The Three Most Important Pieces to the Kids’ Ministry Puzzle

If kids’ ministry is an afterthought at your church, you are never going to grow. It is the single most important ministry of a church right now, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. Parents are no longer dragging their kids to church, but if you have a great kids’ ministry, the kids will start dragging their parents.

Let me say this to all my small town pastors out there who prefer to have kids in the adult service instead of having a kids’ ministry, you are making a huge mistake.

Yes, there may be a small benefit in kids seeing mom and dad worship, but it pales in comparison to having a kids’ ministry that is fun and exciting and teaches kids about Jesus on their level.

If this is you, I would beg you to reconsider. The future of your church depends on it.

For the rest of us, it’s not enough to just have a kids’ ministry. Your kids’ ministry needs to be great.

In order for that to happen, we need to focus on these three pieces of the puzzle.

  1. Volunteers. Don’t make the mistake of putting just anyone into kids’ ministry. I know it can be tempting, but unless they are excited and passionate about working with kids, they can do more harm than good. Kids’ ministry should get your best. Kids also thrive on consistency, so keeping them around the same volunteers is ideal. This means I prefer kids’ ministry volunteers serve at least every other week, if not every week. And it should go without saying by now that every kids’ volunteer should be background checked. We use a company called Clear Investigative Advantage, but there are several out there. Just do your research and make sure they’re legit.
  1. Curriculum. Flannel graphs and coloring pages don’t cut it anymore. We’re not just babysitting kids. We’re pointing them to Jesus. This means we need curriculum that keeps their attention and helps them learn. We use a combination of KidSpring and Elevate Kids. KidSpring is completely free. It uses a combination of videos and live acting. You just need to have volunteers who are willing to act out the scripts. Our kids love the KidSpring series, and we would use them exclusively if we had more actors. Elevate Kids is a video based curriculum that is also very good but can be expensive for smaller churches.
  1. Parents. You better care about what parents think of your kids’ ministry because more than likely it will determine if they ever come back to your church. They want to know their child is safe, so it’s a great idea to have a check-in system that only allows the parent to take them out of the room. It’s also important to have policies regarding allergies, sickness, etc. After the service a parent will likely ask their child these two questions about the experience. Did you have fun? What did you learn? If their child gives positive answers, chances are they’re coming back. If not, you probably won’t see them again.

Subpar or non-existent kids’ ministries are one of the top reasons small town churches don’t grow. You can fix this by making kids’ ministry a top priority.

What does the kids’ ministry look like in your church? Do you think it’s attracting families or pushing them away? I’d love to hear about it, so leave a comment below. While you’re here make sure to subscribe to the blog to get tips on church growth, leadership, and more delivered to your inbox each week.

How to Make the Most of Your Time

Without doing the calculations or using Google, I want you to guess how many minutes make up one week. I’ll give you just a few more moments. Some of you are refusing to answer, and some of you have already looked ahead. Shame on you both.

For those of you who played along, how many of you guessed 10,080 minutes?

That seems like a lot, doesn’t it? So, why is it that we feel so strapped for time?

Why is it our spouse and kids are always saying we don’t spend enough time with them?

Why is it we’re always scrambling on the weekend to get our work done?

Why is it that there always seems to be these elite few that are capable of getting done two to three times as much as the average person?

Because most of us don’t have a time problem, we have a time management problem.

And once we learn how to manage our time, our families will be happier, we’ll feel less stress, and we’ll be more productive.

Here’s how you get started:

  1. Schedule the Important. My pastor always says this, “You can tell what a person values by looking at their calendar and their checkbook.” All of us will say our marriage is one of the most important things in our life, but how often do you and your spouse go on a date? We’ll say we want our kids to love Jesus, but how often do we sit down with them to read the Bible and pray? The disconnect between what we say is important and how we actually live our lives causes the frustration we feel. If it’s important to you, it better be on your schedule.
  2. Learn to Say No. If you’re going to be able to schedule the important, you’re going to have to say no to a lot of other things, which is hard for pastors who are people pleasers. Just keep in mind when you say yes to one thing, you’re saying no to something else. If you’re spending five nights a week at the church, that’s five nights a week you aren’t home with your family. If you have to make every hospital visitation, you’re probably going to end up missing some of your kids’ ball games. Many pastors have lost their families because they said yes to the demands of the church, which in turn meant saying no to their family.
  3. Give Yourself Deadlines. Don’t allow yourself to procrastinate. If the sermon is supposed to be done by Thursday, don’t wait till Thursday to start working on it. “But you don’t understand I keep getting interrupted and things happen,” see number 2 above. If you’re supposed to work till 5pm each day, don’t be getting home at 7pm. Form some deadlines, and stick to them.
  4. Delegate, Delegate, Delegate. The three suggestions above get so much easier if you learn to delegate. Write down the three or four most important things you do, and then delegate the rest. I believe it was John Maxwell who said, “If someone can do it 80% as good as you, let them do it.” If you’re mowing the church lawn, stop it! If you’re doing the church maintenance, stop it! If you’re doing all the visitation, stop it! Delegate those tasks out. Let someone else get the blessing.

I’m convinced that time management is one of the biggest differences between average leaders and great leaders. If you can learn how to do this well, you will see a huge difference in your church, but more importantly in your home.

On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate your time management skills? Have you mastered this skill, or do you find yourself feeling frustrated? Leave a comment and let me know. While you’re here make sure to subscribe to the blog to get tips on church growth, leadership, and more delivered to your inbox each week.

Five Elements of a Great Worship Experience

Experiencing church for the first time as a twenty year old young man was quite the experience. I’ve been a part of brush arbor revivals, where you go out into a field and gather some sticks and build a structure to have a church service in. I’ve been in church services where they couldn’t find anyone to play the piano or sing, so we skipped that part of the service. And I’ve been in services in homes where people got so “filled with the spirit” they started knocking things off walls, which led to a quick exit for me.

All that to say, I’ve been in some pretty bad worship experiences.

Even in the church I currently serve, we haven’t always had a great worship experience.

There were times in the beginning in which we never got started on time, prayer time turned into gossip time, and testimonies turned into the second sermon of the day.

It’s really amazing that our church survived those early days, but the one thing we had working for us was a love for God and a genuine love for others.

Once we combined those two things with a great worship experience, we really started to see our church take off, growing twenty, thirty, and even forty percent some years.

So, what makes up a great worship experience? I believe it should consist of these five elements.

  1. Energy. The same buzz and excitement that Jesus brought to every town He visited, I believe we should try to bring to our worship services. Greet people with hugs and high-fives. Provide coffee so people aren’t falling asleep. Create a kids’ ministry that parents have to drag their kids away from. Use high-energy music to set the mood for the day. The world has a way of beating people down throughout the week. Make sure your service lifts them up.
  2. Flow. Nothing–and I mean nothing–will kill energy faster than a bad flow. Not getting started on time, fumbling transitions, dead time between songs, too many announcements, these will all ruin the experience. Most churches should be doing a full rehearsal of the service before the service. I lay out a good format for the worship experience in this post.
  3. Creativity. Creativity builds anticipation, and anticipation creates energy. So, while you should have a consistent flow, you also need to sprinkle in creativity. This could be a video element. It could be a sermon illustration or even a small giveaway that helps them remember the sermon. Each week people should be thinking, I wonder what they’re going to do this week.
  4. Outsider Focused. One of the biggest reasons small churches don’t grow is because they focus too much on those already in the church rather than those outside of it. Andy Stanley wrote a great book on this subject called Deep and Wide. Every church leader should read it. Prepare with the outsider in mind. What do they need to hear? What are the issues they’re facing? Chances are the issues they’re facing are the same as the insiders. The insiders just hide it better.
  5. Intentional Next Steps. If you have the four previous elements mentioned, you’ll have a great opportunity to call people to action. What do you want them to do with the information you just shared with them? If you have a hard time answering that question, chances are your sermon isn’t helping anyone, and you need scrap it and start over. If you teach on money, encourage them to sign up for a budget class. If you teach on the importance of community, encourage them to sign up for a small group. If you teach on grace, encourage them to take Jesus up on his offer to follow Him. Whatever you do, don’t miss your opportunity to help them grow in their faith by putting it into action.

I’d love to hear about your crazy church experiences. Please share them with me in the comments below and let me know if I left anything out. Also, don’t forget to subscribe to the blog to make sure you get tips on church growth, leadership, and more delivered to your inbox each week. Know someone else who could benefit from this information? Your next step is to share or forward this on to them. Thanks for your help in equipping small town church leaders around the world.

4 Ways to Jump Start Growth

The weather in Tennessee this time of year is unpredictable to say the least. It’s not uncommon for it to feel like four different seasons in one week. It may be scorching hot on Monday, cool and breezy on Wednesday, tornadoes on Thursday, and then frigid on the weekend. It’s not good for the allergies, and apparently it’s not good for my car battery either. Recently my car wouldn’t start as I was trying to leave work. Luckily, I had some jumper cables with me, and a friend who helped jump-start my car.

Some of you are trying to lead a church with a dead battery, and in this post I want to be that friend that helps give you a jump.

These four ideas by themselves aren’t enough to keep the engine running, but I’ve seen them create the spark necessary to get things started.

  1. Ignite passion in people. It’s impossible to grow a church without passionate people. If passion is lacking in your church, I want to encourage you to do three things. First, make sure you’re seeking Jesus in your personal life. Second, make sure you are constantly celebrating stories of life change within the church. And third, make sure you’re having fun. If you do these three things, you’ll start igniting some passion in people.
  2. Place people into the story. Whether you’re just starting out or your church has been around for hundreds of years, your church has a story. Make sure you take some time to learn it. Once you know what the story is, then I want you to invite other people into the story. People want to be a part of something bigger than themselves. You just need to help them identify what part they should play.
  3. Find your focus. Too many churches try to be all things to all people. When you try to reach everyone, you actually hurt your chances of growing. Find what makes your church unique, what you can do better than anyone else, and make that your focus. Then cut everything else that doesn’t make sense. Find out how to make a playbook for your church here.
  4. Deal with the hard stuff. Pastors tend to be people pleasers, which is great if you want people to like you but isn’t great if you want to grow a church. Right now, almost all of you reading this know of situations in your church that need to be dealt with. Quit pretending they are going to go away on their own, and start leading your church. Have the tough conversations with staff, board members, and volunteers who are hurting the church. Yes, they may leave the church, but I’ve learned sometimes addition happens best through subtraction. For more on this topic check out this post.

Thanks so much for reading. What would you add to this list? Which of these four is the biggest struggle in your church? I’d love to hear about it, so leave a comment below. And don’t forget to subscribe to the blog to get tips on church growth, leadership, and more delivered to your inbox each week.

Two Secrets of a Healthy Ministry

I’m probably the last person who needs to be giving health advice. It’s currently 10am, and I’ve skipped breakfast and opted for a glass of Mountain Dew served in a mason jar. It’s not exactly the breakfast of champions but more like the official breakfast of Nascar fans and rednecks. Git-R-Done!

Although my personal health may be in question, I’ve been fortunate to be part of a healthy church team for going on seven years now.

We’re far from perfecting this, but we’ve learned a couple of things that have been key to our success: the importance of healthy expectations and periodic check ups.

  1. Healthy Expectations
  • Stop Comparing. I am a comparison junkie, and it’s not healthy. The problem is we always compare up. We always compare ourselves to those who are doing better than us. And for me, it’s not just better. I want to compare against the best of the best. So, if my church isn’t growing as fast the Top 100, then I’m failing. If we don’t have at least 100% of our church involved in groups, I’m a loser because apparently it’s possible. I’m not satisfied with just being in the NBA, I have to be better than Michael Jordan. I realize how silly that sounds, and I’ll promise to do better if you’ll promise to do the same.
  • Lower Expectations. I just finished reading “Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done” by Jon Acuff. It’s a book all about reaching your goals. One of his main points is to cut your goal in half or double the time you plan on accomplishing it in. For example, if you want 50% of your church involved in groups this fall, Acuff would say, cut it to 25% this fall or 50% by next spring. His reasoning is that most of us set unrealistic expectations and quit once we don’t meet them. By cutting the goal in half or doubling the time, you’re more likely to accomplish the goal, and more likely to continue with it. It makes a lot of sense.
  1. Periodic Check-Ups
  • On Yourself. Your main concern and first priority has to be your own health. If you’re not healthy, you’re not going to be able to take care of anyone else. Make sure you’re spending enough time with God and your family. Make sure you’re getting enough rest. If you’re struggling, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Don’t be afraid to see a Christian counselor. It could be the best decision for you.
  • On Your Team. This could be paid staff or key volunteers. You should be meeting with them on a regular basis, not just to talk about the ministry but also to check on how they’re doing personally. How’s their marriage? Are there any family issues they’re dealing with? When’s the last time they took a vacation? Do they still enjoy what they do? If not, they may be dealing with burnout.
  • On Your Congregation. You’re going to want you team to be healthy so they can help you check up on your congregation. What are some of the needs in the church? Who’s in the hospital or funeral home? Who’s on the brink of a divorce? Who needs to be encouraged? Who’s drinking too much Tennessee moonshine?

Hopefully this post gave you a laugh or two and taught you a few things about church health. I’d love to hear your thoughts so leave a comment below, and don’t forget to subscribe to the blog to get tips on church growth, leadership, and more delivered to your inbox each week.

4 Reasons Rural Churches Should Consider Going Multisite

Guest Post: Brett Bixby

There are lots of multisite churches in America today, and they are predominately located in cities. I think smaller, rural churches need to consider going multisite as well. Thom Rainer recently wrote, “Multisite used to be something only large churches tried. Now, smaller churches are getting in on the strategy.” Here are four reasons why adding an additional campus needs to be on your radar as an option for your growth needs.

  1. There is a need for the people in the next community over to be reached with the gospel. Whether we like it or not, our church will only reach people in a certain proximity. Sure, we can point to that family that is driving from 45 minutes away to attend our services, but they are usually the exception. They are usually not the ones who are inviting their neighbors to make the drive and check out our ministry. I believe people who are far from God will not drive over 15-20 minutes to attend a church with any regularity (most of our regulars won’t drive that far either). With this in mind, there is a need to take the ministry of the Gospel to the surrounding communities where our people are driving from in order to help them invite their neighbors, friends and co-workers to church. If the community is large enough to have its own elementary school, then it is large enough to handle an effective ministry in the town. The elementary school shows there are enough young families with children to warrant a ministry geared to reach them.
  2. Launching a second campus doesn’t have to be costly. There are ministries out there that are dropping $8 million on each campus they launch. This does not have to be the case. Being creative in a small community can enable a ministry to start a campus with very little money invested. There are usually buildings around that can be used, and the start-up costs are mostly in the renovations. We have launched sites in a True Value Hardware store, an American Legion building, and a church building that had been closed down. For under $100,000, a new location can be launched, and this would include the additional staff expenses for the first year. Almost immediately, new people in the area will be invited and reached to begin financially supporting the ministry.
  3. Launching a second campus is just like starting an additional service, except the service is held in a location 25-30 minutes down the road. When 80% of the chairs in your auditorium are taken, you are perceived as full to any new person who walks in your doors. As you watch your seats fill up, you will want to begin talking about your next move. One of those options is to start a second service. If you are from a small town like I am (1,400 people and a stoplight), you begin to realize people are driving over 15-20 minutes to get to church. Learning where your people are coming from will help you identify where you could potentially start a second campus. We had around fifty people who were driving from a town about 25 minutes away called Hallstead. Hallstead does not have a stoplight but does have 1,100 people and an elementary school. We sent those fifty people to start a Bridgewater site inside an American Legion building in their town. We said that we were just starting a fourth service, and it was meeting in a different location. They preach the same sermon, sing the same song set, and are named Bridgewater just like we are. We are one church meeting in many locations. We now have done this four times and have five sites with ten services on a Sunday morning. We are committed to reaching communities for Jesus by starting additional services this way all over our geographic area, and many of your ministries could do this as well.
  4. Starting a second campus will offer twice as many of your people an opportunity to use their gifts and abilities in serving ministries. I realize this is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, there will be many ministry roles that need to be filled once you start a campus in the next town. The flip side of this is that there will be many opportunities for people who are currently standing on the sidelines of ministry to get involved! We have found that if people have a role or responsibility on Sunday, there is a greater chance they will attend regularly. We do not struggle with a surplus of people who desire to serve. I don’t know any ministry that has this problem. But, we have found that when ministry opportunities are available and when we ask people to step up and take on a larger responsibility, they will. When we ask some who are helpers in children’s ministry to become teachers or classroom leaders, we see them stepping up and taking on the responsibility. We ask each person in a ministry at Bridgewater, whether paid or unpaid, to be working to find their replacement even before they need one. This allows us to have someone available to serve when we launch another campus.

There are many reasons why I believe smaller, rural churches need to consider going multisite. It has been a growth engine at Bridgewater and has allowed us to see God reach far past our community and into several additional communities around us.

Brett Bixby is the Executive Pastor at Bridgewater Church. They have 5 campuses spread across Northeastern PA and the Southern Tier of NY. He has been a pastor for 20 years and has been at Bridgewater for the last 8 years. He is married to Nicole, and they have 5 children.

Ten Tips on Church Growth

Sometimes we make ministry harder than it should be. Now, I’m not saying it’s easy. We all know that’s not true. I’m just saying, it’s usually not as complicated as we make it out to be. I’m guessing that most small town churches could see substantial growth by just doing a few of the things on this list.

  1. Get Back to Prayer. You may not fall into this trap, but I do. Sometimes I get so caught up in thinking systems and strategies that I forget about the most important piece of the puzzle, Jesus. He’s the head of the Church for a reason. He’s a Iot smarter than all of us. Don’t forget to spend time with Him.
  2. Learn the Community. Think of your community as a mission field, because it is. You need to learn how they think, where they hang out, what they value. It’s hard to connect with the community if you don’t take time to learn about it. A friend of mine wrote a post going into a lot more detail here.
  3. Learn the Competition. I’m not talking about other churches in the area. I’m talking about activities. Are youth sports a big deal in your community? Are you near a lake or beach? What are people doing if they’re not showing up to church? You may not be able to compete with them, but can you find ways to get involved with them in order to develop relationships with the people where they are?
  4. Create a Culture of Serving. We talk about serving at the church I serve all the time. You want to know why? Because serving is the best way to keep people connected to your church, and it’s the best way to disciple those same people. If you want people to show up to your church more often, get them using their gifts.
  5. Exceed Expectations. You have a distinct advantage in this if you’re a pastor of a small town church. Here’s why. People’s expectations are usually pretty low because of what they’ve heard about church or what they’ve experienced in the past. If your church is just welcoming, it will exceed a lot of people’s expectations. However, keep in mind it’s just as easy to reinforce their own negative expectations through a bad experience. If you have a grumpy greeter, you’re losing people.
  6. Embrace Change. Remember that grumpy greeter we just talked about? It’s time to replace him or her. It doesn’t matter if they’ve been doing it for twenty years. There is no tenure in volunteerism. Right now, you know of some people who need to be replaced. You know of some ministries that need to be shut down. Don’t be afraid of change. It’s the only way you’ll ever grow.
  7. Focus on Relationships. Did you know that 98% of people will stay at a church if they have at least three friends there? What are some ways you can foster community? Is it through small groups? A meal after the service? Or a combination of things? Preaching and programs don’t keep people connected to your church, relationships do.
  8. Celebrate Every Step. If someone starts serving, celebrate it. If someone signs up to lead a group, send them a thank you card. If someone gets baptized, go nuts. Andy Stanley says, “What gets celebrated, gets replicated.” And he’s absolutely right.
  9. Encourage Evangelism. At the end of every service, you should invite the audience back next week and tell them to bring a friend. Then give them the tools to do that. This could be invite cards, or it could be a post they can share on social media. Evangelism is just getting a person one more step closer to Jesus.
  10. Genuinely Love People. What did Jesus say the greatest commandment was? Love God, and love people. If the church would just do those two things, the church would explode.

There’s a lot more I could add, but I’d love to hear your tips on church growth. What’s working for you? Let us know by leaving a comment below, and don’t forget to subscribe to get tips on church growth, leadership, and more delivered to your inbox each week.

8 Steps to Creating a Contagious Volunteer Culture

How many of you are fans of Apple, not the fruit, the company that makes the iPhone? I became a fan several years ago because of my senior pastor. He bragged and bragged about their products, until I finally broke down and got the iPhone, then an iPad, then an iMac, and eventually a Macbook. Over the years I’ve fallen in love with their products, but I have to admit something…there are other companies that make products as good, if not better, than Apple. I don’t keep buying Apple products because they’re necessarily the best. I keep buying because of the culture Apple has created.

Samuel Chand says, “Culture is the strongest force in any organization. The best way to understand culture is the statement: This is how we do things here.”

It goes without saying that culture is a big deal when you’re trying to sell something. In fact one of the new sayings the church has adopted from the business world is “culture eats strategy for breakfast.”

So, if you’re having a hard time getting people to serve in the church, then you may want to take a long hard look at your culture.

If it’s not working for you, you may want to try these eight steps to create a contagious volunteer culture.

  1. Raise Awareness. Ephesians 4:12 says that Jesus gave pastors the job of equipping His followers to do ministry. That means ministry isn’t something only pastors do, ministry is something we all do. Each of us has a ministry. You need to make sure people are aware of this.
  2. Have a Compelling Vision. Your vision should not only excite you, it should excite others. When my pastor was talking about the latest Apple product, he did it with excitement, which peaked my interest. Not sure what your vision is? Check out this post to help discover it.
  3. Tap a Shoulder. Many pastors ask for volunteers from the stage and have limited success. Don’t stop asking from the stage, but teach your leaders to tap a shoulder. You are ten times more likely to gain a volunteer from a one on one conversation than you are from asking from the stage.
  4. Develop Leaders. Speaking of leaders, you need to take time to develop them. They need to own the vision and be able to communicate it clearly to potential volunteers. The best leaders are those who have influence and a positive attitude.
  5. Change the Language. Try to never say the word need. For example, never say we need more nursery workers. Instead of needs, you have opportunities. We have an amazing opportunity for you to love on some babies. Also, try to avoid saying, “I have to serve today.” Instead develop a culture of saying, “I get to serve today.” There’s a big difference.
  6. Create Job Descriptions. Many people hesitate to volunteer because they are uncertain of what’s required. Job descriptions eliminate this issue. If you don’t have time to develop your own, send me a message, and I’ll send you ours.
  7. Offer a Trial Period. Another reason people hesitate to serve is because they’re afraid they’ll be stuck doing something they don’t enjoy. You can get around this by offering trial periods. I would make the trial period no longer than 3 months. Anything longer than that starts to give people anxiety.
  8. Show You Care. One of the worst things you can do is recruit a new volunteer and never follow up with them. Don’t make this mistake. Make sure you develop a system to check on new volunteers periodically and show them you care.

What would you add to this list? Let me know by leaving a comment below, and don’t forget about the Small Town Big Church Coaching Network launching this fall. You can find out all the details here.

Five Numbers to Watch this Fall

I’m a numbers guy. I’ve always loved them. Math was my best subject in school, and I graduated college with a Business Management degree so I could count more numbers. When I was asked to become the Executive Pastor at the church I serve, counting numbers was the easiest part of the transition. Unfortunately, a lot of pastors don’t share my same love for numbers, but regardless there are a few numbers you need to pay close attention to this fall.

Historically, September through November has always been a season of growth at the church I serve. Summer is over and temperatures start dropping, which means people are spending less time on vacation or at the lake and more time showing up to church. The kids have gone back to school, and parents have gotten back into their regular routine.

It’s not uncommon to see ten to fifteen percent more people showing up to church in the fall than in the summer. More people gives you the chance to build momentum and get more people connected to the mission and vision of your church.

This fall should be a win for your church…if you measure it.

If you don’t measure it, how will you ever know when you’re winning?

Here are the five numbers I’ll be measuring, and I think you should be measuring them as well.

  • Attendance. Every pastor should be measuring weekly attendance. How many people are showing up at your church for weekend services? Once you get this number you need to do something more with it than just put it on a board in the back of your church. You need a way of tracking it over a long period of time. Church Metrics is a free online platform that allows you to do that and a lot more. Once you start tracking these numbers you can go back and compare them in order to give you a better idea of the health of your church.
  • Giving. I’m guessing even if you don’t count the attendance, you probably still count the offering, right? Of course you do, you’d be crazy not to. This fall I’m looking for my weekly giving numbers to be ten to fifteen percent higher than during the summer. How do I check that? You guessed it, Church Metrics.
  • Groups. The fall may be the best time of year to launch new groups. That’s why this fall I want to measure how many total groups the church is offering and how many total people are showing up to them. Groups are difficult in a small town. You can read my thoughts on why, here. But, they are vital to keeping people connected to the church. I’m really excited about our groups this fall, and I haven’t been able to say that in a couple of years. If your church offers Sunday school instead of groups, you can still use the same measurements.
  • Volunteers. The fall is also a great time to recruit new volunteers. The closer we get to Thanksgiving and Christmas it seems the more people get in the serving spirit. Just last month we added 15 new volunteers at one of our campuses. That’s huge in a small town church, but we still need more. So, this fall I’ll continue to measure the number of volunteers we have, as well as the number of new volunteers that have been recruited. If you need help recruiting and retaining volunteers, you can find out more here.
  • First Time Guests. One of the most important numbers I’ll be measuring this fall is the number of first time guests. They’re the key to church growth. I heard someone say once that in order for your church to grow the number of first time guests that visit during a year needs to exceed your average weekly attendance. I’m not sure if that’s true or not, but it’s definitely a number we’re striving for. That means if your church averages 75 people on a weekend, then in order to grow you need to have more than 75 first time guests throughout the year.

Of course, we’ll also be measuring salvation and baptism numbers as well. We just don’t see as much change in those numbers during the fall. Again, you can track those using Church Metrics.

I’d love to hear some of your number goals for the fall. Are you trying to break 100 in weekly attendance? Trying to add 10 new volunteers? Trying to serve 50 first time guests? Let me know in the comments below, and don’t forget to subscribe. Also, if you’re looking to grow your church this fall in an incredible way strongly consider becoming a part of the first ever Small Town Big Church Coaching Network. You can find more details here.

Four Big Day Ideas to Grow Your Church this Fall

I believe it was Nelson Searcy who originally came up with the idea of growing your church through “Big Days.” A “Big Day” is an all out push toward a single Sunday in order to see a large increase in attendance on that day. He actually wrote an entire book around the idea called Ignite: How to Spark Immediate Growth in Your Church. The idea is that if you can get a large number of people to your church on a single day and create a great experience for them, then there’s a very high likelihood that many of them will stick. So, with that in mind I wanted to share with you a few “Big Day” ideas for this fall.

The Tailgate Party

If you live in the United States, you understand how much people love football. It doesn’t matter if it’s College Football or the NFL. Either will draw millions of viewers each week. The only thing Americans may love more than football is eating. So, what did they do? They decided to combine them into a single event called “Tailgating.” The premise of this idea is simple, you just ask your congregation to tailgate before and after your weekend services. They can bring their own grills, their own tents, and wear their favorite team’s colors. Don’t be afraid to ask your local high school or middle school sports teams to get involved as well. They are often looking for ways to fundraise and an event like this gives you the opportunity to connect with these families. It’s a win for both teams.

The Pumpkin Patch

What’s the most anticipated product this fall? Not the new iPhone. It’s the return of the Pumpkin Spice Latte at Starbucks. People go crazy for anything pumpkin around this time of year. I’ve heard families will actually pay good money to go out into a field and pick their own pumpkins during the month of October. I may have been guilty of doing it myself. So, why not create your own pumpkin patch at church and give away the pumpkins to kids? It may be a little late to start planting pumpkins, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find a farm to buy them from. For a few hundred dollars you can create a big day and make a lot of little kids very happy, not to mention the farmer you bought them from.

The Petting Farm

The only thing kids may enjoy more during the fall than picking out their favorite pumpkin is petting their favorite farm animals. Most of the time, you can find someone who operates mobile petting zoos that will bring the animals to you for a few hundred dollars. But, if you don’t have access to one or your just looking to save some money, how about asking one of the local farmers in your community? You don’t need to have an entire zoo. A few goats, a couple of rabbits, and the Thanksgiving turkey would suffice.

Trunk or Treat

Trunk or Treat is the perfect event for the Sunday before Halloween. If you’re not familiar with Trunk or Treat, you basically ask people to decorate the trunks of their cars for Halloween and hand out candy. Lots of communities have them, but by tagging it on to your weekend service, you can see a lot of new families come to your church. If you’re worried about celebrating Halloween, you can post guidelines for what’s acceptable decorations or even theme your Trunk or Treat. For example, you could have a superheroes and princesses theme. Nothing scary about that.

If marketed well, these four events will definitely get more people to your church.

Just keep in mind, the experience the guest has while they are there will determine whether they ever come back again.

So, before you do any of these events, you need to make sure your Sunday experience is a good one.

If you need help in that area, don’t miss out on your chance to be a part of the first ever Small Town Big Church Coaching Network. It’s six months of coaching designed to help your small town church go big. Find out more by going to my coaching and consulting page, and as always don’t forget to subscribe to this blog so you never miss tips on church growth, leadership, and more delivered to your inbox each week.