Growing Churches And Why They Grow

This article is intended for Bible believing Church leadership. As a conservative old school believer I used to say “we don’t need user friendly churches; we need user deadly churches.” (Romans 6: 6 Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. KJV) This is to imply that the church should be so structured to bring about transformation that means proverbial death to the old man and sinful behavior. While this is true one can not abandon wisdom in the name of conservativism, holiness or old time religion. A Church without a life transforming message that challenges the status quo and clarifies right from wrong is nothing more than a hymn singing social club. But that’s another article; in this article I want to explore the wisdom of being a user friendly Church and what that means.

I have been inspired by Paul’s writing to the Colossian Church: Colossians 1: 9 For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; 10 That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work. So what is His will? Clearly it is not His will that any should perish. (Matthew 18:14)

With more than nine years as a full time evangelist I have had the opportunity to worship with some of the most successful Churches and ministries in the country. In recent years I have visited scores of Churches in more than half of the continental US states posing only as a visitor; in all of this I have identified 4 qualities of user friendly churches. I have shared these principles with Churches all over the country in much greater detail than is possible here; it is my hope that you will be inspired by these ideas and further explore the user friendly principles. Before I share them with you I want to define what I mean by “user friendly”. A user friendly church is accessible, comfortable and conducive to visitor participation. Now here are the four qualities.

Visibility

User friendly churches are visible. This does not mean that you have to be in a prime geographic location. What it does mean is that the community needs to know you exist and why it would benefit them to attend.

To create greater visibility let’s start with your immediate community. Obviously your property should have curb appeal. Simply a little manicuring of the lawn, landscape and parking lot will make a huge difference. Your property appearance should scream “we know you’re looking and we welcome you to look closer.” It would be a shame if hundreds or thousands of cars passed by your property every day and only a few noticed your church because it blends in with the surroundings. Of course you will want to check on zoning restrictions that restrict what you can do on your property. If restrictions are tight you can do things like folding signs and removable effects that can be placed at your drive access at the start of the service and removed as service begins walk lightly and you can get away with a lot.

Here is a checklist to get your maintenance staff started:

oClear easy to read signage

oClear easy to recognize lot entrance

oCleanliness

oInviting landscape (don’t hide the building)

oPleasant lighting

oAttention grabbers (banners, flags, special occasion signs, inflatable mascot or seasonal displays)

The second visibility is what I call reference visibility. Reference visibility includes the yellow pages, internet and newspapers as well as a few other options that should be considered. When I arrive in a new city the first thing I do is find the phonebook and check for a UPCI church to attend. Upon surveying a substantial sampling it became obvious that the first place families go to find a new church upon moving is the yellow pages.

Your yellow pages listing should include your church name, defining statement of faith or organizational association, pastor’s name, at least two contact numbers, address, service times, driving directions and web URL address. If you can afford the space you should also include ministries offered, a benefit statement, map and picture of the property and or pastor.

The reference visibility that is second only to your yellow page listing is the internet website. If your church doesn’t have a web presence, make it happen within the next thirty days. Your church website doesn’t have to be fancy or complicated; a free site management service is better than nothing. The following checklist includes the minimum information you should make available on your website:

oChurch name

oStatement of faith

oNames of ministries and ministry directors

oDriving directions and or map

oPhoto of the church

oArticles or audio sermon samples

oEvent calendar

oContact information (consider alternative contacts)

The third reference visibility is newspapers and periodicals. Obviously your church should run ads to announce special events such as revivals, public seminars and public services offered. Consider assigning the title of publicist to someone that will be responsible for running ads and getting free periodical, news and media space. If your church is offering a public service like gifts for the needy at Christmas send press releases to the area media. Announce available ministries, special events, new ministries, building programs etcetera.

Other possibilities that increase visibility might include billboards, highway signs, bumper stickers, T-shirts, radio spots and TV spots. Next I want to leave you with a couple of power tips for creating visibility.

New Residence Welcome Package

You can easily get information about new residents who move into your city or county. If you share your plan with apartment managers they may help you with distribution. Simply put together a welcome package that includes some home warming gift, some coffee and or tea a brochure and handwritten card of invitation from your assembly. (I like the idea of having the card signed by hand by each member. This can be done in advance.)

Hotel Church Directory

Organize and produce a nice looking church directory to be placed in hotel rooms. The cost of the directory can be shared by all of the churches you choose to involve. Most hotel guests that attend services while visiting your city will attend the church of their choice anyway you’re just making your information available through one more media. May also consider an area attractions directory that would include only your church and other businesses; I have seen such directories that list only Christian owned businesses in the area.

Accessibility

Accessibility begins with your marketing pieces (Brochures, yellow page and media ads etc.) you should include clear directions that include popular area landmarks and highways, maps are nice. Once the visitor finds your property it is important that they know how to access your parking lot so have lot entrances clearly marked. The last thing you want is for your visitor feel frustrated or anxious this early in the visit. It is also a good Idea to have visitor parking reserved and marked with signs. Make sure the main entrance is marked clearly so the visitor knows exactly where to go. If you use alternative entrances or walks during bad weather have portable signs to put out to accurately direct the visitor. Greeters should be present to greet the guest; make sure they are trained to inform the guest about where the sanctuary, restrooms, nursery and Sunday school classes are located. A tour should at least be offered; if the tour invitation is turned down hand the guest a diagram of the property that clearly indicates the location of rooms that may be of interest.

Service times should be visible on signs and at all entrances. Greeters should be trained to meet ladies with children and the elderly at the car during adverse weather conditions to assist them into the building. Pathways should be well lit. Restrooms should be clearly marked and if they are hidden down some dark or hidden hallway mark the hallway and light it up. Ushers should ask the guest where they prefer to sit (front or back) and offer to escort them to a seat.

Friendliness

Now this isn’t something you can plan and assign. Congregational friendliness must be learned and it must be sincere. The saints should greet the visitor with a smile and a handshake as well as some non-prying personal questions. These personal questions can help identify common ground to create personal relationships. Youth and children should be taught to get to visitors their own age; they may invite the guest to join them in the Sunday school class. I would like to think that someone in our assembly would extend an invitation to our guest to go out to dinner with them. I try to make this invitation myself when time and opportunity permits. If it makes you more comfortable most won’t accept.

Someone in leadership should approach all visitors to explain how the service will be conducted, when the children will go to their classes and where those classes are. If an entire family visits find out the ages of the children and adults and inform them where they should go for breakout Sunday school classes. Once you know there ages it can be a good idea for either the Sunday school teacher or a representative from the class to personally greet and invite the visitor to join today’s class.

Diversity of Ministry

Truly user friendly churches are aware of unique needs of their community and make an honest effort to meet those needs. If you have a large population of Spanish speaking people, and obvious ministry need is Spanish interpretation or Spanish specific ministry. Other considerations include young married couples, singles, senior citizens, college students, military etcetera.

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