Ideas for Impact
What kinds of churches can we become?
Most things don't happen overnight.
"Kids" at the Olympics. People amaze the world when they are only 18 or 22 years old. They weren't born with this gift. They trained and trained for countless hours since they were 6 or 8 years old. They were willing to swim hours and hours in a pool. They were disciplined enough to run and run for hours every day in the wind, the heat and the cold.
Successful business people, speakers, writers, actors, singers, and artists usually don't happen overnight. They were willing to get up early and practice hours every day in order to gain excellence.
The "average" American has college debt, credit card debt, and very little savings. Many people approach retirement without the savings they will need to live out their years without a full-time job. If a person isn't average in their finances, it usually means they were willing to make sacrifices and delay gratification for many years.
How do people grow spiritually?
How do churches grow and reach people?
It's because they are willing to do things that others are not willing to do.
Noah was willing to build the ark.
Abraham left his country by faith.
Joseph had integrity.
Moses overcame his fear.
A Christian can choose to do things that aren't easy. They can read the Bible every day. They can forgive and ask for forgiveness. They can pray for their enemies. They can serve others instead of being served.
A church can give their time and talents to build up the next generation. Married people can reach out to college students and single adults. People who are comfortable sitting in their favorite pew can get up and go sit beside a guest. Churches can organize their efforts to serve people who need help. Pastors can train new leaders and let them shine. Retired people can use their free time to volunteer.
What are you willing to do that others are not willing to do?
1. The history of our life is kind of like a bowl of spaghetti noodles. Our life touches many others and many people touch our life. On the battlefield of life, fear is contagious and bravery is contagious.
2. Most of us feel inferior at some point. If I was just taller, or smarter, or richer, or more talented. In I Samuel 16 it says "The Lord looks at the heart."
3. Every person contributes to the flow of history and is important in their own way. People like Washington, Lincoln and Einstein take center stage, but they were raised to adulthood by people who cared for them, fed and clothed them, and taught them.
4. We are loved, chosen and called. I Sam 16:12 "Rise and anoint him."
5. God prepares us. I Sam 16:18 "play the harp ... brave ... warrior ... speaks well ... the Lord is with him." The years he spent being a shepherd to sheep were also preparing him to be a leader of men.
6. God gives us the strength we need. I Sam 16:13 "the Spirit of the Lord came upon David in power"
7. God puts us in the right place at the right time. I Sam 17:23 "Goliath ... stepped out ... and shouted his usual defiance and David heard it." There were three types of soldiers - infantry, cavalry and artillery. Goliath was infantry and David was artillery.
8. God uses our unique strengths and weaknesses. I Sam 17:39 "I cannot go in these (coat of armor) ... with his sling in his hand, approached the Philistine."
9. God gets the glory when we trust Him. I Sam 17:46 "The world will know that there is a God."
Acts 13:36 "David served God's purpose in his own generation."
We are learning some new things about how people learn during this pandemic.
Can school kids learn just as well online as they do in a classroom?
If not, why? If so, why and how?
What about church members?
Our church culture often focuses on members attending church and Sunday School on Sunday morning and hearing the teaching and preaching.
There may not be any way to accurately answer this question - but we wonder how many church members read the Bible during the week, or mainly rely on what they hear on Sunday. Our goal would be to encourage reading the Bible at home as well.
I observed two strategies to increase learning related to preaching.
1. Some pastors email church members during the week and ask them to read the scripture ahead of time before they come or listen online on Sunday. This helps develop a habit of reading at home and stimulates their thinking and questions about the coming sermon on Sunday.
2. At the end of the sermon, some pastors/churches provide several discussion questions for individuals, families and small groups to consider and discuss. The pastor might talk about these discussion questions or post them in the bulletin or online.
I think it would be valuable for many Christians to experience this increased engagement every week.
It is July 2020 and I am looking back from the perspective of 6 months of hindsight.
What have been some of the lessons that churches have been learning the last six months in this context where things are not so bad, then get worse, then get better, then get worse ....?
1. Communicate with clarity.
Whatever you decide to do or not do, let the church and the community know what the plans are - phone, text, email, newsletter, website, Facebook, etc.
2. Figure out what the priorities are for helping people grow in Christ:
3. Figure out the best way to help people give their offerings in person, through the mail or online.
4. Help church members learn how to do meetings and groups online through Facebook, Google, Zoom, FaceTime and other avenues.
5. Increase the communication network of your church so that people are contacted every week - people who are part of a small group and those who aren't.
6. Find ways to increase engagement of the people who watch online using things like discussion questions, homework assignments, links to resources, testimonies, interviews, video clips and family or small group discussions.
7. Learn how to not just make people who attend feel safer, but actually be safer. Doing things like cleaning surfaces, opening doors, provide fresh or filtered air, physical distancing, wearing masks, smaller groups, and so forth.
8. Learn new ways to do group meetings - conferences, camps, VBS, business meetings, Bible studies, staff meetings and leadership training.
9. Look for ways to meet community needs - food, clothes, job search help, tutoring, support groups, counseling, etc.
10. Be flexible and adaptable. Be a learner. Help people cope with change.
11. Be empathetic with people who have a different experience than you do. Some people are young and healthy and not worried, others are at risk. Some lost their jobs and may not get them back, some work at home, and others are on the front line and face incredible stress wondering if they will carry some germs back and infect their whole family. Some are happy to quarantine and relax, while others miss the chance to travel and see children and grandchildren.
12. Be patient. Some problems can't be solved in 3 weeks or 3 months.
13. Practice and get better at online communication - better sound, better lighting, better camera angles, better eye contact, how close to zoom in on the speaker, etc.
14. Posting worship and Bible study videos online can help reach dozens or hundreds of new people but there should also be an effort to followup and engage them so that they learn to enjoy fellowship with the church family in-person as well.
15. Individuals tend to get lost in the scope of the world, countries, cultures and statistics. People talk about the 1918 Flu Pandemic but they don't personally know how individual people and families were affected. Someday, it will be the same for the 2020 pandemic. 100 years from now, people will read about the statistics in a history book. But when you are living in the middle of it as we are now, what matters is the individual. Who are we praying for, who are we serving, who are we sharing our faith with? Jesus said the shepherd left the 99 and went to look for the one sheep that needed help.
I was reading a new book this month that talks about how churches can bring about a major change and how that is a different approach from small incremental changes.
Major changes take a lot of work, a lot of people involved in making decisions, a longer time frame that may take years and sometimes a big financial commitment. Changes like adding new staff, new buildings, additional worship services and new programs are major changes that take skilled leadership.
Incremental changes are often seen as not very important, but I think there are many small changes that ministries can make that will have a huge impact.