The answer to these five questions will drive what you do as a local church. They will impact the activities and programs you host. Ultimately, they will determine your effectiveness in reaching both your community and your congregation for Jesus Christ.

1. How do we attract people to our church?

Sadly, many church leaders fail to seriously address this question. They assume people will visit the church because they see the church building and a welcome sign on the front lawn or they assume regular attendees will regularly invite people to the Sunday Service. They scratch their heads and wonder what people’s problem is. One pastor once told me that first time guests were often heard making comments like, “Your church is the best kept secret in our town!”

In Matthew 5:14-16, Jesus said, “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

Your community doesn’t need to see your building, they need to see “the light of the world” in you and your congregation. They need to see that your church is a place where transformation takes place. Where lives are changed. Where people meet the True and Living God. You need to find ways to shout from the mountain that God actually shows up at your church each week. People need to get the feeling they are missing out on something important.

What is your church’s strategy to attract people?

2. How do we assimilate guests into our church?

Of the five questions, this is what pastors ask me more than any other. It can be very frustrating to see 3-4 guests walk through the front doors every week and yet not experience growth as a church. Sometimes guests will even return for a second or third visit, but eventually they sort of just disappear and we never know what happened. What makes matters worse, they usually tell us they really enjoyed the service! We can’t help but secretly ask ourselves: Was it something I said? Did someone offend them? Are we weird and just don’t know it? Why won’t they come back?

More often than not, the problem is that church leaders and longstanding members have blinders on. They are unable to properly see the church environment through the eyes of a guest or newcomer. This is fairly normal and to be expected, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good thing. Creating a ‘guest culture’ should be high on every church’s priority list and should include finding ways to ensure guests have a positive experience and are tactfully invited to come again.

Another reason why this question is hard to answer is because we fail to properly define ‘assimilate’ when we ask it. Is it when they have visited 3 times or 6 or 8? Is it when they join a small group or get involved? Is it when they become a member? It may be different for every church, but at some point, newcomers need to feel like they are one of the ‘insiders’ at your church. We need to make that as easy as possible!

In Acts 15, Paul said, “It is my judgement, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for Gentiles who are turning to God.” In other words, we need to pay special and close attention to our new attendees as they are “turning to God.”

What is your church’s strategy to assimilate people?

3. How do we connect people with one another in our church?

I often tell church leaders, “You can make a lot of mistakes as a church and people will keep coming if they are connected.” Certainly, the answer to this question is an important part of ‘how do we assimilate people.’ But it’s more than about just getting newcomers to stay. It’s about having a church where people truly care about one another, and show it in practical ways. A church that successfully accomplishes this doesn’t have to rely on the pastor(s) to do all the ministry in the church, because people organically minister to one another all the time.

In today’s culture, getting people to ‘connect’ with others in the church is a LOT easier said than done. But it is a necessity if we are to go beyond the ‘superficial’ in ministry to one another. And despite the indoctrination of social media in the world, nothing will ever truly beat face to face interactions. Getting people to actually do that is a challenge some pastors have literally given up addressing. No matter how discouraging or hard it may be, we should ‘not grow weary in doing good’ and continue forward until we have discovered ways to do it for our church community.

The author of Hebrews so aptly reminds us, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” That passage isn’t just talking about the Sunday morning experience. It’s talking about small groups, medium groups, even 1 on 1 connections – all so we may “spur one another on toward love and good deeds.”

What is your church’s strategy for connecting people?

4. How do we disciple people in our church?

Any church leader who doesn’t know what the “Great Commission” is has missed his calling. It’s Christ’s final mandate to His disciples, and to each one of us. Entire sermons, series, books and even volumes of books have been given to us to explore Jesus command to us to spread the Gospel around the globe, as well as in our own communities. It’s hard to miss the four primary commands found in this passage:

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Matthew 28:19

Go. Make Disciples. Baptize. Teach.

From what I’ve seen, local churches can be all over the place on answering this question. Some of the reason may be differences in opinion or even theology. But I think the biggest difference is in intentionality. Are we doing church the way we’ve always done it, because that’s what church’s do? Or are we intentionally choosing to do {put program/activity/service here} because we really believe it will disciple people? Only you (and God) can answer that question!

Either way, discipleship should be a critical part of your church’s service to the congregation. This is going to include helping people learn how to discover God for themselves through activities like Bible reading, prayer and missions trips; teaching them Godly principles regarding evangelism, parenting, relationships, stewardship, etc.; and equipping them to overcome the world, the flesh and the devil by living a victorious life.

What is your church’s strategy for discipling people?

5. How do we engage people in our church?

An indicator of a healthy church is found in the level of involvement of the attendees in the ministries within your church and to your community. When the congregation relies almost entirely on the pastor, something is broken. The “body” has turned into a malformed entity that will never effectively serve it’s mission in the community. Last week I spoke at a small rural church that is run entirely by volunteers. It’s an active church with several great programs and activities for it’s attendees. But there is nobody on staff. They are hopeful to eventually hire a part time pastor, but in the meantime, they have discovered something powerful – when the body works together, ministry can and will happen.

Getting people involved tends to be something many church leaders talk about a lot, but struggle actually doing. The barriers they face are often complicated to completely unravel. It often seems easier to just do things themselves and rely on a few key influencers in the church to handle the rest. But this cripples the body of Christ. Paul was quite clear in 1 Corinthians that we all make up different parts of the body of Christ:

“But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.” 1 Cor. 12:18-19

Helping people find their place in the body is going to serve both the volunteer and the rest of the body. Even if people aren’t placed perfectly, the whole body will benefit and grow. That growth will bring change, which will force people to adjust what they are doing and where they serve. With good leadership and a lot of time, people will eventually drift towards their sweet spots of ministry.

What is your church’s strategy for engaging people?

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