It’s easier to grow a church if you’re keeping the ones you attract. Really, it’s easier to attract new people if you’re doing the right things to keep them, to nurture the existing members and regulars.  Here’s what I mean. (more…)

I got a strange email Friday afternoon.  The pastor of the churches I visited once sent me an email with the cryptic subject line: “Survive”.  Here is the entire text of the email:

Breakfast at 8:30. Class will follow. Be done before noon

I had no idea what he was talking about.  I went to the website to find out. There was no website.  I googled and found a Facebook page that said that page was shutting down and directed me to another page that didn’t exist.  So I sent the pastor a reply saying I had a conflict, but was interested in details:

Thanks for the invite.  However I have a commitment Saturday morning this week.

Also, I don’t know what Survive is.  I looked for it on the website, but the church has no social media presence to find out.  I did find a Facebook page that said it was going to be taken down last December, but the link didn’t go anywhere, or was private, so it wasn’t any help.
Now I must tell you that although I only attended one Sunday, I did talk with the pastor about how I might help the church.  I gave him a presentation on how to easily create a social media presence for not much money.  He thanked me and said he had people in the church that could do it.  That was six months ago.
I’m guessing the church is still trying to decide how to survive the declining membership.  Given what I’ve seen, that might become a real issue.

We live in a world where people are online all day.  One study suggested teens are on social networks more hours than they sleep.  So if you’re going to connect, if they’re even going to be aware of what you do, you need to be where they are.

One key marketing tool is Twitter. With Twitter, you ‘tweet’ short messages – 160 characters.  You can’t get too deep into it, but you can build curiosity and then pull them to another platform (like your blog) where you can expand the topic.

One strategy is to build awareness on Twitter, pull them to Facebook for dialogue, and then lead them to the blog site where you are able to explore the topic and collect their contact information.

So how to do you do Twitter so you don’t come off like a wanna-be or like you’re spamming them?  I bought a guide, and rights to share it with you.  It’s made for product marketers, but works just as well for churches.  Click here to read it.

What does it mean to be a false witness?

Generally, we think of someone who lies, someone who intentionally swears in court or in similar dispute something that is not true.  That person is a false witness.

If that’s the only explanation, I’m good.  Of course I always tell the truth (except I might shade my comments occasionally, to be nice).  But what if there were a different meaning?

I’m called to give witness to my faith in Jesus as savior.  To God as healer and provider.  Do I? Do you?

I know a church (one in particular, but there may be others) that claims to be warm and open, but the pastor made it clear they have certain standards there and if I was thinking about disrupting what they were doing in that church of 50 senior citizens, I should be on notice.  I assured him I was not there to stir up problems, but was simply searching for a congregation where I might attend and serve.  Only I didn’t feel so welcome after that.

I know a church that is inclusive to a broad spectrum of people, but the opportunities for service seem reserved for the friends of the pastors.

If you look to scripture, Deut 19:19 says the punishment for a false witness is to do to them what they had intended for the other.  This is a natural law, and Xerxes gave Haman the punishment he intended for Mordechai, on the very gallows constructed for the purpose.

Again, Psalms 101:5 says “whoever secretly slanders a neighbor, him I will destroy; the one who has a haughty look and a proud heart, him I will not endure.”  I’ve been in churches where they spoke ill of the neighbors who didn’t come to church.  Even on a prayer walk in a dying church, I was provided the commentary of this house or that, where they used to come, but were caught in a sin and left, without any effort from the church to restore the family.  I’m saddened that church faded to nothing, and finally changed their name to remove the stink of their reputation in the neighborhood, with little result.

One method of preparing a church for reviving would be to examine your history, and confess the past slander of the neighborhood.  If God would spare Ninevah, would have spared Sodom & Gomorrah, how much more will he spare and restore a congregation of his children who repent?

As Tertullian quoted John 13:35:  ” Look,” they say, “how they love one another and how they are ready to die for each other”  Let us therefore bear good witness to one another and to our community.

One way to grow a congregation is to create outposts into the community to attract seekers, and then invite them to participate with the parent church (even if they never actually join).  This takes a mix of business innovation and marketing savvy, but is not hard to implement.  A good place to start is an article by Outreach Magazine, “The Church Needs a Skunkworks.”

A skunkworks is a group within the organization that is given broad powers to try out new ideas.  There is an expectation that some of the ideas will fail, or will never achieve popular approval, buy by allowing the group to think way outside the box, they have the opportunity to find disruptive ideas that make major progress.  It was a skunkworks that created the atomic bomb.  Another one created the laptop.  The copying machine (Xerox) came from one.

Dean Kelly, the late former leader of the National Council of Churches, in his book Why Conservative Churches are Growing (1972) suggested growth could come by creating an ‘eklesesia’ – a congregation within a congregation, and allow them to worship differently, reportable only to the pastor or a small group of elders, until the ideas being tried are evaluated. (The Oureach article notes “it  is better to establish some boundaries in the beginning rather than let them be discovered…by hitting a brick wall later.”)  It may be their ideas are later adopted church-wide, or that they eventually become a new church plant sponsored by the church, or that the group dissolves, leaving the leaders better trained for future service within the congregation.

One phrase from the Outreach article argues for this group to start outside the church:  “Once you start on church grounds, the likelihood of ever getting off campus is weak. But if you start off campus, you will find fewer restrictions in the future and more opportunities in the present. Besides, it is healthy if the church finds itself out in the community figuring out ways to bring the kingdom of God to a place.”

The other reason comes from in internet marketing space.  Savvy marketers will establish multiple ‘feeder’ sites whose only purpose is to attract a subset of the market and draw them toward the main sales site.  By establishing themed ministries in the community, we establish connections on topics that interest them, and then use those relationships to introduce them to the church itself.

If you need help establishing your own skunkworks, let us know.

Ed Stetzer is one of the experts I follow.  He writes on behalf of LifeWay publishers, and is a Southern Baptist (SBC).  With the annual meeting approaching, he wrote an interesting post as food for thought

It’s easy to look at the declining statistics in our denomination and moan over the opportunities we are missing. It’s also easy to dismiss statistics and the story they tell, choosing to ignore reality. The way forward for Southern Baptists is to reject both approaches. Instead, we ought to take a deep breath, come to grips with what the stats tell us, and then move forward in hope. There are reasons to be concerned with the state of the Convention, but also reasons to celebrate. I’d like to highlight reasons I’m excited about the meeting in New Orleans next week, and encouraged about the future of the SBC.

He also quoted former SBC president Jimmy Draper, who said “Ed, if we don’t find a way to encourage church starts, to reinforce doctrinal principles for discipleship to the Great Commission, to enlist, encourage, and equip younger leaders, and to cooperate with those within [doctrinal] parameters, we are dead in the water.”

You know I support church planting, but we can’t get there from here with new churches alone.  We will have to do better at renewing our faith inside existing congregations.  If we only start one to lose two, we fail.  Better to start two and strengthen three.  Both must teach the Bible faithfully, build young leaders, and be intentional about evangelism and missions


In your efforts to revive a struggling church, the temptation is to lock in on the latest trend or someone else’s success story.  However, each situation is unique, and times are always changing.  There is no single solution that is guaranteed to work.

This is why I was concerned by the recent decision by the United Methodists to endorse ‘blended worship’ as THE solution to end flagging attendance.

The UM Portal itself noted on June 10 that some congregations were vibrant and growing by using hymns and choirs (in robes!).

I was recently in a growing Baptist congregation in upstate New York that uses hymns (piano accompaniment) – I was there for the 30-minute Wednesday night sermon.  We sang 4 or 5 hymns and an invitational.

It’s not the style of music but that the congregation participates.  In our Massachusetts church, after a couple of whole-church learning sessions, we decided on a blended service that started with choruses but also included hymns; that church now uses an active blend, but it is the music the congregation can sing.

Consider the Taize movement.  The songs are almost chants, and there is no real leader in the service, except that there is a suggested program for what comes next.  There are times of public and private scripture reading, times of silence and times of singing – the accompanist decides when is the appropriate time to start & stop singing.  Taize works because those who come participate.

The worst choice is one that the congregation doesn’t participate in.  They probably won’t join in to Gregorian chants, but neither will they join a too-loud concert of unfamiliar Contemporary Christian music.