One of your most important jobs as a church leader isn't casting vision—it’s creating clarity.
People (even good people) naturally drift away from what’s most important and to whatever feels urgent. That’s why your job as a leader is to constantly bring people back to the main thing.
You can’t accomplish this with sermons, chitchats in passing, or random updates alone.
Great leadership takes consistent conversations.
Let me clarify what I mean.
When I say “conversations,” I’m not only referring to …
What I’m arguing for are actual, face-to-face conversations. The type of talks you have with your staff and volunteer leaders to get everyone on the same page, help your team improve, and broaden own perspective by getting feedback.
Having these types of conversations with your team is critical. But I understand the thought about having them can make you feel uncomfortable or unprepared.
In this post, I want to help you to prepare to have seven critical conversations with your team.
I’m going to cover:
How to prepare for important conversations
7 types of critical conversations
Let’s get started!
How to prepare for important conversations
There’s more to having critical conversations with your team than just sitting down for a fireside chat.
Yourchurch culturewill influence how these conversations are handled and received. For example, if your church culture possesses a negative, accusatory, or performance-oriented vibe, when you have a critical conversation—even if your goal is positive—then the way it’s received by your staff member or volunteermaybe negative.
Think about it.
When your church culture is tumultuous like a stormy sea, then you’re already swimming in choppy waters. Practically speaking, if your church has an unhealthy culture, then you’ll have to remove the toxins in order to optimize the important conversations you need to have.
This doesn’t mean you can’t have critical conversations. It can take weeks, months, or years to restore or build a healthy church culture, and a part of moving in a new direction is preparing to have these conversations well.
Let’s take a look at how you can prepare for critical conversations in your church.
#1 – Clarify your goal
Below we’re going to walk through seven types of important conversations you must have.
The first step you need to take is to clarify your goals.
Do you need to have a conversation about a staff member’s performance?
Are you seeking to develop a team member’s skills?
Do you need to clarify your vision or expectations?
Are you interested in getting feedback on a new initiative?
Regardless of the type of conversation you need to have; you need to clarify what you want to accomplish. Now, for some of these conversations, such as addressing a staff member’s poor performance, what you want to achieve will take more than one meeting and can be a long-term process (e.g., 1–3 months).
To clarify your goals, you’ll need to ask three questions:
Does anything (i.e., roles, responsibilities, expectations) need clarification?
What are the next steps?
When will you meet again?
Does anything need clarification?
Before ending any important conversation, you need to make sure you and whomever you’re meeting with is on the same page. In the end, make sure everything is clarified by asking:
Do they understand your concerns?
Do they have any questions?
Do they have any additional feedback?
This isn’t necessary foreveryconversation you have. So don’t worry about forcing goals or next steps after every meeting if you don’t need to.
What are the next steps?
At the end of your critical conversation, you’ll need to determine the next steps.
After you’ve identified a problem or clarified a goal your staff member needs to accomplish, it’s essential to provide the next steps, which will include specific tasks that are measurable and actionable.
Providing a clear plan will help you and your team know what’s expected.
When will you meet again?
Finally, the next step you’ll need to take before concluding a meeting is to provide a timeline.
When does the work need to be accomplished? When will you meet again?
Go ahead and schedule your next meeting, put it on the calendar, and also plan on following up in the meantime.
#2 – Get your mind right
What comes to mind when you think about having an important conversation?
What about the times you could have challenged someone to accomplish a big goal?
Do you feel stressed? Remorse? Anxiety?
If you’ve avoided or haven’t planned on having critical conversations, you’ll need to figure out why this is the case. Said another way:What has kept you from having important conversations?
To have important conversations, you need to be prepared to handle thememotionallywell. If you know these types of conversations cause you an emotional burden or inhibit you from keeping control, acknowledge this ahead of time, and figure out how you can best prepare yourself emotionally.
Don’t be scared to seek out help during these times. Seek out the advice from a mentor, friend, or Christian counselor to help you work through challenges.
On a different note, there’s a good chance you’ve probably never thought about having one of these conversations, and that’s okay. Everyone—including every church leader—is a work in progress, and there’s always more to learn.
But have you chosen to avoid important conversations?
If so, why?
Answer this question and identify a solution to whatever is stopping you from having important conversations with key members of your team—both among staff and volunteers.
After working with many church leaders, we often find the reason why they haven’t had these conversations is because of concerns about the conversations themselves. Leaders may worry about what someone will think about them personally or may never make a move because they don’t have the right words to say or the timing feels bad; but generally their concern revolves around themselves and what they think.
If this is you, here’s what you need to do:
Focus on the goal of your conversation, don’t worry about what you’ll say, and be prepared to listen, which leads us to the next point.
#3 – Use both ears to listen
In every conversation, you need to be able to talk and listen.
When it comes to important conversations, your ability to listen is even more critical than your normal, everyday chitchats. Think about it.
Are you challenging certain staff members to accomplish a goal or learn a new skill? During your conversation, do they express a willingness to embrace your vision? Do they give you the impression that they’re willing to grow or is this something that’s your idea?
Do you need to talk with a poor performing staff member? After you bring up your concerns, be prepared to allow them to share feedback. Listen to what they have to say. Reflect upon their point of view.
Focusing on listening will accomplish two big goals. First, it’ll help you to take the pressure off of yourself by focusing less on what you say, and more on how the person you’re talking to responds. Second, it allows whomever you’re talking to to express his or her thoughts in a meaningful way.
Is there a project behind schedule?
Let them know you’re aware, ask them what challenges they’re facing, and sit back and listen to what they have to say. Let them know you’re there to remove roadblocks—not create hindrances or unnecessary anxiety.
Can the quality of their work improve?
Ask them if they would like to improve their skills. See how they respond, and let them know you want to empower them to do the work they’ve been called by God to do at your church.
Remember, God gave you one mouth and two ears, so plan on spending twice as much time listening than talking during an important conversation.
#4 – Act now
Benjamin Franklin was full of practical advice, including this gem:
“Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today.”
Dr. Franklin may not have been talking about critical conversations. But his advice is spot on.
Many church leaders dread having important conversations or they’re too busy to think about putting them on their schedule. In either case, if you’re reading this post, then hear me loud and clear:
Today, schedule the most pressing, important conversation that comes to mind.
Don’t think long and hard about this.
If something comes to mind, great. Take a moment—right now—to schedule this conversation for this week or next. You can work out the details later.
Nothing or no one comes to mind?
That’s okay too.
Just move on.
7 types of critical conversations
What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think about having an important conversation?
Confronting a staff member or volunteer?
If so, you’re not alone.
As I shared above, many church leaders avoid potentially challenging conversations for different reasons, so it’s natural if this is the first thought you have.
But here’s the deal:
There are seven important conversations you need to have with your team.
Will you need to confront someone on your team?
Yes, at some point. That’s just to be expected when you add one sinner together with another sinner on the same team and in the same space.
But the important conversations you need to have are so much more than this.
Here they are:
Let’s take a look at these in detail.
#1 – The “evaluation” conversation
Alright, let’s go ahead and get this out of the way:
You need to evaluate your staff members and key volunteers.
Before your mind goes negative, hang tight.
These types of conversations are not meant to be like this: “You’re doing wrong; here’s how to do things right.” The evaluation conversation is a regular check-in with your staff or volunteers to see how they’re doing.
By spending time with your team one-on-one, you’ll be better able to gauge how they’re doing personally, professionally, and spiritually. You’ll also be able to discover concerns, fears, and struggles they’re having with their work.
When you spend one-on-one time with your team and ask purposeful questions, you’ll be able to head off any significant problems or avoid potential landmines.
Here’s the deal.
As a church leader, one of your responsibilities is to shepherd your staff and volunteers. To do this well, you’ll need to plan on spending time with them one-on-one in a weekly or monthly meeting and once every three months for an evaluation.
As for the one-on-one meetings, these provide more than a to-do to mark complete or a meeting to reschedule every week. Spending time one-on-one with your team places you in an ideal position to shepherd them, helping them to reach their potential.
Don’t take these regular check-ups for granted. Make them a priority, and the time you spend in these meetings will save you a tremendous amount of time later if someone chooses to quit or something blows up because you were able to spot it weeks or months ahead of time.
When it comes to your 90-day evaluations, treat these conversations as an opportunity to see how well your individual team members are performing in relation to the church’s mission. Are they progressing? Are they falling behind? What roadblocks are inhibiting their performance?
During these conversations, help your team to identify goals to accomplish during the next quarter (90-days).
#2 – The “personal life” conversation
Being created in the image of God, the people in your church are social beings.
They desire a relationship with God, and to varying degrees, they’re interested in having friendships and encouraging interactions. It’s not like people walk around looking for a beat down.
What’s the point?
If your staff and volunteers have relationships at church, there’s a really good chance they’ll stick around. As for you, this doesn’t mean you can or should be BFF’s with everyone on your team. If you’re in a position of authority (i.e., you have you the power to fire someone), you have to balance things a bit.
However, you want to build trust with your team members, and to do this well, you’ll have to have personal life conversations. Said another way, you’ll need to share some personal things from your life, and ask them about what’s going on in their lives.
I’ll admit this can be challenging for conversations with the opposite sex. But this shouldn’t stop you from developing a trusting relationship with your staff or volunteers.
How you handle meeting with someone of the opposite sex in your church should be discussed with your leadership. If you haven’t already, consider putting in place some boundaries, such as meeting with the door open or in public areas, driving in separate cars, and maintaining openness with your leadership team and significant others.
Not sure how to build a trusting relationship?
Here are some ideas to help you get started:
Have an open-door policy
Offer to help
Ask about his or her life
Talk with him or her about Jesus
It takes time to build a trusting relationship with people. Don’t rush this process. Spend time with your team, ask questions, and listen well. In time, you’ll build a solid relationship of mutual respect with your team.
#3 – The “goals” conversation
As a church leader, you want to set up your team for success.
One step you’ll need to take is to help your staff and volunteers set goals.
Not just any goal.
But goals that will develop them individually and support the mission of your church.
Think about it.
You don’t want every member of your team going in different directions. This causes confusion, leads to poor performance, and will stunt the forward momentum of your church.
Does this mean that no one will ever be able to explore different interests? Not at all. They may just have to moonlight or do work on the side to develop skills that are not related to their work.
How do you help your team to set goals?
There are five things you should focus on:
Connect their goals to the church’s mission
Lead them to set job-related goals
Break down their goals by quarter
Monitor their progress
Reward them when they accomplish their goals
There are many different tactics you can explore. But if you nail down this 5-part strategy, you’ll be well on your way to setting up your team for success.
#4 – The “clarity” conversation
Have you received a clear vision for your church?
Have you shared this vision with your team?
Great, but your work hasn’t stopped after making one announcement—it has just begun.
Here’s what you need to know:
Your staff, volunteers, and the church will naturally drift away from the church’s vision. They don’t do this on purpose or because they’re bad people. Rather, this is simply natural and to be expected.
To keep yourchurch aligned, you’ll have to champion your vision and work with your team one-on-one to fight for clarity.
With your team, there are five things you’ll need to clarify:
As a church leader, you need to plan on listening to your team.
Like everyone in your church, you have blind spots, you don’t have the complete picture, and God gave you your team to fulfill the mission of your church.
In fact,according to research, one of the key skills you need to master as a leader/manager is valuing the opinions of your team. As you lead, you want to maintain a two-way dialogue.
Whether you meet weekly or monthly, or plan on just asking your team questions, strive to learn how your team feels about their work, how things are going, and if they need clarification or support.
This can feel uncomfortable at first, but, in time, you will reap tremendous rewards in building relationships of mutual trust and respect.
#6 – The “team” conversation
Your church is a church.
In other words, your church is a team. It’s not a loose collection of individuals doing their own thing—which is especially true for your staff and volunteers.
For your church to fulfill its mission, you’ll need to lead your team toward a common goal. The idea is to have everyone working together, serving one another, and moving toward fulfilling the same mission—not pulling for their own agenda.
For this critical conversation, you’ll want to have one-on-one chats, but you’ll also need to have team chats where everyone can share from his or her heart.
To help your staff work together as a team, it’s vital that everyone is working from the same playbook (mission and goals), collaborating on projects and tasks, while helping each other to love one another well.
#7 – The “get better” conversation
This is similar to the goals conversation, but with a twist.
Instead of focusing on what your team members can accomplish, the goal of this conversation is to help people develop skills.
For this conversation, there are three big ideas:
Clarify their role
Identify related skills
Keep an eye on the future
The first thing you need to do is to clarify their responsibilities. Do you all have a clear idea of what’s expected of this position? After you nail this down, then you can move on to the next question.
For your staff or volunteers, what skills or strengths can they further develop to perform their work better? There will be a time when you’ll need to train someone to learn something new. But it’s best to focus on improving their skills and strengths that will provide the greatest return on investment for the work they’ve been called to do.
Finally, keep an eye on the future by identifying people on your team you can prepare to serve in a different position or to take on more leadership. In short, identify any gaps they need to fill from who they are now to where God is leading them to be tomorrow.
Over to you
As intimidating as having important conversations is, you know the value of them. That's why Church Fuel has created the 7 Conversations Guide. With this helpful resource, you and your team will be able to have meaningful conversations that are also effective. This free resource is available for download now. Get your hands on it to start bridging those conversation gaps today.
Everything you believe about student ministry isn't true.
This isn’t completely your fault.
It’s easy for myths to work their way into what we believe.
Over the years, a variety of student ministry myths have taken hold.
Here are a few examples of what I’m talking about:
Bigger entertainment leads to better outreach
Killer music is the key to a weekly night of worship
Students crave newer facilities with the latest gadgets
If you believe these myths, hold on for a moment.
These ideas may work for some churches in the short-term. But these ideas tendnot to create lasting results. Besides, it’s nearly impossible for your church to compete with the entertainment industry. No one has enough money for that.
Now that we have that out of the way, it’s natural to think:
What in the world works in reaching students with the gospel today?
Thankfully, what works isn’t earth-shattering, and it won’t cost your church a ton of money.
According to research conducted byThe Barna Group, there are two really simple ideas your church should focus on to reach and retain students:
Practically speaking, there are many different ways your church can implement these two principles in your student ministry. Let’s take a look at five ways you can put these ideas into practice.
#1 – Use a two-pronged approach
Student ministry can play a big role in sharing the gospel with students.
In fact, according to a different study byThe Barna Group, the majority of Christians in the United States commit their life to Jesus before they turn 18. Here’s what they found:
The current Barna study indicates that nearly half of all Americans who accept Jesus Christ as their savior do so before reaching the age of 13 (43%) and that two out of three born-again Christians (64%) made a commitment to Christ before their 18th birthday.
Did you catch that?
The majority of self-identified born-again Christians (64 percent) in the United States placed their faith in Jesus Christ before they turned 18. This means that students between the ages of 13–18 are a prime field to share the gospel.
Before you turn your student ministry into a full-blown evangelistic outreach, hold on.
Unlike yourcollege ministry, your student ministry should possess a two-pronged approach:
In short, don’t eject parents and guardians from your student ministry, and find ways you can include your church-wide family into the lives of students (more on this in a bit).
With that in mind, as a student leader, you still want to take the gospel to students.
(Keyword is take.)
Many students will be attracted to your student ministry for different reasons, and will attend when a friend invites them or when their family attends your worship services. But at the end of the day, you and your church must also go to students. Let’s dig into what that looks like.
#2 – Serve the schools in your area
The first place to reach students are schools.
This doesn’t mean you can walk into any school willy-nilly and start a Bible study. That won’t work at all.
To be present at schools, you’ll have to build a relationship with teachers and administrative staff. This isn’t a process you can rush, and keep in mind one thing:
Many schools are under-resourced (in terms of staff and money), and they’ll likely be open to practical support from your church.
Think of practical ways you can be an encouragement and provide tangible support for schools. From providing lunches or coffee to offering your facilities for events, identify ways you can show some love and build relationships.
In time, through your presence, through students from your church in the school, and through connections with parents and guardians, you’ll be able to create awareness for your student ministry.
#3 – Get ready for students
You’ve reached new students.
You’ve made a ton of new connections.
And now they’ve attended your weekly gathering or event.
So what’s the next step you want them to take?
If you don’t know the answer to this question, then everything you do to reach students will be a bust because you don’t have a practical way to retain them.
Here’s the deal:
Engaging new students who attend whatever you organized sets the stage for the remainder of their experience. If you make it easy for them to take a meaningful next step with your ministry, you’re in a much better position to share the gospel and get them plugged into your church. Miss following up or providing them with a tangible next step, and you run the risk of losing them.
The next steps you provide can vary. But remember, the two things you need to focus on is building relationships and making disciples.
Next, we’ll look at a few ways churches are finding success in accomplishing these goals.
#4 – Create community while making disciples
At first, there are two next steps you want to encourage students to take:
Does your church currently run a student ministry?
Then there’s a good chance you’re already running a weekly meeting.
Planning on launching a student ministry?
Then consider organizing a weekly meeting for your students.
For your weekly meeting, it’s ideal if it's something Christian and non-Christian students can attend. Depending upon your church, this idea may make some parents or guardians uncomfortable. So be prepared to cast a vision your church members can get behind, and be ready if some families don’t catch the vision.
In reaching students, this is the first step they will take in getting connected with your student ministry. A weekly meeting requires little commitment; it’s a great opportunity to experience your student ministry; and students will have an opportunity to hear the gospel and meet other students and members of your church.
After leading students to attend your weekly meeting, another step churches have found helpful is to provide small groups.
Providing small groups for your students is one way you can lead people from a weekly (larger group) meeting to a small setting where they can meet people one-on-one and study the Bible together.
A student ministry small group does two really big things:
Connects students with other students
Provides adult volunteers with an opportunity to build relationships with students
Both of these ideas are key to building relationships with students and making disciples. Basically, the more people students meet throughout your entire church—the better.
#5 – Make your student ministry sticky
Want to make your student ministry stick?
Get students to stay around by encouraging them to volunteer.
When talking about volunteering, I’m not necessarily talking about leading other students or your children’s ministry, and I’m not talking about cleaning up after your service either. There are many roles students can fill that require more than being a warm body in a pew.
For example, students can volunteer in strategic positions, like:
Tech and sound
In your student ministry, encourage students to get involved in your church. There’s no need for them to sit on their hands when they can use them to serve.
That’s not all.
There’s another way you can encourage students to serve:
Through domestic and international mission trips.
Mission trips—even if they’re domestic—are a great way to give students a taste of serving. A mission trip is a short-term commitment that can be a long-term influence in students’ lives for Christ.
Over to you
I hope this truth brings a breath of fresh air:
Creating an exciting, powerful, and world-changing student ministry doesn’t require a multi-million dollar budget—it primarily requires building relationships and making disciples. In your church, how this looks will be different based upon your location, demographics, budget, and staff or volunteers. When praying through how to reach and retain students, use these principles and ideas I shared above. But be open to doing whatever it takes to build relationships and help students to follow Jesus.
In other words, you need to develop a system your church can use to lead people to volunteer. This way, you won’t always have to scramble to find people to serve.
As a church leader, you need to have one foot in the present and one in the future. When it comes to volunteers in your church, you need to prepare for the future by developing people today.
#3 – Make it easy to volunteer
Serving is a natural outcome as a Christian.
When you place your faith in Christ, you’ll grow a desire to serve God, serve people, and serve your church.
What does this mean for you?
There are more people in your church who desire to serve than the number who are currently serving.
What’s the holdup?
Well, it depends.
From not knowing how to get involved to feeling incompetent, there are a variety of reasons why your church members are not volunteering—especially in your children’s ministry.
One key to encouraging people to sign up is to make volunteering easy like Sunday morning.
Practically speaking, here are three things you must do:
Get a legit curriculum
It’s one thing to need more volunteers. It’s a different ball game actually being organized enough to handle more volunteers. As a church leader, you need to be prepared to handle an influx of people.
The first thing you need to do is clarify expectations.
Here are some things volunteers will likely want or need to know:
What do I need to do?
When do I start?
How long do I need to commit?
Who do I ask for help?
Do I need training?
Who do I report to?
What are the security protocols?
How do we contact parents when a kid is sick?
How do we handle discipline?
Nailing down the answer to these questions will place you well on your way to making it easy to serve in your children’s ministry.Finally, you need to invest in a legit children’s curriculum. Make sure your volunteers have everything they need ahead of time. From the lesson they’re going to teach to the craft they need to build, provide your children’s ministry volunteers with everything they need.
The existence (or absence) of a compelling vision will also influence your children’s ministry.
As a leader, help your church members to see what can be possible.
Show them how your children’s ministry connects with God’s plan.
Help them to see how their work supports the mission of your church.
Paint a compelling picture of sharing the gospel and supporting parents and guardians in making disciples of their children.
Don’t be apologetic.
Don’t rely on shame or guilt.
Share a vision for your children’s ministry that people can see and feel.
#5 – Just ask people
Life in your children’s ministry is busy.
When your church members observe what’s going on, they may think everything is running like a well-oiled machine when you know there are a few volunteers ready to retire because they’re burned out.
Don’t assume this is a bad thing.
In sociology, there’s a thing called the “bystander effect” that can potentially explain why people don’t raise their hands to help—it may be because they think someone else is already taking care of the job.
There’s one easy way to counteract this belief:
Ask people one-on-one to volunteer.
Whether you ask someone in person, over the phone, or via email, directly asking them to consider participating in God’s work through your children’s ministry is arguably the best way to encourage people to volunteer.
Don’t be afraid to ask, and again, don’t be apologetic.
Remember, God is at work in your church. He is calling people to serve, and you are simply providing them an opportunity to exercise their calling and gifts.
If so, then high school students can be a great source of children’s ministry volunteers.
When you invite students to volunteer, be sure to connect each one with an adult volunteer who will show them the ropes. What is more, adult volunteers can also serve as amentor and another voice speaking into their lives.
If you go this route, I suggest asking your student ministry leaders who they think will be good volunteers.
#7 – Launch a short-term campaign
Still in a bind for more volunteers?
In the life of your church, there will likely be a time when you’ll need an influx of volunteers.
Instead of just banking on a church announcement to do the trick, put together a short-term campaign to get people excited to join your children’s ministry.
For your campaign, set a goal of how many volunteers you need, and come up with a catchy theme you can use, such as:
Change Someone’s World
For the Future
Seeds of Faith
Jump on Board
Building the Future Together
When running your campaign, don’t forget everything I just shared.
You don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater (principles) to recruit a few more volunteers.
With your campaign, set a start and end date and go for it!
Depending upon your situation, you can also preach a sermon or sermon series on volunteering in general or children’s ministry in particular. This is the same idea we shared whenlaunching a small group event.
Over to you
A good approach to boosting engagement and increasing volunteers in your children’s ministry is to have a long- and short-term approach. As I mentioned above, there will be times when you’ll need to focus on recruiting volunteers now, and that’s okay. Even though this will be the case at times, I encourage you to still work toward creating a long-term plan. You can thank me later.
Your church isn’t growing. You’ve been doing the same thing for months or years. You can’t remember the last time you witnessed someone commit his or her life to Jesus. You’re disappointed. You feel stuck. And you’re not sure if God’s at work in your church.
Here’s the deal: You’re not alone.
According to arecent study by Exponential and LifeWay Research, 6 out of 10 Protestant churches have plateaued or their attendance is declining. What is more, less than half of the churches surveyed saw fewer than 10 people commit their lives to Christ.
Now isn’t the time to give up, throw up your arms, and walk away. If you’ve been planting seeds in the life of people, it’s only a matter of time until God grows them and brings people to faith (1 Cor 3:6).
How can I be so confident? Simple.
God is faithful, and we’ve had the opportunity to help many churches break the 200 attendance barrier. In our work, we like to keep an eye on what churches are doing to attract people to their church with the goal of making disciples.
In this post, I’m going to share seven things your church can do to attract more guests this month.
Let’s get started!
1. Get ready for visitors
The first few minutes of someone visiting your church are crucial. I can’t stress this enough.
Most people decide whether to return to a church within the first 6–10 minutes of entering the campus.
Faith Perceptions has found that friendliness alone won’t make guests return to a church, but an unwelcoming encounter is enough to send them packing.
I know you’re excited to reach new people for Christ.
But before you launch a new outreach campaign or invite new people to your church, your church has to be ready to welcome first-time guests. If you’re not ready, good outreach and marketing efforts will only make your church fail faster.
Think about it like this:
If you were a farmer and you prayed for it to rain, but you didn’t prepare your fields for the harvest, then you lost out. Or let’s say you’re a business owner; you make widgets and you launched a marketing campaign to sell 100 widgets, but you only have 25 on hand or your widgets are terrible. If that’s the case, then your marketing efforts will cause your business to fall flat on its face.
Not convinced this is true? Here’s something else to chew on:
For better or worse, most people will make a decision about your church within the first few minutes of their experience. What is more, if you don’t follow up with your visitors, then you run the risk of not connecting with them again.
Ready to get started?
Here are a few things you’ll need to get ready:
Church connection cards
A welcome plan
A follow-up plan
Let’s take a look at these in turn.
The first impression you make with any potential visitor is online.
Most people who are thinking about visiting a church will search online for somewhere to visit before thinking about stepping foot into your worship space.
To create a good first impression with your online visitors, here’s a list of information you must have on your church’s website:
If you need to, ask someone who’s not familiar with your church (even if it’s a family member or friend) to check out your website to see if they can easily find what they would look or if they were planning on visiting your church.
Alright, so someone has visited your website, and now they’re ready to visit your church. The next place you need to prepare is your parking lot.
To get your parking lot ready for visitors, here are 3 things you need to consider:
Marking visitor parking
Providing clear signs
Placing parking lot attendants
These three tactics alone should place your church well on it’s way to preparing for visitors.
After people exit their cars, the next thing you need to think about is providing clear signs. Not only signs in your parking lot(s) pointing people in the right direction, but signs in your foyer and lobby letting visitors know where to go to get information or where your sanctuary is located.
Remember, visitors will be feeling nervous.
Make it easy for them to get around your facilities.
Now, there’s a good chance you have no information on your guests. To make sure you don’t lose touch with them after their first visit, be sure to provide church connection cards to capture their contact information.
Having a hard time getting people to share their info?
A lot of what I’ve been talking about deals with “marketing assets.” But even if you create eye-catching material, it cannot replace the importance of creating a welcoming environment for people.
From placing greeters and ushers at key locations to building a welcoming church culture, you want to prepare your church members to identify, welcome, and make visitors comfortable at your worship service.
The last piece you need to prepare is your follow up.
Alright, your church is ready to welcome visitors.
Now it’s time to talk about attracting guests to your church.
2. Identify specific needs in your community
Think about the felt needs of your community.
Do you really know the needs of individuals or families?
Do you understand their common objections to Jesus?
Are you aware of what may compel them to visit your church?
Immersing yourself in your community is vital to reaching your community for Christ. As a church leader, you have to get to know the community you serve. If you’ve lived in the area for any length of time, you probably have a pretty good idea about some basic information, such as the schools, demographics, average income, family dynamics, and employers.
As you get to know your community, you want to build relationships and answer this question:
Why would someone want to visit a church—especially your church?
Apart from asking someone this question, a survey by Pew Research unearthed the top reasons why someone may visit a Protestant church in the United States:
To become closer to God
So their children will have a moral foundation
To make themselves a better person
For comfort in times of trouble
Based on this survey, there are really practical things your church can leverage to attract guests to your church. Here are just a few things that come to mind:
Preach a sermon series on drawing closer to God or parenting
Provide Bible studies or resources on living a “better” life
Offer counseling services or partner with a counselor
After spending time with people in your community, you may unearth different needs or angles you can take to answer questions and provide guidance for people to learn to live and love like Jesus.
Don’t be put off by the idea of meeting the spiritual and physical needs of your community. Jesus himself met the spiritual and physical needs of people, and he calls us to do the same today.
Share the gospel.
Find out the spiritual questions and struggles in your community.
Meet the physical needs of people.
3. Make it easy for people to plan their visit
As I mentioned above, people in your community are searching for a church online. Not only is it a good idea to provide basic information on your website, but many churches today have found success in promoting a “Plan Your Visit” option online for visitors.
Here’s how it works:
Make it easy for your website visitors to then physically visit your church by providing a simple, clear process.
Before getting into the details, here are a few examples of what I’m talking about:
To pull this off, you canadd an app or have your developer build a dedicated page or pop-up.
Remember, many people who visit your church’s site are looking for a church. By adding a “Plan Your Visit” section on your site, you are letting them know you’re interested in having them visit your church, and that you want to make it as easy as possible.
The info you add in this section will be similar to what I suggested above (e.g., what time does your service start, what’s your address, what can I expect, and what should I do with my kids). But there’s one thing you should be sure to include: An automatic reminder.
When someone shares with you their email address, you can send them an automated message (email) reminding them what time your service starts and other details. This little feature will encourage people to follow through and not get cold feet.
4. Ask people to visit
If there’s just one thing you take away from this post, let it be this point:
Most people will attend your worship service if they’re invited by someone.
Based on one survey, 82 percent of unchurched people would consider attending a worship service if a friend, neighbor, or coworker invited them.
This percentage is huge.
There are no other outreach events or tactics you can use that can even come close to matching these results. Don’t believe the hype from other ideas. Asking someone is still the single best thing your church members can do to reach more people.
In the business world, this is known as word-of-mouth marketing, and it’s just as effective. I know technology can make it feel easier to reach more people (like social media advertising), and it’s definitely worth pursuing. But don’t overlook the importance of challenging your church members to invite people.
Practically speaking, as a church leader, here are ways you can equip your church members to invite people:
Provide evangelism training
Offer simple suggestions people can use to ask someone to visit
Use invite cards
Create shareable social media content
Share stories/testimonies during your announcements or sermon
This promise may have worked well in the movie Field of Dreams. But it’s worthless advice for church websites.
Here’s the actual deal:
If you promote your church’s website, people will come.
When it comes to promoting your site, there are different tactics you can use, such as posting about it on social media, including it in your church’s bulletin, or mentioning it in direct mail.
These different tactics are helpful in the short term. But the most effective thing you can do to turn your website into a tool that regularly leads new people to visit your church is to optimize your website for search engines.
This tactic is referred to as search engine optimization (SEO), and for your church, it means optimizing your site to rank for local searches like “church + zip code” or “church nearby.”
Remember, as I pointed out above, most people in your community will check out your website before they visit your worship service. These people will not generally review pages of church options online. They’ll primarily take a look at the churches on the first page of their search results.
What’s the bottom line?
If your church’s site doesn’t rank toward the top of the first page of local search results, then there’s a good chance no one will find your site in search engines.
To optimize your site, there are several things you can do:
Claim your local listings (e.g., Google, Bing)
Claim your church on local directories
Optimize your site for relevant keywords
Include your church’s name, address, and phone number on every page
Use these tips—along with other tactics—to optimize your site for search engines.
6. Run short-term outreach events
During the life of your church, it’s easy to start going with the flow of things.
Every week, your church does the same thing.
From gathering your people together for a worship service, Bible studies, or mid-week services, there’s a rhythm to the life of your church.
This isn’t a bad thing at all. But if you’re not careful, the rhythm of your church can be like sitting in a rocking chair that lulls you to sleep.
Thankfully, you don’t have to change your weekly rhythm to fight this morass and reach your community. You can arrange short-term outreach events to rally your church around a common cause.
The ideas are endless, so there’s no need to stick to an annual event unless you’re experiencing consistent results. Feel free to mix up what you’re doing to reach different people in your community. For example, if you want to reach families, then you’ll need to organize a family event. However, if you want to reach single adults or couples, then the outreach event you organize will be different based upon attracting that target audience.
Here are two free resources we created to give you some ideas:
There’s one added benefit to short-term campaigns that’s easy to overlook:
This is also a great way to increase your volunteer base and train volunteers.
When putting together your plans, be sure to open up the opportunity to volunteer to your church. You might be surprised who steps up to help out.
7. Advertise on Facebook
Do you know where most people in your community socialize?
If you guessed social media, you’d be correct.
According tothe Pew Research Center, 7 out of 10 adults in your town spend their time on social media—especially Facebook.
Practically speaking, to reach people in your community, your church needs to consider advertising on Facebook, since just having a Facebook Page no longer cuts it.
For starters, advertising on Facebook probably isn’t what you think.
It’s not expensive.
It doesn’t require a ton of technical expertise.
And it’s not like sending a piece of direct mail—it’s hyper-targeted.
When it comes to advertising on Facebook, you can run ads promoting “Plan a Visit” or an outreach event you’re organizing. Or you can promote a piece of content you created—such as a sermon clip, a Bible verse image, or a short video—to be seen by more people.
Not sure if Facebook advertising is a good fit for your church?
You don’t have to sign a contract with Facebook or commit to spending thousands of dollars. You can test a short-term campaign for little money, and see what type of results it generates.
Over to you In attracting people to your church, don’t overlook the actual people in your community. It’s really easy to think of outreach and marketing in general terms. But as you spend time with your neighbors and community leaders, you’ll be able to take these ideas—and others—to form a specific plan to make disciples of people in your community.
Starting a college ministry is arguably the best way to reach people for Christ.
Think about it.
Colleges are one of the remaining institutions in the United States where a large group of people gathers together on a regular basis throughout the year. From classes to clubs to fraternities, college students spend most of their time on or around campus.
Know what else?
Many college students are asking tough questions about faith. They’re being introduced to new ideas, and they want to know what they believe and why they believe it. This is an ideal time to share the gospel and make disciples.
Even though colleges boast a potential huge harvest (Matt 9:35–38), starting a college ministry isn’t easy. It takes faith, prayer, and a whole lot of time.
If you’re not discouraged, hang tight.
In this post, I’m going to share with you 6 steps you can take to launch a college ministry, build relationships with students, and make new disciples.
Let’s dive in!
#1 – Do your research
Starting a college ministry isn’t like starting another ministry in your church.
It’s not a Bible study.
It’s not a small group.
It’s not just another hangout.
Will your college ministry include some of these components?
But that’s missing the point.
Here’s what I want to stress:
A college ministry is primarily an outreach ministry.
Starting a college ministry is not only about creating a program for the college students in your church to join—it’s about launching your church into the life of the college or university in your town.
Possessing a missionary mindset is crucial to whether you can successfully launch a college ministry. Starting a college ministry without a missionary mindset would be like starting a cross-country road trip with a half a tank of gas—you’re not going to make it.
As a missionary to a college or university, there are two main things you need to do:
Know the college
Know the students
Before moving forward, you need to knowwhoyou’re going to reach before you can know what you need to do to reach them. Also, during this process, you’ll be better able to explore your calling to know if God is leading your church to start a college ministry.
The first thing you need to do is to get to know the college or university.
To get to know the college you want to reach, you’ll need to gather some basic information.
What is the strength of the school?
What majors are popular?
Does the school draw male and female students?
What nationalities are represented?
Are sports popular? What teams?
Do students live in dorms or off campus?
Are fraternities and sororities present?
What events or student organizations are popular?
Where do students spend their time outside of class?
What Christian organizations or churches are on campus?
A lot of this information you can gather online or by checking out the college on social media.
But you’ll be able to learn so much more when you explore the campus.
Plan on spending time on campus.
Take more than one day to walk around, observe, and ask questions. If possible, connect with professors or staff members of the college or university to get their input.
While you’re getting to know the school, you’ll also want to get to know the students.
Getting to know what types of students attend the college or university in general, as well as meeting students in person will help you to clarify how to best reach them with the gospel.
Here are some questions you can ask:
What is their gender?
How old are they?
Where do they live (e.g., on campus, off campus)?
Do they attend sporting events?
Are they involved in fraternities or sororities?
Do they participate in student groups?
What are their values and beliefs?
What does their day-to-day life look like?
Where do they spend time online?
As with the school, you can get a good idea about most of this information online. But you’ll receive so much more clarity and insight, and get a better feel for the overall vibe of the school and students by being physically present on the campus.
While you’re gathering intel, start to think through what objections to the gospel you’ll encounter or ways you can best connect with students on campus. Keeping a running log of this information will help you create an outreach plan, if you believe the Lord is calling you to start a college ministry.
#2 – Build a team
Like any ministry in your church, college ministry isn’t something you want to do alone.
You must build a leadership team from the beginning.
The team you build should include two key ingredients:
Before exploring these two groups in detail, I encourage you to think through the size of your leadership team. To get started, you don’t need a huge number of people. Gathering 3–5 college students and 3–5 church members should be sufficient to create a solid core team.
Reaching a college without the help ofcollege studentsis really … difficult.
As you prepare to launch a college ministry, I’d strongly advise you to include your church’s college students from the get-go. The college students in your church have relationships with other students, access to the campus and school events, and they will be a tremendous blessing to your ministry.
Do you have a few dozen college students in your church?
Well, I hate to break it to you, but not every one of them can be on your leadership team. That’s way too many cooks in the kitchen.
Before narrowing down who you’d like to invite onto the leadership team of the college ministry, pray and observe who are natural leaders. If college students are already serving in your church, then that’s a good indication they’re open to taking on more responsibility.
Here’s another idea:
Host a night for all of the college students to meet and talk about the college ministry.
Give them an opportunity to dream. Hear their hearts. Listen to the ideas they have to share.
Also, during this evening, see if anyone comes forward as a clear leader of the group. Pay attention to what everyone has to say and see if there are individuals in the group whose peers naturally gravitate toward as a leader.
One last word of advice:
Don’t treat the students on your team like … students. Said another way, don’t give them a voice and then not really count their vote or opinion (you know what I’m talking about). God can work through every single member of your leadership team—including your college students.
The second group of people you want to include on your college ministry leadership team are church members. From this group, be sure to include individual adults and couples.
Your church members can provide support, host students and events, and take part in whatever tactics you put together. Like any other ministry in your church, be sure the church members you invite express an interest and have a calling for this type of ministry.
Recruiting your team
Ready to recruit your leadership team?
There are two things you should do to make it easier:
Set a date
For anyone serving on your leadership team, make sure to clarify their expectations. Let them know what they should focus on. Give them a handful of things they’ll be responsible for.
Letting your volunteer leaders know up-front what’s expected will help them to make better decisions.
What is more, set a date for how long you’d like for them to commit. For example, do you want them to commit for the fall and spring semester, and maybe one event over the summer?
Here’s the deal:
When volunteers know there’s a deadline to their commitment, then they’ll feel so much more comfortable accepting your offer.
Need more help developing your leaders?
Take the time to develop aleadership pipeline in your church.
#3 – Pray, pray, and pray
Prayer is so much more than a rote activity.
Prayer is the engine that runs your church.
As you explore starting a college ministry, first commit to praying.
At first, you don’t have to launch a church-wide prayer campaign. The best thing to do as a church leader is to pray yourself, and then invite your church’s leadership and others who may be interested in starting a college ministry to join you.
After you launch a college ministry, the way you approach prayer will change.
You’ll want to continually pray for the college or university, the students (in general and by name), your leadership team, and for your church.
Here are three ways you can incorporate prayer:
Ask for church-wide prayer
Build a prayer team
Use social media
When encouraging your church to pray, be sure to add your college ministry to whatever prayer lists you currently have available. Also, if your church hostsprayer meetings, add time into your meeting to pray for your college ministry.
Another idea to consider is building a prayer team. When it comes to your college ministry, many people may not be able to physically participate in your work. But they may be able and willing to join you in your spiritual work through prayer. Find someone in your church to lead this prayer team, and provide him or her with updates and prayer requests.
At times on social media, share prayer requests or let your social media followers know how they can join you in prayer. One easy way to do this is when you share updates about your ministry.
#4 – Build relationships
As a missionary to a college campus, God calls you to make disciples.
There are many ways you can connect with new college students and share the gospel.
But there’s one thing you can’t afford to miss:
Before thinking through events, programs, and Bible studies, you and your team will need to clarify how you’ll build relationships with college students.
Here’s the deal:
According to one study and confirmed by many others, most college students (64%) feel lonely. But like the vast majority of people, most of these college students will not be open to hearing what you have to say if they don’t know you.
There’s a time or place for hard-hitting evangelistic tactics. But in general, that’s not going to work on a college campus. To reach college students, you have to get to know college students.
Practically speaking, be slow to share the gospel and be quick to build relationships. It’s okay to take your time with this process. In other words, don’t focus on building a program or hosting a one-time event. Instead, focus on building long-term relationships with students.
To be honest, there’s nothing too fancy about this process. All it requires is to be present and patient.
In your college ministry, there’s a good chance that most of your time will be spent hanging out with students, and that’s okay. This tactic may not be looked upon favorably by people who are not involved in your ministry. But building relationships is vital to the livelihood of your college ministry.
Practically speaking, plan on carving out a significant portion of your schedule to be present on campus. It’s also a good idea to empower your leadership team and others to spend time building relationships too.
Now that we’ve settled this point, let’s turn our attention to reaching and discipling students.
#5 – Reach and disciple students
There’s at least one good thing about starting a college ministry:
You have a ready-made calendar to work with.
When launching your organized events, it’s best to work with the school's calendar. For instance, you don't want to launch a big event during spring break—no one is going to be on campus.
As you think through your plans, work your way into the natural rhythms of the school.
There are two ways you can do this:
During the week, life at the college or university you want to reach has natural ebbs and flows. In other words, it’s best to swim with the tide instead of launching something that goes against the rhythms already in place. As a missionary, your goal is to work yourself into the life of the campus—not against it.
For example, you’ll have to work around class schedules, time students tend to hang out during the day, or sporting events, programs, or clubs taking place during the week. Instead of competing with popular events or scheduling a Bible study during normal class time, find a way to work whatever you do into the life of the school.
Three additional big items you want to be aware of are fall, spring, and summer semesters.
As you think through your plans, be sure not to launch big events during midterms or finals. Instead, think about providing food and drinks for students or a place to refresh themselves during this time.
When it comes to the different semesters, keep in mind that activities on campus ramp up toward the beginning of the semester, but life on campus tends to die down toward the end.
Finally, during the summer semester or break, consider hosting events or mission trips to encourage college students to stay connected or serve others. Organizing short-term trips can be a great way to build community and maintain your momentum going into the next fall semester.
#6 – Evaluate your college ministry
Your college ministry will never “arrive.”
There’s not a destination you’ll reach when you know your work is done.
As you build a team, pray, and reach college students, you can learn a ton along the way and God may lead you to do something you didn’t originally plan on.
After you start your college ministry, plan on gathering your team together to evaluate how things are going after the fall and spring semester. This doesn’t mean you can’t address things in between these times. But it’s best to set a time to evaluate (and celebrate) your work.
Here are some questions you can ask to evaluate your ministry:
How does everyone feel about his or her role on the team?
How many new college students did we meet?
How many students took next steps?
Did we accomplish our goals with the events, Bible study, or weekly gathering?
What can we do differently?
How well did we keep the prayer team informed?
These questions will help you to get started.
To put together a more thorough evaluation, our team created an evaluation tool you can use. It’s a part of theresource library we created at Church Fuel. This form will help you to evaluate every nook and cranny of your college ministry, and it will also provide you with a list of topics for conversations.
During your evaluations, make it a point to celebrate your wins. From meeting new students to starting a small group, provide everyone on your leadership team an opportunity to share one or more recent wins, as well as how he or she is growing from the experience.
Over to you
If you have a college or university in your town, consider starting a college ministry.
If your church isn’t in a great spot to launch a new ministry, consider partnering with another church in your community or an organization that is already active on campus.
There are countless college students who need to hear the gospel. Pray and see if God is calling you to be the one to share the good news.