For the first 15 years, my ministry had been built on an invitation model. In essence, I was saying, “If you come to my camp, my conference, my church, or if you will read one of my books, I can share truth and hope with you.”
But in 2003, my philosophy began to change because God began to amplify the Great Commission in my heart and He began to refine my demographic.
Up until that point, I felt like because we were doing some outside-the-box events and hosting some aggressive conferences that some other churches might not have, our outreach model was effective—but even our outreach was inward. If they wouldn’t come where we were—and many would not—we had no way to reach and influence them.
A few months after we started New Song Church, I began to pray about how our little church could play a part in Jesus’ Acts 1:8 vision for the church. How could a young church like ours play a part in reaching our Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the uttermost parts of the world?
Fast-forward 20 years, and God has done exceedingly abundantly above what we could ask or imagine. By His grace, New Song has played a measurable part in planting 163,000 churches around the world. Those 163,000 churches have seen over 7 million come to Christ.
I recently asked myself, “How did this happen?”
What does your church do for people? Probably more than you’ve thought. Every Monday, scores of pastors are ready to walk away from ministry. It’s easy for us to forget how incredibly helpful the local church is in shaping and benefitting people’s lives. Let me encourage you about this for the next five minutes.
Last week I heard from a couple whose trajectory was completely changed by what they learned in New Song’s Financial Peace class. Today they have less debt, less tension, more hope, more discipline and more skills to apply to so many areas of their lives. I walked away thinking, “We have hundreds of families who are out of debt or on their way. Offering Financial Peace may be the greatest favor our church has ever done for people.”
How much time does it take for a visitor to decide whether or not they will return to your church? Experts pose differing numbers on this.
Some say as quickly as 90 seconds. Others say three minutes. Still others say they take as long as 12 minutes to decide. Whoever is right, making a good first impression is imperative if you are going to retain first-time visitors. Doing this well will change as your church grows.
Churches with attendance under 150 can make a friendly first impression by stationing two or three outgoing volunteers at their front doors. In this size church, newcomers are able to look around the crowd and find the “people like me” pretty quickly. “People like me” is key to assimilating newcomers in smaller churches.
If you ask most churches, they are genuinely seeking how to reach their community. Identifying your target visitor through building a community persona is the first step.
Next, you need to figure out how to reach those you have identified and meet their needs.
One important way to achieve this is through generational marketing. Each audience is shaped by different life experiences, traditions and values and should be communicated to using the appropriate and effective channels.
A young man in my last church cut off three of his fingers while cutting a piece of paneling in a van customizing shop. As he was being rushed to the hospital, he was asked, “Where are the fingers?” A man rushed back to the shop with a bowl of ice, grabbed the three digits and then rushed them to Birmingham in the ambulance along with the young man.
Nineteen hours of microsurgery reattached those fingers to the young man’s hand. Had they been left in the sawdust of that shop, the fingers would have been useless. They were only good to him if they were attached to his body.
It’s the same way when it comes to our attachment to the body of Christ, both globally and locally. We are members of the body—whether a finger, an ear, an eye or a spleen—and we need the rest of the body in order to live. We cannot make it on our own.