How to Stop Dreading Tomorrow and Let the Future Church Emerge Now

There is a lot of talk today about emergent church. This goes hand-in-hand with talk of how mainline denominations are dying. Lots of people have lots of different opinions. They may all be right, they may all be wrong. The truth is, it doesn’t matter. Regardless of who is right or wrong, you can let your future church emerge now.

Trying to anticipate and preempt emergent church won’t save the church

There have been a slew of books, videos, and articles trying to answer one big question: what will church look like in the next fifty years? Some are saying this is part of the natural shift that occurs in the church every 500 years. Some are talking big about how church will no longer be tied to buildings. Some are predicting the disintegration of denominations in general. Some are saying the church is being reborn. Some are trying to lead the pack by starting churches in bars or strip malls in order to be more attractive to millennials or reach more youth. Some say they don’t care about the future, they just want to stop their own church from declining today.

I come at it from a completely different perspective. I don’t think we can predict what church will look like in the next 50 to 100 years. Yes, I am sure that there are some very wise people who may actually hit the nail on the head and in 100 years folks will look back at their book and say, “YES! This person was a genius! They knew what would happen!” but that doesn’t really help. Because even if we could be 100% certain what church would look like, that doesn’t mean that we are prepared to create it now.

You already have all the everything you need

Every time I have come into a church that tells me they are out of options, out of ideas, out of energy, I find that that isn’t actually true.

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8 Big Lessons in Progressive Church Growth from a Little Bible Story

Interpersonal Outreach – Personally Inviting People to Church – is the Most Effective for Church Growth

There are a lot of theories out there for why churches in general – and progressive churches specifically – are in decline. Ask folks about it and you’ll get a lot or theories. The Catholic sex scandals. Current politicians using biblical passages to justify all sorts of cruelty and corruption. Conservatives love to talk about how Progressives don’t take the Great Commission seriously enough. There is always someone who brings up the Crusades. They’re all right. At the same time, they’re all wrong. Until progressive churches overcome their fear of inviting people to church and open their eyes to God-given opportunities, they will continue to believe that it is all of these outside factors that are causing the problem.

Opportunities to grow our church abound – we just might not be seeing them

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How to Transform Your Church’s Youth Ministry with a Discipleship Model

Existing Sunday School models generally structure their time around telling a story and making a craft. There are multiple reasons why this model is ineffective for both short term and long term church growth. A Discipleship Model is much more effective growing youth ministries and ensuring the long-term vitality of the church.

A few weeks ago I wrote about the Best First Step on the Road to Growing Your Youth Ministry. In it I urge churches to start involving their youth meaningfully in worship service. This week, I am going to urge you to actively involve your youth in your church ministries. Our long-term goal is to have at least monthly activities in which the youth are either actively participating in a ministry of the church, or creating their own ministries. But first we are going to start small, with just one project.

How Traditional Sunday School Models Stymie Church Growth

Long-Term Church Growth Problems

Having taught adult Bible Study classes for many years, I have seen the long-term effects of this model. Adults often have little or no understanding of the Bible. Their knowledge is sparse and shallow, and they are quicker to explain the moral of the story than the actual story because they never really understood it – or even read it! – to begin with.

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Effectively Get Contact Information from 95% of Your First-Time Church Visitors

When a first-time visitor steps in the doors of your church, there’s a 70% chance they will come back IF you follow up with them within 24 hours. You can only follow up with them if you get their contact information. There are more and less effective ways of doing this. When done correctly, 19 out of 20 people say yes. Surprisingly, the best thing to do is … not ask.

In my previous article, 3 Simple But Revolutionary Steps that Turn Church Shoppers into Church Family, I discuss the importance of following up effectively with first-time visitors and talk briefly about what to say to them when they first come in your doors. In this article, I want to go over the “script” in detail, because it is so critical to success when we ask for contact information.

If you would like a helpful reference sheet that contains all of the scripts – including the one below – for following up with newcomers, plus a couple of helpful prayers, you can find one at the end of my article 3 Surprising Things Church Visitors Do When You Schedule a Coffee Meeting.

There are seven basic – but critical – parts to collecting contact information from first-time visitors to your church

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The Best First Step on the Road to Growing Your Youth Ministry

FREE Training Starts June 25, 2018! Enter your email address here to sign up for our 15-day email training course on overcoming the number one obstacle for growing progressive churches.


Children are not just the future of the Church. They are the here and now and present Body of Christ. When churches use traditional Children’s Moment – Sunday School – Youth Group models for their youth ministry, they are often unknowingly driving youth away. Understanding why these are so ineffective is critical to replacing them with something better. Replacing them with a discipleship model is a big change, but can effect rapid growth and turn around. This week we will start by breaking down the pitfalls of the Children’s Moment, go over a better goal of Discipleship, and take the first, easiest step toward transformation and growth.

How the Traditional Children’s Moment Model Stymies Church Growth

Ask any adult, and they’ll tell you how much they love the Children’s Moment. They look forward to it every week. The children are just so adorable. They say the cutest, most unexpected things. As the children are leaving afterward to go off to Sunday School, you will very often see the adults waving to the children as they pitter-patter their way down the aisle.

But ask a child whether they like the Children’s Moment, and they will tell you how much they hate it. To be put on the spot in front of the entire congregation. If they make a mistake, the entire congregation laughs. They are supposed to be paying attention to the minister, but there are so many eyes staring at them.

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How to Overcome the Single Biggest Obstacle to Progressive Church Growth

There are a lot of theories out there for why churches are declining. Many of them hold some water, and there is certainly plenty of blame to go around. But none of this can actually help the small local church watching its pews slowly thin down over the decades. The real reason for church decline is seldom identified and even more rarely discussed. But until we can address it, we will never be able to implement growth strategies effectively.

The Most Critical Step in Church Growth Is Identifying the Problem

I remember years ago when one of my fellow church members confessed something to me. I had taken it upon myself to walk the guest book around after worship service and ask the first-time visitors to sign it. I had done it for a few months, and it was bearing fruit like crazy. After some time, I remember a really nice long-term member approaching me and confessing that she would hide behind the corner and watch me approach the visitors and chat with them while they filled out their name and contact information. She sort of mimed what she did, showing me how she would hide behind the corner of the wall near the staircase so we couldn’t see her, but then peek her head around the corner just enough to watch what I did and listen in. I want to emphasize that she really is a genuinely nice lady and that I hold her in the highest regard, which is why her behavior struck me as so odd. As she told me this she looked antsy, and finally she blurted out, “I just don’t understand it! How do you DO that?! I just marvel at it every Sunday wondering how you DO that.”

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3 Surprising Things Church Visitors Do When You Schedule a Coffee Meeting

Once churches collect contact information from first-time church visitors, they often don’t know what to do. Even if they do follow up, it is often not the most effective manner. Young, modern church visitors don’t behave the same way as they did 40 years ago. If you can know what to expect, you can increase the chances of first-time church visitors becoming return visitors – and eventually church family.

These past few weeks I have been breaking down how to greet and follow up with first-time visitors. We have talked about how to approach them and how important it is to collect their their contact information. We have talked about how important it is to follow up with them within 24 hours. We have talked about the most effective questions you can ask when you sit down with them for a cup of coffee. This week we have had a sudden influx of new subscribers to the newsletter, and they are trying this whole method for the first time. For this reason, I want to break down another critical step, which is the follow-up phone call to set the coffee date.

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Four Key Questions That Turn First-Time Church Visitors into Long-Term Members

What if there were a proven method to get to the heart of every First-Time Church Visitor’s story? What if – in an hour over coffee – you could learn their spiritual journey, what they are searching for, how they want to contribute, and honestly hear their first impression of your church? What you could address any burning issues right from the outset? If you could do all of these things, you would be halfway toward helping a church shopper find a church home – in your home church.

Research tells us that if you follow up with a first-time visitor in a personal manner within 24 hours, there is a 70% chance that they will return. Churches that use this methodology have reported that between 85% – 91% of their first-time visitors return, and 50 – 70% of those stay to get involved for the long-term.

Research tells us that in order to decide to commit to a church, first-time visitors must establish seven points of contact within the first three to six months. But how does that happen? How can laypeople and ministers facilitate it? How do you get to know a first-time visitor well enough that you can help them get where they want to go? What if they only ever come once?

First of all, make sure that you are doing everything you can to increase their chances of returning to 85%. Second, set a time for coffee. Third, ask them the following four key questions.

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4 Critical Steps for Increasing Tithing, Pledges, and Your Church Budget

Simply changing the structure of your stewardship calendar can raise your budget, increase your first-time visitor engagement, and build the momentum of your existing ministries.

Why the “Pledge Sunday” model is decreasing your church tithes

Every fall thousands of committees in churches around the country sit around tables staring at a scant number of pledge cards. They argue about how they are going to make ends meet next year while they still haven’t made ends meet this year. Barely half of the congregation turned in Pledge Cards – the other half they have to guess on. Many churches haven’t yet figured out that the “Pledge Sunday” model doesn’t work anymore, let alone why.

Let’s give a shout-out to the Church Treasurers who wring their hands and pull out their hair every year trying to construct a budget with 50% of the information they need and 50% of the funds they need. They are really caught between a rock and a hard place. They are fully responsible for presenting a working budget to the congregation but have little or no control over gathering the information – or money – they need to create it. Continue reading 4 Critical Steps for Increasing Tithing, Pledges, and Your Church Budget

3 Simple But Revolutionary Steps That Turn Church Shoppers into Church Family

50% of new members state the exact same reason they decided to call a new church home. Learn the three mistakes most declining churches make every week with their first-time visitors, and how to fix them before next Sunday.

The first mistake many declining churches make is using an outdated and ineffective method for collecting information. The majority are using no method.

The majority of the churches I have worked with did not use any method at all to collect information. When I asked them about it, they simply didn’t think it was a big deal. The ones that did proudly told me that they rely on one of four methods for collecting newcomer information: the Guest Book, the Pew Pad, a pre-printed Visitor Card, or in one case a hand-crafted Newcomer Information Packet with a custom Visitor Card tucked inside. All of these can be lumped into one category: relying upon the newcomer to take the initiative.

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