The Open Door Church Story

Guest Post: Kenny Burns

My wife Genny and I arrived at The Open Door Church on the last Sunday of January 2009. The church was a relatively new church plant at the time. The first public service was held June 17, 2007 so it was about 2 ½ years old when we arrived. The church was planted with the desire to reach youth and young adults who were not being reached by the traditional churches in the Missouri Boot Heel. Their first pastor had just left under less than ideal circumstances and the congregation was very discouraged.

When we arrived there was an average attendance of 57. They didn’t realize it, but their focus had turned inward. So I spent my first year turning the focus outward. We developed the following motto: If it does not contribute to our doing evangelism, discipleship, or worship, we don’t do it!

The first breakthrough came when God used a highly dysfunctional family who started attending ODC in mid-2009 to give us what we call our Probation & Parole Ministry. A single mom with three sons started attending our service. She had recently been in prison on drug related convictions and had recently been released. She had regained custody of the boys, but had rotating men in and out of her home.

The oldest boy, Blake, was arrested on drug charges and court ordered to the Dunklin County Probation & Parole Center.   His mom got permission to pick him up and Sunday mornings and bring him to church. After a few months she was arrested on drug charges again and sentenced to 120 days in prison. So I went to the P&P Center and asked if I could pick Blake up on Sundays for church. His probation officer agreed and our P&P Ministry was unexpectedly launched.

A several weeks later, Blake was released from P&P, but was under house arrest complete with an electronic ankle bracelet. I baptized him on a Sunday morning while one of our elders held his foot out of the water to keep the ankle bracelet dry. As he came up out of the water and walked down the aisle to the men’s room to change into dry clothes, the Spirit of God moved and completely changed the heart of our church. The place burst into applause, there were “cat calls,” tears, and laughter, all at the same time.

God used Blake to break the hearts of ODC’s people for broken people. Since then we have brought hundreds of people from P&P to ODC’s Sunday worship services and more than 100 of them have been saved, baptized, and discipled.

Another breakthrough came when we opened our Food Pantry & Clothes Closet Ministry in March of 2012. It is the most effective evangelistic ministry we have. Currently an average of 150 families comes through the Food Pantry & Clothes Closet on the 2nd Saturday of each month from 9 a.m. till noon. To date in 2018 a total of 49 people have prayed to receive Jesus as a result of that ministry. Before they get to the food and clothes, they must go through what we call our “Romans Road Room,” where they hear “The Jesus Story” and are given the opportunity to pray to receive the Lord Jesus and His gift of eternal life. More than 300 people have been saved as a result of this ministry!

Then ODC’s elders sensed God leading them minister to “the least of these,” which we defined in our region as drug addicts and alcoholics. So we partnered with a ministry known as “Mission Teens” to open ODC’s Freedom House Ministry. It is an 8-10 month residential discipleship program designed to help addicts and alcoholics gain freedom from their addictions.

There is a huge, two-story antebellum house on ODC’s campus which housed our Children’s Ministry and Food Pantry & Clothes Closet Ministry, but we believed God wanted that facility to be “Freedom House,” which meant we would need to build another building to house the other two ministries. So we prayed and told God, if He wanted us to open Freedom House, we needed Him to provide the funds for us to build a debt-free building for the Children’s Ministry and Food Pantry & Clothes Closet Ministry.

We didn’t know it at the time, but God had a better plan. The First Baptist Church in our town “went out of business,” and they donated their church building and parsonage to ODC. We moved our Food Pantry & Clothes Closet Ministry to the FBC building and rented out the parsonage to cover the expense of insurance and utilities on that facility.

God then provided $101,500.00 for the construction of a debt-free Christian Education Center on ODC’s main campus. So in March 2016 we moved ODC’s Children’s Ministry into its new home, and Freedom House opened. To date 169 people have come through Freedom House and received intense discipleship to help them gain freedom from their addictions. Forty-seven of them have been saved, and 51 have been baptized!

The next breakthrough came when our elders began to sense that God wanted us to minister to the huge Hispanic community in Dunklin County. So we prayed and asked God to give us a Hispanic Pastor. We contacted the General Baptist Bible Institute in California. God brought us into contact with Gaspar Cruz who quit his job and moved his family from Long Beach, California to Holcomb, Missouri to develop ODC’s Hispanic congregation. The first Hispanic service was held on November 6, 2016. They meet on Sundays at 1:00 p.m. in ODC’s Worship Center. Their current average attendance is 23, and 19 people have been saved as a result of this ministry.

As a result of spending 8 ½ years developing a ministry at ODC that is intentionally outward in its focus, the average attendance on Sundays at ODC’s two worship services has increased from 57 to 137 in a town of 635 people. ODC’s Sunday attendance is currently running 21.5% of Holcomb’s population! In 2016 ODC’s total conversions was 212 with 60 baptisms, in 2017 the total conversions was 196 with 67 baptisms, and thus far in 2018 total conversions is 122 with 54 baptisms.

Kenny Burns is the pastor of The Open Door Church in Holcomb, Missouri.

Have a small town or rural church success story? I’d love to hear about it. Visit my contact page and shoot me an email. I might even share your story in an upcoming post.

5 Assumptions Your Church Should Make to Serve Guests Better

Guest Post: Brett Bixby

There’s no guarantee that a first time guest will visit your church this week, but if they do, will you prepared to receive them? One of the biggest mistakes small town churches make is not preparing with guests in mind. We can’t afford to make that mistake. Our mission is much too important. So, I’d like to share with you a training we did with our teams, that you can take and share with yours.

  1. Assume there will be guests every week
  • We do what we do in guest services under this assumption every single week.
  • We are glad everyone feels welcomed and accepted each week, however, we do guest services for the person or family that arrives for the very first time.
    • Everyone knows where to park – but not the first-time guest
    • Everyone can open the door on their own – but for the one guest
    • Everyone knows where the kids check in is – but not the first timer
    • Everyone can find their own seat – but we want the first-timer to be able to find a seat and not feel like we are full or that they are taking someone’s spot. This is why we set up chairs as we fill up.
    • Guests usually come early or late – serve at your post at least 15 minutes before the service begins and at least 15 minutes after the service has started.
  1. Assume guests will not introduce themselves
  • Most guests are looking to stay anonymous
  • We need to make the first move in greeting someone we don’t know. They might have been attending for 3 years – but if you don’t know them, please introduce yourself. “How long have you been coming to _____________?”
  1. Assume guests do not understand WHAT we do or WHY we do it
  • This is why we wave people in at the driveway
  • This is why we help people know where to park
  • This is why we take people with young children to show them the children’s area
  • This is why we need to explain the security and safety of the kid’s area
  1. Assume every first-time guest has some degree of nervousness
  • They may be trying to find the person who invited them
  • They may be from a different church or religion and are out of place
  • They may just have a fear of the unknown
  • Some are worried the building is going to cave in on them
  • Parking, finding the bathrooms, and sitting down are three nervous points.
  1. Assume God is strategically working in the lives of everyone who drives onto the property and walks through the doors of your church on a Sunday morning.
  • Regardless of whether someone is a first-time attender or a regular, whether they are young or old, tall or short, fancy or plain, we assume God has prompted them to come to church today!
  • With this mindset, we present them with an over-the-top welcoming experience because we believe God has already been involved in them coming to church.

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.

8 Ways to Make Your Church Website Awesome

Guest Post: Travis Sinks

You are probably aware of how important your church website is. In fact, your website is considered to be the new “front door” of your church, and 1 out of every 3 people will check it out before ever visiting your church… You’ve probably heard that your website is an important online hub for your church…And that it can be leveraged as a long-term resource for new and existing members, and your community as a whole.

But you know what you’re often NOT told?

What should actually be on your church website.

But before we dive into that answer, let’s review 3 things that should NOT be on your church website…

  1. Old/Irrelevant Content: Sadly, the internet has created an environment of being perfectly up to date, which has created a culture that has little patience for outdated content. This means that if people see your website promoting a month old event, they’ll assume that you never update it. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to take long to update your website. If your church releases a weekly bulletin, simply take a few minutes to make sure that your website contains all the relevant information that your bulletin does. And, keep in mind: the more often you do this, the less work it will be and the faster you’ll get at it.
  2. Confusing Words or Christian Jargon: The Church, as a whole, has done a poor job at keeping our words simple and easy-to-understand. If you want to reach your local community through your website, then you will have to write and speak in a way they understand. The easiest way to ensure that your website is usable to the non-Christian is to simply ask a non-Christian to review it (and, who knows, they might want to talk to you more about who Jesus is!). Ask them to tell you if any of it doesn’t make sense, or if the words were clear and concise.
  3. A “Messy” or Difficult-To-Navigate Website: Similar to confusing words and jargon, it can be easy to navigate your own website because you feel like a fish in water. But if you’re wanting to reach a specific group of people, then reach out to a few of them and ask them to give a review of how easy your website was to navigate and use. In general, churches tend to have some of the most confusing websites, yet, it can (and should) be much simpler.

In the end, for most church websites, you should focus on simplicity and effectively communicating your primary message.

Which brings us to the positive side of this article: 8 Ways to Make Your Church Website Awesome

Please note that for all of these items, consider asking a non-Christian if you meet these requirements. It can be much more difficult for you to see if these things are present on your website than for someone who is unfamiliar with your church.

  1. A Clear Explanation Of The Gospel and Your Statement Of Faith: Your church website needs to be able to lead someone through the foundations of the Gospel and our faith.
  1. Clear Service Time(s)/Meeting Place: Your website visitors should be able to easily find out where and when you meet. I like to have this information on every relevant page and also in the footer of each page.
  1. A Simple Navigation Menu: I prefer something like: “Sundays, About, Events, Resources, Contact, Give”. Keep in mind to avoid jargon in your navigation titles like “SOMA” or “Body Life” because this is simply confusing to anyone outside your church. Even if your youth group has a specific name, use the words “Youth Group” or “High School Group” in the navigation bar.
  1. “Real” (But Still Nice) Photos: I prefer to use photos of the church and its members because it brings out the genuineness of the church better than stock photos do. Just be sure that they are good quality photos and that you have permission to use them online – especially if they have kids in the pictures.
  1. A Privacy Policy/Disclosures Page: Sadly, we live in an age where every website needs a privacy policy and disclosures page. What you need will depend on what information you collect on your website, where you advertise your church and some locations (specifically schools) might require a disclaimer on your website as well stating that they are not affiliated with you in any way.
  1. A Simple “Contact Us” Form: Too many contact forms require massive information. Even if you give the option for people to leave more information, you should only require a few things such as their name, email, and maybe their phone number. And remember: if you won’t use the information, then don’t ask for it. For example: don’t have a spot for their physical address if you won’t be sending them a letter or visiting them. This becomes both unnecessary (and intrusive) request to your visitor, but having that information also becomes an unnecessary (and unused) liability for you.
  1. A Podcast For Your Weekly Sermons: The beauty of the internet is that we can repurpose content for almost no additional cost. Instead of having sermons limited to a specific time and day of the week, you can now have a podcast available for members who missed the service because they missed the service or serving during it. Your podcast can also be used for nonmembers of your church who simply want to know Jesus better. Having a podcast is a win-win and you lose nothing by giving away the sermons you’ve already preached.
  2. A Clear And Easy Way To Give Online: Online giving is a trend that has skyrocketed and is not going away. There are many online giving options available (some of which tie directly into your website or app), but you only need one to make this an easy and quick experience for people who would rather give online.

A Resource Moving Forward

I hope these 11 things help you get the most out of your church website. However, mapping out your website can be time consuming and frustrating, and so I put together a general checklist that covers the needs of the majority of churches.

If you’re looking to revamp your website, or even completely create it, this is an important place to start. It’s in a previous blog post of mine titled: “Planning Your Church website,” which you can find at this link.

Bio:

Travis Sinks is the volunteer assistant pastor at Redemption Church Delray Beach. He is also a business growth consultant and web designer for churches. You can also check out his blog at travissinks.com which is written to encourage and equip the church as a whole in both their knowledge of scripture and in their practical lives of life and ministry.