We are loosing a generation of people. Only 4% of the youngest generation of Americans, the Bridger generation are born again. (This doesn't count the ones below age 17.)
We know that the vast majority of people who ever place their faith in Christ do so before they are old enough to vote. Further, Dawson McAlister's research indicates that 90% of teenagers will quit attending church when they leave home. We have a crisis on our hands.
According to Rick Warren, (and I agree), the #1 issue in defining who you will and will not reach is musical style. Last week, we talked about two approaches to musical styles. (www.joshhunt.com/mail103.htm):
This week, I want to talk about two more approaches, starting a new church and the multi-congregation model.
Starting new churches has much in its favor. New churches grow better than old churches. New churches don't deal with the tension of transitioning or blending. New churches reach more people than old churches. We need lots of new churches.
One of the best ways to start a new church is what I call, "Large churches starting large churches." I did a conference at First Baptist, Midland, Texas a few years ago and Paul Byrom told me one such story. They sent out three or four hundred people to form a new church, plus gave them a huge pile of money to get started. A year or two later, the new church had doubled, and the mother church had replaced all the people they sent out. Plus, First Baptist ended up as a more unified church. There is only so much diversity a church can handle. This seemed like a win, win, win situation to me.
Still, this comes at a huge price. Paul told me in this situation he wasn't sure how often a church could handle this kind of trauma. I can understand why.
The Multi-Congregation Model
A much less expensive and much less traumatic model is to move in the direction of the multi-congregation model. Here is a graph of my home church, which shifted in this direction 5 years ago. Nothing else changed in 1999. Same pastor, same staff, same location. The only difference was the addition of a new, Rock-the-Flock 9.3.0 Service with a new 11:00 Sunday School. This "church within a church" model is a winner for any church who has the space available during the 9.30 time slot.
We intentionally named the service "Rock-the-Flock." We wanted to send a message that this was a service for the young people. In fact, that phrase, "for the young people" turned out to be a phrase that communicates. In my previous church, we used to talk about reaching boomers and seekers. This never really communicated all that well. Using the words, "for the young people" seemed to communicate. Seems everyone knows who the young people are and what kind of music they like.
The church had been on a 5 year plateau around the 400 level. Perhaps a gentle decline would be more accurate. We started with about 25 adults, a youth group of about 50 and a hot band. (Check out our band leader's website and new CD at http://www.daviddelgado.com (The new CD may not be out till next week.) In the first two years, the service, doubled. The next year, it doubled again. The balcony was starting to fill up this past Sunday when I was there. Sunday School attendance was up to 680. Communicating the ageless truth within the context of contemporary music is a winner.
How to Start a Contemporary Service
You need to keep two things in mind in starting a contemporary service:
Getting permission has to do with persuading people this is a good idea. A lot of people still think this is compromising with the world and such. Talk to them about the missionary angle. Preach a message on 1 Cor. 9:19-25:
Use the word experiment. Try it for a short period of time. Looking at a full auditorium, it is hard to remember now, but in my church the idea of the 9.3.0. service was almost ditched because of the the fear of the unknown. A last minute change pulled the motion to start the 9.3.0. service, and substituted it with a motion to TRY the 9.3.0 service for 4 weeks. Those 4 weeks had the all time high baptisms, giving and attendance in the 100+ year history of the church. Plus, people who were fearful of the unknown could come check it out. It may not be their style, but they could see there was nothing that was inherently unbiblical about it... just youth camp on Sunday morning. No matter how many ways we tried to describe the concept of contemporary music, many didn't get it. When they experienced it, they got it.
One more thing. Draw a red circle around everything you have going on now. Make a promise to the people who enjoy what is going on in that circle: we won't mess with you. We will continue to minister and provide a high quality service for you. Please give us permission to start something else for somebody else.
Pulling it off
Three things are involved in pulling it off:
On the whole, getting a band is easier than you think. This is true, in part, because contemporary music is inherently simple. Get a drummer, guitarist, bass guitar and keyboard and you are set. You only actually have to know three chords. If your youth ministry has a band, that can be a start. Remember the line from Field of Dreams--"if you build it, they will come." If you announce you are starting a contemporary service, God will raise up the people to do it. There are more people than you know who have a guitar or a set of drums in the garage just waiting to be pulled out and used for God.
Andy Stanly remembers in his youth ministry days that he played the guitar. "I wasn't very good, but if you turn it up loud enough, who can tell?"
Getting the preaching right
Preaching is about connecting the Bible to life. In traditional preaching, we often start with the Bible, explain it, then give and application at the end. Contemporary preaching often goes the other way. We start with life and ask, "What does the Bible have to say about this problem, situation, or relationship?" Use more quotes from the USA Today, and fewer from Matthew Henry. More tech stories and fewer from the farm. When you refer to a Bible verse, tell them what page number it is in the pew Bible. Better yet, put the words on the screen. Use video clips to illustrate the sermon. I highly recommend Rick Warren's video series on preaching. www.pastors.com
You might also look at my friend Tim Eason's book Media Ministry Made Easy
Setting up a new Sunday School
This,too, is easier than you think. Ask all your existing classes if they want to move or stay. Collapse the organization a bit--meaning, if you had a class for every grade, you might need to combine a grade or two. Shoot for having a third more to half more classes, not doubling the number of classes.
Every fully-graded Sunday School may not be fully graded. You may have all your youth at one Sunday School and none at the other.
Give yourself about 6 months to set up a new Sunday School. You can pull off a new worship service in about 2 months. All you have to do for that is set up the musicians and greeters. A whole new Sunday School is much more work.
Use the opportunity to create a new adult class every time you can. If a teacher wants to move to the new time slot, and there is a critical mass of people who will stay behind at the old hour, see if you can recruit a new teacher and start a new class.
Advertise the new service heavily. People are attracted to new, but new doesn't last forever, so take advantage of it while it lasts. Organize a team of people to call everyone in the church, especially inactive members. Spend some money on advertising the new service through bill-boards, cable TV, direct mail, and radio.
Get ready for growth
I have heard many stories of churches starting new services and seeing a 15% overnight and permanent jump in attendance. The fields really are white unto harvest.
Here are a couple of resources to help you