OUTREACH & DISCIPLESHIP

BIBLICAL INNOVATION FOR CHURCH PLANTING

Innovation is defined as the introduction of new things or methods. Some call it “cutting edge”, “state of the art”, or “contemporary”.

Regardless of the terminology, innovation is widely embraced across many domains of society. The world of business is full of entrepreneurs looking for the next “big idea”. The medical field is open to many new ideas that advance the cure of deadly diseases or shorten the healing process. We are all familiar with the rapid advancement and innovative ideas that have arrived on our doorstep through technology. Even in sports innovation is seen as a positive thing. But mention the word to a group of independent Baptists, and some will assume that you are a compromiser of the truth.

 
Sadly, there are those who lean so hard away from innovation in church ministry that they become inflexible and unable to change in ways that are biblical, God-honoring, and involve no compromise.
 
For example, if a younger pastor attempts to further the cause of Christ with a community outreach event, such as a neighborhood barbecue hosted by his church, a more seasoned pastor may comment that “we’ve never done it that way before.” Even the subtlest change in the worship service can become a point for criticism by those who are holding the “old line.”
 
When we refuse to allow for innovation we begin to die. We should not be sending the message to the next generation of church planters and pastors who are biblical, faith-filled, thinking men, that we have already done the thinking for them. These young men are the present, the future, and the hope of our movement! Certainly, we must pass along the convictional truths, and biblical foundations that have made our movement strong. But we must not remove from the hands and hearts of the next generation the opportunity to implement God-given vision. That will make our movement weak.
 
Now we need to understand that there are checks and balances. In the remainder of this article you will find a brief, but not exhaustive, summary of ways in which innovation is a blessing in church planting ministry, as well as some of the dangers that are inherent when new methods are employed without biblical parameters.
 
 
I. Innovation is a Blessing to Church Planting Ministry
 

Let’s begin with the blessings. When is innovation a blessing?

 

  1. When it is a means of better facilitating the God-given purposes of the church.

 

Paul expected Timothy to be doctrinally sound, uncompromising in conviction, and godly in character. But he also understood that Timothy would have to be who God made him to be. Therefore, Paul challenged him to “exercise thyself . . . unto godliness” I Tim.4:7; to “Let no man despise thy youth” I Tim. 4:12; and to “stir up the gift of God which is in thee.” II Tim. 1:6

Paul understood that Timothy would be his own man, and he did not steer him away from that individuality. Rather, he encouraged Timothy to focus his unique calling and gifts toward being the best leader he could be. Timothy’s individuality would naturally lead him to some innovation.

The right kind of innovation will always be driven by a desire to facilitate ministry that is more effective, biblical, and empowered by the Holy Spirit. Innovation for innovation sake will never be right, but innovation with God’s purposes in mind will be divinely blessed and used of God.

 

  1. When it revitalizes and refreshes a ministry program that is neglected or dying.

 

Have you ever considered that a particular way of doing ministry is not working in the context of your ministry? Now if you are hitting a home run every time you step up to bat, keep doing it! But that is not reality for most of us.

Over the course of twenty years of pastoral ministry in the greater Toronto area I came to the conclusion several times that the way we were going about ministry was not facilitating the type of growth and involvement among our church family that God desired. So, we needed to ask, “Do we continue with the way things have always been done, or do we make changes?”

In one instance we moved from the standard Saturday morning soulwinning outreach to a program called NETS that would enable us to facilitate every member, anytime evangelism. Instead of Saturday we staged our soulwinning meeting once a month on Sunday evenings, and asked for a minimum monthly commitment in the area of personal evangelism. Instantly, the participation level went from ten to one hundred! Much more was being accomplished in terms of advancing the gospel.

Why do we have trouble admitting that we are failing? Why is it we are too stubborn to change even when there are good biblical ways to do it differently?

The right kind of innovation can breathe life into a ministry that is otherwise on life support.

 

  1. When it helps church members to better understand their responsibility and opportunity for service in the church.

 

Where things do not change, and there is a lack of innovative ministry, over time things become stale. The tendency is for church members to become disinterested and apathetic towards church ministry. They are not being challenged to attempt something greater for the cause of Christ.

A refreshed and innovative approach to the soulwinning, or discipleship programs serves notice that the church cares about the vitality of those ministries. It is like applying a fresh coat of paint to a room. It can bring things back to life, and reenergize God’s people to serve Him!

Before we conclude let’s consider the other side of this coin as we look at the dangers inherent in the wrong kind of innovation.

II. The Dangers of Innovation in Church Planting Ministry We must be intellectually honest and careful to acknowledge there are some dangers that can creep into innovative ministry. I have listed a few that we should carefully contemplate.

  1. The danger of violating Biblical precepts and principles.

 

We should understand this implicitly, but it still needs restating in the most explicit of terms. There is a danger of getting so caught up in new trends and innovation that we overstep the boundaries of what is pure, and modest and appropriate in a biblical sense.

There must be standards for everything from our dress to our music. Those standards are a representation of our biblical convictions. They are a representation of what we believe about God. While there is room for variance on where we draw the line, there can be no variance on the fact that we must draw a line.

Younger men must be careful to listen and glean what they can from seasoned men in the ministry. They should seek to understand why certain positions were held, and stands were taken.

 

It is the wrong sort of innovation that leads us away from Biblical standards of separation.

 

  1. The danger of becoming dependent on innovation more than we are dependent upon God.

 

We can subtly gravitate to the thinking that our success in ministry depends upon our new programs, methods and innovations. And to be perfectly balanced on this issue our success does not depend on the old, so called “tried and true” methods either. God is not in need of our programs old or new to breathe out His power and blessing upon the work.

It is a grave mistake to think that innovation is a replacement for the power of God upon our lives and ministry.

 

  1. The danger of innovating for purely pragmatic reasons.

 

Pragmatism is the idea of implementing something simply because it works, or gets results.

Perhaps there is pressure to keep up with ministry trends, so we mimic the innovations of others. We take note of the outward or statistical success that other ministries enjoy, and wrongly believe if we copy their program we will enjoy similar results.

 

Concluding Thoughts
 

If you were Moses, would you expect Joshua to follow your ministry methods of bringing water from the rock, and fashioning brass serpents? Would you understand that God designed your ministries to be unique?

God called Moses to a ministry of deliverance, but appointed Joshua to a ministry of conquest. Both were godly, faith-filled, spirit-led men. Yet it would have been folly for Joshua to seek to duplicate the methods of Moses, and it would have been unwise for Moses to mandate it.

In similar ways today, God calls men and designs them for unique contexts within His work. He expects us to be biblical men filled with faith and conviction. He desires us to follow Him into an innovative and effective ministry rather than to blindly follow the methods of those who walked before us or mimic the ideas of those who walk beside us.

We should not discount the convictional contribution of the past generation, nor should we dismiss the spirit-filled innovation of the present generation.

We can be conventional without becoming clichéd. We can be contemporary without being compromisers.

 


Read more

FROM FIRST TIME TO SECOND TIME GUESTS – PART 1

It is important that we create positive first impressions.

Matthew 5:16, Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. 

I Peter 2:9, But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.

To “shew forth” is obviously a visible thing and has to do with the impression we leave on others. It is our responsibility to let the world see Christ. Our works ought to lead others to glorify Christ. Our light that we shine forth ought to impress people to have a heart to glorify God.

We must understand that many of the first-time guests we receive are lost, and how we treat them could make a difference in whether they ever get saved.

Matthew 10:16, Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves

We need God’s wisdom as we try to reach a lost world for Christ. 

 

Pre-Service Responsibilities

The second a person pulls onto our church property this process begins. What they see, what they experience starts to impress upon them. Is it easy to pull in? What do things look like? How are they treated?

As we all know, it is hard to shake the first impression. That is why it is essential to maintain things like the lawn, flowers beds, church sign and exterior of your building.

Do you allow a bad spirit, lack of planning to hinder your potential for church growth?

Absolutely everything speaks to a first-time guest.

Most people decide to either come back or not within the first ten minutes of their visit. Even before your first hymn or the beginning of your message.

First impressions take place in four areas.

1.   Do people feel welcomed?

 

Great people with a “Glad you are here.” People enjoy feeling welcome when they arrive.

Greeting involves such ministries as Parking Lot Greeters, Door Greeters, and Ushers.

Use of signs and banners can be used to help people feel received.

Sunday School teachers and nursery workers being on time and in place when your guests arrive.

 
2.   Do people know where they are going?

 

When someone pulls onto your property, is it clear where they are to go? If you are unable to have Parking Lot Greeters, then proper signage will work.

When they come inside, do you have people in place to show people to where they need to go? Again, wall signs are excellent. Many times people don’t want to ask a stranger where something is especially the ladies room.

Restrooms and children’s ministry areas need to be clearly marked.

 

3.   Do people feel you care?

 

Do you look at a guest as a number or a potential giver? Maybe they can start a new ministry?

We need to value them as a soul that will spend somewhere in eternity.

Do any gifts, we give, out demonstrate that we value our guests?

Make sure restrooms, and children’ ministry areas are clean. Be friendly.

 

4.   Do people comfortably find a seat?

 

Guest are not comfortable with asking strangers if they can come into the pew.

This is where it is important to have good ushers. Have your ushers ask members to move to the center.

Make sure you leave good seats for guest, not making them sit in the front.


Read more

FROM FIRST TIME TO SECOND TIME GUESTS – PART 2

Now it is time to prepare for the:

Church Service Times
 
1.   Planning

I understand we need to leave room for the Holy Spirit to move, but planning is crucial.

Come early and make sure heating and air conditioning are working. Check to see if all needed lights are on. All computer and sound equipment is set up. Do not have people setting up mic cords as the service starts.

Do “all things decently and in order”.
 
 
2.   Worship   

True worship takes place in the power of God and His Spirit. Therefore, worship is to be powerful.

Worship requires that we have adequately prayed for the service, that the pastor is walking in the Spirit. Members have prayed and are right with God.

Begin the service expecting God to do great things. 

Come with a spirit to participate. If a guest is seeing you not participating in the service, why should they?

Do we impress our guests that we are entering into the very presence of God?

Hebrews 13:15 – By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name

Colossians 3:16 – Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.

Philippians 2:9-11, Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name:10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; 11 And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father
 
3.   Information Gathering

You will never get everyone to fill out a connection card, but I believe a proper system will help you to maximizes the number who will fill out a guest card.

You can use a generic card that goes into the pew but a custom card each week works best.

Give out the card and a bulletin to EACH person as they enter the service.

Have everyone fill out a card.

During the Guest Welcome.

Guests don’t like to be centered out. Ask during your welcome for everyone to fill out a card.

Guest are more comfortable, filling out the card when they observe everyone doing it.

This will involve teaching your members, in advance, the importance of filling out these cards. Ask members to fill out the name and email and ask guests to fill out whatever they are comfortable doing.

Teach the church family the importance of guests seeing them fill out the connection card. When guests notice the members doing it, it will encourage them to do it also.

During the Preaching

During your preaching or at the conclusion, you can draw people back to the connection card. You can ask them to make a spiritual commitment or ask them to commit to memorizing the scripture verse for the week.

During the Offering

Have everyone place the connection card in the offering.

Give people a reason to use the card. 

Have a place for people to sign up for events. Give them an opportunity to make a spiritual decision for Christ. 


Read more

FROM FIRST TIME TO SECOND TIME GUESTS – PART 3

The last phase to prepare for is the:

Post- Service Responsibilities
 
1.   Gift

 

Offer every guest who puts a communication card to receive a gift available in the lobby.

Have these gifts sitting out for guests to take.

If your people are hovering, it will make them feel uncomfortable.

The pastor may, however, want to walk over and talk to the family as they take their gift.

If husband, wife, and kids take one that’s alright. This is a small investment in the lives of a family.

 

2.   Information

       

At a Guest Table, in the lobby, have Guest information books available along with other resources on baptism, membership, and church beliefs
.

3.   Follow-Up

It is imperative to follow-up on these guests right away.

Email

Today the home is a very private place and people often don’t fill out cards because they don’t want a visitor from the church coming to their door. Also, we live in a tech-savvy world.
 

Send an email within the first 48 hours thanking them for coming and asking them to return.

Personal Card

Within 96 hours send a personal card. Do not send a form letter in a number 10 envelope. These kinds of letters are discarded most of the time.

Use an Announcement size envelope like the ones used for wedding announcements. A Number A2 (4 3/8” X 5 3/4”)

Handwrite the card and envelope. If you have terrible penmanship, have someone fill it out for you and sign your name.

Use a 5.5”X8.5” paper and fold it in half. Again, handwrite the note.

Also, place a small gift in the envelope as a thank you for visiting. Gifts could include a $5.00 coffee gift card. We use this because a husband and wife can get a coffee and a donut for that amount. Again, this is a small but important investment into a new family.

Visit in the home

Pastor’s need to decide how quickly to visit guests in their home based on the culture of the area you serve. In some regions, showing up at someone’s house a few days after coming to church, would cause the guest never to return.

If you get to talk to the guest after the service, try asking them to meet for coffee or invite them to visit you in your office for coffee. You should only do this if you make a connection with the guest while talking to him.

One Month Follow-Up

One month after a guest visits, send them a letter from you again thanking them for coming and letting them know how they can get involved. Upcoming activities, special services, Adult Bible Fellowships geared to their age and fellowships are good ways to get people plugged in.

Data Entry

It is important to have a system in place to track every guest.

When a card is turned in, the information must be recorded for tracking.

If the guest never returns you will have their information to invite them to special services down the road.


Read more

HAVING SECOND TIME GUESTS BECOME REGULAR ATTENDERS

There are two key areas to focus on once a guest returns a second time.

 

1. Church Service Times

Again, it is very important to use your connection cards. First of all, this will tell you who are your returning guests. Also, this gives them an opportunity to get connected into the church.

 

2. Follow-Up

Just as with first time guests, it is essential immediately to follow up with returning guests. Obviously, any opportune time in this process to present the gospel, should be taken.
 
Email

 

Send an email within the first 48 hours thanking them for coming and asking them to come back.

This email should try to get the returning guests involved with the church. Let them know about such things as your Adult Bible Fellowships, Children’s Ministries, upcoming activities, or a new sermon series that is coming up.

 
Gift at The Door

 

By Thursday, guests should receive another personal letter from the church. Another option is to leave a gift at the door in a bag with your church info on it or with a card from the church member delivering it attached.

 

Personal Visit or Meeting

 

A visit by the pastor or leader from an appropriate Adult Bible Fellowship teacher is an excellent way to follow-up on second-time guests. Another option would be to send the ones who first invited the guest, if they are qualified to make such a visit.

The priority of this meeting should be to make sure everyone understands or possibly has the opportunity to put their faith and trust in Christ.

This is an opportunity to enroll them into an Adult Bible Fellowship.

Sometimes it is impossible, or a person does not want an in-home visit. Sometimes the culture of the area will help you with this decision. A visit at a local coffee shop or in the pastor’s office is a good alternative.
 
Getting Them Engaged

 

Obviously, a returning guest is showing a desire to get more involved. They are looking for godly influences and godly relationships.

It is crucial in your follow-up to try your best to engage them in the church by offering opportunities for them.

 

Sunday School, Junior Church, and Adult Bible Fellowships
 

If possible, try to connect the guest with the appropriate aged Adult Class.

Follow your Adult Class Policies for incorporating them into the class.
 
Church Events
 
Family Nights, class activities, banquets…
 
Service Opportunities
 

Find opportunities for them to be able to get involved. An example would be that Bob and Sally invite unsaved friends to their Sunday School Class. The next week they could ask their guests to come early and help them set up the class.

I know this is a difficult area, but we need to think of ways that non-members and possibly non-believers can feel a connection to the church without giving them leadership roles.


Read more

HELPING REGULAR ATTENDERS BECOME MEMBERS

This is the stage where we encourage our regular attenders to “commit”. 

A member is one who accepted Christ as their Saviour, has been baptized and is now growing in grace. They obviously have become part of the church family.

A regular attender, when speaking about the church will say, “This is the church I am going to.” A member will say, “This is my church.”

We must have systems in place to help move people from just regularly attending to becoming members.

 

1. Church Service Times

 

Service Opportunities

 

Again, getting people involved will help them feel connected to the church and also feel like they are part of the church family.

 

Church Teaching

 

In your Adult Bible Fellowships and from the church pulpit make sure you have opportunities to teach on salvation, baptism, and membership.

Teach those that come to your church the blessings of being a part of a spiritual family.

Occasionally have someone share a testimony of their salvation and church membership experience. They can express praise and thanks to God for what He has done in their lives.

 

New Members Classes

 

If you are getting lots of return guests, offer a New Members Class. Many times, this is provided each month and runs for four weeks. Others go 6-8 weeks, and people can jump in anytime they like and go once through the cycle. Others offer the class once per quarter.

The pastor could teach this class during the Adult Bible Fellowship time. He would take select individuals out of their regular classes just for this short period.

 

2. Follow-Up

Email

 

Send an email to let regular attendees know about Adult Bible Fellowships or New Member Classes.

 

Letter

 

A personal letter can be used to inform people of classes that are available.

 

Personal Visit or Meeting

 

A visit by the pastor or leader from an appropriate Adult Bible Fellowship teacher is an excellent way to follow-up on regular attenders. Another option would be to send the ones who first invited the guest if they are qualified to make such a visit.

The priority of this meeting should be to make sure everyone understands or possibly has the opportunity to put their faith and trust in Christ.

This is an opportunity for a face to face time, to explain the Adult Classes, Children’s Ministries or new member classes and of course to present the gospel.

Sometimes it is impossible, or a person does not want an in-home visit. A visit to a local coffee shop or in the pastor’s office is a g

Read more

GREAT OUTREACHES FOR A YOUNG CHURCH

As a young church, the outreach programs and efforts may look quite different than an established church.  To be effective, you, of course, must follow the Lord and bathe everything in prayer.  When planting a church, a pastor and his family are sometimes forced to think outside of the box.  Most of these ideas are not original to us but have been blessed by God to reach people with the Gospel.

 

1. Door to Door Canvassing
  • Start right away. Outreach on a small scale is better than no outreach.  You don’t have to have every “box checked” to reach people with the Gospel.
  • Even if you don’t knock on every door, getting your church folks into the community passing out literature or hanging door hangers is a good place to start.

 

2. Local Town Festivals
  • We have one weekend a year that we set-up a 10’x10’ tent at our local Spring Mountain Festival.  3-4 ladies from our church offer free QUALITY face painting to children 12 and under.  While they are waiting in line, we have church people ready with invitations and gospel literature to hand out to their parents.  The people come to us, and it becomes a great opportunity to meet new people and make many new contacts.

 

3. Tailgate Sunday
  • On the Sunday before football season begins, we invite the local high school football team, coaches, and families to attend our Sunday morning service.  We rent a local art center as a neutral location to host the Sunday service.  After church, we feed all the players and their families.

 

4. Wild Game Dinner
  • Our area has a big outdoor culture.  We host a “Critter Dinner” and give away door prizes.  Between the wild game meal and the prize  drawings, we have a guest speaker preach the gospel.

 

5. Facebook Advertising
  • For just a few dollars a day, you can boost a post on your church Facebook page.  Whether it is a well-designed graphic or a video, this is a very cost-effective way to get your church in front of people where they are already looking.

 

6.Presence at Community Events
  • If your family is new to a community, allowing people to see your whole family at sporting events, community-organized events, etc. will help you relate to others and build credibility.
  • While a church calendar can fill up with inward focused events, which are not all bad, we have noticed that our church family love activities that allow them to serve the community in which we live.

 

7. Context is Key
  • We live in small-town West Virginia.  What works here may not work  in Los Angeles or NYC, and vice versa.  While the message is always the same, find the creative methods that work in your culture and get the Gospel to the people God has called you to.

Read more