4 Areas Where Church Leaders Need Continuing Education Pt 2

By Dr. Franklin Dumond

The world of the church and the world at large continues to change at an ever increasing rate. The 21st century provides greater challenges than ever to the church leader who would remain relevant and current. Four areas where church leaders need continuing education to meet these challenges.

  1. Communication Skills. Click here to read about why continuing to better communication skills is necessary for church leaders.
  2. Personal Evangelism. Too many churches report zero conversions in a year because too few church leaders engage in personal evangelism.

a) The Public Arena of Personal Evangelism.

Our changed and changing culture has made many of the traditional approaches to evangelism obsolete or less effective than they once were. Unfortunately many aspects of evangelism were public, general appeals. Their success was proportional to the advance work that had been done to prepare people to hear, understand and respond to the gospel.

The advance preparation, for the most part, came from a culture with a Judeo-Christian morality and a worldview that included acknowledgment of a benevolent creator. The advance preparation also included a cultural respect for the church and a general awareness that local churches were open to all who would choose to attend.

The practical reality also existed that the church provided the ‘best show in town’ with music and message that simply was not available except by attending in person.

This public appeal for a decision was an innovation of the 19th century that was widely accepted by the 1850s. In the aftermath of the great Camp Meetings the practice of local evangelistic meetings also spread with the geographic and religious frontier of the day.

Throughout much of the 20th century this public practice of evangelism continued with predictable success. The cultural reinforcements for the Christian gospel were in place but in the later years of the 20th century this began to change.

In my experience by 1990 spontaneous response to a general public appeal to become a Christian all but disappeared. The Sawdust Trail of the Camp Meeting and the great crusades was no longer a built-in part of the cultural or social expectations communicated to people.

The public efforts to win people to Christ, then, became less effective not because the gospel was ineffective but because of the lack of preparation provided by an increasingly secular culture.

The simple fact that evangelism requires background information to prepare people to make a decision for Christ has been known since the 1st century. It shows in the declaration by the Apostle Paul to describe the Corinthian process of evangelism: I planted, Apollos watered, God gave the increase.

The simple fact that public evangelistic efforts are more successful when people share a world view that is sympathetic to the gospel is illustrated in the contrast between Acts 2 and the thousands who were baptized on Pentecost and Acts 17 and the few who believed when the same message was presented. In Acts 2 the people were prepared. In Acts 17 the background information simply did not exist and without prior knowledge they could not come to a decision.

Does a shifting culture exclude a public appeal to become a Christian? Not at all!

The cultural deficiencies of a secular, hostile culture requires some added features to this public proclamation that were not necessary a generation ago. Four elements come to mind.

  1. I believe simple explanations of the gospel should be part of every pastor’s preaching calendar. Thus a few times each year (perhaps 3-4) the morning message is a simple recounting of the gospel.
  2. Public invitations must avoid the #1 fear of being pointed out in public. There is nothing about walking to the front of an auditorium that will in and of itself save anyone. Effective use of a communication card or spiritual survey can gain the attention of hearers who otherwise would never respond publically.

iii. A sample prayer is needed. Again because of the cultural deficiencies of our secular mindset we need to assist people in making those connections to God. On the gospel presentation days it is possible to lead the entire group to repeat this prayer!

iv. Focus evangelism on 2-3 Big Days as a means of making initial public connections that will result in on-going private conversations.

b) The Private Arena of Personal Evangelism

i. Relationship is the key and must be cultivated. Jesus used his relation building skills to connect with people. We can do the same. This takes time and often requires a compassionate heart and a patient spirit.

ii. Un-churched is different from De-churched. De-churched people have experience with the gospel and its impact on a local assembly. Often they suffer their own personal disappointments that require bridges of trust must be redeveloped. Often the de-churched have their own disappointments with life that impact and complicate their disappointment with the church.

Un-churched have no clue about church music, church etiquette or church finance. Patience is required to gently teach and train. We used to call it being user friendly. Non-threatening is another expression that could be used here.

iii. Important tools in the toolbox of personal evangelism include:

–personal integrity since they will not trust the message until they trust the messenger,

–personal understanding of the issues and context involved so that a customized response rather than a one-size-fits-all answer may be provided,


  1. A three-fold witnessing plan is essential.

Many folks are well equipped to provide an Instructional Witness where they will offer answers to questions about the faith–apologetics. Still others will be able to provide an Informational Witness as they tell their story of personal faith. Many leaders find the first steps of personal witness come from encouraging an Invitational Witness whereby believers invite their unbelieving friends and family members to attend a Big Day.

  1. Making Disciples in a Non-Christian Culture requires that we cannot rely on the culture at large to teach basic Christian beliefs. For example, many folks in my generation learned the Lord’s Prayer at school along with the Pledge of Allegiance. This doesn’t happen these days so church leaders must be more intentional and more comprehensive in their disciple making enterprises.
  2. Maintaining an appropriate work/life balance now that the 24/7 on-call world of ministry has expanded to the 24/7 digitally-connected world of ministry. Many church leaders manage to appear very busy without being very productive. Pilots are reminded as they prepare for solo flight “Don’t forget to fly the plane!” In their case it is tempting to focus so much on the dials and indicators that the essential task of flying becomes secondary.

Frantic, last minute preparations are sometimes necessary because of unexpected interruptions and emergency ministry needs. More often, however, they are the result of poor time usage early in the week that requires frantic effort at the end of the week because Sunday is about to arrive!

Even in the 24/7 world of connections pastors still need some regularity of schedule to accomplish the routine ministries of worship and witness and service.



Christian Population Shrinking?

By Franklin Dumond

WASHINGTON — The United States is a significantly less Christian country than it was seven years ago.

That’s the top finding — one that will ricochet through American faith, culture and politics — in the Pew Research Center’s newest report, “America’s Changing Religious Landscape,” released Tuesday [May 12, 2015].

This trend “is big, it’s broad and it’s everywhere,” said Alan Cooperman, Pew’s director of religion research.—USA Today, Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Reported on both the local and national news media the research reports that about 70% of Americans label themselves Christian while in 2007 about 78% chose the Christian label. At the same time 23% of Americans now classify themselves as have no religious affiliation up from 16% in 2007.

Several other features of the research report that evangelicals remain more stable in their percentage of the population while Catholics have lost both market share and real numbers. The study was based on 35,000 respondents.

Noted church researcher Ed Stetzer often remarks that facts are our friends. It appears to me that this is true of the current study despite the alarmist reaction in both local and national media. There is cause for alarm but there is also a basis for optimism.

Cause for Alarm: An 8% loss is serious. This accounts for about a 1% loss of market share every year since the last survey taken in 2007. Among evangelicals, however, the loss was much smaller with a decline from 21% of the adult population to 19% of the adult population.

Basis for Optimism: One important fact not included in the news coverage of the research study is that the overall number of believers in the United States has remained relatively stable for a generation or more. What has changed is the rate of growth of the Christian movement in the United States. Growing at a slower rate than the overall population means a loss of market share but no necessarily a loss of total numbers. Thus the imminent demise of the Christian church is not likely.

Cause for Alarm: The rise of the “Nones” is significant. Nearly one-fourth of the population surveyed indicated no religious preference. Cultural trends influence this response. In the middle of the 20th century going to church was an accepted, even expected, cultural trait. The Christian church in America enjoyed preferential treatment and competing activities were simply not allowed. For example sports leagues and extra-curricular activities were never scheduled on Sunday mornings and in many communities were not allowed on Wednesday evenings.

Basis for Optimism. The loss of cultural Christians leaves a ‘lean, mean, fighting machine’ of believers who have intentionally chosen their faith. It’s been a long time since I heard the stories of church leaders who served faithfully for 20-30-40 years finally coming to a personal faith after all those years of service.

Cause for Alarm. The downward trend in market share has resulted in a loss of preferential treatment for the Christian Church and has even tended toward a hostile environment of skepticism and distrust. In some cultures the current treatment of some Christians in America would be considered persecution. Can the church in America survive in a hostile environment?

Basis for Optimism. The loss of preferential treatment for the institutional church removes many of the automatic tools designed to propagate the faith that were available to earlier generations. Relationships, however, remain the key to winning people. Thus with a larger proportion of non-believers the fields remain white for harvest if believers take seriously their relationship to non-believers.

Cause for Alarm. It is harder to reach people these days by just having a physical presence on a busy street. A church planter who became a mentor to me in my younger days always advocated three key ingredients for church growth in the 1950s: “location, location, location”. He knew that in his day folks would come to church, if they knew where the church was located. Thus visibility was the key ingredient to church growth.

Basis for Optimism. The gospel still works! Ministry remains hard work but for those pastors and church leaders who will intentionally hold forth the Good News life change will still happen. The key ingredient these days is not location of facility. Nor is it style of worship. The key ingredient these days is gaining a hearing for the gospel so that the message of who Jesus is and what He does can begin to change people’s lives.

As I look at the research I find the cause for alarm moving me to a new sense of urgency. As I reflect on the implications of the research I find a new basis for optimism not in a blind, uninformed faith but in the rock solid conviction that the Lord is still at work in our world. Part of my optimism is based on the conviction expressed in the old gospel song:

“We’ll work! ‘Til Jesus comes we’ll work.

We’ll work ‘til Jesus comes and we’ll be gathered home.”


4 Areas Where Church Leaders Need Continuing Education Pt 1

By Franklin Dumond

The world of the church and the world at large continue to change at an ever increasing rate.  The 21st century provides greater challenges than ever to the church leader who desires to remain relevant and current.  There are four areas where church leaders need continuing education to meet these challenges.

1.  Communication Skills These come in a variety of packages including

a. grammar and usage. Doug Lawrence put it well in a recent blog:

“Check your grammar with people in whom you have great trust, and do it often! The first time you say, ‘She and me went to the meeting,’ you will lose a significant part of your audience. There are people who still care about proper use of language. Your sloppy English skills can undo whatever positive impact you are trying to have. It’s as though you are wearing a cloak of indifference when you don’t care about how you’re coming across in language use.”

Three especially destructive grammar errors are:stack of books

  • Improper use of I and me
  • Incorrect tense usage
  • Confusion when two similar sounding words are used incorrectly (further/farther and effect/affect) or when one word is used with two meanings in the same sentence or paragraph

b. social media savvy. Learn to keep private what should be private. Let social media connect broadly but never forget the power of one-on-one communication and face-to-face meetings.

c. people skills demonstrating genuine care rather than artificial friendliness need constant refinement.

2.  Personal Evangelism Too many churches report zero conversions in a year because too few church leaders engage in personal evangelism.

3.  Making Disciples in a Non-Christian Culture In order to accomplish this, we must realize that we cannot rely on the culture at large to teach basic Christian beliefs. For example, many folks in my generation learned the Lord’s Prayer at school along with the Pledge of Allegiance. This doesn’t happen these days, so church leaders must be more intentional and comprehensive in their disciple-making enterprises.

4.  Maintaining an appropriate work/life balance This is especially difficult now that the 24/7 on-call world of ministry has expanded to the 24/7 digitally-connected world of ministry. Many church leaders manage to appear very busy without being very productive. Pilots are reminded as they prepare for solo flight “Don’t forget to fly the plane!” In their case it is tempting to focus so much on the dials and indicators that the essential task of flying becomes secondary.  Frantic, last minute preparations are sometimes necessary because of unexpected interruptions and emergency ministry needs. More often, however, they are the result of poor time usage early in the week that produces frantic effort at the end of the week because Sunday is about to arrive!  Even in the 24/7 world of connections pastors still need some regularity of schedule to accomplish the routine ministries of worship, witness, and service.

Turning Point

By Steve Gill

We are excited to share with you that God has lead us to birth a new, life-giving church in Bonita Springs, Florida called, Turning Point Church. Our purpose is simple; ‘to help people experience a life changing relationship through Jesus Christ.’ We have a heart to point people to the life change that Jesus brings to all of us. That’s part of the reason our church is called, Turning Point. A turning point is a decision in a person’s life that changes things! It changes us, our circumstances, and even people around us. We believe that what we do with Jesus changes everything in our lives!   He is the ultimate turning point! p 9-10 Gill Family

For the past 23+ years, we have been involved in various roles of ministry, serving within the local church and overseas in Latin America. During that time, God has given us the opportunity to be a part of some great churches and to have some great leaders speak into our lives. Those experiences have honed the vision that we have for our community. We know three things very distinctly.

One, we have a heart for those far from God. Our desire is to see TPC become a church that connects with people who don’t know God. Certainly we want our church to be a place for people already following Jesus, but our mission is to care deeply about reaching those who have walked away from the church and those who don’t know God at all. Wouldn’t it be amazing to be a church where people far from God can serve side by side with those who know Him, and grow in faith together?

Secondly, we have a heart for families. We believe we live in a day and age where parenting is getting harder and harder. Being a kid and teenager is equally as tough. Think of the mixed messages that our culture is communicating. Think of the pressures that our kids are facing. We want to be a church that helps parents and grandparents raise their kids with intentionality. We want to help parents seize the everyday moments to lead their kids closer to knowing Jesus. Wouldn’t it be cool to have a church that is full of families; kids, teens, parents, and grandparents together?

Lastly, we desire to help bridge the gap that often exists between cultures and extends into the church. We’ve been told over and over that division exists in our community. We’ve even seen it! So, our hope and dream is to have a church that is diverse culturally, particularly where Anglo and Latino cultures come together to experience God and serve together. Wouldn’t it be amazing to see a church that is a small picture of what heaven looks like every day?

Recently, we had the opportunity to share that vision at our first public gathering. The amazing part was that God led 24 people to that first meeting! As we started the meeting you could feel a buzz in the room and an anticipation that God was up to something new in Bonita Springs. We walked away with a fresh excitement as several families committed to be a part of our launch team in March. The history of Turning Point Church has begun!

While we love this dream of building a Christ centered church, our biggest heart and priority is for our family. On more of a personal note, Keisa and I met back in college and have recently celebrated 24 years of marriage together. We are grateful for the experiences in our lives that have strengthened our marriage and ministry. God has also blessed the both of us with four amazing kids (Aaron-14, Ellie-11, Christian-11 and Karinna-8). We, like most parents, are actively involved in our kids lives through school and sports. That keeps us pretty engaged and moving most days at the Gill home! For fun, our clan likes to watch movies, play sports, and make some tasty desserts! We honestly just love spending time together.

We are looking forward to our new life in Bonita Springs, pouring into the lives of our kids and helping grow a church that honors God. Thank you in advance for your prayers and your generosity in helping Turning Point Church launch with strength!

Steve and Keisa Gill, along with their four children, are brand new to our General Baptist family. They will be launching Turning Point Church in Bonita Springs, Florida in the fall of this year as the very first Go Project plant. To follow their progress, visit www.tpclive.org or like Turning Point Church on Facebook.

Nickels, Noses, Numbers

By Dr. Franklin Dumond

The role of numbers and counting in the life of a church leader, though often criticized, remains important. The effective leader has a penchant for numbers, since most of those numbers represent people or indicate a measure of their discipleship.

Are numbers necessary?

A quick look at the Bible illustrates the historical importance of numbers. There is even an Old Testament book called Numbers! The New Testament records the numbers of people who had lunch with Jesus—4,000 on one occasion; 5,000 on another—and even how they sat in groups of 50 (Luke 10:14).

Necessary Numbers

A few numbers rank with such importance that every church leader should be abreast of them. Ranked by importance these would include:

  1. Average weekly worship attendancegraph
  2. Average weekly Small Group/Sunday School attendance
  3. Number of First Time Guests
  4. Conversions: Last year and year-to-date
  5. Baptisms: Last year and year-to-date
  6. Members Received: Last year and year-to-date
  7. Average Weekly Income: Last year and year-to-date

Most of these numbers should be maintained in a multi-year graph so trend lines can be easily identified.

Behind the Scenes Numbers

Some of the most important numbers only rarely make a ‘public’ appearance. That is, they are generally not communicated openly, despite their importance. The leader of a growing congregation will undoubtedly be aware of:

  1. The size of the crowd

“If everyone had been here…” is a statement often made to console us on low attendance days or to celebrate a full house that would have been beyond capacity if everyone had been present.

The crowd is composed of those folks who attend at least once in a while. One convenient measure of the crowd is to identify those folks who attend at least once every 6-8 weeks.

Why is it so important to know the size of and the identity of the crowd? The size of the crowd indicates the potential the church has to grow and impact people. The identity of those who make up the crowd indicates who it is that we are most likely to win to faith in Christ and faithfulness to His church.

  1. Total weekly participation

In the Family Based Church, everyone attends everything. These churches function like an extended family, and are generally smaller in size. It is not uncommon for activities to be cancelled if several cannot attend.

A Program Based Church will have a more developed and diverse program where no one attends everything but everyone attends something. For example, it is not uncommon for a Program Based Church to offer small groups for adults, youth groups for teens, and children’s ministries at times other than Sunday morning. Often folks who cannot attend on Sunday morning will nevertheless participate in one or more of the weekday or weeknight ministries of the church.

Total weekly participation, then, is a measure of who attended at least one ministry activity in a given week. It is determined by a cross reference of attendance reports so that everyone who attends at least once in the week is counted.

  1. Percentage of the congregation present for five years or less

“I’m on my third congregation!” reported the pastor of a middle sized church. Having been pastor there for nearly 20 years he had discovered first hand that church folks are mobile. They move away. They drop out. Others drop in. Every year there are funerals!

Other measures of tenure could be used. A very important one is the percentage of folks who have become part of the congregation since the current pastor arrived.

Each of these measures the likelihood of leading change and maintaining relevance. Change is most likely when enough newer folks with newer ideas come into leadership roles. The pastor is most likely to lead change when a large percentage of the congregation has come into the church since he began his ministry.

Numbers will not track themselves. Use of some church management software or the development of a spreadsheet will make the task easier. In the church of 200 or fewer a good notebook and clipboard will cover most of the bases. Volunteer office helpers can do much of the record keeping. Whatever system is used, however, must ring true to the old adage “We count people because people count!”

Age Appropriate Evangelism Part 2

By Franklin Dumond

This is the second and final installment of an article on approaching Children’s Ministry by Dr. Franklin Dumond. Read the first half HERE.

While even very young children can be placed in an environment that accelerates their learning, we now recognize that there can be significant drawbacks to Forced Teaching. A child can repeat from rote memory what has been presented without actually learning the concepts they were taught, making it appear that real learning has taken place.

Given this pattern of human development, it appears that the Lord has created us with the capability to respond most readily to the gospel somewhere about 8-10 years of age.

preschoolers in classroomFourth, successful evangelism of children will result from an alignment of process. When the same concepts are expressed in the pre-evangelism of young children and in the evangelism of children, teens, and adults, evangelistic work will be more successful. When similar visuals and words are used throughout the process, evangelistic activity will be more productive.

A visual demonstration of our lostness and the need for a Savior can be presented by a simple game that portrays the Bridge Illustration frequently used while sharing the gospel.

Use a few children from the group to play the roles. If the group is small or if this is a pre-evangelism activity for younger children, use everyone. Indicate a starting point for the children and stand near an ending point, 5-10 feet away. Help them imagine that they are on one side and God is on the other side.

Ask them to jump across the distance so they can reach God. Since they only get one jump some will make more progress than others, but none of them will make it all the way. Some of the boys will believe that if they can have a running start or if they can try one or two more times, they can surely make it. Let them try.

Help them imagine a cross that bridges the gap. For younger children, having an actual cross on the floor will be helpful. Ask them if they can walk across the bridge to God.

For older children, explain how we respond to the gospel and invite them to do so. Using a simple gospel handout can help those who read to see the related Bible verses and have something they can take home and reflect on. Build the entire presentation around the key verse of I Timothy 2:5:

For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,

Explain that God is on one side and all people are on the other side, and Christ Jesus, himself man, is between them to bring them together by giving his life for all mankind.

Basic Principles of Evangelism for Children:

1. FREQUENCY—It can be very helpful to view the church as having a three semester year in its programming. This means that repeated emphases can be scheduled for late fall, early spring, and summer since attendance patterns and programming often follows these patterns.

2. CONTEXT—Evangelism for children should occur within the context of existing children’s ministries so that it is a natural expression of what the church is and does. Specialized settings should be avoided so that the decisions being made are genuine and not the result of peer or environmental pressure.

3. AGE STRUCTURED—Evangelism for children should be targeted to those children who can appropriately respond. While pre-evangelism can be done in groups with a variety of ages, the opportunity to respond should not be extended to younger children. A separate meeting area may be needed so each group can be treated in an age appropriate manner.

Evangelism Night:

1. Advance prep/counselor certification ensures that those who assist are all on the same page.

2. Seating arrangements: for both control and response it is better if children are not crowded together. This allows them to focus on the material and to respond for themselves rather than to respond to the peer pressure imposed because others around them are responding.

3. Age structure means there will be different lesson plans for younger children who are in the pre-evangelism mode.

4. Preliminary worship is always helpful to set the stage.

5. The gospel presentation should be simple, clear, concise.

6. Plan for a response time, and discuss with all adult volunteers how they should respond to the children.

7. Use one-on-one follow up counseling as much as possible with open ended questions to confirm what the children have heard and how they are responding. This breaks the evening into a two part process of a presentation and a follow-up.


Navigating God’s Will

By Carl Nichols

Several weeks ago my wife received a phone call from a friend regarding a potential opportunity for our family. I will spare the details, but essentially it involves a widespread platform in which our family values will be on Carl Nichols discusses the new church planting initiative at the 2014 Summit.display. Because of the somewhat controversial nature of the topic, Julie and I had to really evaluate if it was right for our family or not. When opportunities present themselves in our lives, we always try to follow a simple process that helps us determine if this is right for us.  We ask a series of questions that help us navigate the process. I though I would take some time to share this approach with you.

Does this in any way conflict with our biblical worldview?

Ultimately, like many who will read this blog, our worldview centers around the scriptures. Many things are black and white in the scriptures and many are gray areas that are left to us to make the wisest decision. If the evidence points to this opportunity conflicting with the teachings of the scriptures, then clearly we let it lie. If in fact it is unclear, we ask ourselves this question, “In light of our past experiences and future hopes and dreams, is this the wisest thing for us to do?”

Does this put our family or our relationship at risk? If so, are the risks calculated and worth it?

We do not ask this question so we can run from risk, but rather help us understand the risk involved. If in fact our family values have to be compromised, then again we will not engage. More often than not there is some risk involved in every great opportunity. We must know what the risks are, and plan and protect our family accordingly.

Will others benefit from us doing this?

This is such a counter cultural question. When most would ask, “Will I benefit?” we try to heed the words of Paul in Philippians 2:3 by asking how this can be used to benefit others. This is not my nature-I want to be the point. I want to benefit. However, it cannot be about me or us or it will likely fail. There are, of course, business opportunities that we have been a part of that did not help anyone but ourselves. However, there are also things that we have done with no benefit to us, but exponential benefits for others. It’s a delicate balance.

Is this the right time?

Regarding this particular opportunity, we decided to pursue it. However, the same day of the final meeting, I sustained a serious injury that could effect the situation. I don’t know how it will turn out, but I am open to the fact that now may or may not be the right time. If the injury causes the other party to pull back, then that brings some clarity. If, however, we both chose to move forward, then this injury may be even more a part of the platform.

What are the consequences of not doing this?

Whose lives will be effected negatively? What gospel opportunity will be missed? What will my kids miss out on? These are just a few questions we carefully consider.

Will we regret letting the opportunity pass?

I will just sum this up with this statement: I would rather get to the end of my life and regret trying some things and failing, than not trying those things and regret the missed opportunity. I believe at the end of our lives we will regret the “sins of omission” much more that the “sins of commission.” That’s just a personal belief, but I challenge you to ponder it.

Age Appropriate Evangelism Part 1

There are over 6 billion people in the world and it is estimated that one in six (or 1 billion) profess Christ.

For several years now missiologists have provided information about the 10-40 window. This is a geographic designation 10 degrees south and 40 degrees north of the equator, and is inhabited by a vast number of people groups that have yet to be reached with the gospel. It is estimated that as many as two-thirds of the lost people in the world live in this window.

kidsAnother window of opportunity to present the gospel is the 4-14 Window. This 4-14 window, however, is not a geographic location. The 4-14 window is a chronological, developmental window. This window identifies that children in the age bracket of 4-14 years have a 32% probability of accepting Jesus Christ as Savior. Researchers now suggest that adults 18 and over have only a 6% probability of accepting Jesus Christ as Savior.

While research into this phenomenon is recent, the phenomenon itself is as old as mankind. Developmental and educational psychologists in the 20th century discovered a fact of life built into humanity from creation: children grow and mature in a developmental sequence which leads them to be sensitive to and aware of spiritual influences in their middle to late childhood. This tendency is so strong that some educators assert that what a child believes by age 13 remains relatively unchanged throughout their life.

If evangelism is the process of individuals coming to understand the gospel and responding positively to it, how might we aid that process for our children?

First, it is always important to use simple, clear language when presenting the gospel. This is true whether we are focused on winning children or adults. This means we must avoid “Christianese”, with its tendency toward theological language and church slang that often seems obscure to those outside the Church. Using age appropriate lessons and visual illustrations, even acting out stories or playing games, may help overcome this difficulty.

Second, instruction that is simple and clear will aid the process of response to the gospel. A printed sample prayer can aid in reflection. Discipleship classes can be built around this simple, clear instruction, and can be tailored to specific age groups.

Third, age appropriate evangelism understands the implications of development while being sensitive to the 4-14 window. Children’s workers and pastors do not need to be trained psychologists to understand that children process information differently as they grow and develop. Noted psychologist Jean Piaget observed his own children and developed a broader understanding of the human development of thought. A very simplified description of his work shows four stages of development. While Piaget assigned a chronology to those stages, more recent investigations suggest that there can be significant individual variation within the middle childhood years, during which children in the United States begin the early years of elementary education.


Piaget’s Developmental Stages

Sensorimotor Stage 0-2 years

       Largely non-verbal communication

       The idea that objects to not cease to exist when out of sight develops

Preoperational Stage 2-7 years

       Language and symbolic thought begin to emerge

       Intuitive thought is favored over logical thought

       Egocentric thought (If I feel this way, surely you do, too)

Concrete Operational Stage 7-11 years

  Simplified use of time, space, volume and number

       Begin to see the world from other perspectives

Formal Operations Stage 11+ years

       Can now think on abstract principles and hypothetical possibilities

       Inductive and deductive reasoning are now used

Practicing for the Big Day

By Clint Cook

Since Christmas was just a few weeks ago, I thought I would share a short story about my four year old grandson, Samuel. With the family Christmas tree sparkling and the house decorated, it was no surprise that my grandson could barely contain his excitement about Christmas.  Shortly before Christmas, my daughter shared that Samuel had spent hours keeping busy by finding an old toy or other common item like a shoe, and wrapping it up in scrap Christmas wrapping paper.  When his “gift” was wrapped, he would carry the “gift” gently, sit in front of his mom and dad, and proceed to tear open the package to reveal the old, worn toy.  He would go so far as to practice his expressions of surprise and excitement so he would be ready when the real Christmas morning came.

I admit I have never heard of a child wanting to practice for Christmas in this way, but Samuel believed it made absolute sense to practice so he would be 100% ready for that special day – Christmas.

That story reminds me of what all believers should be doing in this new year of 2015.  Each and every Sunday this year we will gather together and, in some sense, unwrap the joy and celebration of the birth of Jesus through our worship and service to the Lord.  For some, this time of worship may actually look and feel a little old, worn, outdated, and no longer worthy of our excitement.  It is then that we must remind ourselves that each new worship experience is essentially a rehearsal or practice for that special day.  On that special day, there will no longer be things that are old, worn or boring.  Everything will be new!  On that special day we will see our Savior face to face!  The joy and excitement will be everything that the Apostle Paul said that it would be:

“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” (I Corinthians 2:9)

Until that special day comes, each worship service should be a holy rehearsal.  We must practice our expressions of joy by rejoicing with new believers in their newfound faith and baptism.  We must practice our words of praise and adoration by proclaiming our love and appreciation for our Savior through preaching, singing and prayer.  We must direct our overwhelming anticipation for that special day by communicating an urgency for the lost to accept Christ as Savior through the services in our churches and our testimonies of God’s forgiveness, provision, and guidance to our friends, families and co-workers.  This holy rehearsal is not a child’s game – it is the most important thing any of us can do in 2015!

May all General Baptists practice, practice, practice until that real day comes!  May this year of 2015 be marked as a continuous celebration of worship, service and proclamation of opening the greatest Christmas gift ever – JESUS!

Conserve the Results

By Franklin Dumond

Any outreach strategy that focuses only on expanding the attendance at one worship service may have the unintended consequence of settling back into the routine of business as usual after that day passes.  Successful outreach strategies include special efforts to conserve the results of this special day.Lancaster_Baptist_Church_Main_Auditorium

Three types of effort are necessary to conserve the results of any outreach strategy, and especially those of a Big Day.

First, efforts must be designed to identify, connect with, and encourage the return of first time guests who are present on any Big Day.

Second, leaders must have a disciple-making strategy in place that will not only introduce first time guests to faith in Christ, but will also facilitate their spiritual growth.

Third, leaders must have a working strategy in place to involve as many new people as possible in service roles in the ministries of the local church.

Because of the conservative nature of most of our General Baptist churches, the third effort just described is often the most difficult.  Nevertheless, assimilation strategies that work can be identified and customized to each local church.

This is also true of disciple-making.  There are many small group and one-on-one disciple-making strategies that can be easily adapted to most local settings, if we will simply make the adaptation.

Working with the structures of a local church, however, to quickly empower new servants can be very, very difficult.  Here are a few suggestions that can assist church leaders from any size congregation to develop a mindset and a practical strategy to include more people in the working life of the church by serving in a ministry setting.

1.  Identify how many volunteer positions are required to operate the ministries of your church.  Think through every ministry task that is needed.  In the established church, many of these roles will be identified in the organizing documents that guide the life of the congregation.  In the growing congregation, there will be just as many informal adaptations to new ministries and new opportunities.  Be sure to identify all the ministry tasks that occupy volunteer time and effort.

2.  Identify who is currently serving in these positions.  Write down their names beside the ministry role they occupy.

3.  Review your list.  Are a few people engaged in several ministries?  If so, you could expand your list of volunteers if folks are limited to how many positions they can hold.  Perhaps they can mentor and train those who will come alongside to share the load.

4.  Expand your opportunities.  Can the opportunity to serve be shared?  Can several people take turns doing ministry?  For example, if four ushers generally collect the tithes and offerings along with the communication cards, ask these questions:

  • Should the same four people serve in this capacity every Sunday?  Could a team of 16 serve by each serving one Sunday a month?
  • If four ushers can collect the offerings and communication cards, why not use eight and expand the number of workers by purchasing a few new offering plates and by dividing the auditorium into smaller sections?

By applying this same logic to greeters, parking lot attendants, welcome center attendants, and those who set up the coffee makers, it is possible to double or even triple the number of people actively engaging in ministry!

5.  Identify how many volunteers would be required to operate as a church twice your size.  This will at least double your volunteer base and will probably expand it even further.  Keep in mind that as you gain new people, they are not coming to just watch the show.  They are coming so they can find meaningful opportunities for relationship and responsibility.