Five Questions Every Church Must Answer - By Wayne Hedlund

The answer to these five questions will determine how effectively a local church is fulfilling its mission. They will impact the activities and programs we host. They will establish the depth of ministry to our congregations and communities. Ultimately, they will play a large role in the ongoing impact of God’s transformational work in individual’s lives.

1. How do we attract people to our church?

It is so easy for church leaders to fail to address this question. We assume people will visit our church because they see the church building and a welcome sign on the front lawn or because our attendees are inviting people to church. We scratch our heads and wonder why we have so few guests. A pastor once told me that first time guests were often heard making comments like, “Your church is the best kept secret in town!”

In Matthew 5:14-16, Jesus said, “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

Our communities don’t need to see the building so much as they need to see “the light of the world” in us and our congregations. They need to see that our church is a place where transformation takes place. Where lives are changed. Where people meet the True and Living God. We need to find ways to shout from the mountain that God shows up at church each week. We want people in the community to get the feeling they are missing out on something important at our church.

What is your church’s strategy to attract people?

2. How do we assimilate guests into our church?

Of these five questions, this is what church leaders ask me to help with the most. It can be very frustrating to see 3-4 guests walk through the front doors every week and yet not experience growth as a church. Sometimes guests will even return for a second or third visit, but eventually they sort of just disappear and we never know what happened. What makes matters worse, they usually tell us they really enjoyed the service! We can’t help but secretly ask ourselves: Was it something we said or did to offend them? Are we weird and just don’t know it? Why won’t they come back?

More often than not, our problem is that church leaders and longstanding members have blinders on. They have lost the ability to see the church environment through the eyes of a guest or newcomer. This is fairly normal and to be expected, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good thing. Creating a ‘guest culture’ should be high on every church’s priority list and should include finding ways to ensure guests have a positive experience and are intentionally and tactfully invited to come again.

Another reason why this question is hard to answer is because we often fail to properly define what ‘assimilate’ means. Is it when guests have visited 3 times,6 or 8? Is it when they join a small group or sign up to volunteer? Is it when they become a member? It may be different for every church, but at some point, newcomers need to feel like they are one of the ‘insiders’ at your church. We need to make that as easy as possible!

In Acts 15, Paul said, “It is my judgement, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for Gentiles who are turning to God.” In other words, we need to pay special and close attention to our new attendees as they are “turning to God.”

What is your church’s strategy to assimilate people?

3. How do we connect people with one another in our church?

I often tell church leaders, “You can make a lot of mistakes as a church and people will keep coming if they are connected.” Certainly, the answer to this question is an important part of ‘how do we assimilate people,’ as well. But it’s more than about getting newcomers to come back. It’s about having a church where people truly care about one another, and show it in practical ways. A church that successfully accomplishes this doesn’t have to rely on the pastor(s) to do all the ministry in the church, because people organically minister to one another all the time.

In today’s culture, getting people to ‘connect’ with others in the church is a LOT easier said than done, but it’s a necessity if people are to move from superficial relationships to authentic relationships. Despite the indoctrination of social media in our world, nothing will ever truly beat regular face to face interactions. Getting people to actually do that is a challenge some church leaders have given up trying to address. They’ve tried small groups, Wednesday services, Sunday School, fellowship events and more. However, no matter how discouraging or hard it may be, it’s important we ‘not grow weary in doing good’ and continue forward until we have discovered ways to break into authentic church community.

The author of Hebrews so aptly reminds us, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Don’t give up. It could be your church is just inches away from a major breakthrough in this area!

What is your church’s strategy for connecting people?

4. How do we disciple people in our church?

Any church leader who doesn’t know what the “Great Commission” is, should probably hang up his hat and let someone else lead. This is Christ’s final mandate to His disciples, and a primary role of the church. Volumes of books, masses of videos and thousands of series are available to help us explore Jesus command to spread the Gospel to our communities and around the globe. It’s hard to miss the four primary commands found in this passage:
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Matthew 28:19

Go. Make Disciples. Baptize. Teach.

I’ve noticed local churches can be all over the place in answering this question. Usually, we have an innate belief that discipleship is happening, but we can’t really quantify how much, to whom and when. It’s easy to simply “do church” the way we’ve always done it, without asking the question, “is it working?” Are we hosting the {put program/activity/service here} because we really believe it will disciple people?

Either way, discipleship should be a foundation activity in our church’s strategy to minister to the congregation. Among other things, this will include helping people learn how to discover God for themselves through activities like Bible reading, prayer and missions trips; teaching them Godly principles regarding evangelism, parenting, relationships, stewardship, etc.; and equipping them to overcome the world, the flesh and the devil by living a victorious life.

What is your church’s strategy for discipling people?

5. How do we engage people in our church?

One indicator of a healthy church is found in the level of volunteer engagement and ownership within the church and community. When the congregation relies primarily on the pastor or church staff, something is broken. The “body” has turned into a codependent entity that will never effectively serve it’s mission in the community. A few years ago I spoke at a small rural church of about 75 people that is run entirely by volunteers. It was an active church with several great programs and meaningful activities for it’s attendees, and there was nobody on staff. They told me they wanted to eventually hire a part time pastor, but in the meantime, they had discovered something powerful – when the body works together, ministry can and will happen.

Recruiting and releasing volunteers is something we church leaders talk about a lot, but often struggle doing. It often seems easier to just do things ourselves and rely on a few key influencers in the church to handle the rest, but this cripples the body of Christ. Paul was quite clear in 1 Corinthians that every person is important and makes up different parts of the body of Christ:
“But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.” 1 Cor. 12:18-19

Helping people find their place in the church will serve the volunteer, the congregation and the larger community. This will stimulate growth and create ministry momentum. It will also define a more balanced ministry environment, rather than a staff-driven and co-dependent one.

What is your church’s strategy for engaging people?

The post Five Questions Every Church Must Answer appeared first on Transforming Church.

By Wayne Hedlund,
Hopewell Church, Elverson

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