Archive for February, 2015

Upward arrowHas your church worked hard on developing a vision only to have it forgotten?  According to George Bullard, a key sign of a declining or plateaued church is that it has no clear vision.  On the other hand, growing churches nearly always have a clearly defined vision that drives its ministries.

So what happened when your church developed a vision, yet didn’t experience growth?  Here are four possible reasons:

1. Your vision was a brief, memorable statement, which could really apply to any church.  In other words, the more defined your vision is the more likely it will guide and direct your church in a positive way.  The vision must reflect how your church will carry out its mission in its unique context.  What’s its unique niche?  Who is God calling it specifically to reach?  The clearer the answers, the more likely your vision will bring growth.

2. You failed to take the vision to the next step, which is setting specific, measurable goals that will help your church fulfill its vision.  For one church it is targeting a specific apartment complex, another is partnering with its elementary school and providing after school ministry, a third is striving to get 80% of its constituents into small groups.  What specific steps does your church need to take?

3. Your church didn’t align its calendar, budget, staff, and ministries with the vision.  Vision alignment accelerates the fulfillment of the vision, brings unity within the body, and maximizes the stewardship of the church’s limited resources.  The Church Development staff has a number of tools available to help a church analyze its existing ministries and set fruitful ministry goals aligned with the vision.

4. The vision wasn’t kept before the people.  As Andy Stanley says, “vision leaks!”  A church’s pastor must remind the congregation at least monthly of God’s direction for the church, its vision.  The pastor must also make sure all those in charge of ministry areas are clear about the vision and are aligning their work accordingly.  And finally the pastor must make sure the leaders are sharing the stories of how the vision is being accomplished.  Michael Coyner, bishop of the Indiana Area, refers to these as glory sightings.  How is your church sharing its glory sightings?

Correcting these four problems will dramatically increase the effectiveness of your vision.  It will begin driving your church’s ministries, attracting needed resources, and creating increased excitement over what God is doing!

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director of Church Development

New wineskins needed!

Posted: February 6, 2015 by efenster in Ideas
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Vital SignsThe sign of a healthy, vital church is reflected in its ability to adapt to its changing context.  I recently was with a church that had older members bemoaning the fact that their church has been slowly  declining the past thirty years because their children no longer stay in the community after graduation.  Of course, churches throughout the U.S. have been experiencing this for at least the past forty years!  Most  have recognized that they can’t rely on simply maintaining their churches through biological growth but that they have to focus on inviting and welcoming those new to their communities, those who are unchurched, those who are looking for a church.

Well, things have changed again and churches can no longer simply be a welcoming church.  They must be a “going” church.  Effective churches realize that they must adapt once again and take the church to the streets.  Rather than worship being the primary doorway into the life of the church, members developing relationships with the unchurched through everyday life experiences will be a key entry point.  Discipling will more likely happen in our homes, neighborhoods, and favorite haunts before it happens in our churches, especially for those who presently have no interest in our churches.  How are our churches equipping its members to do this?

I’m writing this for myself as much as you.  I’m co-chair of my church’s Mission & Outreach Team and we’re wrestling with how we can help our church do this.  And I’m wrestling with how I personally am doing this as a Christian in the 21st Century.  Pray for me, and I’ll pray for you!

Jesus talks about how we need to put new wine into new wineskins.  Although the Gospel message is unchanging, the way we convey it to the next generation must change.    Thankfully, if we’re open, God will show us those new wineskins.  May we be open to them even if they’re radically different from what we’re used to.  And may we be willing to adapt and change as needed!

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director of Church Development