Create “Wow”

Turning First Time Guests into Lifelong Attenders

Wow. It’s not a word you hear much anymore, but it’s a word that holds a lot of power. To create “wow” is to create something that impresses or excites. To create “wow” is to create something worth talking about. Create a big enough “wow”, and you begin creating crowds.

WowExperiences

I was recently talking to a young pastor about his frustrations with the lack of growth of his church over the past five years. During one of our conversations, he told me the people in his church aren’t good at inviting others to attend, and he believes this may be a key reason why they’re not growing.

It’s a reasonable thought, and one I’m sure you’ve had as well. If no one is inviting, then no new people are going to show up.

Here’s what I’ve learned, people talk about the things that “wow” them. Your church people have no problem talking with their friends about the new Star Wars movie, the Powerball jackpot, or the latest Donald Trump headline.

They talk about the things that excite them. So, if your church people aren’t telling their friends about your church, there’s a good chance that it’s just not worth talking about.

So, how can we change that? How can we create excitement? How can we create a wow?

We can do this by asking ourselves five questions.

  1. What experience do you want to turn into a “Wow”? Its tempting to say the entire church experience, and while that may be our ultimate goal, you’ll have much better success by focusing on one area at a time. I believe kids’ ministry or first impressions is the best place to start.
  1. How do you want the guest to feel as a result of the experience? For kids’ ministry, I want the parent to feel that their child was safe, their child had fun, and their child learned about Jesus, in that order. It doesn’t matter how good you are at teaching a child about Jesus, if the parent didn’t feel like they were safe or had fun, they will not return.
  1. What is the guest expecting to experience? This can go a couple of different ways depending on a guest’s past church experience. If they’ve had a negative experience in church, their expectations are going to reflect that. For most people, they expect a church to be friendly, they expect a church to be welcoming, and they expect to feel loved.
  1. What does it look like if we fail to meet that expectation? We fail to show love when our greeters aren’t friendly, our ushers offer a bulletin without a smile, and our pastor uses language only insiders can understand. When we fail to meet expectations, guests don’t return, and church members stop inviting.
  1. What does it look like if we exceed that expectation? We exceed expectations when we have kids that don’t want to leave church, we have greeters that remember guests’ names, and when we preach a message that guests can take and apply to their daily lives. When we exceed expectations, guests keep coming back, and church members keep inviting.

Evangelism isn’t dead, but your church may be. If you want your church to start inviting, you have to start creating a wow.

I’d love to hear about some wow experiences you’ve created in your church. Let us know in the comments below.

Preparing for Easter in a Small Town

Guest Post: Brandon Petty

If you’re a pastor in a small community, chances are no one is really doing anything significant for Easter. Aside from the same resurrection drama or Easter Play that’s done with really bad acting and even worse singing, Easter is primarily planned for those who attend that church. But what if I told you that you have the opportunity to reach people in your community that no one else is reaching? All it takes is something that many churches aren’t willing to do, and that is preparation and excellence.

Easter

Here are five reasons why preparing for Easter is Vital for your church:

  1. Chances Are That No Other Church is Doing It

I went to high school in a town of just over 2,000 people. We had one fast food restaurant at the time: Hardee’s. Everyone and their mama (literally, everyone and their mama) ate at Hardee’s. It was the hottest spot in town. Even as a teenager, it was the hot spot to cruise around on the weekends. That was until the day they brought in a Sonic. Things quickly changed, and Sonic became the hottest spot in town. (I know, I know. You’re already jealous of my awesome high school days.)

The point is, when you’re the only church offering the greatest first impressions, kids ministry, and worship experience in town, everyone will want to come to your church. You can either mimic what everyone else is already doing in your community, or you can take Easter to a whole other level. I promise that if you do, you’ll not only have the largest attended Easter service your church has ever experienced, but you’ll become a place that your community desperately needs.

  1. Everyone is Open to the Idea of Visiting a Church on Easter

Easter is always our highest attended Sunday of the year. The greatest thing you can do for your church is make Easter a huge deal evangelistically. You can even preach a three to four week sermon series leading up to Easter about evangelism and challenge the church to invite lost people or the un-churched person to one of your Easter services. Teaching your church to become outward focused in their invites will also increase new visitors throughout the year. But make sure your congregation understands the importance of inviting people who don’t already attend church somewhere. Being an evangelistic focused church will bring criticism in a small community for “stealing sheep”. The best way to combat that criticism is to tell your church from the stage to focus on those who don’t attend church. Show them statistics on inviting people to church, teach on the Great Commission, and even host baptism services during or after Easter. Make it a huge time of the year for your church.

  1. There Are Broken Families in Your Community

One of the greatest ways to get families in your church is offering something dynamic for the kids in the community during Easter. If your kid loves church, the chances are much higher that you end up attending with them. We challenge our children and students to make invites as well for Easter. You would be surprised at how many families show up for one of your Easter services because of their child being invited by someone at school. Most young families don’t feel comfortable visiting an established church. They either grew up in church or had some sort of experience that drove them away as adults. There are so many opportunities to show these families that your church is a place that focuses on the entire family.

  1. Most Rural Churches Are Dying

How are you bringing in new families and the future leaders of your church? Easter is one of several opportunities throughout the year that you have to bring in new people. Will you retain all of these people that show up to your Easter services? No, you won’t. But you may gain a few new families. You may even gain just one new family. But just think, if you had four or five big days a year that you focused on bringing in new people and kept one family each time, you are already growing faster in a year than most rural churches. That’s why preparing for Easter is vital for your church…your future depends on it.

  1. God is a Planner and We Should Be As Well

God had a plan before He even created the world to redeem us from our sin. Before Adam sinned, before you were born, He already formed a plan to save us. He is currently planning out our eternity. Jesus has gone to prepare a place for us. We can’t imagine what God has prepared for those who love the Lord. All through scripture, we see that God is a well thought out planner. He plans with excellence and, most importantly, with people in mind. We should be a reflection of who God is here on earth. We should plan with excellence and with people in mind.

If you’ve never planned a huge Easter weekend, here are a few quick tips when preparing for one of the largest weekends of the year at your church:

– Plan Easter around the kids, and the parents will follow.

– Offer multiple service times. Maybe even offer a Saturday night service.

– Do large egg hunts (with PLENTY of candy and prizes) or some sort of kid themed weekend for the entire family to be involved.

– Have volunteers in your church sign up weeks before Easter to have plenty of people serving. This is also a great opportunity to get new people involved in your church if they aren’t already.

– Prepare a stage and lighting design that is excellent and dynamic.

– Keep the service no longer than an hour to offer time for family involvement (egg hunts, etc.).

– Plan powerful worship music and videos within the service. This means having your best vocalists and musicians. People won’t stay long where the music is bad.

– Create invite cards (with excellent graphics; contract it out if you have to) to your church to hand out at least four weeks before Easter.

– Use promotional material such as mailers, social media blasts, and local outreaches to promote your big weekend.

– Have a plan for when guests come back after Easter. Make sure to have a felt needs sermon series and possibly baptisms to bring people back.

– Have a plan for following up with those who receive Christ that weekend. Have Bibles and people ready to pray and make phone calls.

These are just a few staples that go in to making Easter something spectacular for your church and for the community. Even if you start with a few of these, you’ll begin to change the culture of how your church approaches Easter each year.

You have the greatest opportunity to reach people who are far from God this Easter. It’s not only vital for the un-churched in your community…it’s vital for the life of your church.

Brandon Petty. Follower of Jesus, Husband to Jessica, and proud daddy to Launa, Mya, and Truett. I enjoy playing basketball and weight lifting. Pastor of Generation Church, which quickly grew to over 600 people in a few short years after starting in 2012. I am absolutely passionate about encouraging leaders and investing in others. I also coach church planters and love to speak to the next generation. If you would like to know more about me please visit me at brandonpetty.org

Small Groups for the Rest of Us

An Interview with Chris Surratt

One of my favorite reads of the year so far has been Small Groups for the Rest of Us: How to Design Your Small Groups System to Reach the Fringes by Chris Surratt. It is the best and most practical book I’ve read on creating a small group system in your church. Imagine my excitement when Chris agreed to let me ask him a few questions about his new book, and how to make small groups work for your church.

SmallGroupsForTheRestOfUs

  1. Your new book is “Small Groups for the Rest of Us”, who are the “Rest of Us”?

As an introvert by nature, I have always felt left out by most small group systems. Between the connection hoops and the demand to share my secret sins in a room full of strangers, small groups felt like an intimidating concept. While thinking through how we could better design a system to reach people like me, I started running into other groups of people we were missing through our processes. If we were going to say we believed in community for everyone, what does that look like? The typical small group system is designed for the typical church attender. We have to begin thinking differently if we want to reach the people on the fringes.

  1. In your book you say, to the church outsider small groups are weird, I totally agree, how can the church overcome that perception?

I think a good start would be to acknowledge the awkwardness from the beginning. When pitching the idea of small groups to our congregations, the tendency is to only play up the potential benefits – which there are many – but a lot of people are only thinking about how scary and weird it seems to show up at a stranger’s house and “do life together.” Church leaders should publicly acknowledge how big a step joining a group is and offer to make it as easy and weird-free as possible.

  1. Would you say message studies based around the Sunday sermon are the best curriculum for groups, why or why not?

I think they are great starting point for any group. I don’t believe every group should do them or groups should use them forever, but well written sermon-based studies take a lot of the potential hurdles away for a new group. There is no cost. Homework for the group members is showing up for church or listening to the podcast. It reinforces the message beyond Sunday morning. New groups can use them for a semester while they get a pulse on what type of group they have.

  1. I love the idea of the group curriculum menu that you discuss in your book, do you think narrowing the options helps produce more leaders?

Producing a curriculum menu or map has several benefits for groups.

  • It takes the burden of what to study next off of the small group leader and puts it on the staff. Most group leaders want to be lead on what their group should be studying. Any step that we can take off of our leaders will help attract new leaders.
  • It gives a clearly defined discipleship path for groups to follow.
  • It gives doctrinal fences for the groups to stay in. There a lot of curriculum choices out there, and not all of them will line up with your church’s dogma.
  1. You talk about how important it is for the Senior Pastor to be involved in a group, why do so many pastors resist this?

It’s scary for some senior leaders to think about exposing their lives to a small group of church attenders. That’s why I believe it’s important to allow the pastor to hand pick his group if possible. It’s also essential to give him the option of not leading the group. He has to lead everything else, so a small group should be an environment where there is safety and low-pressure to “perform.”

  1. Can you talk about the difference between open groups and closed groups, and why churches need both?

Open and closed groups can serve different purposes in a discipleship ministry. For instance, closed groups can have more accountability for spiritual growth than an open group. An open group can be more evangelistic by leaving room for for neighbors and friends to join. However, there are downsides to both. Closed groups can become stale and stop growing spiritually if together for too long. Open groups are difficult for new people to join because they already have established relationships. It’s like joining a new school in 10th grade.

  1. In the book you state, “Our goal for small groups is to feed people into our ministry teams as they discover their gifts for service in the church.”. Can that happen in a fun group, like volleyball or date night? Why or why not?

It can definitely happen, but I believe you have to make sure to define what the expectations for a small group are before labeling everything in the church a group. An affinity group can work well for assimilating someone into serving in the church, but are they being discipled? What is the mechanism for helping someone take their next step and can a volleyball group provide it? Those are questions every church has to think through when designing their discipleship system.

  1. What would be your best piece of advice for a pastor who is wanting to begin a small group ministry in his or her church?

Read and attend everything you possibly can. When I took over the small group ministry at my last church, I immersed myself in every book and blog written on the topic. And I know a pretty good book to start with! 🙂 There are also great conferences put on by churches who have been there and done that. Find a way to attend one and connect with as many other practitioners as possible. The small group world loves to support each other. The Small Group Network is an awesome community to be a part of. Please don’t do it alone!

Chris Surratt is a ministry consultant and coach with over twenty-two years of experience serving the local church. Chris served on the Executive Teams at Cross Point Church in Nashville, Tennessee, and Seacoast Church in Charleston, South Carolina. He also manages SmallGroup.com for LifeWay Christian Resources. Chris’s first book, Small Groups For The Rest Of Us: How to Design Your Small Groups System to Reach the Fringes, was just released by Thomas Nelson.