Dr. Charles Revis, Executive Minister, ABC-NW
A year or two ago a friend (not a pastor) from one of our ABC-NW churches decided that he wanted to study growing churches in the Puget Sound area. He visited six churches in five weeks. These churches ranged from 319 in worship attendance upwards to 2,400. He only went to churches that had a reputation for vitality and growth. When he told me about this I asked him to list some of the common elements of these growing churches that seemed to be missing in his plateaued home church. Here’s the list he sent me in no particular order of priority or importance.
1. Technology—They all have a contemporary relevant look and feel to their website including videos, online giving and a Facebook presence. They use videos in worship, from announcements to reinforcing a sermon point. They send out automated phone message reminders to kids and parents about special youth events.
2. Verbally Promoting Small Groups—They are intentional and relentless in getting people involved in small groups from the stage and or video. Usually there is a person dedicated to growing this ministry, probably a paid position, most importantly a very committed point person.
3. Modern Worship Elements—All are doing contemporary music and have multiple, identical services. No choirs or bell choirs. Only experienced one "special music” in six churches (and it didn't appear to be their norm either). Greeting is done quickly among the people adjacent to one another.
4. Common Worship Band Elements—Music is done very well by worship bands, not “teams”. Transitions are smooth and well thought out. Lead singer sings verses and others join in on the choruses much like hearing it on the radio. The drums are amplified (or electronic). Music is loud drowning out the people singing next to one another reducing the possibility of feeling embarrassed that people might overhear. Stages with different heights. Multiple people in the AV booth.
5. Strong Communication—The pastors’ messages are relevant to everyday life with a challenging call to action as part of the sermon. Most teach from a table and stool rather than a podium or music stand. Casual teaching style with coffee cup, water bottle, Bible and notes on the table, occasionally sitting on a stool.
6. Evident Hospitality—All had people in place to welcome new comers. These greeters are marked with “help tags” and are positioned outside of the worship center and are available to direct or answer questions. Most of the outside welcoming people are older folks.
7. Extra Marketing Activities—All are doing various things to market themselves—inside and out—clear exterior signage, sandwich boards on the corners, Google Keyword searches—excellent interior signage (restrooms, children’s area, etc.).
8. Highly Motivated, Engaged People in charge of ministries, not committees. They pay staff to lead local outreach type ministries.
9. Children Focused—They make children's church fun—from Wii, activities, games, food, bouncies—energetic people coordinating and helping with the ministry.
10. Excellent Follow-up Process—Mix of snail mail and email.
11. Each Had a Wow Factor—The most important common element: They have a WOW factor; most notably casting vision for building God's Kingdom. They all have a BIG vision, goal, and purpose. They call their congregations to stretch and depend on God to reach out. It’s evident they are committed and dedicated to reaching, helping and loving the lost. They are committed and willing to take risks in this. Getting upwards to 70 people to arrive at 6 am every Sunday morning to set up for the rehearsal followed by two mornings services takes a ton of commitment to the vision.
There is much to be learned from studying growing churches. This is a helpful list and I encourage you to prayerfully consider what this layperson observed. I routinely encourage leadership teams to go on field trips for the purpose of learning from other churches. With so many churches offering Friday and Sunday night services this is easily done. Regardless of a church’s size most practices of growing churches can be adopted by smaller churches. It just takes focus, determination, creativity and a willingness to adapt.