I saw it transform the church I was serving for 11 years, and I am seeing it transform the church I am a member of now. A 9:30 contemporary congregation is the single best idea I know.
We started a contemporary 9:30 congregation three years ago this January. We call it "Rock the Flock 9.3.0." We started with a youth group of about 50 as well as around 25 adults. After two years, the entire congregation had doubled to about 150. This last year it doubled again to an average attendance of about 300. There were over 397 in attendance yesterday. It is the single best idea I know.
It is amazing to think about now, but the service was almost cancelled before it began. First Baptist, Las Cruces is a very traditional, 100 year old church. The idea of a "Rock the Flock" service did not set too well with many of the members.
One phrase that helped to "sell" the service was, "for the young people." It seems people will do anything for the young people. I thought of the days when I was on church staff and we used other phrases, "for seekers," and "for baby boomers." As it turns out, "for the young people" makes a lot more sense than these other phrases. "This is going to sound a lot like youth camp," we'd say. People understood that.
The other idea that got the idea approved was a four- week trial. We pulled the motion to start the service and replaced it with a motion to try it for four weeks. A specially called business meeting was scheduled for the actual vote on the service. After the four-week trial, the vote passed easily. It seems that the great fear was the fear of the unknown. This was a solvable problem. We could make the unknown known through a four-week trial.
Many people tried the service during this first four weeks and they came to three conclusions: 1) Sure enough, as predicted, they didn't like the service. 2) They could see that other people did like the service. 3) They could see that there was not anything really objectionable going on at the service; this was just a matter of taste.
A key component here is that we added a choice; we did not change the existing services. We still offer a first-rate traditional service at 11:00 and an early blended service. Our attitude was, "Allow us to start something else for somebody else that we are not now reaching."
Another key component was that this is a thorough going contemporary service. It sounds a lot like Passion music. A problem with many contemporary services is that they are blended or transitioned from an existing service. Using this model, you sometimes end up with a blend that keeps everyone equally unhappy. By starting a brand new service, we have the luxury of being a thorough going contemporary service.
By the way, we have a really talended musician who plays piano and writes music. To sample some of his music, see www.daviddelgado.com
One last component was starting a Sunday School at 11:00. The Sunday School does not have to be fully graded at first, although that is the goal to move toward in time. We started with youth, adults, and preschool available for younger preschoolers. Gradually more classes can be added until it is fully graded.
From the viewpoint of a missionaries' kid, this is just common sense. The rule on the mission field is you use the stuff and style of a culture to reach the culture. Nearly every church I know that is reaching young people is using the music of young people to do it.
Starting new classes and new congregations is one of the most proven models of church growth. A contemporary 9:30 congregation is one expression of that model.
DR. ELMER TOWNS
Includes: video worknotes, 3 survey forms, 4 questionnaires, pastor's checklist, promotional materials, and videocassette.