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Archive for April, 2015

Notes from the Journey with the Disciples – 224

  1. But no one at the meal understood why Jesus said this to him (John 13:28).

Jesus giving Judas a piece of bread would have normally been an act of honor, but on the heels of His statement that one would betray and His indication (at least to John) that He would give the “one” a piece of bread, the moment is more puzzling. When He told Judas to act quickly, no one understood what He meant. Curious that a moment so clear to us is so unclear to them. But that’s the way our lives work as well. In the moment, we often cannot understand Jesus words to us because we have not seen them unfold before us. We remain in a bit of a fog that will always require faith. We simply have to stay close to Jesus, holding His hand, because we cannot fully grasp the critical moments occurring all around us.

Categories: Leadership Journeys

The Big 5 Questions: Their Answers Will Revitalize Your Church – Part 6

Before we move on from our discussion of the second of our critical five questions, there are a couple of additional considerations when answering the question–How will we treat them when they come through our doors?

We’ve already looked at the first question–How will we connect with new people?  And a big part of our hope when we found ways to connect with new people is that they would visit our church, right? So now that they have walked in our doors, it would be tragic to be careless in how we treat them.

As I travel, consulting with church leaders, there is one area that few have really considered. Where do you want a new person to sit in your auditorium?

Usually, the immediate response I’m given is, “wherever they want to sit.” Now that answer reveals a heart that genuinely wants the guest to take things at their own pace and feel comfortable. The problem is, that new people in your church don’t know where they want to sit. They come in wondering where they’re “supposed” to sit and they have no history in that room to help them answer such a question.

So, if they navigate your auditorium on their own, will they sit in wrong places?

You might question where a wrong place would be. No, we’re not intending to suggest that they might sit in someone’s lifelong seat or that your people would be rude enough to ask them to vacate a preferred spot. But there are some “not-so-ideal” spots in your auditorium.

You probably don’t want them to accidentally sit down front. Few guests would do that on their own anyway. Those who are most demonstrative in worship usually sit toward the front. Besides, the closer you are to the front, the more people can see you and guests already feel sufficiently on display, so this isn’t the best spot for them.

Of course, in the back–a guests most likely landing spot–isn’t ideal either. There can be major distractions in the back of the auditorium. Sometimes, it’s a completely different service back there. Lots of moving around, usually some noise that’s not preferred, and from the back, the guest can see everyone else in the room–not always a good thing.

So, most say, well, let’s have them sit in the middle. That’s not a bad answer, but wouldn’t it be better if they sat near to the friendliest people in your church? Now, that’s a great idea! If they sit near friendly people, they are far more likely to receive a warm welcome from these folks that are more aware than others of the guests in the room.

But how will they know which are the friendly people? Someone needs to be on duty to make sure that guests are ushered to this ideal real estate. Consider having an auditorium greeter with that exact assignment. You know where your most friendly people usually sit, so be sure your ushers know too. That way, these new friends won’t be ignored by those around them and they may even have a guide to better understand the things happening around them. Friendly people know how to be aware of your guests and help their visit be as pleasant as possible.

By the way, since you’re already thinking about the auditorium experience your guests will encounter, consider how you can make your worship service more understandable too. Explain the action, the expressions of worship, and help people  know why you are engaging them. Take a moment to make things clear, and you’ll probably discover a lot of your long-time attenders didn’t really understand those things either.

Just as when you have guests at home, you need to consider every moment they will spend in “your house.” Do all you can to help them feel at home and you will be more likely to have future opportunities to invest in their lives as well.

Notes from the Journey with the Disciples – 223

  1. “I tell you the truth, one of you is going to betray Me” (John 13:21).

When the disciples couldn’t grasp the warning in His previous words, Jesus takes a more direct approach. His statement must have hung in the air ominously as His disciples took it in. “One of you…” There’s no “somebody” here. The four walls around me contain the person who will do such a thing. “One of you” for each of the disciples means “one of us.” That such an act seems unimaginable is evident by their fear, “Is it me?” Surely one would know his own heart better, but tensions are rising and it seems few in the room are confident of what they are truly capable. “Will I crack?” “Will the pressure overwhelm me?” I don’t want to ever fail Him, but maybe He knows more about me?” Faith never exists without some reason to doubt or fear. And in that uncertainty, we always find our fear of failure, even amidst our greatest hope.

Categories: Leadership Journeys

The Big 5 Questions: Their Answers Will Revitalize Your Church – Part 5

In this edition, we’ll continue our discussion of the second of our critical five questions. You can drift back through the previous four blogs and see that we’ve already discussed the first question–How will we connect with new people?

Question two takes the next step by asking, How will we treat them when they come through our doors?

As a church consultant and former director of our denomination’s church health effort, I’m frequently asked a variety of questions about taking one’s church to greater effectiveness. But, if there’s one question that I’m asked more than any other, that question would focus on assimilation plans, and particularly how to effectively welcome people to our church.

Now studies have been done, books written, programs sold, and conferences held on the subject, but let me simplify this for you by giving you a one-sentence target that will revolutionize the environment of your church–EVERYONE IS A GREETER!

I’ve seen well-organized congregations that have mastered so many elements of a hospitality program. They have it all, they do it all, but I’ve still seen people stand lost in their hallways as the enthusiastic congregants race toward their own seats in the auditorium. At the same time, I’ve been in under-resourced places where people feel immediate warmth and welcome because everyone they meet seems ready to be their friend. There’s simply no substitute for friendly people!

If your people view greeting guests as someone’s job, you have a mindset to fix. Everyone must be “on duty” when there are guests in the house!

My wife loves to invite people into our home for dinner, dessert, coffee, or really any excuse she can come up with. When our now-adult sons lived at home, they were quite accustomed to these evening events and were fully expected to be a part of them. They knew that if we have guests in the house, everyone’s on duty.

Now we all have differing abilities and comfort levels with social interaction. My youngest son is our entertainer. His personality lights up every room he enters. So, from the time he was able to extend a smile and handshake, he was often our front door guy, welcoming our guests and inviting them into our home. Our older son was a bit more introverted, but he would take coats and purses and point out available restroom facilities. My wife and I would quickly join the welcome, dropping everything else we might be doing to give our guests complete focus. Every member of the family was engaged in helping our guests feel at home in our house. (Now that my boys have their own homes, I’m door guy and coat guy and…)

The mindset should be the same at church too. If greeting is someone else’s job, that sense of unfriendliness will be evident to guests. Those assigned greeters might not be sitting next to a guest in a service. They might not be standing at the restroom sink alongside a new attender when a simple “How ya doin?” or “Good to have you with us today?” might be just the line needed. Everyone seems to think that their church is a friendly place, but usually that just means it’s friendly to us. After all, our friends are there! When everyone’s a greeter, your guests start thinking your church is friendly too.

Frankly, no matter how good your hospitality efforts might be and no matter how warm your pastor might seem and no matter how neat and cool those with greeter tags might seem, if your people don’t see welcoming and connecting with guests as their assignment too, you’ll always be working uphill in your efforts to help people feel at ease in your church.

Never forget that your church is only as friendly as the guy sitting next to me!

If everyone will be a greeter at your church, you may need to provide specific encouragement and even training for your people. You must certainly model this critical attitude, and it might not be a bad idea to reward such efforts when you see them in action.

How tragic to engage your congregation in great outreach efforts, only to seemingly disregard the folks when they respond to your invite. You convinced them to visit, now treat them like you want them to feel at home. Everyone is a greeter!

Notes from the Journey with the Disciples – 222

  1. “I am not referring to all of you. I know those I have chosen.” (John 13:18).

What does “referring” mean here? We know He is speaking of Judas as not truly being what the others are. In the context, is Jesus implying that Judas is greater than his master? Or is He stating that Judas has already proven that he doesn’t truly claim Jesus as his Lord? What we can clearly see is that the foot-washing Jesus knows which of His disciples will lift up his heel against Him. He knows. He knows the hearts of those He has chosen. He sees both their good intent and their evil drifting, and He knows that no amount of serving them will change the heart of one who is bent on sinning against Him. And, He knows us just as clearly.

Categories: Leadership Journeys

The Big 5 Questions: Their Answers Will Revitalize Your Church – Part 4

There have been many books written about how to prepare your facilities, ministries, and people for the arrival of Sunday guests. In our series, we’re answering the second of our critical questions–How will we treat them when they come through our doors? Well, to succeed here, most consultants will agree that there are four initial zones you must care for:

1. The Property

The first impression your church will leave on a guest usually starts before the first hand can be shaken. It’s the view, the drive onto the property, the walk toward the appropriate door. What is that like for a newbie on your church campus?

Sadly, many churches think the Sunday experience starts with the first worship song, but in truth, most of your guests have already decided a lot of how they feel about you and your church before they ever enter the auditorium. What did they see as they pulled in? Were the bushes trimmed nicely and the church property seemingly free of trash? You see, they may have already formed an impression if you’ve not cared for such things. A well-groomed landscape says these people care about this place. Signs that tell the new person where to park seem to say they knew I was coming. Parking lot greeters have a way of saying, Everyone here wants to be friendly.

2. The Front Door

When they arrive at the door, who do they find there? Is it one of the friendliest people in the church? If not, why not? We’ve all likely experienced the gruff or the socially awkward folks at some churches’ front doors. Maybe that person has been the door greeter for years and become a little careless in how he does his ministry. Maybe no one else will help except the lady whose organization skills run everything else, but if she’s too busy to focus on welcoming guests, well… I visited one church where the front door was manned by a “bulletin-passer-outer.” She had a job to do and wasn’t about to let any amount of conversation deter her from putting a bulletin in every hand.

C’mon!  There’s no face as important as the first face someone meets at your church. That face should be smiling, and convey warmth and genuine enthusiasm at the arrival of potential new friends. Never forget that the first reason people give for visiting a new church is that they’re looking for friends. If the first face says that isn’t likely, a person will expect more of the same from the other faces.

3. The Church Entry and Main Hallway

Whatever the distance between your front door and the door of your auditorium, that space should be warm and inviting. Too many churches clutter their entry areas with bulletin boards that project all the activities of the church. Sometimes there are large displays of missionaries supported or photo collages of people I don’t know doing things I may never have done. There is absolutely a place for such displays, BUT IT’S NOT THE FRONT ENTRANCE!

Most of us know what we mean by “refrigerator art.” Our children color pictures for us or earn award certificates that we are excited to display in our homes. But we put such treasures in the kitchen, on the refrigerator, not in the front entry of our homes. That space is saved for our best decorative pieces so we can make the entrance of our homes attractive to those who enter. Use that same thinking at church. Fill your entry areas with warmth. Think about the kind of things someone would enjoy as they enter. And move your displays further inside.

4. The Restrooms

Finally, you must consider the condition of your main entrance restrooms. It’s comical but true–the restroom is one place every first time guest will visit. Why? Because it’s the one room where they know what to do. Many first-time guests, especially unchurched people, will visit your restroom even when they don’t need to because it offers a place to hide from the anxiety they might be feeling.

So what do those rooms look like? Remember, your members may be willing to look past peeling wallpaper or cracked caulking, but guests don’t know what not to see. We all know what we think when we enter a dirty gas station restroom, don’t we? But when a church restroom isn’t cared for, people question the quality of those they are worshipping alongside. A pleasant and attractive restroom can go a long way toward making someone feel at home in your church.

Of course, there are many other facility elements that are critical to creating a comfortable and appealing atmosphere for your church guests, but these four zones are experienced by every guest and usually in the first few minutes of their visit to your church. Never forget that the first impression people have of you and your facility will stick and be hard to rewrite, so make it a good one!

Next time, we’ll continue our search for the best answers to question two. After all, there’s more to making new people feel at home than just your building efforts.

Notes from the Journey with the Disciples – 221

  1. “No servant is greater than his Master” (John 13:16).

It’s far from easy to connect our way of living to that of Jesus in the first century. We dwell in an extraordinary abundance, far from the scale of those days in Judea. We live in a democracy–an expression of government that few if any had imagined in those days. We have freedoms and opportunities that so far exceed what the disciples could have known. And yet, even in their perceived limits, the desire to be served shines brightly enough that Jesus must address it again and again. How much more so for us? We are willing to acknowledge Jesus in worship, but have very little practice in the true mentality of serving. We want for ourselves and when we have what we want, we want even more. But you can’t follow a servant if you’re acting like a Master.

Categories: Leadership Journeys