This is a follow up post to the last blog I wrote about making how churches and change. I wrote about how churches need to be constantly looking for areas to grow and sometimes it requires stoping things you’ve been doing for years, and trying new things. You can find that post here … “The 8 Last Words of a Dying Church”
I would like to start by saying that the church where I minister is not a perfect church. We don’t claim to be perfect, nor do we claim to have all the answers. We’re simply trying to do the best we can for a church in a small rural community. Our leadership is imperfect. We have and we will continue to make mistakes.
With that being said, I would like to share with you today a few things that we have had success with when it comes to changes we have made as a church. As I have learned, the word “change” and the word “church” used together in the same blog post will automatically draw a lot of interest both good and bad. Remember don’t read into this more than it is.
The changes that I am going to mention are changes in our methods, not changes in our theology or doctrine (1 Corinthians 9:19-23). None of them were HUGE major changes, but all were a bit uncomfortable to people who aren’t big on change. As you might expect, being a rural congregation, we are still a very traditional church, but we have been willing to make healthy changes that have been both difficult but also necessary. We have been successful with many changes, and have failed at others. Thankfully we have leaders that would rather try and fail, than to never have tried at all. I applaud elders and a leadership that is willing to make changes in order to better meet the needs of their church family, their community, and outreach to the lost around them.
The church in Childress has an average attendance in worship of a little less than 400 on Sunday mornings. In the past 10 years, we have come close to doubling in size, despite the fact that we live in a community of only about 6000 people.
Again, we have done plenty of things wrong, but here are a few things that we have done correctly to this point…
1) We have done away with the old fashion Gospel Meetings and replaced them with Friend’s Day. Gospel Meetings (or Revivals) at one time were a great tool for bringing the lost and “unchurched” into our building. We realized after several tries that not only were community people not coming to our Gospel Meetings, but our own members weren’t showing up either. They were no longer serving the purpose that they used to. We soon began to replace them with Friend’s Day instead. With our Friend’s Day, we have been able to fill our building up every year with people who do not go to church with us. These have directly led to conversions and new relationships. This year we had a special emphasis on only inviting “unchurched” people we had relationships with. We were able to completely fill our auditorium on our Friend’s Day Sunday. We have had relationships built and people led to Christ through this. This has been one of the perfect examples of changing our methods in order to reach the lost.
2) We have decided to become actively involved in our community by stepping outside our building and serving those outside our church. We have placed a special emphasis on community service over the past few years. For example …
- We started working with something we call the Augment Project where we take old homes in our community, rebuild them into nice, livable homes … and then for the most part … give them away to the needy in our community. We have currently finished four houses and are about to start working on number five and six. There are a lot of details that I am leaving out about how the Augment Project works (such as cost, financing, etc). If you would like to know more, don’t hesitate to email me.
- We regularly do what we call WATS (We Are the Sermon). Instead of having our regular evening service, we go out into the community and “be the sermon” by serving and helping people in our community. Groups of workers from church mow lawns, cut down trees, haul off junk, pick up trash, etc., all for people who are unable to do it themselves.
- We have planted a community garden that we use to help feed those in need in our community. Around Christmas time, we have a grocery giveaway and also a clothing and toy giveaway for those in need.
- All the work and effort we have put into serving our community has been excellent for our reputation in the community. Not too long ago, I had a lady stop me in the grocery store and ask “Hey you attend the Church of Christ, don’t you? Aren’t you the church that… (In my head I was cringing, thinking of every possible negative thing she might be about to say. Instead it went like this…) “Aren’t you the ones that are always doing good things in our community to help people?” I have to admit, I wanted to dance a little jig right there in the supermarket.
“Hey you attend the Church of Christ, don’t you? Aren’t you the church that…
3) We quit just writing checks for missions and started getting actively involved in them. One of the best things that we have done is get involved in taking our own short-term mission trips to the places we support. We have taken nearly 2/3 of our congregation on short-term mission trips to places like Honduras, Mexico, England, and other places we support. We want to feel like we are a part of the work we are doing throughout the world, and that’s more than just writing a check. One of the blessings of short term missions has been that many of those who go, come home wanting to continue to do missions in our own backyard. The Augment Project and community garden are direct results of short-term missions to Honduras.
4) We have put an emphasis on reaching out to our young families in the community. Over the past 10 years, we have become a very young congregation. Not too many years ago, our young adult class met in a small room in the basement that held about 20 to 30 people. Now that class is the biggest class we have on Sundays with over 70 people last week. We’ve put a lot of emphasis on meeting the needs of young families with classes like marriage enrichment and other things that are relevant. We have a large youth group and lots of young children running around everywhere. Our large group of young children can sometimes be disruptive and loud on Sundays during worship, and we consider that music to our ears.
5) We stopped having a traditional Sunday PM service and have changed to an informal Bible study that we call Power Hour. It also includes a bible class for the children we call Power Kids. One of the things we realized was that we would have 370 for Sunday morning worship and only 70 come back for a traditional Sunday evening worship. When we asked our young families why they were struggling to come back, we found out they did not want to wrestle their children again for another hour of what they’d done that morning. So we replaced our traditional Sunday evening service with a bible study for adults and a bible class for kids (Power Hour and Power Kids). Adults now come and have Bible study in the auditorium while the kids have songs and a Bible lesson in the fellowship hall. This allows parents a chance to have a Bible study without having to wrestle their children for another 45 minutes. Our attendance for power hour and power kids easily doubled In comparison to what it was on Sunday evenings. Final results are still out to see how this goes.
There are many other things I could mention, but this post is already long enough. Again, we simply are looking for new ways to do outreach, serve others, and meet the needs of your people. Don’t be afraid of healthy biblical change … and never catch yourself not doing something because “We’ve never done it that way before.”