By Tim Massengale
Mark North looked up from his notes and carefully studied the twelve people seated around the fellowship hall table. “Any questions or comments before I dismiss,” He asked?
A hand shot up from Carl, his youth leader. “Yeah, just one,” he said. “Whoever brings the snacks next time, make it cheesecake!” They all chuckled.
After asking Bro. Vernon Baker, a neighboring pastor who was helping Mark reorganize his church ministry structure, to dismiss in prayer, the meeting broke up and Mark led Bro. Baker back to his office. Mark sat behind his desk in his well worn office chair and motioned Bro. Baker to the sofa.
Ministry Team Challenges
“Thanks for coming tonight,” Mark said. “I felt that the group needed a little encouragement. I appreciate what you had to say.”
“Glad to help,” Bro. Baker replied. “I’m impressed with the enthusiasm of your ministry team. But if you don’t mind my asking, exactly who does what?”
Mark groaned. “I’m sorry; I should have introduced everyone when we first started the meeting. Going around the table, on your left was Sis. Diane Cooley, our Sunday School director. She’s been over the Sunday school for several years and is doing a fine job. She also teaches our Junior High class. Next to her was Dean Foster. You remember him – tall, with glasses? He’s my Home Bible Study director. He’s new but very capable. He has won several people to the Lord this past year with Bible studies. Sitting by him was his wife, Sis. Gayle. She assists me with Visitor Follow-up. Right now she’s more of a follow-up secretary than a department leader. She helps me by sending out letters, making phone calls, and keeping the visitor database updated. Beside her was Dave Vanslyke. He was the older gentleman with white hair. He’s my Outreach director. He has a real burden for souls but struggles to get others to join him in door knocking and other outreach efforts. Beside him was Micky Morris. He’s only fifteen but is really good with computers. I use him for Promotions. He design flyers and brochures and such because he’s a whiz with the Photoshop program. At the far end were Tom and Melinda Fisk. Great couple. They oversee Bus Ministry. Beside them was Sis. Lois Schaeffer – the white haired lady – she oversees our Prayer and Missions Ministry. Beside her was Carl Boyer, my Youth leader. You know him. Beside him was Dee Oletta. She is helping with Music. She is basically a secretary assisting me in this area. She plays our keyboard but feels she’s not qualified to be Music Director. She helps me select special singers, schedules the praise singers, and directs the children’s choir. (My wife is still directing the adult choir.) After that was Sis. Lettie Parker. I’m training her to oversee New Convert Care. Then last was my wife, who is the Ladies Auxiliary director.
Bro. Baker sat listening, nodding as he recalled each person mentioned. “And didn’t you say one was missing; had to work or something?”
“That’s right. Don Westing is my Men’s Ministry leader. He also oversees our Ushers. He normally is here but had to work tonight.”
Elder Baker continued nodding. “You have a great team there. I’m impressed. I especially like your idea of using secretaries in areas where you don’t have qualified ministry leaders.”
“Thanks, Elder,” Mark said. “That means a lot to me coming from you. Not all are what I would consider great leadership material. But they are loyal to a fault and solid in their walk with God. You said that was most important. And remember, you also suggested the secretary idea. You said it was important to at least discuss each ministry at the monthly council. Appointing a secretary to sit on the council helps us do that.”
“Exactly. I think your ministry team is coming along beautifully.”
“Well, I wouldn’t have this group if it wasn’t for your three legged stool.” Mark reached over and picked up the half-completed woodworking project from the corner of his desk. He passed his finger over the single word carved into the only leg that the stool had. “ORGANIZATON” he said aloud. “Now that I have this team selected, I don’t know how I did without them. In truth, Elder, they keep me motivated.”
“Good. That’s one of the benefits of working with a team. You inspire each other.”
Most Successful Methods
Mark nodded and said nothing, lost in thought as he rubbed the smooth oak wood with his thumb.
Smiling softly, Elder Baker reached into his jacket and withdrew a second stool leg and handed it across the desk. Mark took it and grinned. “Time for leg number two?”
“Yes. And as you can see, it also has a word carved on it.”
“EVANGELIZATION,” Mark read.
“Remember, Mark, the most important principle of church growth is sowing the Gospel seed. You are organizing your church and ministries so you can more effectively do this. But now you need to focus upon starting some solid evangelism methods. The fundamental principle for growth is this: ‘Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully.’ Many call this the law of the harvest. If you want your church to grow, Mark, you must sow a lot of seed.”
Mark nodded. “Okay. But we are doing that. At least we are trying.”
“That’s good, but you need to do even more! You need to focus on the four most successful methods of evangelism. These four will give you more souls for the time and money you invest than any others.
Mark leaned forward intently. “And they are?”
“The most successful method of evangelism, the method that results in more people being saved than any other, is unsaved visitors attending your church services. It’s the power of the preached Word of God. It’s also the atmosphere of worship that waters the Word and convicts the sinner’s heart, drawing them to the altar. Your visitors, Mark, are the best prospects for salvation that you have.”
Mark frowned slightly. “I thought you were going to tell me about this great outreach program that was going to shake my city,” he said ruefully. “I know that visitors are important — of course they’re important.”
“Really? Are you sure?” Bro. Baker asked. “Then what are you doing to attract more visitors?”
“Well, I constantly tell my people to invite folks to church and to witness more. I probably say something like that in every service.”
“I’m sure you do. But I have found that the more reasons I give my saints to invite their family, friends, neighbors and co-workers to church, the more visitors we have. So we plan some kind of a ‘special’ service as often as possible.”
“Such as?” Mark queried.
Well, we have holiday services like Easter, Pentecost Sunday, Christmas, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Independence Day, Veteran’s Day, Thanksgiving, and so on. Then we have occasional special services for healing, financial blessing, deliverance, marriage enrichment, and more. We’ll do a tent revival in the spring, a church picnic in the summer, a family barbecue in the fall, and a songfest in the winter. We also have a fifth Sunday afternoon service with a potluck. You know, Mark, we probably average about one special Sunday of some kind every month.”
“Wow! Doesn’t that cost a lot?” Mark asked.
“Not really. I preach most of these services myself. Occasionally I will bring in a special speaker. But mostly I appoint a planning committee and we plan the Sunday with this special emphasis. We spend a little on advertising in the local papers, we design a really nice flyer, we send invitations to all past visitors, and we occasionally use various methods to motivate greater saint involvement. Things like prizes, contests, personal challenges, pack-a-pew, team competitions, and so on. There are a dozen ways you can encourage people to give that little extra effort.”
A Good First Impression
Mark nodded. He was making notes as they talked. “So I need to give my people plenty of reasons to invite someone to church,” he said to himself. “Okay, got it. Is that all?
“Not hardly. Remember, Mark, those visitors are your best prospects. 99% of all your converts will come as a visitor to one of your services or church activities. You need to put real effort into making sure that each visitor is welcomed and has a great worship experience.”
Mark looked up. “For example?”
Well, the basics, of course. Trained door keepers, greeters, guest packets, and ushers, help create a good first impression. If the service has not yet begun, our ushers will quietly whisper to people that a guest has come in, so lots of people go over and greet our visitors. We also have a ‘greetings time’ in each service. I personally welcome all guests by name each service using a ‘guest location map’ which my ushers bring up. We also have a ‘meet the pastor’ coffee following each service. We try to go all out.”
“Wow! I guess you do!” Mark exclaimed.
“You know the old saying,” Bro. Baker stressed, “you only get one time to make a good first impression. I continually remind myself that these visitors are my future church members.”
Mark looked puzzled. “You said that before. I’m not sure I follow you.”
“Well, just think about it. When’s the last time someone repented, was baptized, and received the Holy Ghost and had never visited your church, not even once?” Bro. Baker asked.
‘Ahhh…I don’t think it’s ever happened,” Mark replied.
“Exactly. Every new convert you get first came as a visitor. So they are all potential members. You have a fish on the line, Mark, don’t let it get away!”
“Okay, but how can I turn a visitor into a member?”
“Encourage them to return a second time, and a third time, and even more. Most visitors will come three to five times before going to the altar. That is why visitor follow-up is so critical.
“I’m sending letters to my visitors now. Should I be doing more?” Mark asked.
“Much more. We use four steps: a phone call within 24-hours, a letter from me within three days, and a visit within one week. We then put the address into our database for future mailings. We never take them out of that database. We send out all invitations first class so we get address correction when they move. We only remove them when they leave town.”
Mark nodded. “And you visit every visitor?”
“Mark, visiting the visitor is positively the most important part of visitor follow-up. Nothing will substitute for that five minutes on the door step where we invite them back to our next ‘special service,’ we ask them if they would like a home Bible study, and we see if they have any special needs for us to pray about. That visit really works. But it rarely works the first time. So we visit them every three or four months. We keep visiting as long as they remain open and receptive. You see, if God knows you are going to go back, He will get them to the place that they truly need Him. It’s also important to pray for your past visitors, calling each by name, in your various prayer meetings. We pray, God convicts, and then we come, knocking on the door.”
“I love it!” Mark exclaimed. “But it sounds complicated.”
“Not really. We have it all divided up. Some telephone, some send letters, some make visits. Our follow-up director prepares the follow-up packets each week, makes the assignments, collects them back, and then files them for another visit three months later.”
Mark glanced up. “Okay, so getting lots of visitors and doing really good visitor follow-up is your best outreach method. What are the other three?
More Methods That Work
“Well, the three others compliment the first one. We focus strongly on the Home Bible Study ministry. Home Bible study success requires three key elements: First, be sure to promote the ministry often within the church. You must keep it visible. So we schedule a monthly promotional time for at least fifteen minutes on a Sunday night. We’ll have testimonies — both by teachers and students, give out completion certificates to students, a commissioning ceremony for newly trained teachers, take up HBS prayer requests, lots of things. We try to be creative during this time and not just preach a mini-sermon.
Secondly, we train home Bible study teachers regularly. We will schedule two or three training nights a year to train new teachers and encourage the old ones. Then third, we help our teachers get studies. These studies will come from visitor follow-up, door-to-door Quest survey, altar ministry, ‘Open-Your-Home-To-A-Home-Bible-Study,’ and more.
The third method that has been most successful has been training my saints how to be a witness and then encouraging them to witness and invite people consistently. We use Constant Contact Consciousness (CCC), street evangelism, tract routes, door knocking, and more. We provide lots of ministry opportunities for people to be involved in evangelism if they so desire. We push for everyone to be involved somewhere, doing something as a witness.
And last, we focus strongly on Child Evangelism. Bus ministry has been a great help here. We bring in several buses of children each Sunday. At least once a month we will have a special evangelistic service to encourage these kids to receive the Holy Ghost. When they turn twelve, we get them involved in our youth group. Our youth vans pick them up for all regular services. They sit in the youth section, attend all youth activities, and grow into young apostolic adults who eventually get married in the church. We have dozens of young couples that are in church today because of Bus ministry.
But we also reach for the parents utilizing a concept called ‘Parentreach.’ You see, bus and van ministry requires Saturday visitation to be effective. Our bus captains are encouraged to get to know the parents well. Once they have made a friend, they then reach for their soul. We have many special Sunday school programs during the year for the express purpose of getting the parents out to see their child who has a part in the program. We also invite the parents to every special service. We ask them for home Bible studies. We pray for their needs. Eventually, we win many to God. Bus and van ministry works — but you have to work it. Without a doubt, Mark, Sunday school is one of our most successful evangelism ministries.”
A Pattern to Follow
Mark looked up from his writing, set his pen down, leaned back in his chair and was lost in thought for several moments. Finally he spoke. “I can see we have a lot of work ahead of us, Elder. You see, we are using all four of these methods. But we are greatly lacking in how to make them truly work for us.”
“But now you have a pattern to follow and a goal to reach for,” Bro. Baker said, and I will be here every step of the way to help. We will take each ministry one-by-one and work to make them better and more productive. By the end of the year, you should be seeing some solid results.”
Mark nodded. After a moment he stood up and Bro. Baker stood up as well. Mark reached out and shook his hand. “Thank you again, my friend. It’s getting late and I know you have a drive ahead of you to get home. But I’ll be calling you. And this I promise you; I won’t disappoint you.”
Bro. Baker gave Mike a hug. “I know you won’t. Now, look at your desk chair and say, ‘Good-bye Virge.’”
Mike looked perplexed, but obeyed. “Uhhh….Good-bye Virge! Why did you have me do that?”
“Because, Mark, you have been sitting on the ‘verge’ of revival long enough. It’s time to get off of the ‘verge’ of revival and start having revival!”
Mark laughed and walked the elderly pastor to the door.