Many of you know I started pastoring a small church in the country about 45 minutes north of Las Cruces about 6 months ago. I wanted to provide an update on how things are going.
I asked for advice when I started this. I talked to two pastors.
One said, “New broom sweeps clean. Make something happen. Get some things going. Create some momentum. Make a splash.”
Another guys said, “Take it slow and easy.”
I went with the second guy’s advice.
I got a Sunday School report at our quarterly business meeting the other day. The first business meeting Sunday School was 18. Six months later we are at 24. The way I think of it, this is a 33% increase in six months. We started our first new class this past Sunday. We have a major outreach event planned for the first of the year. (It is not really official just yet, but if you would like to take a peek, see www.joshhunt.com/mail317.htm )
You might be surprised to hear I don’t keep up with numbers all that closely. Every few months I check in. Just hearing a quarterly report on Sunday School attendance is enough for me. I think we can make too much or too little of numbers. We ought to check in every now and then. It doesn’t need to be a daily obsession. In a small church, real high percentages are possible. In a larger church, if you can shoot for 10 or 15 percent growth a year, you will be doing well.
I am reminded why starting new groups is so critical. My wife started a new Ladies Group using the Masterworks curriculum. (Have I ever mentioned I love Masterworks?) The week before she started she sent a bunch of hand-written notes inviting people to attend. We have been at Salem for 6 months and during that 6 months she hadn’t written any hand-written notes. (Neither have I.) Starting a new class motivates you do things like that. It aligns the personal motivation of the teacher with the desire of God to reach all men. I haven’t checked for sure, but I think Sunday’s Sunday School attendance was the highest since I have been there.
Info on Masterworks:
We have been tinkering with music some since I have been there. We have one guy–great guy–who leads playing guitar by himself. I think most would agree that regardless of the style of music, the music gets better as you have more instruments. In old school churches this was a piano and organ and choir. In the new breed, we have a band with guitars and drums. In music, several instruments is nearly always better than one.
I started by adding me. I played guitar in a previous life and thought I could add to the mix. It didn’t help all that much. Recently, we have been using a different approach. Lifeway now has a new hymnal and along with it they produced a stack of CDs with every song in the hymnbook. They are split track so you can add as much voice or instrumentation as you want. In the last couple of weeks we have been using these and I am getting really positive feedback. If you pastor a small church, you might look into this. One bit of fine print–the new choruses are split track between instruments and background vocals. There is no lead vocals. I didn’t quite get why. http://www.lifewayworship.com/ for details. We also got Easyworship to help with this. You could just use PowerPoint, but you can use some cool moving backgrounds with Easy worship. https://www.easyworship.com/
This story illustrates my approach to leadership. Try lots of stuff; keep what works. We tried adding me on guitar, it didn’t help too much. We try supplementing music with CDs. It is working better. If you want to be successful, try to fail at lots of things.
Finding New Teachers
We grow a church by creating new groups. We create new groups by finding leaders. How do we find leaders?
Back in the saddle of local church leadership, I am reminded why I started writing Good Questions. I started writing Good Questions when I couldn’t find enough teachers to start new groups. There was a guy in my class that had watched me teach reading questions from my notes. “Let me look at those,” he said one day, after still another appeal for people to step up and start teaching. He looked over my notes, which approximate what I now produce online. (The new ones are better as they actually have answers!) He says to me, “If you will keep writing these and get me a copy, I will take a class.” Long story short, I never struggled to find teachers again. You will struggle a lot less than you do if you will subscribe to Good Questions.
I think I could start three more classes right now if I had the people to do it. I think I have teachers that would teach using my lessons. My lessons are just too easy to use. If you can read 20 questions, you can teach a class.
As you might guess, we are using parties for outreach and assimilation. Some have gone better than others. I think one of the reasons God has me in the pastorate is to humbly remind me that church work is hard. (I knew I had been away from it too long when it was stating to look easy.)
We did one party at our house this summer, had a house full of people and had a great time. I told Missy after the party, “That was fun! Let’s do it again next month!” We did. The next month we had my wife and I, my in-laws and our music minister. Momma told me there would be days like these.
We did the movie Fireproof. Had a great time and a good crowd. Did the move Facing the Giants. Great time, but not much of a crowd.
Thinking back on it, this is how it always is. That is why the Bible says, “Get into the habit of inviting guests home for dinner.” It is a habit. If people come, good. If they don’t, do it again next month anyway. Form the habit. Oh, and about the low turn out at Facing the Giants–I got busy (my excuse) and didn’t call everyone. Funny how not many show up when you don’t call.
One of the challenges we have a Salem that I never had at my previous church is finding prospects. We had lots of visitors where I served before and my research indicates that this is true of most churches. However, it is not true of Salem. The church is out in the middle of no where with almost no drive-by traffic. Its recent history has not been one that has been real attractive in the community. It has not had the reputation of a place that is warm and inviting and happy– a place where people are learning to live lives that are a little more joyful, a little more patient, a little more loving, a little less worried, and so forth.
What do I mean “in the middle of nowhere”? Check it out
For these reasons, we don’t get a lot of visitors, although, here recently we have had a few. The strategy for a church like this is to do community events to attract people to they church. For example, we will be doing a Trunk or Treat on Halloween weekend, inviting all the kids in the neighborhood for free candy. We did a Mother’s Day Photo Shoot that went pretty well. We have a major event we are talking about doing after the first of the year called What Divorce Taught Me About Marriage. My guess is this will be an on-going challenge to attract visitors to an out-of-the-way location. Smart businesses almost never make this mistake. They know there is nothing more costly that cheap land. If you ever need to relocate, think about that.
I absolutely love preaching every week. If you teach or preach, I trust you feel this way too. Not too many things much better than telling people the good news every week. I just finished a series through my favorite book–Philippians. I plan to start a series this weekend though my favorite Old Testament book, Nehemiah. My message is always the same: I want to show you how to live a life that is. . .
- a little more loving
- a little more joyful
- a little more peaceful
- a little less anxious
- a little less fearful
- a little less worried.
- A little more John 10.10b and a little lesson John 10.10a.
Thanks for listening.