From Connexus

Why Most Churches Greet You Like It’s 1999

So your church has a website and a Facebook page. The adventurous have perhaps added Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.

Or maybe you’ve gone all out, even podcasting your messages or building an app for iOS or Android. (The links are to Connexus Church sites, where I get the chance to serve!)

We’re still in the early days of social media and everyone’s trying to figure out what ministry online means.

Whatever your church might be doing, my guess is you’re trying to connect with people online in some way, which is awesome.

Here’s the question though.

When you welcome people to your church, do you still behave like it’s 1999?

Strangely, most churches do.

I’ve been to very large, high budget churches who have a digital presence everywhere and—for whatever reason—still welcome people like it was back in the day when the cassette ministry was booming.

I even caught myself doing this earlier this year.

The good news, the fix is quick simple and free for all of us.

Is My Glaring Omission Yours Too?

So what do you say when you welcome people to your church?

For years, our hosts (including me) have said something like:

Welcome to Connexus! We’re so glad you’re here. If you’re new here, we’d love to connect! Drop by our guest services desk. We’d love to connect with you there.

Today, we’ll be here for about 70 minutes, sing some songs together, open up the bible to see what it means to us today and pray together. (Then we share one or two announcements we want everyone to know.)

See what I missed there?

Did you catch it?

I said ZERO (as in nothing at all) about our online presence.

Nothing about our social media. Nothing about our app. Zippo about our podcast. Nothing.

Yet 80% of the people (or more) are sitting there with their phones in their pocket.

During the week, we try to behave like it’s 2014. But Sunday morning, I was behaving like it was 1999.

This is the Opportunity You’re Missing

If it was actually 1999, people would have to drive to your church or to someone’s home to connect with someone else from the church.

Or they would have to buy (or pick up) a cassette or CD to listen to a message or series.

For the most part, in ministry you would show up in peoples’ lives occasionally at best.

Now, you can show up in a person’s life every time someone checks their phone courtesy of social media, email, your app, your podcast and more.

I realize that’s a double edged sword. There are definitely people you don’t want showing up in your life every day.

But I’m guessing there are some people you’d really appreciate hearing from regularly.

What if your church became one of them?

What if people were genuinely thankful to hear from you during the week?

See…you and I have moved from a world in which we had the ability to encourage people once or twice a week, to a world in which we can connect daily.

This isn’t just a promotional thing (don’t miss our big cheesy dinner Tuesday night!), it’s a discipleship thing.

Seriously, you can gain permission to speak into people’s spiritual journey regularly.

Publish helpful, useful content, and people will sign up to follow you. Don’t, and of course, they’ll unfollow you. The online world gives you instant feedback on whether you’re helping people or not. Just check your stats.

The Fix is So Simple

So don’t miss this simple fix.

If you’re publishing helpful, online content (and I realize we’re all growing in this and trying to figure out what that means), then just make sure you mention it Sunday morning.

Behave on Sunday morning like you can help someone during the week.

And the easiest way to help them, encourage them, inspire them and inform people during the week is via social media and your online presence.

So talk about that.

This is what we say now when we welcome people at Connexus:

Welcome to Connexus! We’re so glad you’re here. If you’re new here, we’d love to connect! Drop by our guest services desk. We’d love to connect with you there. Today, we’ll be here for about 70 minutes, sing some songs together, open up the bible to see what it means to us today and pray together.

We’d love to stay connected with you this week. The easiest way to do that is by following us on social media. You’re welcome to take out your phones right now and follow us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram (we show the links on the screen as we say them). We also love hearing from you and this is great way to keep up the conversation.

Then, during the week…help people. Encourage, inspire and occasionally inform.

If you hand out a program or bulletin, make sure you include how to connect with you online.

And if you have a website, have a prominent place to follow your church on social media. People will connect with you 100x more on your social media platforms today than they ever will on your website.

Bottom line?

If you’ve got any online presence, talk about it on Sunday morning. Strangely, so many churches still don’t.

The change is free, easy, instant and everyone can do it. Just change what you say when you welcome people.

We’re All Learning

Want more? I’m not sure anyone has cracked the code on how to optimally use social media. But here are some resources that have helped me and some churches I like to follow online:

Cross Point Church

North Point Church 

Lifechurch.tv

New Spring Church

Elevation Church

Casey Graham and I also talked about how to connect with people using email marketing in Episode 3 of my leadership podcast.  (Subscribe for free here to hear feature length interviews with Andy Stanley, Perry Noble, Casey Graham, Kara Powell, Jon Acuff and more.)

Finally, nobody writes better stuff on church announcements than Rich Birch. Make sure you mine his site at Unseminary.com for posts like this that will change your announcements from a few minutes people tolerate to a few minutes people will anticipate.

So…what are you learning about connecting with people online during the week?

How do you highlight your social media on weekends?

Scroll down and leave a comment!

Is Church Online a Front Door—Or a Back Door—for Your Church?

It wasn’t that long ago you actually had to work hard to access anything you missed at the church you attended.

You had to show up in person to pick up a CD (or cassette…remember those??) or ask someone to mail you a copy. Or you simply missed out.

Fast forward to now, and almost every church has their messages available online.

Many also have podcasts and even apps. At Connexus, where I serve, we have all three.

And like a growing number of other churches, next year we’ll launch on online campus—a full broadcast of our morning services like North Point Online or Cross Point’s Internet Campus.

It’s always good to ask some questions when things are changing quickly.

What are the rapid rise of messages online and experiences online doing to the church and to people’s faith?

Are they acting as a front door to ministry and attracting people, or are they acting as a back door for people slowly leaving the church?

In other words, is the option of church online moving people closer to Christ, or further away?

It’s a great question every church leader should think through.

 

So What’s Happening, Exactly?

When the option of churches podcasting and launching online campuses became real 6-8 years ago, it looked like it was all upside for the local church

A chance to reach more people.

An opportunity to get the Word out.

A chance to reach people who are scared of walking through a church door.

More exposure.

And, in many ways, all that upside is still there and amazing.

But another trend has emerged that no one really saw coming. Or at least I didn’t.

A growing number of Christians seem to be watching the local church rather than being engaged in the local church.

It’s not usually a huge number, but talk to even the mega-church people behind the scenes and they’ll tell you that as many as several thousand who used to attend in person aren’t any more. They’re watching from the comfort of a bed or beach instead.

While this hasn’t killed attendance by any stretch, it has dented it. The churches that offer numerous online gateways are still growing, but they are also seeing a smaller exodus of Christians no one is sure what to do with.

And it’s alarming for many more reasons than it being downward pressure on a growth curve.

 

4 Questions About Church Online For Christians

If you’re a Christian and your primary experience of church is online, my question is “why”?

Here are 4 questions I would ask:

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The Secret to Creating a Highly Motivated Team

One of the most significant challenges of leadership is aligning a group of people around a common mission, vision and strategy.

Some of you are trying to rally a dozen people around a common cause. Some of you are trying to rally hundreds, others thousands.

Sometimes I feel like I spend half my time as a lead pastor trying to keep people aligned around a vision mission and strategy that’s bigger than all of us.

How do you do that?

There are a lot of factors.

But today I want to share a secret with you.

Something that I think has gotten us more mileage than many of the other things we’ve done.

And something you can do too. If you have the courage.

And I believe you do.

 

 

We Discovered the Secret By Accident

We have groups of leaders visit our church on a fairly regular basis. They usually come to see how we do portable church, what it’s like to be an Orange church or details on being a North Point Strategic Partner.

To the best of my knowledge, nobody has ever called us up asking to study our volunteers.

But almost every team—without fail—wraps up their visit with a question that goes like this. What is the deal with your volunteers? How do you motivate them? 

I can understand the question. It takes between 300-400 volunteers to run our church at this stage. We only have 10 staff spread out over two locations.

We’re a fully portable church at this point.

That means volunteers roll out of bed as early as 3:30 a.m. to pick up trailers full of gear and drive them to our sites.

Others arrive between 6:00 and 6:30 a.m. to start set up, and others flood in to serve in our production, family ministry, guest services and other environments.

And what’s amazing even to us is that they do it with a smile. You can’t buy the kind of energy, commitment or joy they bring.

For a while, we didn’t have a good answer to people’s questions about our team’s energy and motivation.

We usually said “I don’t know” and “God’s been good to us”, both of which are true, but neither of which is particularly helpful to the leaders who were  asking the question.

Then one day our team sat down to talk about it, and we came up with an answer.

 

So What’s the Secret?

So how do you motivate a team to serve with joy and without pay?

Read more

5 Reasons People Have Stopped Attending Your Church (Especially Millennials)

Ever wonder why generating momentum in the local church seems harder than ever for most leaders?

You’re not alone; the conversation about momentum and shifting attendance trends is happening at every level of church, including some of the largest and fastest growing churches in North America.

Everyone is feeling at least two realities:

First, even people who attend church have stopped attending as frequently as they used to (I wrote about how to reverse that here).

Even in communities that are home to growing churches, the overall percentage of the population that attends church continues to drop, especially among under 30s.

Recently, the Barna Group released a new survey citing (among others) five compelling reasons church attending continues to decline, particularly among Millennials (those 30 and under).

The good news is that once you spot the trends, you can work at reversing them.

 

5 Reasons People Have Stopped Attending Your Church

In the study, Barna cites 5 specific reasons Millennials have stopped attending church that drew my attention:

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6 Keys to Breaking the 200, 400 and 800 Attendance Barriers

While there’s a lot of ‘sensitivity’ around the subject of large churches v. smaller churches, the reality is many church leaders I know sincerely want to reach more people.

Which means, in the end, they are hoping their church will grow.

Surprisingly, only a tiny percentage of churches ever make it past 200 people in attendance. Why is that?

Well, as I shared in this post (which is also by far the most read post on this blog), there are at least 8 reasons why churches don’t make it past the 200 attendance mark.

In this post I want to offer 6 keys to breaking church growth barriers and address 6 more reasons churches don’t get there.

church growth barriers

Here’s What’s Missing

I’m going to assume leaders are praying and that the church is biblical and authentic in its mission. I’ll also assume that leaders want to church to grow.

But even with all those conditions in place, too many churches just can’t push through.

And even once you get past 200, some churches can’t make it past 400 or 800.  Again, not for lack of desire or opportunity.

So why can’t they grow?

They simply haven’t structured for growth.

My first post explores this in detail and I’ll also remind you again of the best book I’ve ever read on the subject: Carl George and Warren Bird’s, How to Break Growth Barriers. They go into detail about some of the barriers I raise in this post and the previous one.

Wise leaders position their church today to make an impact tomorrow.

And by the way, if you’re tempted to criticize this as ‘yet another strategy piece’, please read Exodus 18Luke 10 and Acts 6. (Apparently, God likes structure and organization too.)

 

6 Keys to Breaking 200, 400 and 800 in Attendance

While embracing all 6 things won’t guarantee your church will grow, every church I know that has successfully pushed past the 200, 400 and 800 barriers has navigated these changes (and dealt with the 8 problems in the other post).

Here are 6 keys:

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Behind the Scenes: 2013 Blog Highlights and Stats

I was encouraged by a post my friend Tony Morgan ran recently outlining the year on his blog in numbers .

I haven’t seen a lot of bloggers do a post like that, and like Tony said, maybe 3 people will be interested in it.

But here are some highlights from 2013 on the blog, as well as some insights for those of you who are blogging or want to begin blogging.

home office

Although this is a much longer post than normal, I hope it’s a glimpse behind the scenes for those of you who are interested in those things. I chronicled some of the emotional journey of blogging in this post. This one will tell some stories and finish with stats.

I also hope this post helps you get a framework to better understand what’s happening in your world. (And by the way, the picture is the desk in my home office from which I write this blog and so much of the rest of the content I write for Connexus and elsewhere.)

 

Highlights

1. You

I can’t say enough good things about those of you who read the blog.

I’ve heard so many encouraging stories from so many of you, in the comments, on social media and via email. I read every one of them (and respond to as many as I can). You’ve written to let me know you are launching blogs, going back to school, starting churches, seeking counseling (the burnout post really connected) and finding more margin at home among other things.

I also had a chance to connect with many of you personally at the Orange Conference, on the Orange Tour, at North Point and through other speaking engagements both in North American and Europe. I can’t tell you how much I love meeting you personally.

There is no better fuel to keep writing that to know it’s making a difference. Thank you. You truly are an awesome tribe.

 

2. Friends

Every blogger/writer needs friends.

I’m blessed to have a really wide circle of friends in leadership who play a variety of roles in my life. There isn’t a day that goes by in which I don’t give thanks for that.

The people below represent a smaller group of that wider circle, but I list them because they’ve walked through my writing/blogging journey sometimes on a daily basis and have been super encouraging.

I’m very grateful for their input and ideas. My writing journey would have been much tougher and less rewarding without them. I list these friends (there are others) because they are in the public eye and most write their own blog.

If you don’t know them, you should (each one of these voices is a must listen). And if you’re a writer, you need to cultivate a circle of writing friends like this. Sure, the names will be different, but the impact will be amazing:

Casey Graham Casey is an entrepreneurial leader’s best friend. After starting Giving Rocket and Preaching Rocket, he’s now launching Business Rocket. His blog has a ton of great ideas for every kind of leader.

Brian Dodd Brian is one of the most generous people I know. He encouraged me out of the gate before I even knew who he was. He writes an incredible blog, which if you haven’t discovered it, you should. 

Jeff Brodie Jeff and I get to work together at Connexus Church, where Jeff serves in an executive pastor role. His insight on ministry and life is exceptional, and started blogging himself earlier in 2013. A must read.

Rich Birch Few people get innovation like Rich. Rich is one of the most forward thinking leaders I know. He’s always ahead of the curve. He’s given tons of support and encouragement over the year, and before he went to Liquid Church in New Jersey, Rich served on our staff team for a few years.

Chris Lema Chris did more before his 30th birthday than most of us would do in 70 years—just one of those guys. He’s helping me behind the scenes with the technical aspects of the blog. He only recently started blogging but his blog has quickly become an authority and leading voice in the WordPress community.

Craig Jutila Craig and I have known of each other for years but finally connected personally earlier this year at a conference we both spoke at. He quickly became a great friend. His story is powerful and he < writes in such an honest, personal and compelling way.

Michael Lukaszewksi Michael is the CEO of the Rocket Company and writes a personal blog here. He’s a rare combination of practical systems and gut level personal honesty. He’s also helping thousands of church leaders advance.

 Jeff Henderson Okay, Jeff doesn’t write a blog (I wish he would), but he’s launching some new online projects in 2014. If you don’t follow Jeff, you should. He’s the voice of Preaching Rocket and is on twitter. Jeff has been a great encourager and you will hear much more from him in 2014.

Ron Edmondson. Ron’s been an influence both in his writing (if he can blog almost daily and lead a great church…maybe I can too), and has helped both in terms of sharing content and giving me super helpful feedback on my writing. Plus he’s so much fun to talk to.

 

3. Stats

Probably the most surprising part of 2013 for me is how fast the blog grew.

It honestly blew away every expectation I had. That’s because so many of you have been so generous in sharing content with your teams and through social media. All I can say is thank you.

I write for two principle reasons:

1. I hope it helps you. The filter through which I run every post is this question “Will this help leaders?”. Clearly some are more helpful than others, but that’s my goal.

2. It helps me process what I’m learning. I think the blog is an online journal for me. I am always trying to process what I’m learning, what God is doing and what’s happening around us.

 The growth has been a by product of that.

Please know the background. Although I have blogged for over 6 years, I only decided in October 2012 to blog three times a week in primarly 4 areas: leadership, personal growth, change and communication. Since that shift, the growth has been significant.

Here’s 2013 in numbers.

Read more

How To Get Your Church Passionate About Your Mission

One of the dreams of almost every leader is to see every person within an organization motivated by the same mission and vision.

The reality is very few organizations—and very few churches—function that way.

how to get your team passionate about mission

Most leaders have had an unsettling feeling that they might be the most passionate person about their mission, and wonder how on earth to get dozens, hundreds or even thousands of others on board instead of wandering off on their own course.

Well, you can change that. And it’s simpler (and more challenging at the same time) than you think.

Keep reading…

A Short Guide to the Challenges of Church Transfer Growth

So your church is growing or wants to grow. But what do you do when churched people show up?

I recently wrote about the challenges and opportunities you face when unchurched people arrive. But what about transfer growth?

That’s a whole other category.

Church transfer growth

Transfer growth has several challenges that, unattended, can wreak havoc in your church.

Not all transfer growth is bad. But you have to be careful.

And transfer growth is inevitable. As much as you shoot for 100% of your growth to be from the unchurched, if you’ve got a great ministry, transfer growth will happen.

But it does come with challenges.

Here are 5 challenges most leaders face with transfer growth.

Keep reading…

7 Signs Your Church is Making Inroads With Unchurched People

Just because a church is growing doesn’t mean it’s filling up with unchurched people.

How do you know you’re really making inroads with the unchurched?

signs you're reaching unchurchedFirst, you can find out whether you are attracting transfer growth or truly unchurched people.

At Connexus, where I serve, we ask new people to fill out a card (I’ll send a copy of that card to everyone on the Blog Insider’s Email List later this week. You can subscribe for free in the right column of this page). By that we’ve learned that 60% of our first time attenders self-identify as having no church background.

But you can also tell because of how unchurched people change the dynamic in your church. Your church will simply not be the same anymore.

Preparing to reach unchurched people is one thing (here are 9 signs your church is ready to reach unchurched people). But when unchurched people actually start connecting with your church, things change deeply.

When you see these 7 signs pop up in your church, you will know that you are really making inroads with the unchurched:

Keep reading…

9 Great Ways for Leaders To Use Social Media (+ 3 Mistakes)

Social media has changed the leadership landscape radically in the last few years.

The question is how do you use it optimally as a leader?

leaders and social media

In my experience, social media is both about what you do on social media as well as how you do it. The what is your content. The how is your tone.

Both are critical.

I don’t think I’ve nailed social media at all, but I love learning. (I’m actually going to completely reboot how we do all our social media at Connexus over the next few months [and rethink how I use it personally]). So my notebook’s open.

9 Great Ways to Use Social Media

That said, there are some emerging best practices that can help leaders immediately. Here are 9 great ways for leaders to use social media:

Keep reading…