1. Bloom where you are planted.
Understand your community and your potential. This potential may be defined by seating capacity or parking capacity but is most often defined by relational capacity. The potential in many rural, small town settings is tied to relationships not to geographic location.
2. Teach and model relentlessly inviting people to church.
Capitalize on the relationships folks already have with friends, family members or co-workers by teaching and encouraging them to invite. The key to developing a culture of invitation is relentless, on-going, never-ending, personal invitations to “come with me.”
3. Improve your hospitality.
More than offering coffee and pastries, learn to welcome people. Avoid the holy huddles of close friends who carry on animated conversations among themselves but who exclude newcomers. The greatest strength of a smaller church is the depth of friendship and relationship that is shared. The greatest weakness of a smaller church is that we are so close to one another that we unintentionally exclude new folks from our circle of friendship.
4. Review your worship services from the perspective of the first-time guest.
Can a first-time guest understand what we are doing and why? Be user-friendly. In one congregation the keyboardist was excellent and the worship leader had a clear baritone voice that was easy to follow. Nevertheless worship was frustrated by his habit of only announcing page numbers just as he began the first line leaving little time to find the page before the first lines were already past. In another setting with hymnals in use but with no printed order of service, the worship leader only announced page numbers once. This did encourage congregational interaction, however, since everyone who missed the number turned to the people around them for follow up information.
5. Review sermon content and communication idiosyncrasies.
Sermon content should be developed so that the first-time, unchurched guest can clearly comprehend the message. Avoid church code language and theological terms that are not defined in simple, conversational terms. Deal with real life application of the Scripture. First time guests are ready to deal with the deep, hard questions of life if they are developed with real life language and illustration.
Have someone you trust help you find consistent grammar errors, nuisance habits that detract from the message and any tendencies to stray from the message to explore tangents that come from stream of consciousness not from the discipline of Spirit led study and preparation.
6. Proof read everything and update/correct regularly.
The most notorious offenders here are bulletin files and PowerPoint slides that are saved and reused. Often once an error makes it into these templates it is never corrected but is instead copied forward.
Printed communication must give attention to spelling names correctly, presenting locations accurately and using code language rarely. For example you could write:
VBS planning at Linda’s on Monday
Or you could re-write:
Vacation Bible School planning will meet at Linda Jones’ home (123 Any Street) at 7 p.m. on Monday the 15th.
7. Invest in missionary causes out of commitment to the Great Commission not out of tradition or denominational loyalty.
Partner with the Lord to reach people in other settings as well as reaching people in your own setting.
Establish a timeline to work on it in the next 4-6 weeks.
I will address step number______ and will begin to work on it _______________, 2017.