CASE STUDY & 3 Strategies in the “Outreach Journey” That Changed a Small Church

by Jeff Droogsma, Outreach Magazine, June 23, 2020.

SET TIME ASIDE

Our leadership teams all meet on the same night… During those meetings, we intentionally make time for each ministry to talk about one person they are working with and we pray for them. We have all the normal ministries and programs, but this approach is helping every team to think more deeply about people who have not yet come to Christ.

For example, one change that came out of this process was a desire in our people to start offering to conduct funerals for nonmembers. We are now serving many families through this ministry, and the church is connecting with more people…

FOCUS ON THOSE WHO WANT TO GROW

We realized that we needed to accept that some people at our church might permanently avoid becoming outreach oriented. Rather than focus on that group, we wanted to provide a way for others to grow in their ability to share their faith and help people come to Christ.

We offer different adult Sunday school classes that meet at the same time. We have been intentional about devoting one of those classes to connecting and equipping people for outreach. Our last series focused on praying for the people in our lives and sharing stories. This semester we are talking about Jesus in the workplace, and how to be a light and outward focused in our jobs.

… There is a growing sense that outreach is where the fun is.

GET PERSONAL ABOUT THE PROCESS

We always focus on our FRANC group (friends, relatives, acquaintances, neighbors and colleagues). It reminds us to constantly be asking, “Who is in your world?”

We require a mandatory check-up process for our leaders. During those times, we spend 5 to 10 minutes talking through who is on their FRANC list. We then provide a quick teaching and one quick story.

… We explain that it is often natural to feel scared when we reach out. We have been intentional about getting out of our Christian bubbles so we can model lives that characterize outreach in normal and natural ways, and we speak about these occasionally.

…In many ways, our church is quite traditional. While the architecture and committee structures have not changed, something new is happening in the heart of the congregation. God is leading us on a journey that is bearing fruit in new ways.

(The Church Evangelism Institute, the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College hosts cohorts of senior pastors across North America who are committed to growing both their personal and congregational evangelism and outreach passion.)

Read more at … https://outreachmagazine.com/features/evangelism/56836-an-outreach-journey.html

FACILITIES & right-size sanctuaries: converting part into classrooms, welcome centers & prayer spaces can create intimacy in the once larger space. Look for ways to earn income from facilities… lease out portions of your facilities, create local business hubs, develop shared working spaces, etc.

What Kinds of Churches Will Survive the Pandemic?

Which churches will thrive, which will struggle, and what is the way forward?

… Look at ways to right-size sanctuaries. Converting part of the sanctuary into classrooms, welcome centers and prayer spaces can create intimacy in the once larger space. And look for ways to monetize facilities. My co-author Mark DeYmaz suggests ways churches can lease out portions of their facilities, create local business hubs, develop shared working spaces, etc. to increase income from aging buildings. – @BobWhitesel via @OutreachMag

Read the full article here … https://outreachmagazine.com/resources/54174-what-kinds-of-churches-will-survive-the-pandemic.html

BUILDINGS & A church building craze exploded in the ‘70s and ‘80s and led to many sanctuaries that are outsized for their current congregation… But the cost of oversized facilities and their upkeep may mean that that even these churches have little resources available for unexpected expenses or low offerings. – @BobWhitesel via @OutreachMag buff.ly/2UTWevK

A church building craze exploded in the ‘70s and ‘80s and led to many sanctuaries that are outsized for their current congregation… But the cost of oversized facilities and their upkeep may mean that that even these churches have little resources available for unexpected expenses or low offerings. – @BobWhitesel via @OutreachMag

Read more here … buff.ly/2UTWevK

REBOUND & RENEW TOOLS: 8 nationally published articles on how to grow a healthy church after a crisis (resource page w/ tools) excerpted from my book “Growing the Post-pandemic Church.”

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Commentary by Dr. Whitesel:  During a shutdown, such as during the COVID-19 pandemic, churches have an opportunity to prepare for rebounding and renewing into  healthier churches.  Here are articles I’ve written about how to accomplish this (published by magazines with national platforms, i.e. Outreach Magazine and Biblical Leadership Magazine).  These articles are excerpted from my book: “Growing the Post-pandemic Church.” Excerpted below you will find …
  • How to use these difficult times as a springboard for churches to rebound and renew,
  • With greater long-term health and more powerful Good News impact.
  • Click on the pictures (below) to access the articles published by Outreach Magazine and Biblical Leadership Magazine.
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Read more in Biblical Leadership Magazine here.


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Read more in Biblical Leadership Magazine here.


8C9182E5-2942-46A4-86A8-5EFCA2D6EB90.jpeg Now that banning gatherings is becoming commonplace, the faith community will be temporarily forced to morph into something new (or maybe something old, read on). During this time and afterward some churches will thrive, but others may struggle. Having coached churches for 30 years, trained hundreds of church leaders and earned two doctorates in the field, here is my forecast with survival options for those churches at risk.

Click to read the article in Outreach Magazine here.


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Read more of this article published by Biblical Leadership Magazine here.


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Read more of this article published by Outreach Magazine Here.


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Read more of this article in Biblical Leadership Magazine HERE.


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Read this article in Outreach Magazine by clicking here.

Recently picked “Resources of the Year” in the church category for @OutreachMag. So many good books! But here are my picks.

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 3/2/2020.

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This year’s winner in the “Church Category” is …

Taking it to the streets: Lessons from a life of urban ministry by Harry Louis Williams II, aka OG Rev., a street term for “respected veteran of the block” (InterVarsity Press, 2019). This veteran minister and budding academic weaves together stories from the inner city with biblical narratives to demonstrate what every chruch, suburban, rural, micro- or mega-, can do to missionally heal the divisions in society. He covers it all, commuter churches, aging churches, wealthy churches, church planting, gentrification, prosperity gospel, racism, slavery, radicalism and reconciliation. To each problem he suggests practical and biblical steps almost any church can undertake to rethink urban partnerships and begin to heal American’s divisions. To understand a culture, you need a guide. And OG Rev is one of the best I’ve encountered. If you are not from an urban culture and before you launch a ministry to it, absorb the stories contained in this book.

Additional Recommendations:  

Why church? A basic introduction by Scott W. Sunquist (InterVarsity Press, 2019). To the question, “Is the church losing its relevance?” the author offers a well-thought-out critique, believing the church has lost its focus on its “only two purposes”: worship & witness, and suggesting a practical five-step solution.

The church of US versus them: Freedom from a faith that feeds on making enemies, David E. Fitch (Brazos Press, 2019). While OG Rev approaches America’s divisions from his street-level view, David Fitch uses his well-honed skills as a theologian to address the divisions in America from a clear and biblical theological perspective.

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Read more at … https://outreachmagazine.com/resources/books/church-books/52777-harry-louis-williams-ii-taking-it-to-the-streets.html

TRENDS & 7 Church Leadership Trends for the 2020s by @BobWhitesel published by @BiblicalLeader & @OutreachMag & excerpted from my book: “Growing the Post-pandemic Church.”

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  1. Autocratic leadership will continue to be replaced by transformational leadership. Autocratic leadership occurs when a more knowledgeable “elder leader” tells or directs others what to do. Better described as “paternal leadership,” it is less attractive to millennials who have experienced leadership decisions through collaboration and over electronic mediums. Transformational leadership however occurs when a leader publicly demonstrates that he or she wants to improve and transform their own leadership style while helping people become transform their lives too. We see this latter aspect in Jesus’ leadership, when he didn’t castigate or excommunicate the leaders he was developing when they failed in their leadership (for example, Simon Peter’s fails are recorded over a dozen times, Matt 15:16, Mark 10:13, Luke 22:24, Matthew 17:24, etc.)
  2. Leaders will encourage several organizational visions built around one mission. A mission is a church’s biblically based “reason for being” according to Barna, McIntosh, and Whitesel/Hunter. Also according to these authors a vision is a specific, envisioned, future outcome. But since churches are becoming increasingly multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and multi-congregational, trying to focus on just one version won’t get enough buy-in from most congregants. Today what I label “micro-visions” create short-term wins, because they are quicker to attain and can be quickly embraced by different church subcultures. This does not mean a large number of visions. The average church today is only 75 attendees and might have just a couple of visions suitable for its size. A mega-church of several thousand, however, might have 6 to 8 visions representing different congregational cultures. For example, traditional members might envision a choir, Sunday school classes and reaching out to a senior living center nearby. The church’s millennials might have a vision for interactive sermons, online small groups and reaching out to homeless people in their communities. Churches are realizing that they are increasingly multicultural organizations and so to work together they must embrace one biblical mission with several different visions.
  3. Leaders will willingly live on less. Millennials are skeptical of leaders who proverbially “feather their own nests” with monies from the congregation. Younger generations have seen leaders become disconnected, for example when baby boomer leaders lived a much higher lifestyle than the congregants they served. Millennials are determined to change this. For example, millennial church planters are increasingly bi-vocational and many full-time millennial pastors are choosing to become bi-vocational to better connect with non-churchgoers. Living slightly under the median income of the congregation one serves (rather than slightly above it) will increasingly become the new norm.
  4. Leadership will be learned through artificial intelligence, virtual reality, online courses and even gaming. Online learning continues to be a disruptor that is making specific leadership topics available to leaders that need them quickly. Online certification programs such as ChurchLeadership.university, InterimPastor.university, etc. are making high-quality education in specific topics, available at a small fee to many people around the world.
  5. Leaders will increasingly spend more of their time with non-churchgoers and the needy, balancing their time between them and Christians. Fuller professor Donald McGavran warned of “redemption and lift,” meaning the longer a person is a Christian the more they are lifted out of the daily world of the non-churchgoer and thus increasingly insensitive to the needs of non-churchgoers. John Wesley, living 300 years earlier, recognized this too and required all leadership groups to serve the needy on a regular basis. Tomorrow’s leaders recognize that staying connected to the needs of those that don’t yet have a personal relationship with Christ is equally as important as spending time with Christians. Jesus spent time with those who needed him but did not yet believe in him, even to the chagrin of his family (Mark 3:20-34).
  6. Leaders will increasingly be about leading non-churchgoers further along their spiritual journey, not just about leading Christians. In the next decade, Christian leadership will be less and less about leading a church, but increasingly about leading non-churchgoers toward better lives and potentially a relationship with Christ. In the past, being a good church leader was mainly about helping Christians develop their skills. But emerging leaders are recognizing that leadership is equally about helping nonbelievers move closer to Christ on their belief journey. My friend and Fuller professor Richard Peace tells about witnessing to a young atheist, who afterword said that he was no longer an atheist, but now agnostic. At first Richard was discouraged, hoping to see this young man have a conversionary experience. But then Richard realized he had helped this young seeker move one step closer to understanding who Jesus is and having a personal relationship with him. Richard began to pray for that young man, having seen a movement in that man’s spiritual journey towards the ultimate experience of transformation.
  7. Respected leaders won’t be leaders of big congregations, but leaders who are growing and changing. Over the years I’ve seen a great deal of distrust develop regarding leaders of large churches, some of it earned but most of it an occupational hazzard. A natural distancing occurs in leadership (remember McGavran’s warning of “redemption and lift”) that brings about suspicion and skepticism in some of those that want to be led. Subsequently, followers in the next decade increasingly want to know that their leaders are continually learning and changing for the better. They want to watch leaders repent, adjust and rely on the Holy Spirit to improve, called sanctification (Mark 11:12-25, 2 Cor. 3:18, Phil. 3:12, etc.). The next decade’s leader will not seen as on a pedestal, but upon a journey of self discovery with the Holy Spirit at her or his guide.

Read more at … https://www.biblicalleadership.com/blogs/7-church-leadership-trends-for-the-2020s/

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EXEGETE CONTEXT & How to Exegete Your Church & Community Cultures

Interview of Bob Whitesel, D.Min., Ph.D., by Taylor Bird, Outreach Magazine, Jan. – Feb., 2017.

Recently I was interviewed by Outreach Magazine for an article titled “Stuck: 10 minute consultations to get your church moving again.” I was honored to contribute ideas alongside my colleagues and friends Efrem Smith, Pete Scazzero, Gary McIntosh and others. Below is my portion of the article plus a link to the full article. If you don’t yet subscribe to Outreach Magazine, I would encourage you to do so. It is one of the best sources of ideas that can help congregations reach out and meet the needs of their communities.

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Read the entire article here: http://www.outreachmagazine.com/interviews/20880-bob-whitesel.html? or article-whitesel-outreach-mag-discover-emerging-cultures-jan-2017.

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SIZE & 4 Ways to Break the Church Attendance Barrier #EdStetzer

by Ed Stetzer, Outreach Magazine, 7/12/16.

When it comes to church growth, some barriers or size plateaus prove to be difficult to overcome, churches feel stuck at a certain size…

For example, a lot of churches get stuck at 35 members. These kinds of churches are typically comprised of a family or two and some of their friends. Another barrier exists at 75 members. The church consists of a pastor, who may not be full time, and a congregation in which everybody knows each other. The 125-person barrier is one of the hardest for churches to break through because progress involves restructuring and thinking differently…

There are four shifts that must take place to ensure continued growth past the traditional attendance barriers.

1. Pro-Growth Shift

First, church members and leadership must shift their mindset from anti-growth to pro-growth. I once received some pushback from an occasional attendee at our church. During an outreach emphasis, he asked why we were wasting our time emphasizing church growth. He said we were behaving like a business and that we should be happy with the people we already had…

2. Relational Shift

…In Transformational Church: Creating a New Scorecard for Congregations, Thom Rainer and I outline relational intentionality as one of seven elements … Because proximity to other people does not automatically lead to community with other people, the shift must move people from sitting in rows to sitting in circles. Having a 30-second meet and greet on Sunday mornings will not help visitors connect, but helping them to make friends through small groups will. A small group environment provides opportunities for authentic community and connection to the church at large.

3. Staff Shift

In order to break attendance barriers, a church must experience a staff shift. It’s not necessarily that churches need to hire more staff members—though that could be the case—but rather they must help their staff undergo mindset shifts regarding the functions and purposes of their ministries. They must intentionally spend time with two specific groups of people—leaders and the lost…

4. Ownership Shift

The fourth and final shift must take place in the lay leaders within the church. They must take responsibility for their respective ministries. They must own the goals, plans and strategies for implementing and improving their ministries.

This concept must spread to the church as a whole. Beyond merely those in a leadership position, every church member must see the church as his or her own. They should not think of it in terms of being the lead pastor’s church or the elders’ church. Every church member must take ownership and work toward the church’s growth and health…

Read more at … http://www.outreachmagazine.com/features/18394-break-the-attendance-barrier.html

CHANGE & Practical Steps 12Stone Church Undertook to Change

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: My colleague Kevin Myers is a studious and well-read pastor. I’m not surprised that when undertaking structural and branding changes at 12Stone church that he intuitively embraced many of the principles of effective change. Read this case study about the change that took place and notice the following important PreparingChange_Reaction_Mdelements for effective change. 1) They built consensus before they moved forward. 2) They retained what was working in the past and built upon it. 3) They looked at things that weren’t working in the past and then carefully and thoughtfully changed them. 4) They carefully built a consensus to select the best new ideas. And 5) God gave Kevin a Biblical metaphor that helped people visualize and internalize the missional nature of the change. For more on these and other “steps of change” see the book that came out of my PhD research on change titled, “Preparing for Change Reaction.” And then read this article for a good introduction regarding how one church did it well.

KEVIN MYERS: THE INTERNAL CHALLENGE OF CHANGE

By Kevin Myers • February 27, 2014

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“We often talk about ‘change’ as if it’s easy. But leading change is often dealing with our own resistance as well as others’.”

Kevin Myers Senior Pastor
12Stone ChurchLawrenceville, Ga.

TURNING POINTS

When 12Stone was 20 years old, nobody called us 12Stone. Our founding name was Crossroads Community Church. We birthed and built with that name. It was supernaturally given and sacred. We started with a name and eight people in a living room. It took seven years to break 200 and 15 years to break 1,500. At 20 years, we were more than 3,000. Yet we sensed a new era was before us as we were making changes for a new campus with 2,500 seats and becoming a multicampus church. So I introduced a turning point for our leadership team:

Since we have so many “changes” in front of us, let’s make the change that will affect everyone, and let’s change our name! Let’s face it, there are already so many “Crossroads” churches that we cannot maintain our distinction as we expand campuses. For that reason and more, let’s teach our church how to “change”!

So we entered into a redefining season and led the entire church into a teaching series that peaked with introducing our name change. In one weekend, we changed our 20-year name to the re-imagined 12Stone Church. I reminded everyone that, No.1, our mission is to keep God, his word and salvation sacred, but our methods and even our name can change, and No. 2, while we appreciate and celebrate our past, we will re-imagine and change for our future.

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Through that process of change, something shifted in me as a leader, and something shifted in our church. We often talk about “change” as if it’s easy. But leading change is often dealing with our own resistance as well as others’.

So we settled it. If we were going to take new territory for the kingdom, we would have to let go of things that were familiar, much like David before he became king. What got him noticed was taking down Goliath with a sling. But what made him famous was taking down tens of thousands with a sword. Sometimes you have to trade your familiar slingfor an unfamiliar sword as part of “becoming and conquering.”

stone-stack-sign-1500x430Changing our name was not the primary reason we grew from 3,500 to some 14,000 over these last five years. But the spirit of making leadership changes for the sake of the mission ignited a new era and a fresh freedom—the freedom to lead “change.” So where do you need to trade in your sling for a sword? (The Bible never records David using the sling again.)…

Read more at … http://www.outreachmagazine.com/interviews/5417-embracing-change.html

PREACHING & Passing on Sound Doctrine to the Next Gen #OutreachMagazine #DanKimball

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: “Dan Kimball is not only a friend, but I believe the leading organic voice for making systematic theology relevant to average congregants. Read this excellent article by Dan in Outreach Magazine where he explains how he created a 14-week sermon series that covered classical systematic theology.”

PASSING ON SOUND DOCTRINE TO THE NEXT GEN

By Dan Kimball • June 3, 2015, Outreach Magazine.

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When it comes to the emerging generations, we may need to teach doctrines no one is asking about.

More than 35 percent of our church is college students, so a recent message series felt a little risky.

At a time when you often hear that emerging generations don’t want to hear about doctrine and theology, we designed a 14-week classical systematic theology series to teach to the entire church. Our topics included Christology, the study of God the Son; bibliology, the study of the Bible; eschatology, the study of the end times; and angelology, the study of angels, demons and Satan.

Our Sunday attendance has grown, and lives are being affected. A college student emailed me that her four non-Christian friends have been coming and are fascinated. One Sunday, we taught the doctrine of salvation, defined words like “justification” and invited people to “pray a prayer” of salvation. Many responded and told me afterward that they put faith in Jesus.

Sometimes we can put so much emphasis on doctrine that emerging generations lose interest, but at the same time, I sense a desire among them to learn truth and doctrine. Here are some lessons we’ve learned about teaching it …

Read more at … http://www.outreachmagazine.com/features/4804-a-holy-responsibility-passing-on-sound-doctrine-to-the-next-gen.html

COMMUNITY IMPACT & To Meet Needs in A Community You Must Go “Beyond Branding”

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel:  “Recently Outreach Magazine asked me and four colleagues who study evangelism and culture about how a church can raise it’s visibility in a community.  I joined Tony Morgan, Len Sweet, Tom Bandy and Will Mancini in explaining how a church becomes “visible” in a community when it serves the needs in the community.  (Consider subscribing to Outreach Magazine, one of the best sources for helping a church reach out).  Click here to read the article: ARTICLE ©Whitesel Beyond Branding OUTREACH Mag

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COMMUNICATION & 7 Biblical Ways to Increase a Church’s Visibility – from my interview w/ Outreach Magazine

by Bob Whitesel, 2/25/15.  The following is from my interview with Outreach MagazineI was asked, “What you would want to convey to the church that says, ‘We aspire to be better known in our community’.”  Below are my thoughts about how to organically and biblically increase a church’s visibility.  (It is probably not what you anticipated.)

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ELEVATE: Raise Your Visibility Before a Skeptical World

Today in an increasingly skeptical world, the church must move beyond branding and build a new, more powerful reputation.

15-MJ_BobWhitesel-300x225Here are 5 steps to elevating your visibility in a community.

1. Elevate the visibility of your need-meeting. Churches should be known as the place in a community where people go when they have a crisis. Churches that offer divorce recovery programs, grief support groups, 12-step programs, etc. increase their visibility as the primary place where needs are met in their community.

2.  Elevate the visibility of spiritual-change. People are looking for ways to change their lives and often psychologists or self-help programs are their first choice. While these can offer the physical change that people need, I believe only Christ can offer the spiritual change that people long for deep inside. So in the name of helping people better their physical lives, do not neglect their higher needs for a supernatural transformation that only comes through Christ.

3. Elevate the visibility of your openness and honesty. Churches often promote that they have the best program or the most exciting worship. But non-churchgoers sense that this is not the real purpose of the church. Acknowledge that your church doesn’t do everything well and sometimes you get fixated on your organizational needs. Then remind them that your church is a spiritual community, seeking to work together to draw closer to Christ.

4. Elevate the visibility of your unity in diversity. In an increasingly diverse world, people want to go to a church that mirror’s the diversity of God’s creation. But such diversity must not be only symbolic, but also heartfelt. It is important for people of diverse cultures to run the church together, to worship together and to learn from one another about cultural background and baggage. The church should be visible in the community as a place that not only promotes spiritual reconciliation to God, but also physical reconciliation between cultures.

5.  Elevate your visibility as a place to learn. People today have a conceptions of the church as a place that lectures and criticizes, rather than a place that promotes learning. Jesus gave us a Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20) to “make learners.” Thus our goal must be to acquaint them with His words, while we exemplify how these words are lived out in community.

6.  Elevate your visibility as a place where everybody can find a place to fit. Emphasize smaller fellowship groupings within the larger whole. Most people today are not only looking for a large event, but also a smaller group where they can ask spiritual questions and receive support on their spiritual journey.

7. Elevate your visibility as a community that promotes and seeks God’s wisdom. The church should be known as a place of Bible-study and prayer. Thus it should be a place where people who are estranged from God or even just struggling in their relationship, will find people and prayer environments that will assist them in connecting to their heavenly Father. If a person in the community needs prayer, the first place they should think of is your church.

If you can’t elevate one or more of these areas, because they don’t yet exist in your church, then start with the easiest but don’t stop until you develop these seven ways to elevate an organically spiritual and Biblical visibility.

CLICK HERE to download the entire article with contributions by my colleagues Len Sweet, Will Mancini, Tony Morgan and Tom Bandy: ARTICLE ©Whitesel Beyond Branding OUTREACH Mag

And HERE IS A LINK to the online version: http://www.outreachmagazine.com/features/11582-raise-your-visibility-before-a-skeptical-world.html