NEED-MEETING & Research Confirms Non-churchgoers More Likely to Listen If We Meet Needs

By LifeWay and the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism at Wheaton College.

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NEED-MEETING & Willimon’s Advice on Needs vs. Desires

“…in this culture desire becomes elevated to the level of need…and because we tend to be a pit of bottomless desire, there is no end to our need.” Pastors are “expending their lives, running about in such busyness, attempting to service the needs of essentially selfish, self-centered consumers, without critique or limit of those needs.”

Willimon, W. H. (2002). Pastor: The theology and practice of ordained ministry. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, p. 95.

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: How should we react?

And what should we do to instill in congregants a sensitivity to real human needs and not just desires?

I have suggested in my book “Cure for the Common Church” that the best strategy is to follow John Wesley and require that all members serve the needy on a regular basis, usually through their small group. Cure for the Common Church: God’s Plan to Restore Church Health (Wesleyan Publishing House, 2012), chapter 2, “CURE O: Grow O.U.T.”

TRANSFORMATION & This Chart Reminds Us That People Value an Organization That Helps Change Lives

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: This pyramidal chart demonstrates that one of the highest needs for people today is to change their life for the better. This is exactly what Christ offers and the Church participates in this better than it entertains. I have argued tirelessly for a need-based church in lieu of an entertainment-based ecclesiology. So read this Harvard Business Review article for additional validation.

The Elements of Value

by Eric AlmquistJohn SeniorNicolas Bloch, Harvard Business Review, 9/16.

The amount and nature of value in a particular product or service always lie in the eye of the beholder, of course. Yet universal building blocks of value do exist, creating opportunities for companies to improve their performance in current markets or break into new ones. A rigorous model of consumer value allows a company to come up with new combinations of value that its products and services could deliver. The right combinations, our analysis shows, pay off in stronger customer loyalty, greater consumer willingness to try a particular brand, and sustained revenue growth.

We have identified 30 “elements of value”—fundamental attributes in their most essential and discrete forms. These elements fall into four categories: functional, emotional, life changing, and social impact. Some elements are more inwardly focused, primarily addressing consumers’ personal needs. For example, the life-changing element motivation is at the core of Fitbit’s exercise-tracking products. Others are outwardly focused, helping customers interact in or navigate the external world. The functional element organizes is central to The Container Store and Intuit’s TurboTax, because both help consumers deal with complexities in their world.


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NEED-MEETING & 5 Ways Your Church Can Meet Your Community’s Needs

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: I emphasize in all four of my most recent books, that churches must stop guessing about community needs and actually go out, exegete the community and ask people about their needs. Here are some great ways to do this written by Kate Riney for Facts & Trends.

By Kate Riney, Facts & Trends, LifeWay, 7/28/16.

To reach the lost and broken with the gospel, each church needs to be aware and reflective of its community’s assets and needs. Here are five ways your church can do that.

1. Take a walk and talk.

Map out a radius around your church based on how concentrated the population is in your area. For urban churches, tackle the 2- to 3-block radius of your church location. For more suburban or rural churches, you may want to take a 2- to 3-mile walk or drive.

Walk around the area with staff leaders and key volunteers. Meet people hanging out at the bus stop, coffee shops, local eatery, the gym, etc. Ask these people about their lives and take notes. Get to know them and the challenges they face.

Try to take on the posture of a missionary who has recently arrived on the mission field. By starting without assumptions, you’ll be better prepared to hear some surprising revelations…

2. Identify community assets.

As you walk, take note of medical facilities, homeless shelters, day cares, schools, libraries, different types of housing (high-rise apartments, single-family homes, public housing, mobile homes, etc.), religious and civic organizations, public transit, gas stations, grocery stores, shopping malls, green space, recreation facilities, etc.

Next, identify these assets on your map. Look first for assets, second for patterns, third for needs…

3. Assess community needs and begin developing your strategy.

Perhaps there are no grocery stores in your church’s area, only corner stores. Maybe you could offer a farmer’s market in your parking lot to bring quality, nutritious food to the local residents. Are there many day cares, but mainly overcrowded or underfunded preschools?

Consider starting a church school for all those tots about to age out of day care. If the area lacks public transit, the church might offer a shuttle ministry to allow more people to attend worship services and church events…

Many elderly people may live in an assisted living or retirement community you’ve never noticed. They might love to be a part of your church family if the opportunity is available…

4. Filter and prioritize.

…Some initiatives will be simpler than others to start, and you may find you can easily implement two or three projects at once.

Outreach projects are best started one at a time, usually one a quarter. Try to stagger launch dates so the community isn’t confused by an onslaught of announcements and invitations that pull their focus in different directions.

5. Begin setting or redefining your church culture.

… As you assess the community and begin implementing your findings, know that the DNA of your church will naturally change ..

If your church truly desires to reach the lost, and grow and send disciples, then you need a clearly defined mission, vision, values, and strategy based on the community you serve. You cannot lead those to a life in Christ without knowing their unique needs and gifts.

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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:

BLOCK PARTIES & Are we ascertaining needs or entertaining the community?

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 5/12/16.

I encourage my students to spend more time in their ministry lives ascertaining the needs of the community rather than trying to entertain the community.

Often churches offer block parties, festivals, yard sales, concerts and the like as “outreach events.” But really they seem to me more like avenues for the church to boast in its presentational power.

As I’ve pointed out in the book ORGANIX one of the “signs of leadership in a changing church” is incarnational ministry, which means going in-the-flesh to connect with people one-on-one.

Here is how one student described her block party and my response regarding how to make it an incarnational event rather than an attraction no one:

“Lastly, we are planning on hosting FX (Family Experience) events several times a year, where jump houses and carnival-like games are coupled with a short, Biblically-based play. These have been wonderful ways to do community outreach at our sending church. Once again, these can be advertised through the virtual school newsletters, in mailers, and via strategically placed signage in the local neighborhood. During the actual FX event, short surveys can be handed out to those attending.” (bold lettering student).
Remember when you’re planning something like the neighborhood festival spend equal amounts of time on gathering information about community needs as you do setting up the bouncy house and organizing the games.
Thus, it seems like the “short surveys” are tacked onto the end – as an afterthought. This must be 50% of your energy, money and time because I know you agree with me that ascertaining needs is more important than entertaining the community.

NEED MEETING & The 25 Top Topics Searched for in the Bible

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: Bible Gateway is a go to website for finding biblical references. Their release of the “Top 25 topics most searched for in the Bible” can help leaders in two ways.

First, it indicates the topics for which people are searching for biblical answers. These should be the topics of our sermons and our Bible studies.

Secondly, this gives us a glimpse into the needs for which people are seeking answers in the Bible.

Familiarize yourself with these topics and allow more of your ministry to revolve around answering them. (And, if you want to know the most popular scriptures search for the other Bible Gateway, see this post: )


By Bible Gateway, 2015.

Here are the most-popular keyword searches in 2015 in both English and Spanish.

Rank English Español
1. love amor
2. faith fe
3. peace paz
4. hope oracion
5. joy corazon
6. marriage gracia
7. grace amigo
8. prayer esperanza
9. holy spirit misericordia
10. healing espiritu santo
11. forgiveness mujer
12. strength perdon
13. children gracias
14. fear luz
15. love one another gozo
16. heart diezmo
17. forgive ofrenda
18. trust pecado
19. comfort padre
20. pray obediencia
21. light ayuno
22. salvation salvacion
23. worship espiritu
24. fruit of the spirit fortaleza
25. love is patient palabra

Based on over 1.6 billion pageviews and over 160 million unique visitors to Bible Gateway from December 2014 through November 2015, this data provides a glimpse at how people engaged with the Bible in 2015.

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