Pastor Rex Deckard
For the Son of Man came to seek and save what was lost.
Twofold purpose of the Church’s existence
Worship and fellowship with God
Impact the world with the message and experience
70-80% of American churches are in decline
Average church size in America is 79
There are about 3,000 churches closing each year in America, compared to about 1500 new churches opening
Tom Clegg in Lost in America, says,
“The explosion of megachurches and other fast-growing congregations has masked the impact of an overall discouraging and negative trend: In the past fifty years, U.S. churches have failed to gain an additional 2 percent of the American population”
Church attendance in North America continues to drop, going from 60% after World War II to 49% in 1991 and just over 40% today—although some experts say that Americans are over-reporting their church attendance and the real number is closer to 24%
There has been a steady decline in attendance and membership in the past sixty years. 81% of U.S. churches are either plateaued or declining in attendance
18% of U.S. churches are growing primarily by transfer growth
1% of the churches are growing by conversion growth
100 years ago there were 27 churches per 10,000 people
Today there are only 11 churches per 10,000 people
95% of all “Christians” will never lead one new person to God.
Conversion growth is just not occurring much in the U.S. Roughly half of all churches do not add one new person through conversion growth.
Clegg and Bird write, “In America, it takes the combined efforts of eighty-five Christians working over an entire year to produce one convert. At that rate, a huge percentage of people will never have the opportunity, even once, to hear the gospel in a way they can understand it from a friend they trust”
“Unchurched people are not just lazy or uniformed,” the researcher continued. “They are wholly disinterested in church life – often passionately so. Stirring worship music won’t attract them because worship isn’t even on their radar screen. More comfortable pews cannot compete with the easy chair or the bed that already serve the unchurched person well.
Church events cannot effectively compete with what the world has to offer. The only thing the Church can provide that no one else has is a life-changing, practical encounter – and on-going relationship – with the living God and with people transformed by similar encounters. Until such a connection is made, focusing on features, programs and benefits other than such a life-shaping encounter is more likely to lose ground than to gain it.”
George Barna says, “The church is fighting a losing battle by trying to become more comfortable and more attractive to the world around them. . . . Church events cannot effectively compete with what the world has to offer.
The only thing the Church can provide that no one else has is a life-changing, practical encounter—and on-going relationship—with the living God and with people transformed by similar encounters”
Larry Crabb, author and psychologist, says, “The future of the church depends on whether it develops true community. We can get by for a while on size, skilled communication, and programs to meet every need….
….but unless we sense that we belong to each other, with masks off, the vibrant church of today will become the powerless church of tomorrow”
Laws of Effective Outreach
To have an effective outreach, you must begin by creating an identity for Outreach.
To have an effective outreach, you must then attract visitors by communicating your identity.
To have an effective outreach, you must then connect attenders to the church.
To have an effective outreach, you must then equip our members to be inviters so we are attracting new visitors.
Some more facts
10% of first time visitors will come to stay
25% of people who come twice, will stay
45% of people who come three times will stay
To have an effective outreach, you must begin by creating an identity for Outreach.
Six Building Blocks of Identity
Mission Who we are
Community Who is around us
People Who we have to work with
Resources What do you have
Programs What are we doing
Image What do outsiders think of us
Defines our heart and passion
Prioritizes our ministry offerings
Directs our resources
Focuses our goals
What is our area of influence?
What does this area look like?
What are the needs and interests of this area?
The characteristics of a group of people as classified by sex, age, race, income, marital status and so on are its demographics. Your outreach approach would be very different, for example, if your town had a high percentage of single moms, as compared to mostly elderly adults.
This type of data describes the values, attitudes and shared cultural experiences of the community members. Understanding these factors gives a broader feel for your community’s mindset. What are their everyday issues and concerns? What do people care about? Each group has distinct needs, hopes and fears. Consider them when developing your outreach strategy.
Another valuable type of information is geographics. This data refers to the physical proximity of individual households in relation to your church’s location. Do you live in a densely populated area? Is there a major landmark nearby that draws people, such as a college? Are there any natural boundaries that separate sections of your community? It’s important to understand drive time and mileage in relation to your church. The lack of freeway access or a major boulevard might be a psychological barrier that would dissuade visitors from attending.
Who are We?
What are our gifts and talents
What are our interests and skills?
Our facilities and assets
Are our current programs reaching inward or outward?
What does the neighborhood think when they think about us?
John Maxwell says,
“We’ll reach people when we chase souls as much as businesses chase dollars.”
The most welcoming place in a community is often the casino
The community makes its judgments about us based on what it sees
What do they see?
When people travel to do a foreign missions project, they return transformed in their view of evangelism and outreach in the local church.
We attract visitors by communicating our identity
Hollywood spends $8-12,000 per second on movies.
It’s a sin to bore people with the Word of God
Churches should be the most exciting places around!
Do we agonize over our songs, our services, our sermons? Do we plan and prepare?
EchoBoomers, Gen Y’ers – This group includes teens through young 20-somethings.
Busters, Generation X, Post Moderns – This group includes adults up to 40 years of age.
Baby Boomers – Currently the majority of Americans. This group is between 40 and 60 years old.
Builders – These are the oldest Americans. Generally, church is still an integral part of their lives.
In looking at Elders, Baby Boomers and Baby Busters, we’ve learned that faith matters. But how that faith is defined, classified and a part of everyday life differs from group to group.
Faith is the foundation of life. It builds character and provides perspective. It puts them in touch with family, community, friends and God. Elders, therefore, appreciate religious institutions as vehicles for facilitating the value derived from faith.
Appreciate faith because it provides security. The traditions and structures may not work for Boomers, but the content of faith makes some sense. Boomers seek to absorb the “right information” and apply it to their daily battle for progress and supremacy. They’ll accept religious institutions as long as they produce more benefit than cost.
See faith as a framework for discovering important insights and developing lasting relationships. The institutions are irrelevant to them since their personal interest is in people, not trappings. For them, faith is a macrovalue, not an entire, independent dimension of life.
Build your outreach strategy to address the needs, hopes and fears of your audience. Listen to your community’s heartbeat.
They need. . . emotional support and relational connection, friends.
They hope. . . for financial advancement, security….
They fear. . . their kids will get involved with drugs, gangs or other negative influences.
For most of us it’s been a long time since we put ourselves in the place of a visitor. After a church becomes so familiar it’s hard to even remember how intimidating it can be to walk onto the campus of a new church. “Am I early?” “Am I late?” “Will my children be comfortable and safe?” “Will I know what to do in the service?” “Will there be people here like me?”
While it is difficult to quantify, outreach experts believe that visitors may determine whether they will return to a church based on the experience they have in the first five minutes. This is before they hear the wonderful praise music, see the multi-media, or experience an anointed sermon.
Does anything stand in the way of guests having a positive experience at our church?
Approach our church from all possible directions. Are our signs clear and inviting? Is it easy to know where to park? Is there special parking for guests? Once you’ve parked, is it easy to find the entrance?
A clean, safe, positive children’s experience can be the key to a family’s future involvement in your church. It’s important to communicate to a visitor where their children should go and when. Do the kids stay for the service, or go right to Sunday School? If they stay for the service, do they stay the entire time? What about babies—can they come to the service? It’s essential to have clear direction on our policies regarding children. Some other questions to consider: How clearly are our instructions and classrooms identified? How are the children welcomed?
Does our greeter team represent different age groups & ethnicities? Are we positioned at every possible approach? Are we very knowledgeable about the various classes and resources of the church? Are we really focused on visitors, or are they just talking to their own friends as they arrive?
Our first impression of a church is often based on a visual assessment. Are there signs? Are they attractive and professional, or homemade and shabby? Are they purely informational or do they add to the visual identity of the church? Is the lobby cluttered with old literature and miscellaneous junk, or is it attractive and inviting?
What will someone’s impression be of our bulletin, brochures and information area? Often visitors arrive early and have lots of time to collect and evaluate our church’s brochures and other informational material.
Are these materials attractive and well written? Is the information designed to help visitors connect with ministries and future involvement? Are the contacts clear and current? Will guests know what to expect in the service?