching, our music, our childcare, our everything to make them say, "Wow!" The goal of Christian ministry is nothing less than to drop open jaws and hear people say, "Wow!" That is how Jesus ministered. When people saw Jesus, they said, "Wow!"

Glory is about saying "Wow!" When something was glorious, you would just look at it in stunned disbelief and say, "Wow!" "Little Kittel" defines glory as, "that which makes God impressive.(2) When churches accurately display the glory of God, they make God impressive. They show his glory. They cause people to say, "Wow!" Too many churches make people yawn.

Churches that cause people to say "Wow!" don't have attendance problems. They have parking problems, space problems, administrative growth problems and all kinds of other problems. But they do not have attendance problems. If you aspire to double your church every five years or less, it is not enough to be a pretty good church. We must make people's jaws drop to the floor. We must cause them to say, "Wow!" When was the last time someone walked out of your church and said, "Wow! I had no idea church could be that way. I had no idea church music could be like that. The people, were so, well, just different. Wow!"

Not "Wow!" at us. Of course not. "Wow! Isn't God incredible! This is all far different than I imagined!"

 

Wow! Preaching


Jesus in generally considered the greatest teacher that has ever lived. I agree. Jesus' teaching has been analyzed, dissected, inspected, and scrutinized. A number of books profess to show the reader how to teach as Jesus taught. Few teachers actually teach as Jesus did, however. A full exploration of the teaching style of Jesus is beyond the scope of this volume. However, I would like to make a couple of observations.

One notable distinction of Jesus teaching was its brevity. If the modern preacher were to preach the Sermon on the Mount as it he would be accused of sloughing on the job. The whole thing can be read in ** just a few minutes. Not nearly long enough to be considered a real sermon. A sermonette for Christianette maybe, but not a real sermon. How can we grow true disciples without giving them forty five minutes of meat? Following this feature of Jesus teaching could well cause people to say, "Wow!"

Another notable distinction of Jesus teaching was his lack of clarity. Yes, you read it right, I said lack of clarity. If we will be perfectly honest, we must admit that in many cases we still don't have a clue what Jesus meant by some of his teachings. Oh, sure, we have some theories. But, at times, honest teachers look at the parables and say, "Not a clue. Not a clue." We needn't feel bad. Jesus disciples clearly felt this way. They didn't have a clue either. That is why they asked him on several occasions what in the world he was getting at. If they disciples had not asked for an explanation, we would probably be in the dark on even more parables.

Take the brief teaching of the treasure hidden in the field (Matthew 13:44). Commentators disagree as to the meaning of the parable. Is it teaching us that we must give up everything to get the treasure of the gospel? (Luke 14:33) Or are we the treasure that God gave up everything to possess? Or, did he intend a double meaning? The best of Christian teachers and thinkers and theologians are split down the middle.

What about the teaching of the mustard seed growing to be the largest of trees. (Matthew 13:31 - 32) Most commentators say this is speaking of the tremendous growth of the church. I have heard others, however, point out that the mustard seed is not, technically speaking, the largest of trees, as Jesus said. Jesus was predicting the growth of the organized church (read Roman Catholic Church) beyond what was natural and normal. This large mustard seed plant was to be an aberration, an abnormality. This is a completely different spin from the first interpretation. Which one is right?

I know what your are thinking. You know what these parables mean. You have a clue. Yes, and more than a clue. You know for sure. Some of us are not sure. Some of us wonder why Jesus left so much up for grabs. Why make the trip from heaven to planet earth and not be Windex clear about everything you say? Why not speak in language that a lawyer could not see in more than one way? The goal is communication, isn't it? What does this lack of clarity teach us about Jesus communication style?

The teachings of Jesus beg explanation. They beg for discussion. They make you want to say, "Yeah, but. . . " or, "Go on." or, "Would you run that by me one more time?" Jesus doesn't run it by one more time. He doesn't go on. Jesus is so brief the listener begs him to go on. Now, that is a switch. He goes on to the next subject and is likely to leave the audience dangling again.

This feature of Jesus' teaching has always puzzled me and even, (may I say it?) bothered me a bit. I love clarity. Why wasn't Jesus more clear in some of his teachings? It seemed to me that in light of the importance of the message he was delivering that he would leave nothing to the imagination.

The genius behind Jesus' approach was not clear to me until I read Garrett Soden's treatise on communication entitled Hook Spin Buzz: How to Command Attention, Change Minds & Influence People. In the last section, Soden discusses the idea of buzz: "an idea, a rumor or trend that is on everyone's mind."(3) We use the word as he does when we say, "The buzz at the convention was all about cell groups." The question Soden grapples with are:

How is buzz created?

What keeps buzz moving?

How can we take advantage of the current buzz?

How can we create our own buzz?

As I read, I thought of Jesus. Whatever else he was, Jesus was a master of buzz. He was the talk. He was it. He was the hot topic. People loved him, hated him, delighted in him or were angered by him. But they did not ignore him. Jesus told people to hush the buzz. They would not. Seemingly, they could not. He created buzz like no one before or since. How did he do it? Soden offers some insight:

The ideas in buzz can be described, but not defined. Part of what makes buzz vibrate is the friction between different interpretations of what the buzz is really about.(4) (italics added)

"That's it!" I thought as I read. That is exactly what Jesus did. He created buzz by leaving some things up for discussion. I want to leave nothing to the imagination. Jesus wanted to get the imagination buzzing. The basics were clear. The essentials were plain. But, in many of Jesus teachings, he choose to leave some things up to discussion. He knew people would be talking. He knew they would be asking, "What do you think he meant by that?" He wanted them to ask. He wanted to create a buzz, and he was a master at it.

Next, I would like to explain exactly, precisely, so that there is no misunderstanding, why varying interpretations create a friction that causes the buzz to vibrate. Then we will explore exactly, precisely, specifically how to do it so that it is perfectly clear.

Not.

Teaching that makes people say "Wow!" creates a buzz. How loud is the buzz about your preaching?

 

Wow! Music


Music has the ability to make my soul cry "Wow!" quicker than just about anything else. I will confess I have looked at my watch a lot more often during the preaching than I have during the music. I have heard many sermons that went way too long. I hardly ever tire of good music. One of the easiest ways to make a worship service better is to make the music ten minutes longer and the sermon ten minutes shorter. Both will be improved.

Good music, that is the key. What is good? Simple. Good is the stuff that I like. It is true for you too. Good is the stuff that you like. Bad is the stuff that you don't like. Beauty in music is in the ear of the listener.

I grew up on the mission field and tend to think somewhat intuitively like a missionary. I have often asked myself, "If Korean missionaries were to come here to evangelize America, how would they do it?" This question has plenty of implications, but for now, let me explore only those having to do with music. Would they. . .

Use a pipe organ and a choir? (Remember, the question is, how would Korean missionaries coming to America do it, not what do I think about pipe organs and choir.)

Use 16th century hymns?

Use hard driving, heavy metal, rock?

Use rap or hip hop?

Use contemporary Christian?

If you have your missionary thinking cap on, this question is a slam dunk no brainer. You would use the music of the people you are trying to reach. People like to become Christians without having to change their taste in music. Becoming a Christian does not change one's taste in music.

People who become Spirit filled believers who used to listen to country music still tend to like country music. People who used to like contemporary top 40 and become fully mature followers of Christ tend to still like contemporary top 40 music.

Here is some good news. It does not require expensive, sophisticated demographic study to determine a culture's taste in music. We can discover the taste in music for any population group using a simple instrument found in every home and every car. It is called a radio.

Try this little experiment. Hit the seek button on your FM radio and describe each type of music you hear. Skip the talk radio. When you have done this, you will have a pretty good idea what people like to listen to your community. You have now discovered what will cause them to say "Wow!" If you were a Korean missionary who came to the United States to penetrate the culture with the gospel you would start a congregation employing every one of the types of music on your list.

This list needs to be prioritized. We need to start congregations first that employ the music enjoyed by the most people. What kind of music is this? For main street America it is middle of the road contemporary pop rock. For some places it is rap. For others it is county. (Country music has had a huge revival in recent years by moving closer to the style of contemporary pop-rock.) Different kind of music for different kinds of people. By far and away the most popular music in America is contemporary pop rock. This is the music they sell Pontiacs and Coca cola with for good reason. The marketing experts have done their home work. The sound on the streets is the middle of the road stuff of Whitney Houston and Kenny G. This is the style of music we would have if we were thinking like Korean missionaries.

The easiest way to get started on making our music more like the people we are trying to reach is to start an alternative congregations targeted toward reaching this group. Leave the existing congregation alone. They like to worship God without changing the music they enjoy. Let them. Draw a big red circle around their service and promise them you will not mess with their service. Then keep your promise. But get permission to start something else for someone else. I discuss this idea fully in my previous book, Let It Grow!

Look at the different types of services as two tracts to lead people to experience God. One is not better than the other. People who have been in church a long time have embraced a musical culture all of its own. This is fine. Do not try to transition them. Lead them to God within the musical culture that you find them. All you need from them is permission to be a missionary and start something else designed to reach someone else.

As you think about a contemporary service, I would invite you to consider three things: instrumentation, musical selection, and feel.

You cannot sound like contemporary music without using the instruments of the contemporary culture. Most important is drums. Nothing will change the sound of music quicker than adding drums. It has always been curious to see churches miss this. They throw in "This is the day" just after "Count your many blessings," and without changing any of the instruments and call it a contemporary service.

To make a service contemporary, you have to use contemporary instruments. It is the instruments that create the sound and music is about sound. If you don't change the instruments, you have not changed the sound and it is not contemporary music. I don't care what it says on the top of the bulletin. It may be slightly more contemporary than the same instruments playing 200 year old hymns, but it is not nearly contemporary enough.

The most "visible" instrument are the drums. Nothing will change the sound of a service quicker than adding drums.

I was rather slow to accept this truth. It was six weeks after we had started a contemporary service that a drummer approached me, "Have you ever considered using drums in the service?" "You gotta be kidding," I thought, "Drums in church? Have you gone stark raving berserk mad?" I replied in a more polite way. After all, I was interested, just afraid. "What did you have in mind?" "Well, I play drums, and I was wondering if I could play with you guys?" We decided to roll the dice. The first week he played I told him, "Now, I want you to play sort of quietly. Maybe you can just use your brushes." He cooperated as best he could, but before the service was over, I was directing him to turn loose. I wanted to say to him "Praise him with the clash of cymbals, praise him with resounding cymbals." (Psalms 150:5) Most churches are flatly disobedient to that verse. Obedience to Psalm 150 could dramatically change most churches.

I could not believe how much drums changed the sound of the worship service. I never looked back on the decision to let Terry play his drums in worship. A time or two when he was out of town we failed to get a replacement. The music went from "Wow!" to wearisome in one fell swoop. Contemporary music needs drums.

You simply will not find any contemporary songs that don't have drums. Period. The American ear is not used to listing to music that does not have drums. One of the few places in American culture that we find music without drums is in church. Contemporary music employs drums. Country music uses drums. Bands that play at half time use drums. Easy listening music has drums. Quiet drums, but drums, still. The Koreans missionaries would get this right every single time. Why do we struggle with it?

We struggle with it because we have never done it that way before and we are all a little afraid of the unknown. You may think I am making a lot of noise about something that is just a "clanging cymbal." (See 1 Corinthians 13:1) I double dog dare you try it. If you have a contemporary service, and do not have drums, try it. If you have a "blended" service and think you can pull this off without loosing your job, try it. If you are skeptical of how much difference it will make, try it. Try it, you'll like it. If you don't have a drummer, get a good key board player to play drums from his keyboard. It can be done and sound very tasteful. The nice thing about electronic drums is that you can control the volume and balance them with the rest of the instruments and voices. In other words, you can turn down the volume.

The other instruments that comprise a contemporary ensemble are synthesizer--which can sound like virtually anything--guitar, bass guitar and any brass that are available. If brass are not available, synthesizers can be a good substitute. Nothing can reproduce the ambiance of a live trumpet, but a synthesizer can sure come close. It is nice to have several synthesizers to add maximum flexibility. Contemporary services need a variety of instrumentation in the same way that traditional services have a piano, organ and choir.

There are some that put too much hope in MIDI. If you don't know what MIDI is, skip to the next paragraph. Although sequenced songs can add a nice touch at times, they never deliver all that they promise. It never sounds as good as all those instruments jamming down live on the stage. Any audience will prefer live musicians to a recording, which is essentially what MIDI offers. The flexibility to alter, in real time, the nuances of the tempo is lost with MIDI. (By the way, would someone explain to me what time is that is not real.) The ability to do something as simple as singing the last verse again with just the strings is lost with MIDI. In short, the ability to direct the band to do anything other than what was laid down in the MIDI file is out the window. I am not saying there are not times when MIDI is you best choice. It may be better than just one instrument. It may be better than nothing if your keyboardist is home taking care of a child with an ear ache. But it is not the goal to be aspired to. It is not, ultimately, going to cause people to say, "Wow!"

The first component of contemporary music is the instrumentation. The second is the selection of music. No song that is older than Elvis Presley and the Beatles ought to every be sung in a contemporary service. Are their exceptions? A few, but not the ones you are probably thinking about.

Some will argue that we ought to at least acquaint this younger generation with the great old hymns of the faith. I 10% agree. There are a few old hymns of the faith that are that good. But, can I be honest? There are many old hymns of the faith that could just as well be replaced by their modern equivalents. There are certain hymns that if I never heard again, it would be OK. There are some hymns that I have already heard way too many times. My list would be different from yours, which is my point.

The notion that there is a specific body of Christian hymnody that every believer ought to be acquainted with is simply not tenable.

Hundreds of thousands of Christians songs have been written by Christians of thousands of culture world wide down through the centuries. To suggest that a couple of hundred songs written in Europe and America over the past two to three hundred years are more sacred than others is just not true. Korean missionaries would never get confused about this, but we do. The important thing is to make people say "Wow!" To do this, we need to lead them to see God within the context of American culture in this century, not Europe in the last century.

Beauty is in the ear of the listener. No song or style of music is inherently better or worse than any other song or style. Bach is not better than rock. The opposite is also true.

Occasionally I will run across a zealous contemporary musician who is on a campaign to transition a congregation toward contemporary music. This is sad. People like to worship God without changing the style of music they enjoy. Let them alone. Start anther congregation if you must, but lead these people to God in the music style they enjoy.

Music written in the last 20 years--and especially the last 10 years--has a distinctly different sound to it. When you draw from this music, people will tend to say, "Wow!" When you don't, the yawn and look at their watches. They usually don't come back. We have lost out chance to reach them with the gospel. Seven percent of the unchurched population will sample a church this year.(5) When we do, we need to let the music drop their jaw open and say, "Wow!"

The third component of contemporary music is more subjective. It is what can only be called "feel". You cannot define it. You can hardly describe it. Everyone knows it when they hear it. You either have it or you don't. It is very difficult for this to be educated into you if you basically don't have it. If a musician has what it takes, training will make him better. If he does not have what it takes, understand that the key of E flat has 3 flats will not help very much.

Good music has a flow to it. It moves from celebrative music that reaches out and grabs the congregation from their depression or boredom or distraction or whatever state they found themselves in when the came. Slowly by slowly it moves them into the presence of God so that they loose them selves in the presence and wonder and glory of God. They sing out, "This is holy ground," and they feel as Moses felt before the burning bush. The sing, "Holy, holy, holy," and they feel as Isaiah felt in Isaiah 6. They sing the songs; their soul sees into the unseen world of heaven itself. They lift their hands; they do not know they are lifting their hands. They are not wondering what people think. They are hardly aware of anything around them. They are captivated by the presence and the wonder of God. Their soul says, "Wow!"

Worship leaders, this is your job description: you are to lead people to this experience each and every week. No exceptions. The soul longs for this kind of closeness with God. Church is about giving people the gift of this kind of experience with God. Yet, 61% of people who attend church regularly say they experience God seldom or never.(6) The world needs, more than anything else, to experience the presence of God. We must give it to them. We must cause their soul to see God and say, "Wow!"

Some may object that this is all too experiential, too emotional. I would argue that worship is about feeling because love is about feeling. I am utterly convinced that God is weary of commitment with no feeling. God wants to be enjoyed and obeyed. God wants us to feel about him. He wants us to experience him in real time. This is what worship is all about. This is what Christianity is all about. If we are not experiencing God, if we don't have a real heart for God, we are nothing but very good Pharisees.

 

Wow! Pastoral care


In seminary they taught us how to do weddings and funerals. We learned how to do hospital visitation and help people through crises situations. We learned our lessons well. What they did not tell us is that people will hardly ever remember what is said at a wedding or a funeral. At the risk of offending the pastors who are reading, let me break it to you: you and I who officiate at weddings are not the most important thing going on. We are not the picture. I am not even sure we are the frame. We are not supporting actors. We are more like the extras--the thousands of locals the movie producers hire to create a crowd effect. Nobody ever remembers funeral or wedding messages. So when they come up to you and say, "Oh pastor, that was perfect." don't believe it. Smile and say thank you, but don't start thinking that you did anything really extraordinary

There is something, however, really extraordinary you can do in helping people through pivot points in life. It isn't difficult or time consuming, but it will mean the world to people. It will cause them to say "Wow!" these people really care around here. This simple practice, if effectively executed, will mean more to people than anything else you do as pastor. Over time, your people will develop an irresistible love and gratitude toward you. They will follow you anywhere because you have loved them well. You have "taken care of my lambs," and been obedient to Jesus' teaching in John 21. Here is how it works.

As soon as the funeral or wedding is over, plan out your follow up strategy. This is where the battle will be won. You may want to do this on your own calendar, or have your secretary keep up with it for you, or use a computer to remind you. In one ten minute session, plan out a dozen ways to remind the family that you care.

Here is an example. Suppose you do a funeral on Friday, November 26th. A 58 year old man named Bob died suddenly of a heart attack leaving a widow, Jean, and three children. They had been married 32 years. When you get back to the office, write down the following dates:

December 15: write a note acknowledging that you are understand the Christmas season may be hard with out Bob.

February 10: write a note acknowledging this is the first Valentines day in 32 years Jean has not had a date. You know it is hard. You are sorry. You are thinking of her. You are praying for her. If you want to go the extra mile, send one long stem rose. Sign the card with your wife in order to avoid any misunderstanding.

June 15: Write a letter to each of the children acknowledging their grief in Father's day without dad.

August 22: Bob's birthday. This day will come and go with a great cloud over it. To everyone else, it is just another day. Jean will be touched that you remembered.

September 15: "Jean and Bob's anniversary. Thirty three years ago she slept with Bob for the first time. Tonight, she crawls in bed alone. She is so alone. The letter she got from her pastor made her day." Wow! It is sure good to have people who care.

November 20: Write a note acknowledging the anniversary of Bob's death.

The following year you may write half as many cards and then decrease from there.

If you serve anything other than a very small church, keeping up with all these contacts will become daunting. I have some good news. The bigger the church, the more money you have to pay secretaries and support staff. Turn your secretary loose. Ask her to be creative and be an extension of you in showing care to the congregation.

Modern contact management software that salesmen use can be adapted to track this kind of thing. In ten minutes you can mark each date you want to be reminded to do something, along with a note describing what you need to do. If you turn on your computer every day it will keep you on top of these things.

Buy your cards in bulk, but don't buy cheap cards. Purchase some cards that look like you picked them out just for this person. Again, let your secretary help you.

Variety is the key. Send a card this month, call next. Send a flower next month and a gift the next. Once in a while, on a Wednesday night, ask the group to remember a beloved member of the congregation who is passing the first anniversary of their spouses death. Everyone will say, "Wow! I feel cared for."

Don't just acknowledge sad things. Acknowledge the one month anniversary of that new born child. Acknowledge the six month anniversary of a wedding.

This is pastoral care that makes helps people. This is pastoral care that makes people say Wow!

 

Wow! Facilities


Churches ought to be at least as nice as the malls, banks, schools and Burger Kings in the community.

In yester-years believers built great cathedrals to lift the spirit of man to God. They understood that the size and shape of the building influenced a person's soul. They asked different questions than we do. They asked, 'How can we construct this building so that it lifts the soul of man to God?" We ask, "How can we reduce the dollar per square foot figures so that it comes in under budget?" Different kinds of questions result in different kinds of answers.

I am not saying that buildings have to be opulent. Certainly not gaudy. We don't want to distract people from thinking about God to thinking about brick and mortar. Church buildings need not be the most lavish buildings in society. They should not send a symbol of wastefulness to society. They should not be an expression of materialism. Buildings need not be the nicest in society, just about the same as the schools and banks and, well, Burger Kings.

Having traveled some and having been in a number of church buildings, I would offer an observation. Being opulent with our church buildings is not our problem. Many church buildings are down right shoddy. They are far worse than the banks, the schools and the Burger Kings in the community. We really ought to do better than that.

It is often argued that home groups have an advantage over Sunday School type groups because of the building. The home atmosphere gives them a warmer feel. I have another argument. Church buildings ought to be homier. How much can wall paper cost? If we can afford comfortable chairs to sit in at home, why can't we afford comfortable chairs to sit in our Sunday Schools?

One difference between church buildings and buildings used for business is that business men generally understand that buildings deteriorate over time. One of the things investors look for when people go to buy a business is differed maintenance. This means that the previous owner beefed up his bottom line by putting off things that really ought to be fixed. This is seen in the business world as cheating. The normal and customary way to do it is to spend a little money--perhaps in the neighborhood of 5% of gross--on maintenance each year. This way there is no deferred maintenance that will accrue.

How differently churches think about these things. They have no plan whatever for setting a side a certain percentage of their income for maintenance. They seem to see maintenance as an unusual thing. They seem to be surprised that the roof needs to be repaired, that the painting needs to be redone, that the carpet is wearing out. It often takes and act of congress and some great special action to get these things taken care of. In order for buildings to cause people to say, "Wow!" we need to set aside a little money each year to keep them looking nice.

Another difference between Burger King and most Sunday School class rooms. Most Sunday School class rooms have a little pile of junk in the corner, whereas most Burger Kings don't. If there is a little pile of junk, it is generally not the same pile of junk as the last week you were there. Many Sunday School class rooms have the same pile of junk in the corner for years. It consists of precious things--old Sunday School quarterlies, unused questionnaires, maps from last quarter's study of the temple, and a few prospects names that no one got around to contacting. For some reason, no one has the courage to pick up this pile of junk and drop it in the trash. At Burger King, this is fairly simple: if a pile of junk ends up the corner of a Burger King, the manager just asks someone to through it away. There are some things we could learn from Burger King.

 

Wow! Childcare, children's programs and youth work


There is a way to get parents to come to church and make them stick like Velcro. We have a means at our disposal a method so effective it will keep parents coming back every single week. If executed properly, parents are nearly defenseless against the approach. They cannot resist. They are stuck. Captured by their own children. Here is how it works.

A family gets up on a Sunday morning resolved to turn over a new leaf. They are going to get the family in church. Perhaps they used to attend church. Perhaps they want their kids to have a well rounded upbringing (one day of church; six days of soccer; that's balance). For whatever reason, they lay hold of the stuff to get the family to church one time. The children go, quite literally, kicking and screaming. The parents have an OK time. Not great; not awful. OK. Then they pick their kids up from Sunday School and the kids are beaming. You would think that they just got to go to Disneyland. They got to eat some cookies, play some games, watch a really cool video and generally have a great time. The amazing thing is they seemed to have learned something. This is almost enough to snag the parents. Almost. One more thing is needed to set the hook:

"And we have to go back next week, because next week we are going to. . .

  • have a Christmas party, or
  • complete the project we are working on, or
  • have a special guest in the class, or
  • take a special field trip, or
  • make something really cool, or
  • have a contest

If any of these things happens and the kids start begging their parents to attend church the next week, the parents should send up the white flag early. They will not be able to resist. No parent can ever resist the insistence from their own child that they attend church. Ever. Few churches fully capitalize on this dynamic. One of the quickest ways to become a Velcro church instead of a Teflon church is to have a children's program so irresistible that kids will want to come back. It doesn't mean they feel OK about coming back. I mean they pull Mom's skirt. I mean they pound the floor. I mean they ask, "How many more days till Sunday?" I mean the walk into Mom and Dad's room thirty minutes after bed time and ask, (for the eighth time) "Can we go back to that church?" When this happens, it is over. The fat lady has gotten up, sung, gotten down and driven home. It is over. That family will be in church each and every Sunday from then on--no exceptions.

You say it can't be done? Kids are brats? How can you plan a program around the finicky whims of kids? We planned something really special for them and they turned up their nose? Is that what I heard?

Listen. Disney does it. Peter Piper does it. McDonalds does it. Nickelodeon does it. Businesses do it all the time. And churches must learn to do it too. Businesses don't do it because they love Jesus. I am not sure they do it because they love kids. They might just do it for money. We can do it for Jesus. We can do it for kids. Jesus taught if we make a kid stumble spiritually, we are in deep weeds. I think the rewards will be pretty handsome for the people who make the gospel attractive to kids. If you want to be a Velcro church, make church attractive to kids.

"But, but, but, we shouldn't make this into Disneyland. We are not trying to entertain these kids, we are trying to teach them." No. We shouldn't make this Disneyland. It should be better. Every businessman knows you have to be better than the competition to beat them. And if we do not beat the competition we will loose our kids. That is a price I am not willing to pay. If it is not interesting we won't have the opportunity to teach them because they won't come back. And where does it say learning has to be boring?

Besides, we have an enormous advantage over Disney and Nickelodeon. We have teachers who actually love kids; Disney just wants their money. We have teachers that actually care for our kids. Let's show how much we care by being more attractive than Disney, Nickelodeon and Discovery Zone. Our caring for kids ought to show in our facilities. Our caring for kids ought to show in our programming. Our caring for kids ought to show in our activities. Our caring for kids ought to show in the most interesting, active, involved teaching that kids have ever seen. Our caring for kids ought to really show up during the week when we pray for kids and call them and send them cards. Here is a sure fire Velcro strategy: have your children's Sunday school workers send cards to their kids. Kids don't get much mail. They will love it. And mom and dad will bring them back to church every single time. Guaranteed.

We ought to do things like take them to the river and say, "Imagine what Moses felt like. . ." When we teach about the loaves and the fishes, pass out some bread. Kids like teaching they can touch and smell and hold and feel. Kids like to laugh and be amazed and cry and get involved.

Kids know something instinctively that we adults some times forget: learning ought to be fun. If you want to double your church really really fast, concentrate on doing things that make kids say "Wow!"

 

Wow! Multimedia


We are all amphibious beings, with one foot in the spiritual world and one foot in the physical world. These two worlds are connected. It is hard to feel spiritual when I hit my thumb with a hammer or when I haven't slept for 28 hours. My body affects my soul.

There is also an abundance of evidence that the soul effects the body. Happy, optimistic people tend to live longer and fight disease better.Proverbs 13:12 is really true, "Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life."

Sometimes spiritual leaders are so spiritual they are no earthly good. They forget we have a foot in both worlds.

Here is the point: the stuff that I see and hear and taste and touch touches my soul. Here are some examples:

My soul is affected when I see full motion video of the Grand Canyon and Mount Rainier as I sing, "When I look down, from lofty mountain splendor, and see the brook and feel the gentle breeze. . . Then sings my soul, my Savior God to thee, How great thou art, How great thou art!

My soul is affected when I walk into church and the paint on the door is chipping and pealing.

My soul is affected when someone hands me a piece of bread and says, "This is my body. . ."

My soul is affected when I hear crisp clear high sounds and warm, deep, rich low sounds. My soul is also affected by a squawking PA system and especially by the obnoxious squall of feedback.

My soul is affected when the sound man pushes a button that sets the lights into to a 120 second dim. This is so slow as to be imperceptible to the human eye. Yet, but the end of the song, the mood is completely different. My soul is quieted by the dimming of the lights. It is lifted when the lights are lifted.

My soul is touched by seeing slides of my Savior on the cross as I hear a beautiful tenor voices sing, "It was my sin that nailed him there." Sometimes someone will tell me to "just listen to the words." I cannot. My soul is affected by the words and the music and whether the singer sings on pitch and the slides and everything.

Physical stuff, the stuff of earth matters. It should cause people to say, "Wow!" Multimedia seems like an extra, something in the, "nice to have," category. It will not be true in the next century. Multimedia with full motion video on most of our songs as well as dramatic on screen illustration to our sermons will be standard fare for the growing churches of the next century. This is true, not because technology will make this all more inexpensive and do-able, but because of the basic nature of man. Our souls are affected by what we see, taste and touch.

 

Wow! How you treat guests


Guest want it all. They want to be given space and distance. They want friendly people who reach out to them and sense of anonymity. They want it both ways and we must give it to them.

Ultimately, guests are impressed with us to the degree that they feel we are impressed with them. While we are busy thinking about what we do, they are busy thinking of themselves. They wonder if they matter to us. They wonder if they matter to anyone. They wonder if anyone notices them or cares. They have a deep need to stand out without sticking out.

I have some ideas about this. Why don't we set up a video camera and tape everyone who comes in? Tape the greeters introducing themselves and see how many people volunteer their names. Why don't we see if we can get their addresses off a CD ROM and have a team of people run out to their houses to leave them some small gift--have it waiting there when they get home. That might make them say "Wow!"

Why don't we review the tapes on Monday morning, like a football team reviews films of Sunday's games? Why don't we, the staff, learn as many names as we can. If each staff member can pick up a couple of new ones a weekend, and share those with the rest of the staff each week, it would become very difficult to attend more than a couple of times without all of the staff knowing your names. I think if I attended a church twice and the pastor came up to me and said, "Hi, Josh," I would say, "Wow!" The key to impressing people is being impressed with them.

Of course there is the plan described in Double Your Class called giving Friday nights to Jesus. We can quantify how effective this is. Ninety percent of the people we have in our homes on Friday night join the church. It just makes them sit up and say, "Wow!"

Even if we can't make visitors say, "Wow!" let's not make them say "Ugh!" Like the time I visited a church in another part of my state. I arrived late because I assumed the service started at 11:00 instead of 10:45. I missed the instructions to the guests about filling out cards. Boy, was I ever glad. At the end of the service the pastor took the cards and called out every visitor by name, asking them to stand up and introduce themselves. Ugh. I was glad I hadn't filled out a visitor's card.

I had a friend who visited a church and was very impressed. He like the music, the preaching and the people. They brought a little gift to his home. He said "Wow!" The pastor called him personally and seemed very personable and warm. The attended a number of times and liked it better and better. He was starting to feel at home. One day, they attended and the pastor came up to greet him, "Haven't I seen you before? Have you visited before? What was your name?" Ugh. He thought he mattered to the pastor. Unless you have a photographic memory, I think the idea of studying the game films is a good one. By the way, he never went back. Ugh.

How well we treat our guests is one of the most easily quantifiable things in this list. The ratio of how many people visit verses how many people join tells you how well you are doing with guests. The goal is to become a Velcro church where people stick rather than a Teflon church where people slide on out the door.

This is important because if people are in the mood to get back into church the probably won't try very many. We might be tempted to think that if they don't like our church they will move on to another church where they will feel more comfortable. This is often not the case. They will try one or two churches. If these experiences are negative, you can color them gone for another ten years. Ugh. Trying to get back into church is a huge hassle, especially if you have kids. If one or two experiences are negative, they may be the last for a long, long time.

On the other hand, if we take good care of our visitors, growing a church can be easy. Most churches have over three fourths of their visitors kick tires and walk away. In many, many situations all we have to do to be the fastest growing church in town is to take good care of our visitors. Wow!

 

Wow! Sunday School


Nothing will make people say "Wow!" any quicker than love. Love is the commodity of the church, and especially of the Small Group or Sunday School class. We are in the business of loving people. How is business?

The Bible is very clear about the importance of love. Love is the shibboleth by which we can tell who are and who are not Christians: "This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother." (I John 3:10) It is impossible to love God and not love people. In fact, the Bible calls us a liar if we try: "If anyone says, 'I love God,' yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. (I John 4:20) We are flat out commanded to be people of love: "And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother." (I John 4:21)

If a church can become a place where people find love it will attract people like Velcro. People will stick. People will not be able to leave. That church will not be able to start enough services. That church will not be able to build buildings fast enough. That church will grow explosively. That church will enjoy the smile of God.

The number one need in society is love. It is true in your community and it is true in mine. It was true in the sixties and it is more true today. What the world needs now is love, sweet love.

People go to bars to find it. They have affairs to find it. They drown themselves in alcohol and drugs because they can't find it.

We have violence today because people cannot find love. Loving people are not violent people. Loving people are peacemakers. Our children get in gangs because they are looking for love.

Why is the church failing to provide this need? Because we have an inadequate theology of love. What we say about love is true. We simply don't tell the whole story.

What we emphasize in the evangelical community about love is simply incongruent with what the Bible teaches about love. Again, what we say is true; we just don't say enough. We say love is something you do. It is commitment. This is true. It is just not the whole story.

The teaching of the evangelical church about love is stated in juxtaposition of our perception of the world's view of love. We perceive the world's view of world as being solely feeling based. In the world, love is simply an emotion. It means I feel good about you. I like you. I like being with you. You make me happy. I am not promising anything about tomorrow. I am not committing. I am just enjoying being with you.

The church looks at this kind of love and says, "No." This is not what love is about. Love is about commitment. It is about action. Jesus loved so much that he went to the cross. He did something. He sacrificed. He followed through. He served. That is love. Love is not a feeling. It is action. It is commitment. It is doing. Consider that description of love in light of these verses:

It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart; for whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God's grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:7 - 8)

Do these sound like the words of someone who has simply made a commitment to some people and is faithfully, dutifully living out that commitment? Read the passage again. Do you see any emotion there? Do you see some heart there? Listen to Paul as he speaks of "Longing with the affection of Christ Jesus."

Obviously, the church does not preach against emotional love. We never say that love should not be a matter of emotion. We only say that that is secondary. The really important thing about love is that it is a commitment. I remember a little chorus that was popular in the seventies that went,

Love is something you do.

Love is something you do.

Not just something you talk about.

Love is something you do.

What is your call? Is that true to the Biblical teaching on love? I don't think so. I don't think it tells the whole story. It think it would be just as valid to add a second verse:

Love is something you feel.

Love is something you feel.

Not just something you talk about.

Love is something you feel.

People crave heart love. They crave a love that is felt. They want to feel and they want people to feel toward them. Not just commit to them; feel toward them. People crave heart love because we are created in the image of God and God craves heart love. Jesus rebuked people for saying the right words but not having the right heart: "These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me." (Matthew 15:8) Notice that the problem was not the incongruity between their words and their actions. The problem was the incongruity between their words and their heart. The problem was they didn't feel anything. Jesus never got onto the Pharisees for not doing the right things. He got on to them because their hearts were not in it. He knew that a heartless love did not satisfy God.

A heartless love does not satisfy God. It does not satisfy people very much either. No one wants to be someone else's project. We want to be loved from the heart. We wanted to be loved with feeling. We want someone to feel about us. We want someone to enjoy us.

Love, at its best is a little bit selfish. I want someone to love me for what they get out of it. I want them to gain from loving me. I don't want them to gain at my expense. I don't want them to gain some mere financial advantage. I want them to enjoy being with me. Of course, what we often say is also true. I don't want this to be all there is too it. I want them to care about me. I want them to care how I feel. I don't want a love that is completely selfish. But I do want a love that is enjoying me, benefiting from me. I am not interested in a love that is only trying to help me. That is pity, not love. I don't want to be pitied. I want to be loved.

I feel strongly about this because this kind of teaching nearly killed my marriage. For years I thought I was fulfilling the obligation of my marriage vows by honoring my commitment to Sharon. I was dutiful. I was honorable. I did what was right. Sharon's heart nearly shriveled like a raisin in the sun. She didn't want my duty. She wasn't helped by my commitment. She wanted my heart. She wanted my emotion. She wanted me home talking to her because I wanted to be home talking to her, not because I was faithfully fulfilling my commitment. She wanted me to enjoy her. She wanted a love that was a little bit selfish. She wanted to know that I was savoring each moment.

When we think in terms of loving the world, we must think in practical, as well as emotional terms. Love means having people into my home and laughing with them and playing Balderdash with them and sipping coffee together. Sure, it means being there through the thick and the thin and all that, but love is also much more mundane than that. Love is not always dramatic. Most of the time, love is composed of much more ordinary stuff.

If you are honest, you may find yourself saying, "I don't like people like that. Some people, I don't like at all. I don't want to have them in my home. I don't want to go out to dinner with them. I don't wish ill on them. I just want them away from me." I have two responses. First, it may be that you don't have to like them. You need to care that some does. There are a lot of weird people in this world. People who are weird tend to like people who are weird. This is because of the principle of rapport, discussed in a later chapter. (Weird, in this context, of course, means someone who is not like me. I am the definition of normal.) As long as weird people are loved by weird people, all is well.

The second response is this: you and I need to take our non-accepting self to the cross and let it be crucified again. We need to say to God, "If you could love someone like me, surely I could love someone like him." Loving people, at its core a spiritual issue. Church growth, at its core, is a spiritual issue.

This is what Sunday School work is all about: creating these kind of relationships. When we create hot houses of love in our Sunday School classes and small group, we will make people say "Wow!" Sometimes, with tears in their eyes they will say, "Wow!" "Wow! I didn't know I could be love like this. I didn't know this kind of warmth existed. Wow! Wow! Wow!"

Churches are in the business of reflecting the glory of God, which means making people say, "Wow, ain't God good!!" How is business at your church?

In the next chapter, we will look at the most important area of all that we should cause people to say, "Wow!" The Bible teaches that it is the divinely appointed means of attracting people to the gospel. (1 Corinthians 1:21) God warns us that many should teach because they will be judged more strictly. The work of preaching and teaching is absolutely crucial to all we are doing in evangelism an discipleship.

20 Questions


1. What one thing does your church do that causes people to say, "Wow!" Don't be bashful. Let me hear you brag a little. What does your church do well?

2. Consider the theology of "Wow!" Should we be trying to make people say, "Wow!" ?

3. Let's look at a list of the seven areas discussed in this chapter on "Wow!" Which ones do you think we are doing pretty well in, and which ones need vast improvement. Here are the seven areas:

  • Wow! Music
  • Wow! Pastoral care
  • Wow! Facilities
  • Wow! Childcare, children's programs and youth work
  • Wow! Multimedia
  • Wow! How you treat guests
  • Wow! Sunday School

4. If you were writing this book, what areas would you have added to this list? Would you have left any of these areas off the list?

5. Describe a really moving music experience for you? What are the elements that cause it to come together?

6. Have you considered starting a contemporary service?

7. What benefits would there for you to start a contemporary service?

8. What price would you have to pay?

9. In what ways have you implemented Josh's plan of following up on pastoral care? What did it mean to your people?

10. Specifically, how could you organize and implements such a plan?

11. What is the most glaring deficiency in your facilities?

12. What improvements have you made in the past 6 months in your facilities?

13. How would you evaluate your children's ministry?

14. Do you think church ought to be fun for kids?

15. If you could wave a magic wand over your children's ministry, what would you change?

16. Have you dabbled in multimedia any? Tell us about it.

17. How do you make your guests feel special without making them feel on the spot?

18. What is the ratio in your church of number of guests to the number who join?

19. Do you agree with the idea that emotion has a valid and important place in biblical love?

20. What could you do to help your Sunday School to be a more loving place?


1. Barry Posner, from a tape series entitled Credibility.

2. Gerhard Kittel and Gerhard Friedrich, Editors, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Abridged in one Volume, Abridgement by Geoffrey W. Bromiley, (Grand Rapids Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1985) p. 178.

3. Garrett Soden, Hook Spin Buzz: How to Command Attention, Change Minds & Influence People. (Princeton, New Jersey: Peterson's/ Pacesetter Books, 1996) p. 169.

4. Garrett Soden, Hook Spin Buzz: How to Command Attention, Change Minds & Influence People. (Princeton, New Jersey: Peterson's/ Pacesetter Books, 1996) p. 174.

5. George Barna, Evangelism that Works, (Ventura, California; Regal books, 1996), p. 68.

6. George Barna, Evangelism that Works, (Ventura, California: Regal, 1996) p. 58.

 

How to double a group

You can double a class in two years or less by inviting every member and every prospect to every fellowship every month.