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The Challenge Of Sundays In A Smaller Church (via Karl Vaters)

Having come from a meeting today where church attendance figures were submitted, this article by Karl Vaters makes some helpful points.
While there is an average number of people attending a church, in reality attendances can fluctuate between, say, thirty-five an sixty people.
That difference makes a significant change in tone, and, realistically, most weeks those planning worship don’t know which ‘group’ they’re structuring for.

Vaters suggests:

Think relationally not programmatically
Highly programmed people have a hard time in small church leadership. Highly relational people do much better.
When numbers are small, and week-to-week percentage swings are highly variable, you can’t lead with a fill-in-the-boxes mentality.
In small churches, everything is done relationally. Our planning needs to be, too.
*and*
Leave a lot of wiggle room in your plans
Most planning principles are based on exact numbers. But when you don’t have exact numbers, you can’t plan that way.
Instead of saying “we need X number of ushers, greeters or nursery attendants”, talk with the members of your church about the importance of being ready for anything at a moment’s notice.

Read the whole post here.


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On The Importance Of Greeters (via Thom Rainer)

The church’s presentation of the Gospel commences when guests walk through the door.
From Thom Rainer, an unappreciated but vital ministry of service.

A greeter is a leader in ministry. It is critical that these leaders are strategically located where they will make first and powerful connections with guests. When we have a good greeter ministry in our church, we know where every greeter will be. We know the specifics of every assignment.
You see, without an organized greeter ministry, we are not likely to be where the guests are. We are not likely to see them when they arrive.
It is not an overstatement to say the presence of greeters in strategic locations could very well have an eternal gospel impact on someone.
It’s just that important.

source


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Why Starbucks Failed In Australia (via CNBC)

“They thought their business model could just roll out.”
I’ve watched forty years or so of church ministries franchise themselves as the future of the church without having the humility or awareness to realise that they were a lot more dependent on local circumstances and personalities than they thought.
“The company said that it would develop in Italy with humility and respect.”
If only Christian ministries focussed on church growth would do the same.
Interestingly the company’s plans for Australia now seem to be focussed on presenting a familiar presence and product for tourists visiting the country.


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On Praying That God Would Bring In People Not Like Us (via Daniel Darling)

Daniel Darling on church being a snapshot of God’s grace and not homogeneous unit management principles:

Sometimes, in our quest to create cutting-edge churches, we sacrifice our long-term futures for short-term benefits. I’ve often felt this way as I’ve walked into vibrant, well-known churches or as I attend popular evangelical conferences. It seems that we are often creating a church for the young, hip, and sexy. It’s as if we want our message to the world to be something like, “See, church is the place where the cool people gather on Sunday.”
But the kingdom of God takes the opposite approach.
Jesus said it is the poor, the downtrodden, and the marginalized who have a prominent place in the kingdom of God (Matt. 5:3, 20:16). Paul reminded his churches of the shocking ordinariness of God’s people (1 Cor. 1:26). James scolded those in the church of Jerusalem for their tendency to favor the wealthy and powerful at the expense of the poor (James 2:1-13).
Do our congregations look like outposts of this radical kingdom? Do people enter our congregations and wonder to themselves, How did these disparate people get here? What possible thread unites people so vastly separated by age, race, political affiliation, and class? Why is it that old and young, black and white, disabled and able-bodied, rich and poor, prominent and anonymous gather together every Sunday?

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Who Owns The Culture? (via Karl Vaters)

I’ll be getting a copy of Karl Vater’s book Small Church Essentials.
While the main cross-cultural issue is that characterising a congregation of under 250 people as a small church in Australia is an over-reach, the observations about group dynamics in groups of varying sizes should hold true.

This excerpt about who shapes culture in a local church strikes me as true:

In bigger or newer churches, the culture is more likely to be determined by the pastoral staff, with the congregation more willing to follow. In smaller and older churches, the culture is more the property of the congregation and its history than the pastor. The smaller or older the church, the greater impact the culture will have on any new ideas, projects, or changes a pastor wants to implement, especially if the congregation has had a high pastoral turnover.

If this point isn’t taken into calculations cultural change in smaller groups will be a struggle.


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The Difference Between Complacency And Other Causes Of Slow Pace In Church Culture (via Sam Rainer)

Sam Rainer offers some observations about church culture: whether the pace of change can be attributed to complacency or other elements of culture that mean that change does not take place at the same pace as other places.
Wise pastoral leadership will take the time to learn what is behind the church’s culture, and also not expect change to take place at the same pace everywhere on the basis of superficial similarities.
From Rainer:

Every church has a pace built into the culture of its people. Some churches move more slowly. Some move more quickly. While most established churches likely need to pick up the pace, a slow pace does not necessarily mean the church is complacent.
Complacent churches are self-satisfied and are unwilling to address problems. Unfortunately, far too many churches are complacent. But don’t confuse complacency with a slow pace. Some congregations are willing to move forward; it just takes them a little longer. A few factors may influence the slow pace of a church.
The community may move at a slower pace. The church is simply reflecting the greater culture of the community. For example, rural communities tend to change less quickly. A church that moves too quickly in a slow-moving farming community may actually become less relevant.
A slow pace may point to stability, not entrenchment. It’s hard to move rapidly and also be stable. Slow-moving stability can be better for some church cultures. The downside of this pattern is it can create ruts of entrenchment, but it doesn’t have to be the case. When used strategically, stability can advance discipleship, sacrificial giving, and equipping—none of which point to complacency.
Leaders may guide the church methodically. Not every leader is designed to push forward with intensity. Not every church needs a hard-charging pastor full of ambition and ideas. Some church leaders plod thoughtfully, with intention and strategy. Plodding leaders are not complacent leaders.
The season of a church may necessitate a slower pace. When a church needs to heal, it almost always needs to slow down. A church may go through months, if not years, of a slower pace. This intentional slowdown may be the opposite of complacency. It could be the problem is the fast pace.
Passion is not always fast. Restoring an antique car takes time. It’s a painstaking process. The slowness of the restoration process is a sign of passion, not complacency or apathy. The same principle applies to the church. Pastors who revitalize churches may move slowly, but it’s an indicator of their passion and love for the church, not a mark of complacency.

Don’t make the mistake of assuming all slow-moving churches are complacent. In fact, many established churches require plodding leaders who are willing to take the time to revitalize them. These pastors are passionate, not complacent.

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A Very Confronting Diagnostic Question (via Karl Vaters)

Karl Vaters’ articles usually have some sharp takeaways.
In writing about ten steps churches should take in order to remain vital he writes we should:

Figure Out Why Your Congregation Should Survive
If your church disappeared tomorrow, what would really be lost?
Yes, that’s hard question. It might even feel cruel and uncaring. But it’s not. It’s essential.
Any congregation that can’t readily answer why they should survive, won’t.

Read the whole post here.