Insiders or Outsiders

Who's Your Focus

One of the most important decisions we ever made as a church came very early on. It was a decision that would dictate numerous decisions down the road. The decision was to place our focus on reaching those outside the church, instead of focusing on keeping those inside the church.

Outsider

Many churches think you can do both, you can’t.

Many churches think they’re outsider focused, but they aren’t.

And many churches know they’re insider focused and don’t have any plans to change.

We’ve been at least two out of the three above within the short life of our church. Hopefully, we’ve got it figured out now, although we still can get a little insider focused at times.

So, what’s wrong with focusing on insiders? I mean they’re the ones who serve, give, and show up on Sundays. It makes sense to focus on them, doesn’t it?

In a way, yes, we definitely should appreciate them. However, if we only focus on the insider, we lose our chance to reach those outside the church.

I believe a better option is to teach those inside the church why it’s so important that we reach those outside. I believe this is what Jesus was able to accomplish with his disciples, and I believe when church members get this concept your church has the potential to grow rapidly.

So, how can we accomplish this?

With clever mission statements like “Building believers, and serving seekers”? Absolutely not. (*Disclaimer* We had this clever saying on some early t-shirts.)

We accomplish this by running every decision through a filter. How would this connect with someone outside the church?

You use a filter also. Take a look at these examples and see what side your on.

Sunday School

Inside Focused: It would devastate the older adults if we did away with their Sunday School class, so there’s no way we could ever do that.

Outside Focused: Those with little to no church experience don’t attend Sunday School. They are more likely to attend small gathering in homes. Let’s try offering small groups instead of Sunday School.

Giving

Inside Focused: Attendance declines when we do a giving series, so we stopped doing them and try not to talk about money around here.

Outside Focused: We teach on giving throughout the year letting our church know that their giving changes lives. We also teach people to budget and how to get out of debt.

Music

Inside Focused: We like a good blend of contemporary music mixed with traditional hymns.

Outside Focused: We play the most modern worship music and occasionally try to work in a “secular” song that connects to the message.

Events

Inside Focused: We do a potluck dinner every third Sunday, Vacation Bible School every June, and revival in October.

Outside Focused: We get involved with community events throughout the year and look for areas we can serve others.

You get the idea. It’s pretty easy to see what your focus is when you break it down this way. Focusing on outsiders can get messy, and taking your focus off insiders can lead to complaints. It’s easy to see why some churches stay insider focused and get stuck. But healthy churches know you can only grow when you’re able to convert outsiders to insiders. This only happens by staying outsider focused.

Who does your church focus on? Insiders or outsiders? Let us know in the comments below, and make sure to subscribe to the blog for tips on how to grow your small town church in a big way.

7 Ways to Avoid the Summer Slump

Today, June 20th is the first day of summer. I can barely contain my excitement. It may sound like I’m being facetious, but that’s not the case. After enduring a spring that was filled with dogwood, blackberry, and cotton britches winters, I’m ready for some warmer weather.

SummerSlump

But as the weather heats up, we all know church attendance and giving seem to wither. If we’re not careful this may cause us to wither ourselves. It’s healthy to remember that this is a normal thing, and it shouldn’t be a reason to stress.

Yes, on average your attendance is going to decrease ten to fifteen percent as your congregation goes on vacation this summer. Giving will probably do the same, but hopefully you’ve planned for that. If not, make sure to remember to next year.

This post isn’t about how to keep those things from happening, because let’s face it, unless you’re LifeChurch, the attendance and giving slump is almost inevitable.

No, this post is about how you, personally, can avoid the summer slump, and make the most of your summer. Here are seven ways I believe you can do just that.

  1. Take a Family Vacation – Everyone else is, so you might as well get in on the action. The summer is the perfect time to do this. Line someone else up to preach for you on Sunday, and enjoy the week off with your family. Don’t make the mistake of feeling like the church can’t survive one Sunday without you there.
  1. Rest – Don’t mistake your family vacation for rest. If it’s anything like my family vacations, it can be one of the busiest, most stressful weeks of the year. Take a few days off during the summer to rest, relax, and recharge. Your physical body, as well as your church body, will thank you for it as you come back healthier and more energetic.
  1. Have Fun – Four or five times this summer, just go and do something fun. For you this may be a day of fishing, a day on the golf course, or a night out at the drive-in. The goal is just to enjoy life.
  1. Read – Pick up a book or two you can read through this summer. You can keep it fun and light, or read something you could use in a future sermon series. Here are a few of my favorite reads if you need some ideas.
  1. Evaluate – What’s working so far this year? What isn’t? Are you where you’d thought you’d be? What needs to change? What can you do better?
  1. Plan – What do you hope to accomplish in the fall? Now is the time to put a plan in place. What’s the focus? What’s the priority? Write down the action steps that it will take to get there.
  1. Pray – For yourself, your family, and your ministry. Be open and honest with God, telling Him your hopes and dreams for the future. Write down your prayers so that you can look back on them and see all that God has accomplished in your life.

Just because the summer is slumping doesn’t mean you have to be. Summer can be the most productive season of your year if you play your cards right. A summer done well can turn a summer slump into a fall bump. I hope that’s the case for you.

What’s your focus during the summer? Are you fighting the slump or embracing it? Let us know in the comments below, and as always, make sure to subscribe to the blog to get tips on church growth, strategy, and more delivered to your inbox each week.

Connecting Men to the Church

Guest Post: Gary Miller

ManSleeping

Over the past 13 years, (8 full-time) I have traveled and spoken to men’s groups throughout much of the nation. I do a ministry called Outdoor Truths. It started through an article that I began writing to newspapers. The article spread and eventually churches started asking me to come and speak at their men’s events. These events were mostly geared to hunters and fishermen and were designed for evangelistic results. I would have never thought that I would have become an evangelist to outdoorsmen. This was so far from what I thought my giftedness was – especially after pastoring one church for over 15 years at that time. Not only did I see results that only God could have brought, but I began to learn something about men that has literally changed my life. And after having garnered a big enough sample size, I begin to be able to help churches design effective evangelistic outdoor events and I was also better able to understand the faithful Christian man and what many of us pastors and churches have done to limit his Christian effectiveness. This also helped me to see why, as David Murrow wrote, “Men hate going to church.”

Even though I still do this ministry, I am also the pastor of a little church plant that is just over one year old. Our average attendance since January is 160 people. PTL! We are terrible at most things. I am the most reluctant pastor they could have for lots of reasons. I look up to and want to learn from you who are having so many successes. I hope to be there one day. I am however thankful for the men at my church. Many of them are young adults with children who had either stepped away from church or had never gone before.

With this in mind, let me give you some things I have learned and humbly suggest for a pastor who wants to connect with men.

  1. Be a man in the pulpit.

That doesn’t mean that you have to like to hunt or fish, but it does mean that you like to beat other people at golf or tennis or basketball, and talk trash while you do it. It’s just what we do and it’s okay.

  1. Be real

Men want a friend not a pastor. Don’t try to be hip or relevant. You will be if you are real. They want to see your humanity. Whatever you dress like on a regular weekday, do so on Sunday.

  1. Sometimes on Sunday talk directly to the men.

Say things like “Ladies, you can check Facebook a minute while I talk to the men.” That way if you want to say “kill a deer” or talk about NASCAR, you can.

  1. Stay away from “churchy” words as much as possible.

Unchurched men don’t know any of them and your churched men never use them around their unchurched friends. Any time you can use a common word to replace a church word, do it.

  1. Don’t emasculate men by telling them to be safe and predictable.

If you do they will be confused when you ask them later to step out in faith to build a building you have no money for.

  1. Don’t beg men. It embarrasses them.

My neighbor is 29 years old and is unchurched. He has had four tours in Iraq in the Army. His superiors have never begged him to do anything and he has never begged another man to do something as well. That means when you sing 64 verses of Just as I Am, and beg him to come to the altar, he feels that you are less than a man.

  1. Don’t challenge men. It insults their intelligence.

Your locker room speech says to them that you think you can stir them to action by some emotional tirade. As you know, most men are not very emotional. Passionate, yes! Emotional, no. Instead talk to them from the heart about what it means to walk by faith. They will resonate with that because that is how God made men. Faith is risky and adventurous. It doesn’t scream success, it screams failure. It reminds us of terrible odds and unlikely victories. Men thrive when the odds are against them.

  1. Make Sunday look like Saturday.

Recently I was in one town getting ready to speak on a Saturday night. I was standing in the back of a full auditorium. I noticed the men who were there. They sat in the same pews that others would sit in that next morning; except this night they were sitting there dressed in blue jeans and wearing their favorite hat. They were perfectly comfortable. Many times pastors are confused as to why they can get men to their event on Saturday night but not on a Sunday morning. I think one answer is this. When Sunday morning looks like Saturday night, men will come.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not talking about being crude, rude, or ill-mannered. I can’t stand a man who is not kind, considerate, and humble. I am also not talking about forgetting about the women. What I am talking about is bringing the balance back that we have lost over the years.

Gary pastored one church in a small town in Tennessee for over 18 years. It grew from a small, very traditional church to a contemporary congregation with several hundred in attendance each week. For the past 13 years he has led Outdoor Truths Ministries. Through that ministry he writes for approximately 70 publications each week, speaks at wild-game dinners, and men’s conferences. For just over one year he has been the lead pastor of a new church plant in Kentucky, Locus Church. He holds a Master’s Degree in Theological Studies from Liberty University and a Master’s Degree in Christian Apologetics from Biola University. Gary is married to Teresa and they have 3 children and 3 grandchildren.