Winning On Your Home Court
By Carlton L. Coon, Sr.
When a team plays at home… it sits in the chairs is selects, the home team’s band plays and the fight songs are those of the home team. Everything possible is done to make it a winning environment. Some of what I share is more relevant to those beyond Home Missions status, but the principles are applicable to virtually any church setting.
Create A Warm Atmosphere
There is something about the mood in the home of a true hostess. It is more than the décor… I’ve been where the decor was exceptional, but it was cold. People are like moths, they gravitate to light and warmth. Creating that atmosphere begins with understanding the significance of certain people.
Prioritize The Right People
In training ushers and greeters, John Maxwell identified the ten most important people on Sunday morning in your church. It is important to note the one Maxwell denotes as number one.
1. A Visitor Any visitor is a “VIP.” Their attendance has been motivated by a friend or deep need. He brings his hurts, questions, and apprehensions. A visitor looks for warmth, acceptance, and smiles. If he finds these, he will return.
2. The Usher Ushers are important because they are usually the ones who have the first contact with people. They help people with directions. They are the ones who represent the church to newcomers.
3. Nursery Workers As soon as space makes it possible, a nursery should be added. Young parents seeking a church will initially select that church more on the nursery care than on the doctrinal statement of the congregation. Nursery workers are frontline warriors in the work of growing a church. Training will give them confidence. Well-trained nursery workers give assurance to the parents that their child will be cared for.
4. Greeters welcome people with a smile and a handshake. They personally escort visitors to the appropriate rooms. Greeters watch for people who appear lost or hunting for the right place. These people also look for the newcomers at next week’s service. In the early stages, your usher and greeter might to be the same person.
5. The One Who Sits Beside A New Person Church people can be distant toward the guest sitting in the chair beside them. Train four people to reach out to new people. It creates a warm atmosphere when they smile and introduce themselves. Simple things like helping them locate a song, handing them a welcome card, sharing a Bible means a lot.
6. The Service Leader makes or breaks this warm environment. This person must relax and draw people into an atmosphere of praise and worship. Spend a few moments greeting people at the beginning or during the service. A service leader must be warm, personable, positive, and real. If the pastor leads the service use the time to build a rapport in preparation of preaching to the congregation.
7. The Worship Leader must be friendly and have the ability to put people at ease.
8. The People Who Sing must smile and look as if they enjoy what is going on.
9. The Pastor must convey warmth and a sincere interest in people. Notice that many impressions are made before the pastor gets a chance to make his. If those already attending are not equipped to welcome a visitor… then a warm and sincere pastor will not be effective.
10. A Follow-Up Person must show appreciation for the newcomer’s visit and extend them a gracious invitation to return.
* Evaluate each of these ten key people at your church. This Sunday, look at things with a “Visitor’s Eye.” Rate things on a scale of 1-10. Would it feel good to be there? What needs to be worked on?
* Consider ordering a training program like Ushers And Greeters by John C. Maxwell, (INJOY Ministries, 1991)
Things A Pastor Or Service Leader Does To Create Warmth
1. Pause during the service to have people greet someone they do not know well.
Let music play in the background.
2. Pastor, get off the platform and out from behind the podium. Become real to the people who are there. The ivory-tower preacher, who descends twice a week to deliver an oracle and then retreats into his sanctuary, may have great scholarship and homiletical excellence; but he will not have warmth and a personal touch, It may well be as mysterious as the “sea of glass” not “mingled with fire.” A while back I was in Madison, Mississippi. It was interesting to see Pastor Jerry Dillon get off the platform to touch visitors. He shook hands and hugged the jail inmates who were there; he kissed babies and got acquainted with those visiting. All, while the worship service was going on. Pastor Dillon is an outstanding preacher, but in my estimation his approach to connecting with people is as much a key to his effectiveness as is his energetic preaching.
3. For some who visits, our Pentecostal praise is a mystery. It makes them extremely uncomfortable. Take time to explain what is happening. Use the Bible to validate what things that are happening: You can say, “I realize that this might be new to some of you. Let me take a moment and validate all this through the scripture. The Bible speaks of…
Kneeling in worship (Phil 2:9-10)
Bowing heads (Micah 6:6-8)
Raising heads (Psalm 3:3-4; Heb 4:16)
Lifting hands (Lam 3:40-41; Ps 63:3-4)
Waving hands in praise (Lev 9:21)
Dancing with joy before the Lord (Ps 30:11)
Clapping your hands (Psalm 47:1)
Shouting to the Lord (Psalm 47:1)
You don’t have to praise just like someone beside you… but take time to praise the Lord.” A short explanation demystifies all of this for the visitor. In a few minutes, you will see them start trying some of those things.
* Last Sunday, while church was going on… did you get off the platform to go get acquainted with people? Would you try it… just this one Sunday? You might even take the opportunity to invite the visitor to go to diner with you.
* Develop a pattern you will use for explaining Pentecostal praise in two minutes or less. Use that pattern often. Eventually you will have it memorized. This is not aimed at your saints, but at visitors.
I’ve spent much time focusing attention on practical things we can do to connect to those who visit our home court. However, there is something else to consider. This moves into the realm of the spiritual. We must also:
Be Conductive To The Spirit
Jerusalem was never a major banking center or a world-class city of commerce. Her claim to fame was her beauty and joy. In those days if you told a travel agency you wanted to do worship, they’d send you up to Jerusalem. Their joyful praise and worship of Yahweh, their feasts and celebrations captured the attention of the pagan world. An Ethiopian traveled to Jerusalem, “…for to worship.” What are you known for?
Psalms informs that “…God dwells in the praise of Israel.” Other translations say, “He is enthroned in the praise of His people.” A Japanese translation expresses it, “Where people praise, God brings His big chair and sits down.” Praise celebrates what
Jesus Christ has done for us. A by-product of praise is to create an atmosphere where the Lord Jesus is warmly welcomed.
In Genesis, God created environment before he created the creature that would exist within the environment. We humans are gifted at creating the environment in which we exist. It is our responsibility to create an atmosphere conducive to the ministry of the Holy Spirit.
Train your people to gather for prayer before church. If you really want them to do it – be there yourself. Visit Alexandria, Louisiana on Sunday evening and at 5:30 Pastor Anthony Mangun is in the prayer room with his men. Visit Calgary on Sunday evening and Pastor Johnny King is in the prayer room with his people. By the way, both prayer rooms are full… both churches are vibrantly alive with worship and praise. Prayer before church should be a non-negotiable for you, the musicians and leaders.
Seek To Worship But Begin With Praise
Worship is the deepest expression of relationship with God. It is what every gathering should pursue. In reality, real worship – that attitude of inner prostration at the presence of God – is rarely attained. It is hard to go from the business of the welding shop or the accounting office directly into worship. It is a process. How do we get there?
Begin with leading people into praise. Praise simply celebrates what the Lord Jesus Christ has done in their life over the past few days. Praise can be done through song or a testimony. It can be a prayer-time victory report. Praise can flow from the simple reading of scripture. Psalm 136’s repeated, “…his mercy endureth forever” in each verse, is excellent for responsive praise. Have people to read a verse of scripture that expresses their personal praise is low risk. Ralph Herring in The Cycle of Prayer is that praise is simply the “making of glory.” One writer said the posture of praise is constant motion. Standing, clapping, lifting the hands are all postures consistent with spirit of praise. To sit still, looking dour, is clearly inappropriate for praise. Praise begins with the pastor. You cannot lead a church to be a praising church if all they see you do is stand about looking somewhat miserable.
Article “Winning On Your Home Court” written by Carlton L. Coon, Sr. it taken from Director’s Communiqué the May/June 2006 edition.
This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes, “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”