7 Summer Outreach Ideas

7 Summer Outreach Ideas

Summer time is my favorite.

And not just because my birthday’s in June.

There’s watermelon, killer BBQ, the warmth of the sun on your skin, and my personal favorite…trips to the beach.

Summer is a time when things aren’t so chaotic and people are a little less tense. They can relax a little.

The squash is out of season and the holiday festivities are out of sight. And it is a GREAT time as a church to make yourself known in your community. We’ve got seven ideas for you to do this this summer.

1. Host a “movie under the stars” night.

According to the American Association of Retired Persons, the third most popular summer activity is watching movies.

Sure, you could pay a whopping $12 to go see the newest Marvel movie.

Or…you could have your church host a movie night for a fraction of the cost (or for free!).

You can use your church’s space, rent out a green area, or another cool space in your town. You can have food trucks, BBQ, or make it a dessert night. The possibilities are up to you.

If Disney does it, it’s gotta be a golden idea, right?

2. Join or host a book club.

Everybody loves a good story.

Summer is the perfect time when school is out, people are going on vacation, and they might have more time to crack open the novel that they’ve been meaning to get to.

While book clubs tend to be more of a female-geared activity, there are certainly men who enjoy participating in a good book club.

Regardless of whether you join or host a book club (for ladies, men, co-ed, or even kids) they are a time to get together, talk about real life issues, and easily open up deeper and more meaningful (even spiritual) conversations.

We highly recommend finding a book club that’s already going on in your city to be a part of.

You can use the “Meetup” app, the local library, or the local bookstore website to see what book clubs are going on in your city.

If there just doesn’t seem to be any going on, then start one in your city so new people who aren’t necessarily from your church can attend.

Or encourage people in your church to start one in their neighborhood!

Do all kinds of different books, not just Christian literature.

Here’s a popular book list for book club books in 2018.

3. Hold a 4th of July concert.

We all know you’re not American if you don’t enjoy good BBQ and fireworks on Independence Day.

It’s the Christmas of the summer.

Or maybe New Years?

Either way—it’s just about the only fun holiday that happens during the summer. And it’s a great opportunity to get together with your city and celebrate.

A great way to do this is to partner with your city to put on a local concert!

You can get local bands to play, have food trucks, offer to make or pay for good barbecue, provide games/entertainment, free refreshments or desserts, and figure out how to put together a firework show!

Families love having a place they can get together to celebrate and spend time together. It would be cool to make something like this happen—even on a smaller level.

4. Challenge your church to host neighborhood game nights.

When most of us think of board games, we think of the classics: Scrabble, Monopoly, and a good game of Clue.

But today it seems like there are as many board games as there are books.

Game nights can be a fun way to get to know your neighbors and friends better, let everyone’s competitive side come out, and share a fun experience together.

And since the summer time means off season for practices, people can bring their kids along as well!

Some of our favorite adult board games are: Speak Out, Ticket to Ride, Catan, and Codenames.

And here’s a list of some kid-friendly board games.

5. Start or join a biking, walking, or runner’s club.

Working out alone is the worst.

It’s true of anything else—doing something alongside another person just makes it better, easier, and more fun.

I am way more likely to actually take a yoga class, run, or go to the gym if I have someone I’m going with. It’s easy to cancel on yourself.

Summer is a great time when people are re-evaluating their New Year’s resolutions and starting to think about their health again.

This can be a great time to find or join some sort of club that meets your level of movement capability and meet other people who have a similar interest as you. You can share why your health is important with each other and hear other people’s life stories. What a great way to get to know your community!

You can use the “Meetup” app for this, look at your city’s website, post notices in your neighborhood, or ask some friends and co-workers if they want to join you on a weekly bike ride, run, walk, or whatever works for you.

6. Offer free car washes or yard care.

You don’t need big events to reach people in your community.

Acts of service are a great way to show people in your community that you care about them and aren’t just out for them to attend your church.

You can set up a car wash in your church’s parking lot and make sure to advertise well in advance. Or, if the space isn’t able to host a car wash, you could offer this in neighboring areas.

Here’s a guide and a list of all of the supplies you may need for this.

Offering to do free yard work will offer a little more flexibility, as you’re going to people’s homes.

For yard work, you’ll just need a good lawn mower and to be ready to pull some weeds!

7. Watch kids on “date nights.”

The off-season of the year is a great time for parents to get some quality time in together.

It makes it tough if parents don’t have money to afford a sitter and don’t know anyone who can watch their kiddos for them.

Have your church host a “date night day care” so parents can go out while you watch the kids. Make it fun, exciting, and a mini camp-like experience so that kids will want to come back.

You can also encourage your church to do this in their own neighborhood.

Let us know which of these you'll try this summer and how it goes.

How to Connect People to Your Church

How to Connect People to Your Church

There are lots of different people who walk through church doors on a Sunday morning.

Someone may walk through your doors that has never heard the gospel before.

Or someone who has always hated and had negative perceptions of the local church.

Then, you also have familiar faces that, almost literally, light up the building when they walk into the room. They’re your rockstar volunteers. They add to the health and growth of your church.

And your regular attenders, who are in all different places in their life and faith.

A disconnected church leads to disconnected people who will eventually fizzle out or become attenders who show up for the important holidays or once a month and aren't seen or heard from again.

But a church with integral members who add to the lifeblood of the church—those connections will produce church growth, health, and help build the Kingdom of God. We all want these thriving people adding to the ministry of our local church.

So, how do you connect such diverse people to your local church?

1. Define what connection is. 

To start, if you want people to get connected to your church, you have to decide what that looks like.

Is it getting people in a small group? Giving? Regular Sunday attendance?

There are endless possibilities and every church might have a different answer. But it's important to figure this out, so you can tangibly measure how many people are connecting to your church.

2. Give the Sunday service your all.

Your high-capacity volunteers may show up to Bible studies, youth, or other church events in the middle of the week, but it is likely that your newer crowd will not.

Take advantage of the fact that the Sunday service experience is a place where most of your church members will be all at one time. Seasoned and new believers alike.

This isn’t the time to give this 50%. When looking at your Sundays, ask yourself:

  • Is this the best our service can be?
  • What can we do to improve our music time? What kind of songs should we play? Are they theologically sound? Do they fit our culture?
  • How do we want to approach announcements? How much time do we allot for that?
  • What should the structure of the hour-long service look like?
  • How will we use media?
  • What system do we have for new guests? And for regular attenders?

If you are a Church Fuel member, we have several evaluation forms with Church Fuel’s resource library if you’re interested in a more detailed evaluation of your Sunday service.

3. Create a clear connection process.

We talked a little bit about what connection means.

It is so much more than having someone commit to regularly attending. That’s just dead weight.

Most of us want people engaging with our churches in some way. This could look like joining a small group, committing to tithe regularly, or serving on a team.

But how do people know where to start?

One of our favorite connection pipelines we’ve seen is City Church in Tallahassee, FL.

There is a clear process in which new members go to a “first look” to meet some of the staff. Then, there’s a more in depth “101” class which presents the mission and vision of City Church. This gives new people, looking to get connected, the opportunity to hear about what groups there are, teams to serve on, and other ministry opportunities there are for them and figure out where their fit is.

And at the following “201” class, they are opted with the option to become a member.

Every church structure does not have to look like this one. It’s just a clear, thought-out system and that makes it 10x easier for new people or people who have been around for a year to finally take the next step and become a part of their local church, rather than just a “consumer.”

4. Put someone in charge.

There is a reason so many churches have pastors that are solely Connections Pastors.

This job is no easy feat. The person has to be personable, good with names, and good with keeping up with people.

But if you want to see growth in your church, you need someone (even if on a volunteer basis) who is overseeing and delegating the systems you have in place for getting people connected to your church.

5. Measure the results. 

At the end of the day, once you've put all the work into establishing what connection looks like and you have a system in place, you'll need to measure it.

This way, you can look over these numbers and re-arrange your systems if need be.

Five Things That Often Lead to Church Growth

Five Things That Often Lead to Church Growth

Is church growth all up to God? Or do we have some part to play? I know these are complicated questions, and perhaps this tension will never be resolved.

We didn’t do a scientific study and this is certainly not a comprehensive list, but after working with more than a thousand churches over the last year, we do have some observations.

#1 – Excellent Church Services

For most churches, the Sunday morning service is the starting point for church engagement.

It’s when people sing songs, hear a sermon, and get to see one another. I’m not saying this is all there is (or that it’s even the most important part), but it is usually the most visible thing a church does and a basic starting point for many people.

Your weekly church service provides your biggest opportunity for church growth.

Your service is like the 4-yard carry on first down, a successful play to a Super-bowl winning team. It may not make Sports Center, but it’s crucial to the team’s goals. As you take a look at your church service, here are three ways to get better.

  • Pray for the service and the opportunity you have to share the gospel and encourage Christians. Prayer is always a good starting point and a worthy activity.
  • It doesn’t cost any money to run through the songs, preach the message in front of a mirror, and let people practice key elements of the service. Do a full run-through and practice transitions.
  • When the service is over, talk about what worked and what didn’t work. Talk through what connected and what missed. Make this normal, but a few times a year, make an evaluation a really big deal.

#2 – A Church That Regularly Invites

The second thing we’ve seen that often leads churches to growth is a culture of inviting. Growing churches have a sense of excitement, where people naturally want to invite their friends, neighbors, and co-workers.

Inviting just happens.

But make no mistake about it. There are things you can do to encourage and facilitate this healthy behavior.

It’s easy to believe that people will just naturally invite their friends if they love your church, but even people who are sold out may still be timid to invite others. You’ve got to teach your church how to invite others and give them simple ways to do it. Asking your people to invite and equipping them are two very different things.

Here are a few ways to do this.

  • Use invite cards.  Print up some small cards (one of my new favorites is favicards.com) promoting a coming series, your kids ministry or the church service in general.
  • Teach people how to use invite cards.  Don’t just make them available…take time in the service or in a sermon to teach people how to use them.
  • Ask people to use social media. During the welcome time in your church, encourage people to take out their phones and share a status update or a tweet.

For more ideas on how to encourage and equip your church to invite, check out this article: 19 Ways to Encourage Your Church to Invite

#3 – Engaged Volunteers

I heard a mega-church pastor recently attribute church growth to the high number of engaged leaders.

“Every church has volunteers,” he said. “What makes us different is we have people that are engaged.”

We’ve seen that as well.

Healthy and growing churches have a higher percentage of volunteers and leaders who thrive in their role. These aren’t people who show up on Sunday morning to do a task or reluctantly meet a need; they are people invested in the ministry outcome.

They don’t think like attenders; they think like staff.

Volunteer and leader engagement is often a leading indicator of growth. It’s on the front end.

You may not be able to get 25 people to show up this Sunday, but you can spend some time this week recruiting or developing one leader. That will have a long-term effect in your church.

When people are serving with an outward focus, growth often comes down the line.

Here are seven ways you can engage your current volunteers.

#4 – Growing Leadership

We work with churches of all shapes and sizes, and by far, the biggest growth barrier they are encountering is leadership. It cuts across every program and ministry and touches every corner of the church. When the leaders get better, the church often grows.

The good news is that you can take responsibility for your own leadership development. You can adopt a growth mindset and create a plan for your own growth.

No one will make you do this and people aren’t going to ask you to make time for it. But it’s one of the biggest opportunities you have to lead your church.

In The War of Art, Stephen Pressfield writes about the difference between a professional and an amateur. He brings up the example of a professional golfer who develops a problem with his swing. He says, “It would never occur to a professional golfer to try and figure it out on his own.”

A professional golfer, clearly at the top of his or her game, knows the value of coaching. Likewise, great leaders invite people to speak into their circumstances, decisions and opportunities.

Great leaders invite people into the development process and model the way for other leaders throughout the church.

#5 – God

There’s a part of church growth that is simply unexplainable. It’s all up to God, but he chooses to use us. A divine partnership.

There are churches with leaders who love Jesus with all their hearts that do all the right things, who don’t experience any kind of visible growth. There’s no button to push guaranteed strategy.

It’s unexplainable.

We are called to be faithful and expected to contribute our best in His strength, and to leave the results to God. There are things we could (and should) do, but no matter what a resource promises, there is no guarantee.

If your church isn’t growing the way you think it should, it’s not necessarily because you’re not leading well. Always consider that, but in the end, put your hope in the Lord, not in any system or strategy.

So What's Next?

Feel like your church should be growing, but it's not?

Ultimately, church growth is up to God. Are we being good stewards of what He's given us? Are we doing everything we can to ensure our church is healthy? How do we overcome the barriers we feel are in front of us?

We know you care deeply about leading a healthy growing church because it means leading more people to Jesus. So we created a free guide to breaking barriers that will bring clarity and help begin to alleviate your frustrations.

Get your FREE copy of the Senior Pastor's Guide to Breaking Barriers today.

Seven Steps to a Successful Church Project

Seven Steps to a Successful Church Project

Every church has them. It doesn’t matter how long your church has been around, how many people attend on an average weekend, or the number of people on full-time staff. You need to have projects to get things done.

Now, you might be thinking “what projects?”

Allow me to explain:

Does your church host any events (marriage retreats, back-to-school outreaches, special Easter activities, etc…)? These would be projects.

Do you use a church management system such as ACS, Fellowship One, Church Community Builder, or others? The process of selecting a system, setting it up, and training people to use it is a project.

Have you provided people with ways to give online? Deciding what online giving tools to use, setting it up, communicating how to use it, and establishing processes to record those transactions is a project.

Do you plan to rollout a new small groups program? Selecting small group leaders, setting up information about the groups on your church website, communicating information about the new groups to your congregation, and much more is all part of that rollout project.

A project is an effort with a definite beginning and end. Setting up new software, planning an event, and the other examples listed above are all efforts that have a specific start and finish date.

What’s unfortunate about these projects is that we don’t always run them as effectively and efficiently as we could.

  • We have too many meetings – most of which don’t result in any decisions made or tasks assigned.
  • There’s no one person responsible for the project, so no one really has a complete understanding of how the project is progressing or if we’re even on-track to meet our deadline.
  • We may end up spending more money than necessary since we don’t have time allocated in a plan to evaluate different vendors to get the best price.

Projects aren’t unique to churches. Companies, government agencies, and non-profit organizations all have projects as well. After managing projects for companies and churches, I’ve identified seven key steps that can make your next project more successful and less stressful.

Step #1: Clarify the Vision

Before you invest time and money into a project, make sure your leadership team agrees on the reason for this particular project. Ask yourself and your team:

  • Why are we hosting this event?
  • Who are we trying to reach with this new ministry program?
  • How does launching small groups support our church’s mission?
  • What will a church management system help us do more effectively?

Also, consider why you need to do this project now. What’s the immediate need or goal that completing this project will fulfill?

A lack of clarity makes it more difficult to get decisions made. You’ll also have team members running in different directions each thinking they’re on the right path.

Clarify the vision, document it, and communicate it with the team.

Once your leadership team agrees on the vision for this project, assign a staff member to be the project manager. This role involves leading the steps below and coordinating the overall effort.

As Ryan Stigile with The Unstuck Group points out, not having someone driving execution is a major contributor to stalled church projects: “I believe that one of the most challenging aspects of ministry is the seven day turnaround. It’s difficult to execute long-term projects when worship services are the ongoing immediate priority. Every project needs someone who can hold people accountable to their action steps. It really helps when this person doesn’t have a large Sunday responsibility.”

Step #2: Develop the Plan

Every project needs a plan. This is simply a really long to-do list with tasks, due dates, dependencies (for example, you can’t setup the new church management software until after you’ve purchased one), and someone assigned to “own” each task.

To develop a plan, the project manager will meet with each staff member (and/or volunteer) who will be involved in this effort to determine what tasks are necessary. Some example questions to consider:

  • What do we need to communicate to the congregation and when?
  • Who will create a new page on the church website to promote small groups?
  • Who will provide the content for that new page?

This is the most tedious step in leading a project because you’ll need to talk with several people and document all the tasks they mention in the plan.

However, this is also an extremely important step in the process. If you don’t take the time to document what tasks are needed and who will handle each, you’ll end up doing that work while you’re trying to complete all those tasks. It’s much easier to do the work on paper (and make adjustments to the plan) before trying to do the work in real life. After all, you wouldn’t want a contractor to start construction on your new house without detailed blue prints. The same concept applies here.

Step #3: Assemble the Team

This is where you hold a kickoff meeting with the project team. Discuss the vision and purpose behind this project so everyone knows why the effort is important. Review each person’s role on the team and go over the plan (at least at a high level).

Step #4: Execute the Plan

Here’s where all the exciting stuff happens as the team starts completing tasks to get to the finish line. If you took plenty of time to develop the plan, this step is much easier and less stressful.

Consider using a tool like Asana, Trello, or Basecamp to coordinate tasks from the plan with your team. Team members can update you on their progress and you can use these systems to remind them of their upcoming tasks.

Step #5: Monitor & Report Progress

You’ll want to receive regular updates from the team regarding their progress. Make sure your project manager creates a weekly project update for you. This should include an executive summary that shows whether the team is on-track or has run into any issues.

Here’s another benefit to having your project manager provide a weekly status report: This adds another element of accountability for the team. As Ron Edmondson states, “It is important, for some people more than others, that you ask questions along the way to make sure progress is being made.”

Step #6: Complete the Project

This is the fun part as you get to see all the planning and hard work bear fruit. This might be the day you launch a new small group program to your church, the rollout of a new church management system, or introducing online giving to the congregation. This day is the result of all the efforts you and your team have put into making this project a success.

Step #7: Lead Post-Project Activities

A project isn’t fully complete until you’ve finished this step. There are a few things you need to do to put a final stamp on any project.

  • Celebrate the win – Bring in bagels and donuts, take the team out to lunch…do something to celebrate as a team! This is a time to share testimonies of lives impacted by the project and to thank the team for coming together to pull this off with excellence.
  • Conduct a lessons learned meeting – Take an hour and ask the team two questions: What went well that we should do in future projects? What didn’t go well that we need to change going forward (and how)?
  • Create a project notebook – Gather key materials from the project and save them in a shared network folder or somewhere you can reference in the future. Include the project plan, any vendor contracts, graphics and other marketing-type materials, etc. These are documents you can use for future projects instead of starting from a blank page every time.

Projects are part of leading and managing a church. When you take the time to clarify the vision, create a detailed plan, and have one person overseeing the effort, you’ll see a better result from each project you undertake.

So What's Next?

Feel like your church should be growing, but it's not?

Ultimately, church growth is up to God. Are we being good stewards of what He's given us? Are we doing everything we can to ensure our church is healthy? How do we overcome the barriers we feel are in front of us?

We know you care deeply about leading a healthy growing church because it means leading more people to Jesus. So we created a free guide to breaking barriers that will bring clarity and help begin to alleviate your frustrations.

Get your FREE copy of the Senior Pastor's Guide to Breaking Barriers today.

Three Non-Capital Campaigns Churches Should Run Every Year

Three Non-Capital Campaigns Churches Should Run Every Year

When you hear the word campaign, you probably think of a capital campaign to raise money for a new building or fund a new project.

Capital Campaigns are a great way to raise a significant amount of resources for a significant opportunity or project.  If you’re in need of one, don’t try to figure it out on your own.  It’s worth 10x the investment to get some proven help.

Capital campaigns work because the entire leadership is involved in planning, the schedule is typically clear and clutter-free, and there an intentional communication plan.

Because the opportunity is great, the leadership team tends to focus on the finances.  The ministries work together.  And there’s a consistent message.

But there are three other campaigns you should run.

They don’t involve money, but they do require intentional planning and communication. And, they can make just as big a difference over the long-term.

1. A Volunteer Campaign

Purpose

Sign up a bunch of new volunteers quickly.  Churches of all shapes and sizes need volunteers.  But instead of recruiting all year long, the whole church, including every ministry and every department, can make it a top priority.

Timing

90 days, including time to plan, a key event and necessary follow up. You could run a volunteer campaign in the fall in order to have new volunteers serving in January.  Or you could run it before the summer months in order to get volunteers in place by a fall kickoff.

Best Practices

To make this work, make sure you incorporate the following elements:

  • Keep the calendar in sync. You can’t run a successful church-wide volunteer campaign if you’re also promoting other things. Every ministry needs to be involved, and every ministry needs to clear communication space.
  • Drip, drop and follow up. Let people know what’s coming. Then spend one or two weeks giving this maximum stage or pulpit time. And follow up with an intentional strategy to provide next steps to those that engage and first steps to those that don’t.
  • Talk about the benefits of serving, not just the needs. Most people in the church know the nursery has volunteer needs.  But step inside the mind of a busy person. Why should they serve? What’s in it for them. At first, it seems like a superficial exercise, but the more you can tell stories and communicate benefits, the more people will engage.

2. A Small Group Campaign

Purpose

Just like you need volunteers to serve, you probably want to connect people into groups or classes to help them grow in their faith.  No matter your strategy or system, a short-term campaign to kick off a new season or groups can help you connect people quick.

Timing

90 days, including time to recruit leaders, a kickoff event key and all the necessary follow up. January and September are great times to start new groups or classes, as the start of a new year or the beginning of a new school year is a time when people dive back into relationships.

Best Practices

If you want your small group sign-up campaign to work well, make sure you do these things:

  • Keep the calendar in sync. You can’t run a successful church-wide small group campaign if you’re trying to raise money, fill the food pantry, and recruit volunteers.  If you want people in groups, make it a sole, church-wide focus for a set period of time.
  • Use a kickoff event.  Some pastors preach a sermon or two on Biblical community and ask people to sign up on the spot.  Others organize an event like GroupLink, which is sort of like speed-dating for groups.  The key is to prime the pump but then go big.
  • Provide one simple next step.  Try a “starter group” or find a way to ease people into a new group.  Make sure your on-ramp is appropriate for new people and introverts.
  • Talk about the benefits of getting in a group.  Sure, it’s a great place to study the Bible and grow in your faith.  And yes, many people desire that.  But don’t forget the seemingly superficial reasons someone should join a group, despite being busy: friendships.  What other short-term and long-term benefits will people experience when they join a group.

Resource: How NorthPoint Gets So Many Adults in Small Groups. This case study is a part of the Church Fuel Resource Library. We went behind the scenes of the process North Point uses every year to connect adults into small groups.

3. A Series Outreach Campaign

Purpose

Hopefully, it’s always appropriate for people to invite their friends to church. But once a year, make it super easy by providing extra tools and planning a series of Sundays laser-focused on reaching new people.

Timing

90 days, including preparing your congregation to invite, plus a focused time of outreach, advertising and inviting.  The weeks surrounding Easter, as well as a month in the fall is a great time for a campaign like this.

Best Practices

To make this work, make sure you incorporate the following elements:

  • Think about the series before the series. Prepare your church for what’s coming by talking about mission, vision, evangelism or purpose. Lead your church to prayer for the community and spiritual preparation for what’s to come.  During this time, lead them to identify people they want to invite and get ready to equip them with tools.
  • Get everyone involved.  Just like the other campaigns, you’ll want to get all ministries and departments involved and have a single focus.  It’s counter productive to lead the church on an outreach campaign if the children’s ministry is focusing on world missions and the women’s ministry is planning their discipleship groups.
  • Advertise and reach out.  Advertising can be spiritual if done for an eternal purpose, so as you transition from preparing the church to invite to actually inviting the community, try some new advertising methods.  Use email, direct mail, door-hangers, social media, press releases, content marketing, banners, and anything else you can think of to invite your community to church.
  • Plan a series of messages for the community, not just the church.  Your preparation should lead to a series of messages (it could also be one big day or one big event) planned with the public in mind.  Choose your topic wisely and work hard to engage those who don’t normally attend your church.

Resource: The Series Arch. This resource combines coaching and resources to help you plan and pull off a campaign like this. You can watch the coaching with your team, but you’ll also find message notes, graphics and advertising assets to help you execute your plan. This resource is included in the Church Fuel membership program.

So What's Next?

Feel like your church should be growing, but it's not?

Ultimately, church growth is up to God. Are we being good stewards of what He's given us? Are we doing everything we can to ensure our church is healthy? How do we overcome the barriers we feel are in front of us?

We know you care deeply about leading a healthy growing church because it means leading more people to Jesus. So we created a free guide to breaking barriers that will bring clarity and help begin to alleviate your frustrations.

Get your FREE copy of the Senior Pastor's Guide to Breaking Barriers today.


Closing the Back Door of Your Church

Closing the Back Door of Your Church

Not everyone who visits a church stays at the church. And not everyone who initially connects stays involved over the next few years.

I know this isn’t a shocking revelation, but if you’re struggling to connect people, involve people, and close the back door of your church, here are some important steps you can take.

#1 – Know the numbers.

Most pastors didn’t go into ministry so they could look at trends and study spreadsheets. But an understanding of some basic numbers can really help pastors shepherd their churches well.

According to Lifeway Research, only 12% of first-time guests become regular members. If these are the averages, how does your church stack up? The only way to know this is to track the numbers.

If you’re a senior pastor, you need to know the numbers. And if you want to focus on closing the back door, pay special attention to these two.

  • First Time Guests. Closing the back door begins with getting people in the front door. How many brand new people attend your church every weekend? Whether you find out through checking in kids or promoting a communication card in your service, this is a number you need to know.
  • New Members. You should know how many people become members (or small group members, or whatever designation you give to people who you consider fully involved).

#2 – Find out WHY people are leaving your church.

Sometimes people don’t connect with a church for good reasons. Maybe they were visiting from out of town or are already active in another church. But many times, people don’t connect with a church over something you could fix.

You might feel like you’re doing a good job, but do you know the facts? Instead of making decisions based on feeling, why not gather some facts? You can absolutely know why people are leaving your church if you ask them. Here’s how to do this.

Once a month or once a quarter, run a report of people who used to attend but no longer participate in church. Then call a few people and ask them for their feedback. Say something like this…

This is Pastor Chris from City Church. Real quick…I’m not going to ask you to do anything and I’m not even going to ask you to come back to church. But I’m trying to learn and I wonder if I could have about five minutes of your time for some feedback.

When you get people on the phone, ask them why they didn’t connect. Ask them what they didn’t like about the church. Give them permission to be honest, and then listen. You’ll need thick skin to do this, but if you follow through, what you learn will help you like nothing else.

You can send surveys, but actually talking to a few people every quarter will give you much more information. You might even engage the help of a few key staff members or volunteers and go on a learning journey like this twice a year.

Here’s a great article from John Pavlovitz on why people are really leaving you.

#3 – Create a clear guest follow-up process.

In the next 12 months, you are likely going to have first-time guests visit your church. Even if you do nothing to intentionally invite people, someone will be in town visiting family or someone will stumble in the doors accidentally.

What’s amazing about this is you get to design what happens next. You can’t guarantee that first-time guests will become fully involved participants, but you sure can do a lot to set that expectation.

Your first-time guest follow-up process might include:

  • A phone call or a text from someone who could act like a personal concierge
  • A personalized, hand-written note thanking the person for visiting
  • A series of automated, scheduled emails over the next 40 days in order to provide important information and create a connection.

Creating an environment that’s welcoming to guests and then designing a first-time guest follow up process that works is one of the most important things you can do as a church.

#4 – Point people to one clear next step.

Closing the back door of your church is most effective when you have clear steps. And the best clear steps begin with one clear first step.

Instead of offering and promoting ten ways to get connected, work hard to create a first step for everyone. Work hard to make it a quality experience. Work hard to communicate the benefits of participating. And work hard to make it effective. Possible first steps include:

  • 101 Class
  • Small Group Kickoff Night
  • Pastor’s Reception after Church
  • New Members Class
  • Dinner with the Pastor

The important thing is to choose a first step that makes sense for your church and be consistent. The first time you do it, it might not work. But if you’re consistent and you make it a real thing, it will work.

#5 – Provide opportunities for people to connect relationally.

The relationship you should talk the most about in church is a relationship with Jesus. People don’t need more religion – they need Jesus. Our church services should clearly articulate the Gospel and be a picture of what it’s like to truly follow Jesus.

But people also need relationships with other people. The Bible word for this is fellowship. How well does your church do at facilitating relationships?

Maybe you’re great at distributing information. Whether it’s a sermon or a class, information really is important to the Christian faith. But relationships are also a tremendous catalyst for faith and your church should facilitate them

Of course, you can do this through small groups and volunteers teams. But you could also intentionally create a few environments throughout the year that give people an opportunity to hang out and get to know one another. Sharing a meal, hanging out with families at the park, or doing something fun together can go a long way to facilitating relationships.

Organize a church picnic. Throw a party. Create opportunities for conversations to happen. These go a long way toward closing the back door.

#6 – Focus on relationships and responsibilities.

There’s a good chance your church is busy. Maybe even too busy.

But events and programs on their own will not close the back door of your church. In fact, they can be a detriment to closing the back door. If you want people to truly stick in your church, they need one or both of the following: relationships and responsibilities.

  • People stay at a church because of relationships. People don’t connect with a church, they connect with people at a church. If they have friends, they are more likely to stick. If their family is there, they are more likely to stick. If they know a pastor or some of the leaders, they are more likely to stick. Programs and ministries are important in the sense they facilitate relationships.
  • People stay at a church because they have responsibilities. Volunteerism is not a way to get stuff done; it’s a way to encourage people to follow Jesus and build up the body of Christ. If you want people to stick, give them a responsibility (not just tasks). Work hard to communicate the benefits (not just the need) of serving and connect people to volunteer teams.

#7- Connect kids and students.

One of the best ways to close the back door in your church is to focus on creating a thriving, growing and healthy family ministry. If you’re a parent, you’ll be far more likely to commit to any organization that serves your kids well.

Children’s Ministry, Student Ministry, and Family Ministry give you a great opportunity to connect with people desperately in need of relationships. For many churches, this is a tremendous growth opportunity. And if you’re looking to close the back door in your church, there’s no better place to start.