11 Ideas for Getting Your Church Away from the Steeple and Out to the People!

Last summer (July 2014) my husband and I were part of a mission team with other adults from our church to East Tennessee.  From the time the idea was mentioned, we knew we wanted to be part; we saw from the pictures that is was a beautiful part of East Tennessee, but we also learned that this area was ranked among areas with the highest poverty levels in the United States.

733The teams’ roles would involve a daily feeding program for local school-aged children, as well as meal delivery to homebound senior citizens. Home repair was one of the major opportunities as was working in the ministry center’s warehouse, and, on the night before coming home, we hosted a block party for families and children in a community about 8 miles from where we stayed.  There was even a very limited wellness opportunity.

Janie2It was a wonderful week.  The gospel was presented through the lunch program, the home repairs and at the block party.  Being the “hands and feet” of Christ was both challenging and rewarding. We came home with the same “mountain-top high experience” that most of us had experienced at youth camps and through college mission trips.  We knew we had been where God planned for us to be.

That same opportunity was not open this summer and I have found myself wondering, “Why it was such an imperative to go last year, but not this?”  “Why does missions look so much more appealing and needed ‘out there’ than here in my own state, my own community?”  Not sure I have the answer to that question, but I do know there are mission opportunities all around – even though it is the end of the summer.

Here are 11 ideas to get out from under the steeple and out to the people.

  1. Help a group in your church be prepared for a mission trip – provide needed materials and supplies, sign up to be a prayer partner, give a few extra dollars to send them on their way, pray.
  2. Volunteer as relief help at a compassion ministry food pantry or food distribution center.
  3. Volunteer at a nearby church plant or ministry site to help with a back-to-school event.
  4. Go coastal.  Look for a maritime or seafarers ministry and take a batch of homemade cookies to drop-off as you go.  (This would be a great day-trip for senior adults, Women on Mission/myMission group or Sunday School class, even your teens.)
  5. When your family takes a weekend trip, plan to visit a ministry site or worship with a church plant on Sunday.
  6. Lead your church to adopt a UUPG (Unreached, Unengaged People Group) through the International Mission Board.  Information is found at www.imb.org.
  7. Prayer walk the schools in your neighborhood in the days before school starts.  Keep it up weekly during the school year and involve your children by walking on Saturday morning or Sunday afternoon.
  8. Gather the children’s gently-worn school uniform pieces and donate them to a family that needs them.  Don’t forget to purchase NEW underclothes and socks to go with them.
  9. Pray daily for the teachers in your schools.  Make it personal, “adopt” previous years’ teachers.  Let him/her know that you are praying.  Send a note at least once a month
  10. Volunteer to teach or help to lead a WMU/mission education group in your church.
  11. Be ready to participate in the Week of Prayer for State Missions and the Georgia Barnette State Missions Offering (September 13-20) generously and willingly.  www.GeorgiaBarnette.org

Surviving Super-drainers

Leaders have to be careful that they don’t spend most of their time around super-drainers. These are people who plug into you every time you see them, and they drain the blood right out of your brain – figuratively speaking, of course. They come in all shapes, sizes and denominations.

Here are a few whom you’ve probably encountered.

Human Bookmobiles

These are the people who hand you a book to borrow (they insist!) and you can bet that you’ll be quizzed on it in a week or two. Then they will ask you every time you see them if you still have it (that book you never asked to borrow) because they have to give it to some other poor soul.

The Wait-a-minute People

These are people who have 10 questions that require essays when you have only 10 minutes to be somewhere else. Like the old G.I. Joe action figure with the Kung-Fu grip, escaping their clutches is close to impossible.

The Up-front Gurus

These are the people who are a little too frank with you. He puts his hand on your shoulder before the business meeting and says something like:

  • I’m really concerned about your spiritual condition.
  • You don’t look so good.
  • Are you stressed?
  • Looks like you need more quiet time, friend.
  • Life is just passing you by.
  • Do you think maybe God has taken the mantle off your life?

The ‘Stand Up’ Super-drainer

This person says something reminds him of a joke. You love jokes, but these jokes take so long that your mind wanders and you begin thinking of something else. Then it hits you. I’ve got to find the punch line in his monologue or else he’s going to know that I wasn’t listening! Was that it? Should I laugh now?

Email Nukers

THESE ARE THE PEOPLE WHO PUT THE CAPS LOCK ON ALL THEIR EMAILS AND BEFORE YOU READ A WORD YOU ARE ALREADY DRAINED. THEY LOVE TO USE LOTS OF EXCLAMATION MARKS!!!!! YOU DON’T KNOW IF THEY ARE MAD OR JUST WANTING TO PLACE EMPHASIS ON EVERYTHING!!!!

Spiritual super-drainers are everywhere inside and outside the church. They have the potential to destroy your spiritual vitality. Jesus had spiritual super-drainers. Some of them, I’d imagine, were among His chosen disciples from time to time. But we have to keep in mind that God loves those people as much as He loves us. And sometimes these sandpaper encounters are God’s way of smoothing off our rough edges.

One thing my dad and others have taught me in the ministry is that it’s important not to let the super-drainers ruin your ministry. Smile and move on. But always surround yourself with super-chargers. They, too, are everywhere.

Super-chargers are those people who cheer from the grandstands of your life. When you spend time with them, you are guaranteed humor, understanding and new ways to look at things. They don’t force their stories, opinions or agenda on you. They make themselves available to you in the valleys and peaks of day-to-day ministry.

They are the kinds of people upon whom Paul lavished these words:

I give thanks to my God for every remembrance of you, always praying with joy for all of you in my every prayer, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:3-6, HCSB).

These are the people that God uses to touch and bless your life when the super-drainers surround you.

9 Keys to a Successful Church Revitalization

Earlier this year, I got to spend some time with leaders from First Baptist Church West Monroe and The Way Church in Denham Springs to talk about their successful church revitalization endeavors over the last few years.

These are two great scenarios to consider when thinking about church revitalization, especially when it may include church mergers or multi-site development.

The Stories:

Fairbanks Baptist Church in Sterlington, LA, had a history of decline and was struggling to keep systems running in the life of their church. They reached out to First West Baptist Church which accepted the challenge of helping them revitalize. Fairbanks Baptist became First West Fairbanks. A campus pastor was chosen to restart the work. Today, several hundred worship where 3 years ago there were several dozen.

Calvary Baptist Church in Denham Springs, LA, had a history of decline and was struggling to keep systems running in the life of their church. The Way Church was in their third year as a church plant and had baptized over 100 in three years by successfully reaching unchurched young adults in the same community. However, the Way Church was paying very high rent and began looking for other facility options. David Brown, the Associational Director of Missions, connected Calvary and the Way and they began exploring the possibilities of sharing facilities or merging. Calvary officially closed its doors in the Fall of 2014 and the Way took over the property and today several hundred are worshipping each Sunday, where last year there were several dozen.

During a round table discussion with leaders from First West, that included sr. pastor Michael Wood, global mission Pastor Mark Fenn, Fairbanks campus pastor Chad Merrell and leaders from the Way, which included co-pastors Scott Cheatham and Josh Spinks, I wrote down 9 keys to a successful church revitalization that includes merging and multi-site development:

9 Keys to Revitalization

1. Healthy Church Life & Multiplication Happening

Both First West and The Way were growing, multiplying leaders and groups. Healthy systems were in place and functioning at both churches.

2. Healthy Relational Networking Among Churches in the Community

Both First West and The Way are involved in their local associations and these relationships laid a foundation for the development of merger talks. The Way Church had even began hosting a quarterly community worship experience where they first met the pastor of Calvary and conversations were initiated.

3. Realization of Need by Declining Congregation

Both Fairbanks Baptist and Calvary Baptist had reached a point where they were willing to admit their need of help from the outside. For most congregations this will probably come in the form of financial struggles. Many will be faced with a loss of pastoral leadership. But something happens to initiate the idea that help is needed.

4. A Healthy Mediator

In both scenarios a healthy mediator began the conversation of merging. For Fairbanks, a deacon at First West was good friends with some of their leaders and they asked him if First West would be willing to help. For Calvary and the Way, David Brown, the Director of Missions in the area, served as a healthy mediator beginning and walking through the details with the congregations.

5. Everybody Seeking God’s Will & the Good of the Community

There had to be a declaration by all parties that we’re not seeking our own will, but God’s and the good of the lost community around us.

6. Defining Terms

There had to be a moment where hard realities were laid out and hard decisions made. In these scenarios, the older congregations had to come to understand that nothing would stay the same and it was time for their congregations to die that something new may be birthed for the good of the Kingdom.

7. Accepting Responsibility

These transitions WILL NOT be easy or cheap. Both First West and the Way said you can expect it to be costly. Broken systems can create some messy situations with taxes and debt and building needs. Jim Tomberlin with Multisite Solutions says you can expect to pay about $250,000. Both First West and The Way spent that in the transition period.

8. The Right People at the Right Time

Everything rises and falls on leadership. The Way Church was blessed to have Scott Cheatham, who had a business background and knew the right steps to take to raise money, get the property legal, and assure the Calvary faithful few that their church would be in good hands. First West also had a businessman, Chad Merrell, who knew how to build great relationships and solve problems. These were the right people at the right time.

9. Keep the Good, Retire the Bad

Fairbanks Baptist had 70+ kids coming on Wednesday night for a Kids program. Chad Merrell made the healthy decision to keep that ministry going. At the same time, they held services off campus at the high school for a season, to increase their capacity for attendance and build relationships with the community. Moving back to the campus of Fairbanks meant they moved back into the gym, because the worship center was too small.

Merging and multisite are two healthy scenarios for churches in need of revitalization. These 9 characteristics of a healthy transition may help guide you through a process with a partnering church.

 

How You Can Set the Tone for the Future

Few will forget the final words of the document that sent shockwaves across the Atlantic. It was a message to a distant, controlling ruler and it began our nation’s quest for independence. The Declaration of Independence caps it’s radical message with these words, “We mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.” What an amazing moment that must have been as our forefathers took the quill in hand and ascribed their commitment that would seal their destiny and our blessing as Americans!

That’s commitment!

Our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.

I’ve often wondered what would happen if every Louisiana Baptist church made a radical commitment to pledge everything they can to rescue those lost in sin by pledging our lives and our fortunes to the Great Commission. Hell wouldn’t have a chance.

Some might think that a pledge to give more to the Cooperative Program lacks the grandiosity of the pledge those men made in 1776. I don’t think so. The Pledge is not just a pledge for a cherished piece of land or a sacrifice for an earthly kingdom.  Our battle song rings out, “When we’ve been there ten-thousand years!”

Who will be there ten-thousand years?  Will your next-door neighbor be there? Will the orphan in the heart of Shreveport be there? Will the university student who was born in an atheistic home be there?  Will the village in Zimbabwe be there?

The Pledge is a pastor-led commitment to increase our giving so that everyone has the chance to hear and receive Christ’s offer of salvation and eternal life.

In the coming months you will be challenged to consider the following;

  • If you’re giving over 10%:  We say thank you for your global vision! We are asking you to prayerfully do something more.  For some it may be 1%. For others it may be just a reaffirmation of your commitment.
  • If you’re currently giving under 5%:  We challenge you to move to 5% by 2020.
  • If you currently give between 5-10%:  We challenge you to move up 2% by 2020.

As my hair color indicates, I’ve probably got more years in the rear view mirror than I do on the horizon and the greatest desire of my heart is to see everyone trust a little more, give a little more and pray a little more.

The pledge to which our forefathers signed their names set the tone for our nation’s future for the last 200 plus years. I’m convinced if we take The Pledge, we will position ourselves to potentially see the greatest harvest our state has even known.

I’m all in.  Are you?

 

When We Can’t Go On: Scenarios for a Church in Need of Radical Revitalization

Many churches are experiencing dwindling numbers, changing communities and the need for drastic change. Sometimes the picture gets so dim that the remaining faithful are forced to make hard decisions about the future of their church. Here are three scenarios that can bear fruit for the kingdom when a church can’t go on as it is.

1. Closing the Doors, for Now

All living things have life cycles and we should not see churches as an exception. Closing the doors of the church often is seen as a failure, but it shouldn’t be. In reality, it’s having the courage to recognize that the life cycle of the current ministry has run its course and it’s time for God to use His kingdom resources in a different way. And remember, God sees death differently than we do (Psalm 116:15; John 12:24). With God, death is never final. And when a church decides to close the doors, the resources will be utilized to birth something new and the legacy of the former members who made that hard decision will be alive forever. This may be the best scenario for a church if the area has experienced considerable population decline and the location may no longer be viable for a church.

2. Replanting the Church

Planting a new church is an exciting venture that begins with a church planter and a core group or launch team seeking God’s will, dreaming of reaching new people for Christ and then designing ministry with the community in mind. So replanting would mean taking a step back to core group or launch team phase and re-dreaming and redesigning with a fresh look at how to reach the community. Most likely, one of the reasons for the decline of the church is the lack of fresh vision and ideas for reaching the lost. As church plants often begin with a sending or sponsoring church and infused resources from the denomination and association, there may be opportunity for a replant to develop these partnerships as well. This may be the best scenario for a church that still has some financial means and people who are willing and able to restore the systems of the church with the help of partners.

3. Merging with a Healthy Congregation

The scenario that is gaining the quickest turnaround in Louisiana is the merger of a declining church with a healthy, growing congregation. In this scenario, the church in decline essentially gifts her building(s), assets and autonomy to the growing congregation, who then multiplies their healthy DNA and church systems onto the property. We’ve seen churches with a dozen attenders reaching hundreds within one year as a result of a congregational merger. And, in many cases, remaining members of the declining congregation stay on, faithfully serve and enjoy seeing the fruits of their giving and sacrifices multiplied in fruitful ministry to new generations.

Without a doubt, the decision to move your church toward drastic changes like these will not be easy. Don’t think of it as the end, but as the decision to extend the influence and legacy of your church for future generations.

How do we begin the process:

  • Pray and ask God for wisdom and direction as you seek what’s best for the future of your church and community.
  • If you think you may need further assessment of your current needs, contact Keith Manuel with our Evangelism & Church Growth Team about the Reset process and assessment tool – https://louisianabaptists.org/reset-resources.
  • Contact your local Director of Missions for help with next steps, legal issues and potential partners in merging.

The Legalization of Same-Sex Marriage: A Response

Dear Louisiana Pastors and Leaders,

In the days since June 26, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage is legal in all 50 states, I have read and heard numerous commentaries on the subject and have mulled over what I should write to the Louisiana Baptist family. There is more to think about than can be conveyed in one letter (I hope you are availing yourself of resources being provided by respected Christian leaders) but I offer a few observations about how we should respond:

1.     We should grieve.  My initial feeling upon hearing the ruling was a profound sense of sadness. I was not surprised by the ruling. It was expected, and was consistent with the rapid acceptance of homosexual behavior in our culture. But it grieves me greatly that America would ratify as a preferred way of life that which is so contradictory to Christ, His Word, and His Church.  It is not as though there was a lack of abundant evidence of a growing anti-Christian sentiment in our country before June 26.  But the Supreme Court decision felt to me like an official public pronouncement against God.  I think I understand how Ezekiel felt when the Spirit showed him the religious leaders of Judah worshipping the sun from within the sacred Temple of God. Would they really go this far? Did they not realize that God’s next step was to abandon them? And so I grieve. I grieve for the rebellion against our patient God who has blessed this nation beyond measure. I grieve for the judgment that will surely come. I grieve for my grandchildren. I grieve for the harm (temporal and eternal) to countless souls. I do not disagree with the many wise Christians who have counseled us in recent days not to despair. I, too, believe God is on his throne and will bring his kingdom to pass. I, too, believe he will bring some good things even out of this bad circumstance. But it is okay to grieve even as we pledge to stand firm and fight the good fight.

2.     We should not change our views and practices on marriage.  I am thankful that the Southern Baptist Convention leaders spoke definitively on this matter a few days ago. Because we take our marching orders from the Bible and not the Supreme Court, and because the Bible is clear on marriage being only between a man and a woman, we will not participate in same-sex marriage in any fashion. The jury is out on complications that may arise because of our refusal to go along with this cultural shift. We are making legal information available to our churches so we may be prepared as best we know how. We will assert that any attempt by the government to force us to participate in same-sex marriages is a violation of our religious liberty. However events unfold, we encourage every Louisiana Baptist to maintain the posture of not affirming, approving, or endorsing homosexual behavior in any form.

3.     We should prepare to become more unpopular.  We need to understand that any disapproval of homosexual behavior will be considered by many as an act of hatred or bigotry. We will be labeled as “homophobes.” Homophobia is a made-up word that is regularly applied in a pejorative way to anyone who believes homosexual behavior is a sin. You don’t have to engage in violence or mockery against homosexuals to get the label. Just suggest that it is wrong. Justice Kennedy, in the majority opinion, identified the disapproval of homosexual behavior as “injustice” per se.  I hope the church will be kind and respectful toward those with whom it disagrees on this subject. I hope we will be as winsome and congenial as we can be. But do not expect a response in kind. Unless we are willing to say same-sex marriage in particular and homosexual behavior in general is a good thing, we will be vilified. But we are in good company. Jesus said, “(The world) hates me because I testify of it that its deeds are evil.” (John 7:7).

4.     We should preach the Gospel. The truth is, our views on homosexuality are not our most unpopular beliefs. The most offensive (and most important) of our Christian doctrines is that Jesus Christ is the only way to eternal life and those who do not believe in Him will not experience God’s love, but instead will experience God’s wrath for eternity. The world really doesn’t like to hear that. But don’t stop preaching and teaching it, or the truth about homosexuality, or the whole counsel of God. (II Tim. 4:2).  I pray the Holy Spirit will give you discernment on how much to address critical cultural concerns while not neglecting the myriad of every day sins and struggles those under your influence are experiencing. I pray He will guide you to a proper balance between the prophetic word and the personal touch. And I pray He will use both to bring sinners, regardless of their offenses, to redemption.

These are challenging days, but also days of opportunity. The need for us, the body of Christ, to be “salt” and “light” has never been greater. Hear the Apostles’ admonition:

“Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life.” (Phil. 2:14-16a).

 

Fraternally,

dh

David E. Hankins
Executive Director
Louisiana Baptists

Additional Resources

For additional resources, including policy information for your church, click the link below:

The Trip to the Mound: Coaching Confidence to Your Young Leaders

The bases are loaded and our once large lead has disappeared.  I call the team to the mound. Lots of mistakes have been made and it looks like my shortstop is crying. I’m looking in the faces of 10 discouraged and disappointed 5 to 7-year-old boys watching their undefeated season disappear due to a few simple missteps.

And because I’m a leader, I must enter into that age-old tradition: the trip to the mound. But in little league you have to have a different approach. I don’t discuss strategy or correct mistakes or complain or get fiery serious about baseball. I tell them a silly joke and then ask my catcher what cartoons he watched this morning. He rambles on about SpongeBob until the umpire breaks us up.  We all put our hands into the middle and I tell them that I believe in them. I tell them that they’re great baseball players that have practiced hard. I tell them they are doing fine and they can win this game, so don’t worry. Then we chant “1,2,3 – Bobcats!” They go back to their positions with tears gone and smiles on their faces, believing all things are possible.

Every young leader, no matter their level of giftedness, needs to hear the words, “You are doing great and I believe in you”. One of the first 10 Bible verses I was encouraged to memorize is Hebrews 10:24.

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works.” (ESV)

This verse changes my leadership DNA. It drives how I coach, supervise, parent and preach. Encouragement is crucial in a culture that is rife with bullies and naysayers.  In my last post, “Keys to Developing Next and Now Generation Leaders”, we unpacked the concept of upcycling or empowering and recognizing the potential of your new leader.  In order for potential to be realized Coach Confidence needs to be in the dugout.

In the original Greek language of the New Testament, the word encourage means to comfort, to console, to give strength and come alongside. Jesus used this word as another name for the Holy Spirit, Comforter.  Building up others is foundational to the Christian faith.

So what are the key principles to communicate to your leaders? They aren’t rocket science or knuckleballs – but they have to be communicated over and over.

Your evangelical mantra should be:

  • God called and gifted you to serve Him.
  • Setbacks are normal.
  • You can and will improve.
  • I believe in you! You will do well!

Our foundation for each of these message are sourced in scripture and we must infuse them constantly into the life of a young leader. I often go the the mound of a struggling young leader with 2 Corinthians 12:9. “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (ESV) Our roster must be filled with leaders who lean into the strength of Jesus.

But it’s not all affirmation!  I hope you’ll join me next post as we coach’em up with correction.

In case you were wondering, we won the game and went on to have an undefeated championship season.

Go Bobcats!

Supreme Court Ruling on Marriage: What Your Church Needs to Know

In light of the Supreme Court’s ruling on marriage, every pastor and church administrator needs to look at the implications of the ruling and consider possible changes to their church policies. Here are 3 suggested actions taken from the website of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.

What Should Your Church Do?

Read the full article

“Now is the time for churches to maintain a clear witness to the biblical truth about marriage, human sexuality, and gender. Churches should update their statement of faith to include the church’s beliefs on these issues.

In the near term, no pastor will be forced to officiate any wedding ceremony with which he disagrees. Pastors remain free to make a theological determination about who they will marry and who they will not.

Churches must continue to be a welcoming presence in the community and can do that through updating or revising their facility usage policy. The key point is to tie usage of the church’s facility to the statement of faith and religious beliefs of the church.”

Read more at ERLC

For more information on the Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage:

The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission | SCOTUS

Policy Checklist & Lawsuit Protection Handbook

Protecting Your Ministry from Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Lawsuits
Make sure your ministry has the broadest religious liberty protections under the law. This document give advice and practical steps to verify your protection. Applicable to all churches, Christian schools, and Christian ministries.

Suggested Policies for Louisiana Baptist Churches Concerning Marriage and Membership

Pastors, if you’re considering revising your policies in light of the recent Supreme Court Ruling, below is a statement you may consider including. Churches should consider working with an attorney regarding the final form and placement of theses policies in the church organization documents.

Marriage Policy

The following statement that churches can consider as an addition to their bylaws was developed by the Missouri Baptist Convention’s (MBC) chief legal advisor, Whitehead Law Firm LLC in Kansas City.

Our statement of faith, the Baptist Faith and Message (2000), expresses our fundamental biblical conviction that Christian marriage is, by
definition, the spiritual and physical uniting of one man and one woman in an exclusive covenant commitment for their joint lifetime. Christian
marriage is God’s unique gift to reveal the union between Christ and His Church. As such, this local church believes that wedding ceremonies on
church property are spiritual observances of worship of God who created this divine institution. As worship services, weddings on church property shall be officiated by one or more ordained ministers of the gospel. The church may decline to make its facilities or ministers available for any wedding if it is determined that one or both of the parties are not biblically and/or legally qualified to marry. Such determinations may be made by the [pastor, church council, or wedding committee, etc.], subject to the direction of the church.

No minister [or employee] of the church shall officiate at any marriage ceremony unless such marriage is consistent with this policy.

From Dr. Steve Horn, President of the Louisiana Baptist Convention:

“5-4! There are so many things that I am thankful for in this country. However, this morning, I find myself struggling with the fact that 1 person can make the difference in something that will so drastically alter our country.” –My Reaction to the SCOTUS Ruling on the Definition of Marriage

“With all that has been written about the Supreme Court’s decision since last Friday, the last thing that we need is more commentary on the subject. Instead what we need is a heavy dose of God’s Word. Here are the Scriptures that most come to mind for me.” Read more at SteveHorn.org

 

How to Baptize More People at Your Church 

People in the water being baptized serves as a highlight and significant spiritual marker in the life of an individual and a church. Recently, I polled a few of our highest baptizing church plants in Louisiana and found that they have 5 intentional practices that every church can do to increase baptisms:

1. Pray & Share the Gospel

If you don’t have anybody to baptize, you need to ask the question, “Are we communicating the gospel clearly to our community?” It may be that you are in a hard soil area and cultivation will take time. That’s fine. But the promise of the word of God is to produce results (Isaiah 55:11). God’s working in all our communities to bring people to himself (1 Corinthians 5:19-21). As we pray and share, planting seeds in our communities, eventually we can expect a harvest (Psalm 126:6).  If you need some ideas, see my article Proven Ways to Cultivate Relationships and Plant Seeds in Your Community.

2. Keep a current list of potential candidates

Write down the names of people in your fellowship that you’re not sure of their relation to Christ and/or if they’ve followed the Lord through believer’s baptism. Share it with core leaders and ask them to pray. Plan on systematically talking with them about making this important step in their faith journey. Also, teach parents how to look for signs of God’s work in the lives of their children and when they begin to respond, put them on the list and begin to pray for them.

3. Put it on the church calendar

As you do calendar planning, go ahead and put at least two dates for baptisms on the calendar. Announce these regularly. Expect to have candidates. Pray and share the Gospel. Work the list.

4. Get info out about Believer’s Baptism

Teach on it regularly. Produce a brochure and keep it in a well trafficked area in your building and on your website. I’ve also heard of churches doing brief Informational meetings about baptism before and after church. Don’t assume people realize the importance and biblical reasons for baptism.  Here’s a sample brochure that my current church has utilized.

5. Make it a celebration

Baptism is an opportunity to celebrate God’s work in the heart of human being. Jesus died so that work could be done! A person has left the kingdom of darkness and entered the kingdom of light (Colossians 1:13)! Even the angels in heaven throw a party when this happens (Luke 15:10)!. Let’s celebrate! Make it a big deal. Send out invitations, post pics, share videos! We throw parties for much less, so a thing that makes heaven party and busts people out of the kingdom of darkness should instigate a celebration!

An evangelistic culture must be cultivated & maintained with intentionality. We have a command from Jesus to go & baptize (Matthew 28:18-20). We have so many people without a relationship with Christ. Get intentional about moving people to understand & respond to the Gospel & celebrate it through baptism.

Rethink Outreach with Small Groups

I wonder sometimes if anyone does outreach anymore. Many Sunday schools, small groups, and churches do not seem to place much priority on visitation, contacts, follow-up and outreach in general. Research continues to reveal that most churches (and their Sunday school/ small groups) are plateaued or declining in their enrollment, attendance and baptisms. Could it be, at least partially, because churches have stopped doing outreach?

I visit a lot of churches and always enjoy picking up a copy of and reading through their Sunday bulletin or worship guide. It seems I rarely see any calendared event or announcement of a church-wide evangelistic visitation.

Some trends I’ve seen that may contribute to this dilemma:

  1. Adult Sunday school and small groups have become primarily a Bible study and fellowship. Now I’m not against either, but if we stop inviting prospects and unchurched people to our classes and groups then the focus becomes inward.
  2. Also, if adult SS and SG begin to focus inwardly, then there is no need to start new classes and groups; nor is there a need to encourage members to leave and teach in other age-groups. To do so would disrupt one’s Bible study and fellowship.
  3. Follow-up of prospects and inactive members is not a priority. Events like, Vacation Bible School, Harvest Parties, Easter Egg Hunts, often provide names of children and parents who are not involved in a church. Worship service guests are often asked for contact information in the form of guests cards. Unfortunately, little is done with these names to connect and assimilate them into the ministries of the church.
  4. There seems to be a mindset today that visitation no longer works. The argument goes that people are busy and don’t want to be contacted and bothered.
I believe some of the most influential persons in the church are the adult Sunday School or Small Group teachers.

Group leaders have tremendous influence over the adults entrusted to their care, as well as the purpose and direction of their class or group.

How can an adult group teacher influence the challenges facing the church today?

  1. Lead your class/group to be outwardly focused. Do mission projects through your class/group.
  2. Strongly encourage individuals in your class/group to serve in other areas and to start new classes and groups. Lead your class to fulfill the Great Commission through making disciples!
  3. Reconnect with inactive members. Follow-up with prospects until they are followers of Christ, assimilated into the church and learning to serve others.
  4. Times have changed and will continue to change dramatically. However, the personal touch is still a human need in our high-tech, impersonal world. People still want and need friends.

35 Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. 36 But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd. 37 Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. 38 Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” –Matthew 9 (NKJV)