7 Suggestions to Help Make Easter a Big Day!

by Franklin Dumond – Director of Congregational Ministries

Make Easter a Big Dat!1— Start Early!

At the beginning of every calendar year pastors can look ahead to predict the most likely higher attended and lower attended days of the year. By planning ahead to accentuate the high days and mitigate the low days the overall average attendance may be increased and more and more people won to faith in Jesus Christ. What are my most likely higher attendance days? Look at the attendance records from last year on a line graph. When does your attendance spike? Why? Take a hard look at your current programming. There must be something in your congregational culture that brings these high points.

2 — Add A Special Feature.

How many people are usually involved in leading worship on a given Sunday? Add a special feature whereby more people can be involved in meaningful participation and watch the visitors arrive…especially if you use the Children’s Choir and its members rehearse for a few weeks in advance! For Easter a wise pastor can plan for a Spring Baptism. Easter celebrates the new life of the risen Christ, which is also the Christian symbol of Baptism. The now secular tradition of new clothes for Easter can be traced back to the ancient church when Easter Sunday was Baptism Sunday and each baptismal candidate was given a new white robe. Make Easter a fabulous family celebration with an Egg Hunt on the church lawn following Morning Worship. The beauty of the modern hen is that she lays plastic eggs so you don’t have to worry so much about the eggs spoiling by being outdoors for a while. (Note: While plastic eggs are undisturbed by warm temperatures, chocolate will melt if left in the warm sunshine for any length of time.) Is an added worship service needed? If Easter already brings the church to capacity should the plan include doubling seating capacity by adding another service? The church already offering a 10:30 a.m. Morning Worship may be well served to offer 9:00 a.m. Easter Worship, too. Always ask the key question, “What will I need to do to make sure that these special features work well?”

3 — Develop specialized promotion.

How will everyone know of the special day if you don’t tell them? How will they realize what’s going on if they only hear it once? Newspaper ads and yellow pages listings do little to attract the unchurched. Consider a saturation mailing. You can develop your own material, but you may want to bring in the professionals for the first time or two. Always be sure you have proper contact and location and schedule information included in your promotional piece. Continue reading

Christmas Eve suggestions

Christmas Eve Planning Tips

With Christmas on Sunday this year more churches than usual will offer a Christmas Eve Service as an alternative worship setting. Despite this periodic increase, Christmas Eve services have become one of the most popular means of reaching unchurched and dechurched families in our communities. Here are a few general suggestions for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day Worship Services.

1. Will the church offer both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day Services?

If a Christmas service is designed to reach the unchurched or dechurched it probably will do so best on a pre-Christmas date. Many churches will also feature a Christmas Eve-Eve service on December 23 to avoid conflict with family Christmas traditions. With Christmas on Sunday and Christmas Eve on Saturday it may be realistic for many churches to offer similar services on both days with the hope that members will attend at least one of the services.

2. Will the church print a special bulletin or program?

A brightly colored bulletin or program cover lends a festive air to the service. Some will prefer a more utilitarian approach of a simple handout that guides the worshipper. Others will opt for verbal instructions or the use of a projection system to guide the worshippers.

3. How will Invite Cards be distributed?

The special rules that guide the production of any Invite Cards apply here: proof—proof—proof, include contact information, include service times. Invite Cards should be distributed to the congregation on Sunday, December 18. If these cards can coordinate with the bulletin cover and other themes the worshipper is more likely to enter into the spirit of the worship theme.

4. How will information from guests be gathered?

A Communication Card that is completed by all in attendance is one of the most non-threatening means of gathering guest information. Once again standard rules of operation apply: keep the card simple but be sure there is adequate space to fill in the blanks, do not leave the date line blank, explain the card with some version of “complete as much information as you are comfortable sharing.”

5. Will an offering be received?

If the strategy of two similar services is used then the offering instructions for Christmas Eve will probably be very similar to the offering instructions for Christmas Day. If, however, Christmas Eve is treated as a special or an “extra” service then consider the offering to be designated for some benevolent or charitable purpose. If large numbers of guests are expected please remember that these Christmas guests may be very generous if they know the specific needs being addressed by the special Christmas offering. After all giving is a required part of a secular Christmas celebration too!

6. Will Communion or the Lord’s Supper be served?

Many Christmas Eve services feature a Candlelight Communion as the climax of the service. If Communion is served be sure to be clear with instructions since guests may come from a variety of church and non-churched backgrounds. In General Baptist churches the Lord’s Supper is always prefaced with a general invitation for all believers to take part. If servers are limited, then invite the worshippers to come forward where a more ‘self service’ approach can be taken if needed.

7. Will candle lighting be part of the service?

The lighting of candles at the conclusion of a Christmas Eve service is a moving experience especially as one person lights another person’s candle with the declaration “Jesus Christ is the Light of my life!” Then to sing Silent Night as the benediction becomes a powerful statement of faith and worship. Candle lighting supplies are readily available from Christian bookstores and suppliers but be sure to order yours in advance so they will be on hand for your special event.

8. Will creative elements be used?

Creative elements may be provided by members of the congregation or by friends from the community. Creative elements are available for purchase on-line or from many bookstores.

  • www.SkitGuys.com offers several Christmas themed video productions.
  • www.hymncharts.com will acquaint the shopper with the possibility of purchasing music scores for an entire service including special background music for Scripture readers.
  • www.YouTube.com remains an ever popular site for video elements. Just type in “Christmas Worship Songs” and view 735,000 possibilities!
Suggestions for a Special Christmas Eve Service

A Special Christmas Eve Service

The following outline of a Christmas Eve Service uses Scripture readings interspersed with carols, praise choruses and/or special music to tell the Christmas story. Musical selections can be adapted to selected stanzas and any available music can be easily inserted in the flow as worshippers alternately read and sing the Christmas story. This particular guide uses traditional carols but other music may be easily substituted to meet the preferences of the worship leader. People who read the selected passages can be recruited in advance. A microphone set up on floor level might aid them in their presentation. Be sure to give advance notice, a copy of the part to be read, and instructions about arriving early for a short sound check prior to the arrival of worshippers. Consider selecting older children, teens and senior adults who are often overlooked for these kinds of readings. Of course you may rely on the few people who are always willing but why not save them for last minute substitutes if someone can’t make it?

Candles and Carols: A Christmas Celebration

Opening Carol — “O Come All Ye Faithful”

Welcome

The Lord’s Prayer (Traditional)

Our Father, which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy Name. Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, As we forgive them that trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, For ever and ever. Amen.

A Reading from the Prophets:

Isaiah 9:2, 7; Micah 5:2
Song: “Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus”

Christmas Eve Offering

Readings from the Gospel:

Luke 1:26-35
Song: “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”

Matt. 1:18-25
Song: “Away in a Manger”

Luke 2:1-7
Song: “O Little Town of Bethlehem”

Luke 2:8-14
Song: “Angels We Have Heard on High”

Luke 2:15-20
Song: “While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks”

A Reading from the Epistles:

Galatians 4:4-5; 2 Corinthians 5:17-21
Song: “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”

Message: Three Types of Candles

Song: “Joy To The World”

The Lord’s Supper

An Affirmation of our Faith:

The Apostle’s Creed (Modern English Version)

I believe in God, the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth. I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord who was
• Conceived by the Holy Spirit
• Born of the Virgin Mary,
• Suffered under Pontius Pilate,
• Was crucified, died and was buried;
• He descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again; He ascended into heaven, He is seated at the right hand of the Father, And he will come again to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in
• the Holy Spirit,
• the holy Christian church,
• the communion of the saints,
• the forgiveness of sins,
• the resurrection of the body,
• and the life everlasting. Amen

A Prayer of Consecration

We Remember Together

Candlelighting Scripture Reading: John 1:1-14
As you light the candle of the person next to you do so by declaring “Jesus Christ is the Light of my life.”

Benediction

Choral Benediction: “Silent Night, Holy Night”

An Unclosed Church

A Church Unclosed!

An Interview with Pastor Jerry Crowley of the Harmony Church in Ellsinore, MO.

Every year an estimated 1% of the churches in the United States close their doors. This means that about 4,000 churches annually cease to exist. Many times a new church will restart in the same site but only rarely does a congregation that closed its doors unclose those doors. In spite of National trends, the Harmony General Baptist Church in rural Carter County, Missouri is now unclosed!

We asked Pastor Jerry Crowley to tell part of the Harmony Church story as we celebrate with this UnClosed church.

Harmony GB Church - Unclosed!1 . Harmony Church is an older church. can you tell us about its early history?

The church actually started on Cane Creek about two miles away from its current location in July, 1927. This is actually the third church building that has been there. To find the church from Elsinore take Highway A to County Road 354 follow it about 2 miles, go through a wet weather creek and if the creek’s not too high (occasionally we have to postpone services due to high water), you’ll drive right up to the church.

2. Harmony Church closed its doors. About how long was the church closed?

The church closed for a few months. It wasn’t closed very long. Some folks moved away and others just quit coming.

3. What motivated you and others to reopen the church?

Well this was my old home church. I just couldn’t stand to see it closed. It’s been an old-time General Baptist church for a long time. I just couldn’t see it closed. Some people went there the Sunday before we started and Josh Francis actually got started and 4 or 5 others of us came along to help.

4. The church is located in a very rural area, in a sparsely populated county. Where did you find people to reopen the church?

Continue reading

Christmas on Sunday

Christmas Is On Sunday This Year

By Franklin Dumond – Director of Congregational Ministries

It happens only infrequently in the life of the church and the professional career of the pastor but Christmas does come on Sunday once in awhile. When this happens special plans should be made to keep the spiritual impact of the season and to support the witness of the church as expressed in its worship schedule.

This infrequent event occurs once again Sunday, December 25, 2016.

Many Christian churches have established traditions for Christmas Eve services, yet only a few offer Christmas Day services. In our culture Christmas Day is a secular celebration of surprise gifts and family celebrations very distant from most religious traditions.

Across the years, as a local church pastor, I tried many approaches to Christmas on Sunday and then I found one approach that worked best.

Early in my tenure as pastor, I took the approach that Sunday was a sacred day of worship no matter if Christmas or other holidays happened to arrive on that day of the week.

My approach in those days was one of denial, something like: “If I don’t admit it is a holiday we can have ‘church’ as usual.” With a generous amount of guilt along with some promotion of the schedule I found I could gather a little less than ½ of my congregation on Christmas Day if we kept our ‘usual’ schedule.

I have since come to believe that the attitude I held then was one of “They know where the church is so there’s no excuse for not coming.” I have also come to realize that this attitude is not conducive to church growth!

A second approach I took to Christmas on Sunday was one of adjusting the morning schedule. By working with/ through the Church Council we arranged a morning fellowship 30 minutes before the morning worship service. This adjusted schedule resulted in a little more than ½ of the regular attendance on this special day.

Then the next time Christmas came on Sunday I found an approach that worked best. We arranged and promoted two options for Christmas Worship. The first option was a Christmas Eve Service. The second was a Christmas Day Service. By offering these two options I found about ½ of the congregation came on Saturday evening and about ½ came on Sunday morning so that our combined attendance was the ‘usual’ number. With two options family and church celebrations were balanced and everyone felt good about the holiday being both a religious and a family celebration.

To fully reap the benefits of this approach the Christmas Eve Service must become more than the Candlelight Communion so often offered then. When elements of morning worship like special music, the Advent Wreath, tithes and offerings, Christmas sermon, etc. are combined with Christmas Eve communion a meaningful service of worship is offered for the church family and for the community.

Christmas worship on Sunday morning may need a bit different schedule. Perhaps the church that offers multiple services will offer “One Grand Celebration” or perhaps Christmas worship will be scheduled at the Sunday School hour to accommodate family gatherings at midday.

By finding a schedule that will work and by effectively communicating it to the church family and to the community, Christmas worship can be a celebration with a large crowd rather than the depressed assembling of a few faithful saints.

SantaNow about the guy in the red suit coming to church on Christmas…

  1. If he does come, let him come to the fellowship hall or to a location outside the building and make sure he comes after, not during, worship celebrations. Remember Jesus is the Reason for the Season.

  2. If he comes on Christmas weekend have him come after the Christmas Eve Service in the fellowship hall or on the church lawn. Let him go back to the North Pole for Christmas Day!

Let's Celebrate Advent

Let’s Celebrate Advent

By Franklin R. Dumond, Congregational Ministries Director

Long before Christmas became a commercial event that began appearing in retail outlets alongside Halloween, the church developed an approach to Christmas that made it a season of anticipation and preparation in the weeks before the holiday.

As a young pastor, I remember struggling with how to fit all the favored carols and all the special programs of Christmas into the one Sunday before December 25 traditionally given to Christmas celebrations in my rural home church. Then I stumbled onto Advent and learned not only the joy of anticipation and celebration, but also the beauty of preparing a congregation for that special time of the year.

When Is Advent?

Advent DatesAdvent is the season marked by the four Sundays before December 25, climaxing with Christmas Day and the wonderful good news, “unto you is born a Savior which is Christ the Lord.”

Many churches mark Advent by using an Advent Wreath composed of greenery and five candles. Artificial greenery is much preferred over live greenery, which may present a fire hazard in the later weeks of Advent. Pillar-type candles give the safest use of candles, as only rarely do they drip or spill.

Lighting the candles one each Sunday allows children to excitedly count the Sundays before Christmas as one candle burns on the First Sunday of Advent, two on the Second Sunday of Advent, three on the Third Sunday of Advent, and four on the Fourth Sunday of Advent to remind everyone that Christmas is almost here!

Many churches will use traditional themes of Advent, but I always enjoyed using Advent to tell the Christmas story in small parts. As a Baptist pastor I always found telling the story of Christmas leading up to the birth of Jesus was well-received by the congregation and a special treat for the children who hurried to the Advent Wreath for the Children’s message. Because I used a nativity set with a variety of figurines, the children could help place one or two figures in the scene each week as we explored the Christmas story.

Two special features easily added to the season could be a Hanging of the Greens service on Sunday evening, December 4. While we never used this event to actually decorate the church, we often used it as a song fest we called “Songs of the Season” with both religious and traditional Christmas music and readings. One of the later Advent evenings also lends itself to “Carols, Candles, and Communion.”

Even if you are not using Advent in your church it is worth using the Sundays of Advent to mention some aspect of the Christmas story. The more often Christmas is connected with the church the more often we are able to develop and reinforce a Christian worldview.

Even worship plans and sermon themes that are not related to Advent can be given an Advent flavor by adjusting an illustration or changing a song title. While some church leaders do not believe Christmas deserves 1/12 of the annual emphasis in a church, others who recognize the overwhelming significance of the Incarnation believe that the message of Advent cannot be restricted to just one month of the year.

Go ahead and cancel Christmas this year but don’t forget to celebrate Advent

Part 1. RECOGNIZE

First Steps in Turnaround – Part 1. RECOGNIZE

Part 1. RECOGNIZE

This is the first part in a series which comes from the 2016 Turnaround 2020 Plan Book. A full version of this plan book is available by download at www.Turnaround2020.net or by hard copy from Congregational Ministries, 573-785-7746.

What Is Your Church’s Redemptive Potential?

Suppose your church became all that the Lord intended it to become? What might result? What is the full redemptive potential of a local church? Is it measured by attendance, programs, life transformation or some other metric?

A variety of factors impact the redemptive potential of any local church. Some of them are simple and practical. For example, megachurches are always found in large population centers. Villages do not contain the level of population to produce a megachurch.

Other factors are more complex and elusive. Craig Groeschel wrote a few years ago about having “It” and while sometimes “It” can be identified, it is often more obvious when “It” is missing.

In our Turnaround 2020 strategy we first take stock of the current reality. By recognizing where we are, we should be better able to chart where the Lord will lead us as we endeavor to become all that He intends us to become.

A. Church Life Cycles

Churches, like the people who comprise them, move through cycles in their existence. Some of these cycles a church moves through are life cycles. People are born, grow to maturity, then they age and die. Churches, too, are born and grow to maturity. Churches age. Some churches complete their life cycle and others discover new periods of growth and development.

Learning where a church is on its life cycle helps church leaders develop appropriate strategies. Learning life cycle status often provides a sense of urgency for church leaders as they plan for new cycles of growth and development to avoid the life cycle of decline. Life cycle may be measured by attitudes, chronology and comfort zone.

Because the life cycle is not always as predictable and smooth as many may think, it is important to avoid alarm over short periods of plateau or decline. The best possible advice for any church is to remain vigilant. Once a problem is spotted, ensure that all possible measures are taken to reverse decline before it leads to drop out and death. Continue reading