Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Becoming A Sticky Church

On Sunday a newcomer engaged me following our worship. She spoke of her gratitude for Community and I said: “I’m really glad you found us.” With tears in her eyes, she replied: “We didn’t find you – God led us here. From the first time I walked into this building, I knew we were home.”

God is creating a church that people love to come to. But, what if, rather than just creating a church that people love to come to - what if we also created a church that people refuse to leave."

For years, the primary focus in many churches has been on the “front door”—people coming into the church. And while such an emphasis remains the Great Commission priority, our leaders are equally concerned with integrating newcomers into the life of the church.

Researchers have discovered four major factors that are at work when churches close the back door effectively. If all four are in play, the back door closed tight. But any one of these factors still contributes to more effective assimilation.

1. High Expectations

The American Church went through a period of more than 10 years when churches significantly lowered their expectations of members and attendees. The result was an exodus of people from the church. “Why would I want to be a part of something that expects nothing of me?” a former active church member told a research team. People want to be challenged to invest their lives in something that matters. We must establish clear expectations of service, stewardship and attendance, etc. We need people invested in the most important mission on this planet.

2. Small Groups

Second, churches that close the back door seek to get as many of their members as possible into small groups. Connections and life-change happens best in small groups. If you are only a Sunday attender, let me challenge you to be involved at a deeper level in our spiritual family. You will be blessed. You can find a list of our small groups on our website at www.heart4communtiy.org. It is in our small groups that we begin “doing life together.”

3. Ministry Involvement

The third key component is ministry involvement. The earlier a new member or attendee can get involved in a church’s ministries, the higher the likelihood of effective assimilation. This is a critical time-frame that our ministry leaders monitor closely. Churches that close the back door have a clear plan to get people involved and doing ministry as quickly as possible. We currently have a high guest-retention rate – one reason is that newcomers get involved in serving very quickly. Incidentally, the newcomer I mentioned at the beginning of this article - signed up to serve the second Sunday she and her husband attended.

4. Relationship Connections

Finally, the more new members connect with longer-term members, the greater the opportunity for assimilation. In an interesting twist in the research, they found that most of these relationships developed before the new member ever came to the church. In other words, members were intentionally developing relationships with people outside the walls of the church. They invited them to church after the relationship had been established.

You’ll have to judge how we are doing in each of these areas. One thing I would ask is that you help make Community a “sticky church.”

Monday, September 29, 2008

Countering Our American Culture

In college I had a really good friend named Legesse. He was from Ethiopia, and had actually spent a lot of time in the country of Yemen. When he moved here to America and eventually to college with me he obviously brought with him some foreign mannerisms. For example, in America, if there is open seating at a movie or anywhere, and you are going with a friend, when you sit down you will naturally leave an empty seat or two between you. It’s part of our American culture. We are all about space. Legesse didn’t have that. If I sat down with him in class or at a movie or a conference he would sit right next to me and it felt like almost right on top of me! At first I was very uncomfortable. I didn’t like not having personal space. But after a while it didn’t bother me. And I started to see this lack of personal space as a good thing because literally and figuratively I allowed people to get closer to me.

Why do I bring this story up? Well, there are times to embrace culture and times we need to counter our culture. I noticed we are encountering something phenomenal here at CCC. We are experiencing growth. Not just in maturity (although I think we are), but we are also experiencing God bringing us more people, and with this awesome phenomenon comes some hiccups that we have to deal with. This past Sunday for the first time I sat in the back row at CCC. I noticed that in front of me there were a lot of empty spaces, empty chairs, even some rows that were barren. I realized that just like in high school on the bus everyone seems to cling to the back! I understand Brent smells a little, but come on people! No, but hear me out on this. Imagine you are a new person coming to Community for the first time. You get there but you are a little late. As you quietly open the doors to where people are meeting you scan the crowd and see that there are no seats open in the back row. You now have two choices: 1. Make the walk of shame – you have to walk past everyone as they watch you. Find a seat right up front as you crawl over people at the end of the isles, and you have to risk someone publically embarrassing you. Or, 2. You just leave. If you were new, which would you choose, and be honest?

I don’t want people to miss out on an opportunity to possibly meet God for the first time because we were sitting in the back to have our own space. That’s not what we as a church are all about. I just want to challenge all of us, myself included, to sit closer to the front and leave the back open. To sit next to someone instead of leaving gaps in the seats. To not just nab the aisle seat because you like the aisle. Let’s consider others even when it comes to where to sit. Let’s counter our American culture.

Monday, September 15, 2008

One Month To Live Inro Video

In case you missed it, we used this video to kick off our One Month To Live Series. We have had several comments on the video, hope it encourages you on your spiritual journey toward a "no-regrets life."