I recently had a phone conversation with a woman from our congregation who said, “We’re thinking of leaving the church.”
“Tell me why,” I replied.
“Because we just haven’t been able to connect," she said. "The church is so big.”
I can’t argue with that point. Churches can get big. And I believe there truly are times when someone is called out to serve in a different capacity within the community. I’m not one to suggest there is one church that can meet the needs of an entire community. In fact, I truly believe it’s the whole church (all church organizations working together) that will meet the needs of a community because we are the functioning body of Christ.
You can have a thriving ministry without a thriving relationship with God, but only temporarily. Anyone can fake it in the short run, but to go the distance, you need a passionate devotional life and continual closeness to Jesus. Often pastors tend to allow the busyness of ministry and the necessity of studying for sermon preparation to replace a real, personal walk with Jesus. But God wants better for you.
Three T’s for a thriving walk with Jesus are as follows:
I had a chance to get away with some of our youth ministry leadership team recently to process some of the common pitfalls that youth pastors face as they navigate ministry. My mind has hovered around three particular ones that I’ve personally witnessed in my recent experience in youth ministry:
1. Overspending or misuse of church funds
2. Inappropriate relationships
3. Compromising staff/church policies
People often complain about angry preachers. I don’t like them either, and I agree that if a person mixes a sermon with hateful language (or if he believes God has called him to picket other churches) he’s in the wrong profession. Yet today we’ve jumped to the opposite extreme. Now we are afraid to confront sin.
We can’t preach about materialism because we might offend rich people in the audience—as well as the poor people who buy Lotto tickets every week. We can’t preach about fornication because there are people in the church who are living together. We can’t preach about domestic violence because there are deacons who sometimes hit their wives. We can’t preach about homosexuality because our culture says it’s hateful to call that a sin.
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.