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People Don’t Want to Sit and Listen Anymore: 4 Ways to Connect With a New Generation

Most people who leave the church aren’t leaving God. Many of them are leaving the way we do church to try and find God.

Doing church together is an essential aspect of what it means to be a Christian. But church attendance rates keep dropping in most of the developed world. Why?

I often hear it’s because people aren’t as spiritually minded as they used to be. After all, if it’s not their fault, then some of it might be our fault. And that can’t be.

But the evidence doesn’t support that. In fact, it suggests that people’s spiritual hunger may be growing, not shrinking. Spiritually-themed books, movies, TV shows and blogs are having a major resurgence. Alternative spirituality is booming.

Spiritual hunger isn’t a cultural thing. That God-shaped hole is hard-wired into every one of us.

Church attendance isn’t down because people have stopped caring about spiritual things. It’s because we haven’t done such a great job at showing them how church attendance will help them answer that longing.

As the character, Amy Farrah Fowler, said on The Big Bang Theory, “I don’t object to the concept of a deity, but I am baffled by the notion of one who takes attendance.” No, we don’t take our lead from fictional characters on TV sitcoms. But is the person who wrote that line trying to tell us something?

Disconnect and Distrust

There’s not just a growing disconnect between spiritual hunger and church attendance; there’s a growing distrust in church leaders who pay too much attention to it.

To the average pastor, counting and promoting attendance numbers seems like good stewardship. To the average non-clergy, it feels more like ego. This is especially true among younger people—both Christian and not.

And they’re right.

No one cares about helping us reach our attendance goals. In fact, the more they hear about them, the less they trust that we have their best interests in mind.

As I wrote in The Grasshopper Myth and I tell my congregation regularly, God doesn’t take attendance. What we do after we leave church matters more to God than how we behave when we’re there—or how many people we jammed into the room at one time.

But we’re so ego-driven when it comes to church attendance, it’s become a running gag among ministers about how we count people. Thom Rainer even wrote a recent post about this, entitled “Five Ways to Avoid Lying About Church Attendance.” Yes, we need a list to help us stop doing that.

As Rainer wrote, “Sometimes church leaders lie about the weekly church attendance. Sometimes the lies are the result of an inflated ego where a leader gets his self-worth by leading a bigger church. Sometimes it’s the result of the sin of comparison with other leaders and other churches. Sometimes we rationalize it because our denominations or publications make such a big deal about it. In all cases, it’s wrong. Inflating attendance numbers is committing the sin of lying.”

The Shift

We used to be a society of clubs and groups. Fraternities, sororities, community service clubs, political parties, you name it. We loved meetings and the structure those meetings provided.

Not any more.

A recent article in FaithandLeadership.com titled RIP Average Attendance tells us about this change: “Average worship attendance was once such an important number. … Today that number means much less … The growing lack of dependability on attendance is a sign that the virtuous cycles that have sustained congregations since the end of World War II are collapsing.”

We no longer identify ourselves by clubs, groups or denominations. And we don’t like going to meetings, either.

More and more, people don’t think they count when the crowd is being counted. Every number may be a person, but people don’t want to be numbers. It makes them feel devalued and manipulated. More like a commodity than a person.

Coffee shops and restaurants are going back to calling people by name instead of saying “take a number.” Sure, the Starbucks barista may write your name wrong half the time, but even a wrong name is better than a number.

But the church keeps taking attendance. And telling pastors that increasing the number of those nameless, faceless people is the best proof that we’re doing our job well.

No one else is buying it.

Most people who leave the church aren’t leaving God. Many of them are leaving the way we do church to try and find God.

Doing Matters More Than Attending

So what can we do to inspire people to a greater spiritual commitment? Here are some starter ideas:

1. Give people the chance to make a difference.

If you think people today won’t commit to anything, check out a Breast Cancer Awareness March. The Susan G. Komen Foundation has helped people see a direct link between wearing pink while walking up to 60 miles together and funding breast cancer research. People want to make a difference, and the Komen Foundation has shown them how they can.

The church has a lot to learn from that. We haven’t done a good job at showing attenders why their presence matters. How it fills their spiritual hunger. And how they can leverage their time in church for the blessing and benefit of others.

2. Make the communication two-way as often as possible.

People want to be active participants, not just passive consumers. They want to talk with, not just be talked to. Even if it’s just the chance to tweet about the sermon. They want to know that their voice matters.

3. Tell stories more than statistics.

Let’s change from “we count people because people count” to “we tell stories because people matter.” For more on what that means and how to do it, check out Donald Miller’s blog. No one addresses this issue better than he does.

4. Make the connection for them.

People no longer see the connection between paying for a pastor’s salary or a church mortgage, and how that feeds the hungry or answers their spiritual longing. So we need to make that connection for them. If we can’t, maybe we should stop doing it.

The desire to make the shift from passive consumer to active participant is a good thing. Maybe not for a lot of our church mortgages or retirement plans. But for the church as a whole.

People don’t just want to sit and listen anymore. They want to learn, grow and take part. Let’s help them find what they’re looking for.

SOURCE: SERMON CENTRAL

 
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Publicado por em 06/05/2015 em POIMENIA

 

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Hidden, Dangerous, Contagious: 10 Church Diseases You Should Know

Has your church contracted any of these fatal diseases?

Has your church contracted any of these fatal diseases?

By Chuck Lawless

In the 1990s, Peter Wagner published The Healthy Church, a book describing several diseases that churches sometimes exhibit. Some of his descriptions are quite helpful (e.g., koinonitis = excessive, inward fellowship), and the list itself challenges readers to come up with their own descriptions.

Here are 10 diseases I see as I consult with unhealthy churches around the country:

1. Community Disconnect Disease.

Churches with this disease meet within a given community, but they do not know that community. Often, church members drive to the church building, meet as “church” and then drive home—without ever taking note of a changing community around them.

In fact, I’ve seen church members with this disease lock their doors as they drive through the community where their congregation gathers.

2. Methodological Arthritis.

I give credit to my former student, Kevin Minchey, for naming this condition. The name says it all: This church is stuck in doing things the way they’ve always done them.

Change (that is, movement) is painful, and it’s seemingly easier not to take a step forward. What these churches often don’t recognize is that standing still is also risky.

Eventually, they will not move at all.

3. The “Grass is Greener” Syndrome.

This syndrome is a malady of leaders who are always looking for the next church leadership position. They establish no roots, and their current congregation is only a stepping-stone to the next place. Because they are always looking elsewhere, they miss the present tense blessings of their ministry.

And, though leaders think otherwise, a church often recognizes when its leader has this syndrome.

4. Professional Wrestling Sickness.

I grew up watching professional wrestling (with my Church of God grandma, no less). Professional wrestling is hero versus villain, right versus wrong, good versus evil—but it’s all fake.

The church with PWS talks a good game in standing for righteousness, but hypocrisy is everywhere. And, as in professional wrestling, most spectators watching the show know it’s fake, too.

5. Program Nausea.

Churches with Program Nausea try a program, toss it soon and then quickly try the next one. They never have a settled “organizational stomach” and direction.

Members of this kind of diseased church are so accustomed to change that they seldom invest in any program. Why should they invest in what will soon be spit out, too?

6. Baby Believer Malady.

This congregation is doing evangelism well, but they have no strategy to grow new believers. Their unwritten, and wrong, assumption is, “As long as you show up for our small groups and worship service, you’ll grow.”

This church disciples poorly and often elevates leaders on the basis of attendance rather than spiritual maturity.

7. Theological Self-Deception Ailment.

I am cautious here, lest I leave the impression that theology does not matter. No church with an unbiblical theology can be healthy. TSDA, on the other hand, is characterized by a belief that teaching theology is all that is required to be a healthy church.

Teaching theology is critical, but a theology that does not lead to intentional evangelism, disciplemaking and global missions is not biblical. Indeed, TSDA congregations tend to be classrooms more than New Testament churches.

8. “Unrecoverable Void” Syndrome.  

Church leaders and laypersons alike suffer from this syndrome, characterized by statements like, “This church will close its doors after I’m gone.”

Symptoms include spiritual arrogance and self-righteous anger, though they may also include hyperspiritual speech (“This is God’s church, and we’ll see what He does when I shake the dust off my feet”).

Church members with UVS fail to realize that God’s church will go on without any of us.

9. Talking in Your Sleep Disease.

You may recognize this church. They go through the motions, but the motions lack energy. They meet for worship, yet the singing is lifeless. Even the preaching is lackluster, as if the speaker is monotonously only meeting his obligation.

Here is one way to recognize the church with TIYSD: Many of the attenders really ARE sleeping!

10. Congregational Myopia.

The congregation with this condition is nearsighted, focusing on themselves only. They have no vision for the future, and they fail to see that their current direction will likely lead to further disease and decline.

Ask the leaders what their hope is for the church five years from now, and their description will sound strangely like the church in its current state.

What other diseases come to mind for you?

Chuck Lawless currently serves as Professor of Evangelism and Missions and Dean of Graduate Studies at Southeastern Seminary. You can connect with Dr. Lawless on Twitter @Clawlessjr and on at facebook.com/CLawless.
 
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Publicado por em 01/05/2015 em POIMENIA

 

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What Your Church Website Says About You

Has your church allowed your website to get out of date, and OLD!?  If so, it is probably a symptom of greater problems within your church or organization.

If your website has gotten out of date, old and stale, your church probably:

  • Doesn’t have a full-time or even a part-time person devoted to communications and/or website maintenance.
  • Doesn’t know how valuable it is to keep your website updated, especially when the majority of new visitors check the church’s website before even stepping foot in the door for the first time.
  • Doesn’t realize that if the lead pastor doesn’t value or is ambivalent toward the church’s digital presence, then chances are that most of the staff and church won’t care much either.  The lead pastor must lead in this area!
  • Doesn’t realize that digital communication about your church should really be at the top of everyone’s list, not at the bottom, or perhaps not even on the list.
  • Doesn’t have a church communications director, manager, or even a volunteer to help with the Facebook page and the various communication channels.

(ht: Lauren Hunter)

Source: MINISTRY BEST PRACTICES

 
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Publicado por em 10/06/2012 em POIMENIA

 

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The Church Communication Conundrum

Tiffani Barnes

What’s the best way to stay connected with your congregation? That’s the dilemma of every person in charge of church communications. At our disposal is everything from verbal announcements to Twitter and bulletins to blogs. It’s the difficult task of the communications director to figure out which ways work for the church and which don’t. So how do you decide which tools are right for you and how much is enough? Let’s start with a rundown of the major players in the communication arsenal—conventional and new.

Conventional Tools
The Church Bulletin—This is probably the most prolific form of conveying information to the church. It’s usually a bi- or tri-folded piece of paper featuring upcoming events listed by date with a blurb about the event and who should attend. Generally, it also has the order of service for that day and a place to take down notes about the sermon. Pro: The bulletin is portable, gives the fidgety ones something to do during service, and can be saved and referred to, even stuck on the refrigerator for the whole family to see. Con: Sometimes there’s too much info for the bulletin and sometimes there’s not enough. The size of the page doesn’t change, so the size of the font usually does. Also, the bulletin can’t be updated or corrected without throwing out what’s been printed and starting over. And for the environmentally conscious, the bulletin uses a lot of paper for something most people either leave in the pew or throw away.

Platform Announcements—Before the invention of the church bulletin, there were announcements during church services. Pro: You get everyone’s undivided attention (if, that is, they’re paying attention to what’s going on in the first place). Con: They can kill the momentum of the service; they can make the service run long if the speaker decides to get chatty. And, anyone who misses the service misses the announcements.

Calendar/Newsletter—The church calendar or newsletter covers at least one month at a time. Pro: The calendar/newsletter only has to be done once a month or quarter. Plus, it’s something people can refer back to for the month or quarter. Con: The calendar/newsletter can’t be corrected, and items can’t be added or deleted if plans change. And like the weekly bulletin, calendars and newsletters consume a lot of paper that some will throw away without a glance.

Direct Mailers—Direct mail pieces are usually reserved to herald a special event or upcoming sermon series. Pro: Mailers can go out to everyone in the congregation and can be used to reach people who don’t normally attend your church. Con: Mailers can be seen as unwanted junk mail and get tossed in the trash.

Phone and Texting Trees—Phone and texting trees are a great way to efficiently contact specific groups with information that pertains only to them. Pro: Trees are efficient and programmable to only target specific groups. Con: Phone and texting trees can be seen as an interruption and annoyance, especially for people that fall into more than one group and, as a result, the church constantly calls or texts them.

New Tools
Website—The church website is a must in this day and age. For certain demographics, if you don’t exist on the Web, you don’t exist at all. Pro: Your website can be easily updated as plans and details change, and it can contain more information than a church bulletin without sacrificing readability. Websites can grow or shrink according to how much information you have to communicate. Con: Not everyone has Internet access or the ability to navigate some complex church websites. Also, unless you are publishing an RSS feed it may be difficult for people to know when something on your site has been changed, added, or deleted.

Email—Email has the benefits of a mailer or newsletter without the time delay and the hassle of physical mailing. Pro: Using HTML, you can send an email that is just as well designed as a traditional mailer while simultaneously eliminating printing and postage costs. Con: Many people are bombarded with hundreds of emails a day, so it is easy for the church’s message to be lost in the onslaught or to be filtered into the junk mail folder.

Digital Signage, Slides, and Video Announcements—Digital signage is the newest implementation of this type of visual communication. It has the ability to be programmed to the day and pull live data from outside sources. Video announcements are a great way to draw people’s attention and gives you control over what is said and how long the announcements run. Plus, its gives you the opportunity to do the announcements more creatively than you could live. Slides on a loop allow you to create a look for each announcement and can be more attention-grabbing than print. Pro: On digital signage and slides, changes can be made quickly and easily, and it doesn’t matter if you have two announcements or 20. Con: Digital signage is expensive to implement (though it pays off in the long-run by saving time and reducing printing costs) and video announcements can be time-consuming to produce.

Facebook—Having a Facebook presence for your organization via a page or group is becoming as important as having a website. Pro: Having a Facebook page gives the church a foothold in the increasingly important social networking community. It’s a great way to interact with church members and can be a great way to spread the word about upcoming events. Con: Many church members may not be on Facebook and, unless they are pretty active, messages can be missed or not received in a timely manner.

Twitter—Twitter is the newest kid on the block. Once the domain of the hip/geek segment of the population, Twitter is now going mainstream as everyone from movie stars to soccer moms tweet the day away. Pro: Twitter is great for dispensing concise bits of information to the masses. Con: Your message has to fit 140 characters and Twitter, as a relatively new technology, is still foreign to most people.

So Many, How Do You Choose?
Finding the right combination of communication tools that reach everyone without over communicating to your audience can be difficult and may require some trial and error. Begin by learning how your congregation prefers to be communicated with. This can be accomplished by giving a short survey to your members. Ask how they currently get news and announcements about the church. Next, ask them about how they get news in general. This will help you determine if they are ready for some of the more modern communication tools. For example: how often do they check email and websites? Do they read RSS feeds or the newspaper or both? Find out how many are into social networking. It doesn’t matter how good a new communication tool performs if the people you are trying to reach aren’t using it.

Once you have a handle on how your people communicate, evaluate the tools you are currently using and determine which ones are effective. If you find that you are spending time on something that isn’t effectively reaching your audience then make a plan to phase it out. Remember that you are never going to make everyone happy—there will always be a minority that is still clinging to the communication tool you are phasing out, and they will express their displeasure with the change (trust me). It’s your job as the communications director to move those people into one of the new avenues of communication that will meet their needs.

When we phased out the paper bulletin at my church, there were a vocal few that responded as though the roof had just caved in. So, we did a calendar and a sermon notes sheet that they could pick up in the foyer on their way into the sanctuary. For the calendar, we did two months at a time on one 8-inch x 11-inch sheet of paper. The move saved us on printing costs, and we got back the time we were spending on design and layout each week. This satisfied those who needed something they could hold in their hand while also helping us use less paper and reallocate our time to more important tasks.

Implementing New Tools
This is where the survey of your congregation really pays off. As the saying goes, “When you’re one step ahead, you’re a leader; two steps ahead, you’re a martyr.” Make sure your congregation is ready for a new form of communication such as Facebook or Twitter. Begin by making it ancillary to your other forms of communication, giving people time to get acclimated to the new channel. It may not take off right away, but over time it could become the primary communications medium for a healthy segment of your congregation. Later, conduct the communications survey again and see if habits have changed, and then adjust your communications strategy accordingly.

Don’t Over Communicate
As you make sure you are reaching everyone, don’t repeat yourself so often that people start to tune you out or become annoyed. Mailers, phone trees, email, texting, and Twitter are interruptive forms of communication, so people will get annoyed if those channels are overused. Giving all of your leaders access to your phone tree could easily result in church members being assaulted by multiple phone calls from the church during dinner or family time. That’s not how most want to spend their evenings, and you might have a revolt on your hands before you know it.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to church communication. Your strategy must be tailored to your specific congregation and will require tweaking from time to time. Listen to your people; they will let you know if they are missing the message. Attendance will go down and calls to the church office requesting information will go up; however, if you over-communicate, complaints will pour in. Finding the right mix will take some time and effort, but it will do wonders for the health and activity of your church.


Tiffani lives in Nashville, TN, and travels the country as the Education and Faith Evangelist for iStockphoto.com. She blogs at www.creativefray.com and twitters away as @tiffanibarnes.

Source: COLLIDE

 
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Publicado por em 21/08/2009 em POIMENIA

 

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