by Bob D’Ambrosio
The start of a new year provides the opportunity for ministry leaders to reflect and assess their church health and focus. It’s often the best time to develop a new game plan.
As you review your growth goals for this new year, make sure they include these five vital ministry areas.
1. Guest Services. In their book Why Nobody Wants to Go to Church Anymore, Thom and Joani Schultz speak to the need to develop a culture of “radical hospitality” to draw people back into the church. Radical hospitality goes beyond greeters, parking lot attendants, and coffee bars. While these may help people feel more comfortable at church, radical hospitality is a value that communicates love for others without judgment or looking down on them. It’s loving people as Jesus did and welcoming people just as they are. Thriving churches will figure out how to create this culture.
2. Online Church Connections. Nils Smith, social media strategist at Dunham and Company, understands the importance of making first connections through online tools and social media. While a pastor at Community Bible Church in San Antonio, Nils says he learned through the church’s Google analytics that 40 percent of their traffic was first-time visitors from the San Antonio area. “We realized we had to optimize our website for them and think through what the guest would need to experience—from checking out the website to attending a service,” he says. The church also provides a “Plan Your Visit” program for first-time guests so they can receive assistance and information before they attend one of the worship services offered at multiple campus locations.
3. Small Groups. Community is fundamental to our understanding of God and faith formation, yet few people today know where to find authentic relationships. The weekly bulletin at Rez.Church in Loveland, Colorado, states: “In times of need and times of fun, Rez small groups are your source of friendship and support. They are your key to developing connections with those who share your interests or people who are dealing with similar life issues.” They’ve discovered that friendships and relationships don’t happen during their weekend services. To counter this, they offer a wide variety of social and faith-based groups with quick access to small-group information and registration either online or at the lobby information center.
4. Children’s Ministry. Vibrant, engaging, and safe children’s ministry continues to be a number one draw for parents. Churches can connect with families when they offer quality programming for kids. This means having fully staffed ministry teams of trained, screened, and prepared volunteers. It also includes having a check-in system, integrated paging, electronic room monitoring, and safety plans for crisis management.
5. Equipping Ministry. Tighter church budgets have resulted in a reduction of full-time staff. Many pastorates are now filled with bivocational leaders or part-time ministers. The trend in youth ministry is also moving in this direction. Fewer and fewer people today, including the millennial generation, want to be mere spectators, watching the paid professionals do all the significant work of the church. A shift from clergy-centered ministry to lay involvement will require an understanding of the biblical mandates to equip people for ministry. When equipping values are reflected in the culture of the church, it raises the level of volunteer participation and communicates, “We’re all in this together.”