INGROWN & 4 traps of ingrown churches & how to avoid them. @BiblicalLeadership magazine article by @BobWhitesel

Slowly over time most churches grow primarily inward in their focus, rather than focusing outward to meet the needs of those outside the church.The result of this inward focus is that churches stop reaching non-churchgoers because they are less frequently meeting the needs of those outside of their fellowship. 

Most non-churchgoers will avoid an ingrown church all together because it does not appear to be sensitive to their needs. Even newly launched and emerging churches are not immune to becoming ingrown. The close fellowship created in new church plants, multiple-site churches, cell-churches, art churches, café churches, and house churches often subtly redirect the leaders’ attention inward and away from their mission field. 

Ask yourself, “How much of my volunteer time at church do I spend on meeting the needs of the congregation rather than meeting the needs of those who don’t go to church?” If you do not see a balance, then the church you attend may be ingrown. 

Good churches have this problem too

Ingrown churches actually arise for a good reason. A church’s fellowship often is so attractive, compelling, and beneficial, that before long most of a congregation’s attention becomes directed toward these benefits. Donald McGavran in Understanding Church Growth summed up these positive/negative attributes by saying a good church will create “redemption and lift.”By this he meant that once a person is redeemed (restored back to a relationship with God), the person’s fellowship with other Christians will lift him or her away from previous friends who are non-churchgoers. The cure, according to McGavran, is to realize that this lift is good (it raises your life to a new level of loving Christ) but also bad (it separates you from non-churchgoers who need Christ’s love too). McGavran argued that balance is needed in meeting the needs of those inside the church and those outside of it, and so does this post. 

Good reasons that trap churches into ingrown behavior

Let’s look at four common church characteristics characteristics that when left unattended can unintentionally redirect a church into a closed, inward focus:

History Trap—A church with a long history. 

A church that is focused internally will eventually lose sight of its original mis- sion and gravitate toward being an organization consumed with helping itself. Years and years of internal focus will result in a church that knows little else. Leaders raised in an internally focused church will think that the volunteer’s role is to serve the existing congregation, perhaps to the point of burnout. Time erases the memory of the earliest days of a church conceived to meet the needs of non-churchgoers. 

The Organizational Trap—A sizable congregation that must be managed. 

Have you ever noticed that when new churches are started, they often have an outward focus? This may be because a newly planted church is often keenly aware that without reaching out to others, the new church will die. However, I have noticed that once a new church is about eighteen months old, it starts becoming so consumed its organizational needs, that it spends most of its time internally focused. Thus, any church with a history over eighteen months long will usually be internally focused. 

The Experience Trap—A church with a talented and long-serving team of volunteers.

 When a church has a cadre of talented and gifted leaders, these volunteers are often asked to stay too long in their positions. They thus become regarded as experts by others and newcomers. The result is that leadership unintention- ally becomes a closed clique, which newcomers with innovative ideas will often feel too intimidated to penetrate. 

The Infirmity Trap—A church with a ministry to hurting people.

Hurting people are often seeking to have their hurts healed by the soothing balm of Christian community. A church that is offering this is doing something good, because to help hurting people is what Christ calls his church to do (James 1:27). And a ministry to hurting people must be conducted with confidentially and intimacy. 

An unintentional result of such confidentiality is that these churches can become closed communities too. Subsequently, churches often thwart their mission to reach out to the hurting and instead gravitate toward a closed fellowship where outsiders find it increasingly harder to get in and get the help they need. 

There is a difference between an internally focused church and one that is balanced with equal emphasis upon internal and external needs. Check all that apply to your church. The column with the most checks may indicate whether your church is growing in, growing out, or is equally balanced (the goal of an uncommon church).

Is your church ingrown?

Check all that apply to your church:

More curated ideas from professor, award-winning writer and consultant Bob Whitesel DMin PhD at ChurchHealth.wiki, WesleyTours.com, MissionalCoaches.com & ChurchHealth.expert

Excerpted from Cure For The Common Church: God’s Plan to Restore Church Health,by Bob Whitesel (Wesleyan Publishing House 2012).

Read more at … https://www.biblicalleadership.com/blogs/4-traps-of-ingrown-churches/

 

CHURCH SIZE & The average church in American is 75 attendees #Cure4TheCommonChurch

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., Cure for the Common Church: God’s Plan for Church Health (Indianapolis, IN: 2012), p. 14.

CureForCommonChurch

The average church in North America is only 75 attendees,[i]

[i] Barry A. Kosmin and Ariela Keysar, The American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS) 2008 (Hartford, CT: Program on Public Values, 2009) and Duke University, National Congregations Study, http://www.soc.duke.edu/natcong/index.html

SPIRITUAL TRANSFORMATION & 3 ways to walk a spiritual bridge to new life w/ someone

by Bob Whitesel, Church Central, April 30, 2017.

Two things are happening to a person in spiritual and physical crisis:

1. At this point they realize that only God, the one who created them, can effectively and enduringly meet their needs.

2. They also feel that their relationship with God is estranged because they have ignored him for so long.

The uncommon church will foster an environment where helping others navigate this bridge is the norm. Therefore, the uncommon church walks this bridge with others, not retracing their own steps again but walking alongside helping, answering questions, and encouraging others as they cross a bridge between natural and supernatural living. A verse that reminds us of the magnitude of the newness and that we represent God in it, can be found in 2 Corinthians 5:17–19: “What we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it! All this comes from the God who settled the relationship between us and him, and then called us to settle our relationships with each other. God put the world square with himself through the Messiah, giving the world a fresh start by offering forgiveness of sins. God has given us the task of telling everyone what he is doing. We’re Christ’s representatives” (MSG).

The importance of walking the bridge with them 

And so, as Christ’s representatives we need to tell others how God gave his Son to provide a bridge back to himself. I have found that in many growing churches almost all congregants know how to explain the story of Jesus’ bridge.

Thus, the last key toward helping others navigate the bridge back to a restored friendship with God is to have a congregation that can explain God’s biblical bridge. Sometimes called “the plan of salvation,” these are simple memory devices that the majority of all attendees in the uncommon church must know if we are to fulfill Paul’s admonition in 2 Corinthians 5:19 that, God has given us the task of telling everyone what he is doing. We’re Christ’s representatives” (MSG). Here are three of the most common explanations of that bridge:

The Four Spiritual Laws 13

1. God loves you and created you to know him personally (John 3:16; 17:3).

2. Humans are sinful and separated from God, so we cannot know him personally or experience His love (Romans 3:23; 6:23).

3. Jesus Christ is God’s only provision for human sin. Through him alone we can know God personally and experience God’s love (Romans 5:8; 1 Corinthians 15:3–6; John 14:6).

4. We must individually receive Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord; then we can know God personally and experience his love (John 1:12; Ephesians 2:8–9; Revelation 3:20).

The Romans Road 14

To aid in memorization, this explanation employs the metaphor of a Roman thoroughfare:

• Romans 3:23: “All have sinned and fall short of God’s glory.” (Everyone needs salvation because we have all sinned.)

• Romans 6:23: “The wages that sin pays are death, but God’s gift is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (The price or consequence of sin is death.)

• Romans 5:8: “But God shows his love for us, because while we were still sinners Christ died for us.” (Jesus Christ died for our sins. He paid the price for our death.)

• Romans10:9: “Trusting with the heart leads to righteousness, and confessing with the mouth leads to salvation.” (We openly declare that we receive salvation and eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ.)

• Romans5:1: “Therefore, since we have been made righteous through his faithfulness combined with our faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Salvation through Jesus Christ brings us back into a relationship of peace with God.)

Steps to Peace with God15

This explanation uses phrases tool: from John 3:16 as a memory

• For God so loved the world: “I have loved you with an everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3).

  • That he gave his only Son:“While we were sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
  • That whoever believes in him: “I am the LORD, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?” (Jeremiah 32:27).
  • Should not perish:“I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish” (John 10:28).
  • But have everlasting life: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31).

So pick an explanation that works for you. But hold one another accountable to be able to explain at least one route, for 1 Peter 3:15–18 urges:

Be ready to speak up and tell anyone who asks why you’re living the way you are, and always with the utmost courtesy. Keep a clear conscience before God so that when people throw mud at you, none of it will stick. They’ll end up realizing that they’re the ones who need a bath. It’s better to suffer for doing good, if that’s what God wants, than to be punished for doing bad. That’s what Christ did definitively: suffered because of others’ sins, the Righteous One for the unrighteous ones. He went through it all—was put to death and then made alive—to bring us to God. (MSG)

13 The “Four Spiritual Laws” was originally conceived by Campus Crusade founder Bill Bright (http://campuscrusade.com/fourlawseng.htm), but the original version seemed to build on people’s more selfcentered desire for attaining God’s plan for their lives. While this is certainly valid, an alternative version is quoted here (compare http://www.4laws.com/laws/englishkgp) because it better emphasizes the missio Dei
(God’s desire to be reunited with his wayward offspring).

14 Additional verses in Romans that provide further insights for each one of these steps (along with ideas for sermons, Bible studies, and teaching tools) to help congregants remember the “Romans Road” can be found at http://www.gotquestions.org/Romans-road-salvation.html, http://theromanroad.org, and http://christianity.about.com/od/conversion/qt/romansroad.htm.

15 “Steps to Peace with God” was developed by the Billy Graham organization. It supports this presentation with an extensive web presence at http://peacewithgod.jesus.net.

Excerpted from Cure For The Common Church: God’s Plan to Restore Church Health, by Bob Whitesel (Wesleyan Publishing House 2012). For further online notes: See Chapter 8 Complete Notes. 

four spiritual laws Romans road steps to peace with God

Speaking hashtags: #Kingwood2018


NEED MEETING & A Canvass Question to Ascertain Community Needs

Figure 2.5 Canvass Question (Cure for the Common Church, 2012, p. 38)

“Hello. My name is _____(name)_____ and I am from _____(name of church)_____. I am asking people to help us understand what are the greatest needs of this community that a church like ours could address?

An abbreviated version by the author, 2016:

“Hello. My name is _____(name)_____ and I am from _____(name of church)_____.   What are the greatest needs of this community that a church like ours could address?

A brief overview of this from Cure for the Common Church: God’s Plan for Church Health:

Focus 1: OUT. In Jesus’s ministry we see a ongoing emphasis on reaching out to nonreligious people and people in need (e.g. Luke 6:31-33). But churches quickly become inwardly focused, looking more after their own needs than the needs of those outside their church.

Tool 1 to Focus OUT: ASK. Get your administrative board and staff to go out on a Saturday morning walk through the church neighborhood and areas from which you draw your congregants. Tell them to ask people they meet this simple question: “What could a church like ours do to meet needs of people in this community?” Don’t ask them what you can do to meet their personal needs. That is too personal. Rather ask them to tell you about community needs. Usually they will tell you about their own needs. Then go back to the church and compile a list of needs. Pick out a couple needs that your church is equipped or is beginning to be equipped to address. Then reallocate funds and volunteers to meet those needs. I advise churches to do this twice a year. This keeps leaders listening for needs in the community. One church board member said, “I now work that question subtly into my conversations all year long. I find a lot of interesting needs in this community that way. And it helps me be a better board member because I can help the church focus on meeting needs outside the church.”

Here are some other tactical ideas for ascertaining community needs:

INNOVATION & How To REFOCUS a Ministry That Has Outlived Its Usefulness #ChurchCureBook

CURxE T = Tackle Needs by Refocusing or Creating Ministry Programs.

Article by Bob Whitesel, excerpted from CURE FOR THE COMMON CHURCH: God’s Plan to Restore Church Health (2012), pp. 42-56 (download the chapter below):

Cure T stands for “tackle needs by refocusing, creating or ending ministry” and the term “tackle” is fitting for this may require the most energy of the three cures in this chapter. As we saw earlier long histories and good fellowship often cause a church to focus on congregational needs in lieu of non-churchgoer needs. Thus, churchgoers often focus on ministries they enjoy doing even when these programs are no longer meeting the needs of non-churchgoers. As a result, Cure T is absolutely critical for church health. Therefore, be aware that three tactics will be needed:

  • Refocusing: Some of a church’s programs will need to be refocused to better meet the needs of non-churchgoers.
  • Creating: Some programs will need to be created to meet the needs of non-churchgoers.

Refocusing & Creating Ministries: The A-B-C-D Approach

The key to refocusing or creating ministry is to:

  1. Assemble both canvassers and ministry leaders.
  • The goal is to compile a master list of needs and draw connections to existing ministries or create new ministries that could meet those needs.
  • A convener (i.e. chairperson) should be selected. This will usually be a staff person or the leader of the canvassers. She or he will oversee the A-B-C-D steps.
  • Convene both canvassers and church ministry leaders as soon as possible after the canvassing. Some churches will conduct their canvass on Sunday or Saturday morning and then meet that afternoon. This can allow leaders to consider the results while the conversations are fresh in their minds
  1. Brainstorm a master list of needs.
  • When the canvassers convene after their canvass, everyone shares the needs jotted down.
  • From these lists they create a master list of needs (i.e. those that reoccur with the most frequency on the canvassers’ personal lists).
  • Combine similar needs into categories.
  • Column 2 of Figure 2.8 illustrates how a master list of needs might be categorized from the sample in Figure 2.7.
  1. Correlate needs to ministries the church offers or can start.
  • Just as you brainstormed a master list of categories, now it is time to brainstorm a list of ministries you can refocus or launch to meet needs in each category.
  • Put these ministry ideas in Column 3 of Figure 2.8.
  1. Distribute your list of refocused or created ministries (Figure 2.8) to church leaders.
  • Send this list to all department heads and ministry leaders.
  • Ask them to look over your suggestions in the right column of Figure 2.8 and add their own.
  • Ask them to report back in 30 days with their responses of how their ministry can be refocused to better meet community needs.
  • The report will be received by the staff person or convener who oversees the canvass.

To see the Figures and read the rest of the chapter, download the chapter (not for public distribution) by clicking here:  BOOK ©Whitesel EXCERPT – CURE Chpt 2 HOW OUT

(And, if you enjoyed this chapter, please support the publisher and author by purchasing a copy. Thank you.)

INNOVATION & How To END a Ministry That Has Outlived Its Usefulness #ChurchCureBook

CURxE T = Tackle Needs by Ending Ministry Programs.

Article by Bob Whitesel, excerpted from CURE FOR THE COMMON CHURCH: God’s Plan to Restore Church Health (2012), pp. 42-56 (download the chapter below):

Ending Ministry: 3 Guidelines

As noted, some ministries may need to be ended. This is especially important when volunteers need to be redeployed into ministries that better meet the needs of non-churchgoers.

One example comes from a client church. This church had a group of ladies that meet Wednesday afternoons to knit quilts, which they then sold to raise funds for missionaries. The missionaries were appreciative, but the efforts raised little funds. The ladies mostly enjoyed the fellowship and felt they were supporting outreach. A canvas of the community found that many of the two-wage residents needed after school child care. Armed with this information, the leader of the canvass asked the Wednesday knitting group to consider hosting a play and tutor time from 3-5:30 pm once a month (the time during which they typically knitted). Community residents and children so enjoyed these afternoons with their newly adopted “grandmas” (and the senior ladies enjoyed it, too) that this ministry soon replaced the weekly knitting circle.

Still, there are three criteria that must be met when ending ministry and redeploying volunteer skills.

  • Guideline 1: Redeploy People. Volunteers involved in a ministry that is ending must clearly see a redeployment for their skills and fellowship. The knitting circle became an afterschool team of surrogate “grandmas.” At first the knitting circle was hesitant, but once they saw that their skills and fellowship would be preserved, they relinquished one ministry to launch another.
  • Guideline 2: Move slowly. Most people will need time to process the end of their ministry as well as the value of diverting their skills. One of the key lessons of research into church change is that leaders often doom the change process by proceeding too quickly (i.e. not giving congregants enough time to grapple with the change).[i]
  • Guideline 3: ADD if you can’t subtract. If you can’t end it, leave it and add something else. Some people are so wrapped up in their ministry that they cannot envision ever doing anything else. While it might not be the most desirable tactic, if ending a ministry is causing too much division or grief it is best to leave the ministry and launch something new. Many a church leader has become bogged down trying to end something, when that energy might have been better spent launching something new.

Fill in Figure 2.9 to ensure you meet all three guidelines when ending a ministry.

FIGURE 2.9 CURE Ending a Ministry

Remember, ending ministry may be the most difficult and thorny task you undertake in growing a church O.U.T. But remember, if ending a ministry becomes too problematic, it is best to begin something new.

To see the Figures and read the rest of the chapter, download the chapter (not for public distribution) by clicking here:  BOOK ©Whitesel EXCERPT – CURE Chpt 2 HOW OUT

(And, if you enjoyed this chapter, please support the publisher and author by purchasing a copy. Thank you.)

[i] For more on why leaders must go slower than they wish when implementing change, see “Go Slowly, Build Consensus and Succeed” in Bob Whitesel, Preparing for Change Reaction: How To Introduce Change in Your Church (Indianapolis: Wesleyan Publishing House, 2007), pp. 151-169 and Staying Power: Why People Leave the Church Over Change And What You Can Do About It (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2002).

#FlintFirst

OUTWARD FOCUS & outwardly focused churches are often the healthiest on the inside

“The most outwardly focused churches are many times the healthiest on the inside. The people of the church must make a conscious decision to stop looking inwardly and begin to reach outwardly.”

Rainer III, Sam S. (2008-09-01). Essential Church (p. 26). B&H Publishing. Kindle Edition.

How Wesley’s “Method” Focused a Church Inward AND Outward

by Bob Whitesel, excerpted from “Cure for the Common Church,” Wesleyan Publishing House, 2011

The cure for the ingrown church is to keep a church focused both inward and outward. In fact, history indicates that churches that stay connected to outsiders often do a better job at inward ministry too. For example, an Anglican pastor named John Wesley was so ashamed and alarmed at the depravity of the people outside of his church, that he took his sermons outside the church walls and began ministries to better serve their spiritual and physical needs.[i] Balancing this emphasis upon people inside and outside the church required a rigorous structure his critics mockingly called: “Wesley’s Methods.” Soon his followers were know as “Methodists,” a term which endures to today and should remind us that we need a clear method if we are going to avoid focusing only on people inside the church. After 20+ years of consulting, I believe this method here lies in three organic remedies. These cures, if taken together, can foster a healthy balance between inward and outward focus.

Rx 1 for the Common Church = Grow O.U.T. In this cure, as well as in all of the cures in this book, the remedies spell out the name of the cure.

CURxE O: Observe whom you are equipped to reach

CURxE U: Understand the needs of those you are equipped to reach.

CURxE T: Tackle needs by refocusing, creating or ending ministry programs.

For more details, DOWNLOAD the O.U.T. Chapter Here (and if you like it, please consider supporting the publisher and author by buying a full copy): BOOK ©Whitesel EXCERPT – CURE Chpt 2 HOW OUT.

For more information on this and other cures for the common church, see “Cure for the Common Church”, Wesleyan Publishing House, 2011 and you can read more about the book at … http://bobwhitesel.com/c3/Cure_for_the_Common_Church.html

Footnotes:

[i] Wesley urged discipleship via small groups which he called “class meetings” to help non-churchgoers grasp the basics of Christianity. These “class meetings” were a type of discipleship group, which we shall discuss in greater detail in the next chapter of “Cure for the Common Church.”