Reblog – Why it’s good for churches to have a membership course

It encourages people to actually join the fellowship in their minds and in their hearts.

It avoids the old “join us for 6months before you serve”… as if going to 15+ sunday meetings is going to really help them understand what your church is on about, our help you know enough about them?

It allows people to opt-out early, rather than wasting 6-18months in your church, before they realise you believe in predestination, and they leave; that’s just wastes their time and your church’s time too.

It allows people to opt-in early. If people join you well; understanding all the things your church thinks is important, agreeing with you, and keen to share the vision you’re praying for… then, let them serve, get them involved.

It gives them an opportunity to meet the pastor/staff that just doesn’t happen easily on a Sunday; there really is so much happening on a Sunday, and if your pastoral staff are excellent, then the’ve probably at least said hi once… but a membership course allows them to have a conversation – maybe the only one they’ll get in years (depending on your church size).

It gives them enough information to start asking good questions. Most people don’t have questions about your church, because they don’t know your church, they don’t have any buckets of thinking to investigate. A course helps them see that they have questions/issues.

There’s probably many more…

Thoughts on inter-church involvement

Inter-church involvement is great – but it doesn’t make Christians united (because Christians are, by nature of our union with Jesus, ALREADY united) – but it is one (of many good ways) we can express the unity Christians have. Let me stress that it is only ONE possible way and that there are many other ways of expressing this, not the least through prayer… Some will say, “But people can’t see and experience the unity expressed through prayer! Our unity should be visible.” I agree, however, I disagree on to whom it should be visible. Our expressions of unity should be visible first to God, and second to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms (who I assume see what we do in secret):

This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus… this mystery was for ages past kept hidden in God, who created all things. His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms (Eph 3).

So, care less about showing the world that the church on this street corner and the church on that street corner can “do things” together, and instead, live for the glory of the God who is showing you off in the court-room of heaven. Love Jesus, love people, love each other. Be united in eternal purpose and hope and faith. Don’t get caught up in some felt need to “look” united in the eyes of the world – they really don’t care.

Phone calls, SMSs, email, Social media and Pastoral Ministry

Since we pastor people, and people are not in a vacuum but are part of a culture, the cultural norms and tools affect what pastoral ministry look like from generation to generation. Our culture uses SMSs, phone-calls, emails and social media in particular ways, and if we are pastoring cultural-normalised sheep, we need to properly leverage these tools. So here’s my current perception/opinions/ideas… that will probably be proved wrong in many cases… But just observing the 18-25 year olds…

  • Phone calls are for serious business. They are the 90’s equivalent of a formal letterhead. Calling to just say “hi” is a confusion of categories. Phone conversations needs to be planned-in; you need to SMS in advance, “Hey, can I phone you about this? How about now?”. This generation is telling us that the prospect of getting a “welcome phone call” is somewhere between weird and scary… and yet… if it’s done well, it still works!! Maybe because no-one else does it and they realise there’s actually a real person at the other end of the communication (sometimes lost in SMSs).
  • SMSs are the new phone-calls. They work for our current Individualistic culture, because they are easily ignored. You don’t have to reply straight away. The message has arrived, but you are culturally allowed to deal with it in your own time (10mins, 10hrs, even 10days!!!). This means, while SMSs do steal people’s attention, they are good ways of one-way communication. And they do open the door to two-way communication.
    We’ve recently tried sending mass SMSs to our whole church to pray for an evangelistic even WHILE it happens. Anecdotally, this has been received well.
  • Email is more and more becoming a one-way communication tool. Most people are swamped by emails… but what that usually means is that they only respond to a very few of the emails they think they should respond to. Let me say that again… people still read almost all their email (headers/subjects at least). And for many of these emails, they feel an internal conviction that they SHOULD reply or take some action, but they don’t. Therefore email has become a huge source of individual guilt for people. They are not swamped by email, but rather swamped by the guilt produced when they look at email. Take home message, if you want a response, email is very unlikely to garner much.
  • Social media is still a new beast. Someone somewhere made the valid point that in 20years time we’ll look back and think, what on earth were we doing then!?! It has certain characteristics of SMS and email; there’s so much of it (like email), but people don’t feel the guilt they do with email. It’s also personal like SMS. We’ve found that people are more willing to give their Facebook details and be Private Messaged on FB than they are being SMSed… maybe a trend to continue?

One of the take home messages is, if you’re involved in pastoring people aged 15-25… you should consider SMSing them a lot! I mean a lot… from a pastoral point of view, you get easy access to people’s personal thoughts almost 24/7. And then when you do meet with them, they feel much more connected to you – even if you don’t feel much more connected to them.

Welcome people well by telling them…

Welcome people well by telling them what their next step “in” would look like.
You know your church. Your regulars know your church. But the new person doesn’t. So, you can’t just assume they’re going to find their way in to the community and life of the church. In fact, not telling them is quite unloving.
So it might be worth describing it for them, help them picture the type of thing they’d choose to do next to step into the church family.
It might look something like, “Look, we’d love you to make this your church, but that can be a really vague decision, can’t it. Most people either stumble into church families, or they don’t. If you wanted to start making that decision yourself, I reckon the next step for you would be to sign up, and come along to…”

Why Oxygen2014 is valuable

This year I’ve been given the opportunity to go to Oxygen2014 – as a blogger/reporter. I reckon that’s an offer that’s pretty hard to refuse. And it comes back to what makes inter-church conferences valuable.

Inter-church conferences are when people from many churches gather for an event – as opposed to people from one church having their own event (Like we’re doing this week at forge2014!!!). It could be 1 day, weekend, or a whole week.

But there are two basic reasons to go to an inter-church conference… either

  1. to facilitate friendship with other Christians from other churches, or
  2. to facilitate friendships within your church members

See, if you’ve got a small church, chances are you don’t need to run your own church conference – everyone already knows each other. Going away for 3 days isn’t really going to make that much of a difference. In fact, if your flock has been part of a small church for years, they might need reminding that Jesus’ church is massive by going along to a inter-church conference, and meeting all these other Christians and being encouraged that they’re not the only ones. Those conferences are usually smaller (50-500 people). If’ you’re organising a smallish inter-church conferences, that should be one of your goals… facilitating people meeting new people and having to chat.

If you’ve got a bigger church, chances are that many of the people DON’T know each other very well. Those people don’t need to meet and chat with Christians from other churches, rather they need to get to know each other better and form their own relationships. So you’ve got two options. Either run your own church-conference so they spend the time with each other, or, go to a very large inter-church conference AS A GROUP that sticks together.

This is what we’ve done with Men’s Convention over the past few years. We knew we really needed our guys to get to know each other better. They didn’t have the time for a few conferences a year, and we couldn’t run our own, so we hire a bus and go to Katoomba Men’s convention as a group, we stay together and, while enjoying being with 2000+ guys, we try to get to know each other better first.

This comes back to why Oxygen2014 is valuable. It’s for that relatively small group of church “leaders”. Not just senior pastors, but those people who bare some level of responsibility for their church. It’s usually a lonely job. Paul knows it…

Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. (2Cor 11:28)

Oxygen2014 gives leaders the chance to meet and be encouraged by other leaders who know what it’s like.

Reblog: Whenever someone joins a church, re-appoint the ‘elders’

Paul’s instruction to Timothy; “appoint elders in every town”… do we do that any more – or was it just an early church thing?
Think about those early churches; Paul went and preached in a town, the gospel spread and fellowships of believers began to gather together. Paul saw a theologically based need for those fellowships to have leaders – theological leaders – put in place. The churches had none… so Paul needed to appoint one.
That doesn’t really happen that much does it? Sure, some churches might loose their senior pastor; but even then, there’s some sort of eldership body in place.
But this does still happen. Whenever someone joins a church, they re-appoint the elders – in their heart. They are joining a fellowship of people who are already under the authority of their pastor/elders/staff.
And you can’t separate the two; you can’t join the fellowship without considering the appointed pastor/staff/elders as your pastor/staff/elders.
So do you do it? Do you help new people to your church (who are Christians) to appoint the leaders as their “elders”? Do you help them get what that means?
My guess is that if you don’t help that happen, there’s a good chance it won’t.

Reblog: Learn to say, “Maybe we’re not for you”

When Christians visit your church, and they’re looking at becoming regular/members… you need to ask yourself whether you want them to join you because it’s good for your church, or good for them.
It always feels good to have new people join you. A new face gives people a sense of purpose, success, growth, momentum. In fact, the hope of those feelings may make us say or do things to ensure that those new people stay. At what point does this become manipulation?
But when might you say, “Maybe this church isn’t for you”?
We’d only say that after we’ve been really clear about what our church holds as important. If the new person violently disagrees with something you hold as important AND they’re not even willing to consider that (and your church isn’t either)… well… your church isn’t for them is it.
You can still want them to come. You can still offer them to join you, but the most loving thing for them is to make the differences clear, so they can make a good decision. It’ll mean saying something like, “We’d love you to join us, but I need to be clear; joining our church will mean we will continually ask and persuade you to… (give up your idols) (repent of sexual immorality) (devote yourself to prayer). We think that’s so important, and if you don’t, then I’d plead with you to change, but maybe we’re not for you.”
And ultimately, this IS the best thing for your church too.