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What the “Pet Rock” Can Teach Your Church

by Jon Vaughan


You might remember this little phenomenon back in the 70’s called “The Pet Rock.”  More than 1.5 million people bought a rock as a pet.  You might have even owned a pet rock yourself or gotten one as a gift.  That’s okay, I had one too.  But why would people pay $3.95 for a rock that just sat there? Logically, a painted rock is a really dumb purchase. Emotionally, you just bought yourself a new friend!

Most of us have launched a new ministry at our church with high expectations.  Then we watched it wither and die because people didn’t buy into the idea.  It sank like a rock…sorry, I had to throw that in. Logically, it was well-organized and thought out but the people didn’t respond because it had no way of tapping into their emotions (needs, desires, joys).

I’ve realized three harsh realities that we must acknowledge if we want to lead folks toward adopting new ideas, to teach your church.

Three harsh realities and how to move forward…

Harsh reality #1: Your congregation isn’t going to rearrange their entire schedule to be a part of your ministry.

How to respond?  Don’t let it hurt your feelings. Tap into what they are already doing.  It’s your job to look for “natural” ways to get involved in what they currently do.

Example: If parents take their kids to soccer games on Sunday instead of coming to church, create a strategy to tap into that current behavior.  Send out happy (operative word) members to pray for the kids, coaches, and parents and show them the love of Christ. You will let them know they are important to you. They will FEEL important!

Harsh reality #2: Your budgets, buildings, and attendance are not the most important thing.

How to respond?  By focusing on what they need, you actually end up solving your own problems.  People will engage, people will come, and your church will grow when you focus on the needs of those around you. Brainstorm about how your church is uniquely situated to help with a specific need in your community.

Example:  Maybe you have a lot of single moms in your area.  What kind of resources or encouragement could you offer them? Perhaps a mommy-and-me class or life skills workshops to empower young girls.

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Harsh reality #3: There is immense pain among the people around you.

How to respond? Jesus knew this well. People will change when the “pain of same exceeds the pain of change.”  If you want a thriving ministry, you need to embrace the pain of individuals and families.

Example: How is your church uniquely positioned to help parents of teens?  Let me tell you from experience, there is a lot of fear and pain when you have teens. Talk to some parents who are struggling with their teens.  Then offer to buy them coffee once a week and provide a “judgment-free zone” for support.

Lastly, I highly recommend Church Refugees by Josh Packard for every church leader.  His groundbreaking research talks about how to retain your best and brightest leaders and volunteers.

Remember, throwing rocks around gets you nowhere. But if you paint a rock (offering friendship and addressing emotions), then people can’t get enough of the rocks!

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What the “Pet Rock” Can Teach Your Ch...

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