Captivating Church Changers

Recently the Pew Forum released a study, Choosing a New House of Worship,  on people looking for new congregations. The research showed that half of all adults (49%) have looked for a new congregation in their lives. Here are some vital takeaways from the study.pf_16-08-23_churchesreport_whychange310px

Important in switching congregations:

  1. Quality of sermon (83%)
  2. Felling welcomed by leaders (79%)
  3. Style of services (74%)
  4. Location (70%)

All churches have the ability to shape those things, particularly how welcoming you are to guests. That is good news.

Most people prefer to attend close to home and in the style they prefer. Quality of sermon was even more important for protestants (92%) and evangelicals (94%). For churches that like to focus on the preached word, the message is central for the vast majority.

Connecting Personally

Fully 85% said they visited a congregation they were considering joining and 7 in 10 said they talked to people in the congregation. Someone from your church will have a chance to interact with church shoppers, you just don’t know who, so train everyone well. As well, your reputation in the community will play a role in most decisions with 68% talking to friends and colleagues about the congregation.

Children are a Priority

The fifth highest item on the list was children’s education. Naturally, among those with minor children the percentage was higher with two-thirds (65%) citing this as an important factor. Maybe the other third don’t bring their kids to church, or don’t have custody.  But if you want to reach families, having an engaging experience for children and teens is critical.

Most Likely to Look

The most common reason for people to find new congregation was that they moved (34%). Helping those new to your community find you can be a simple way to increase attendance.

Marriage and/or divorce was the second highest cause (11%) for people to look for a new congregation. Caring for people in marital transition (newlyweds, separation, divorce) can help close the back door of the church while strengthening families.

It’s not theology

There was little theological consideration for those changing congregations. Only 49% of those who looked considered only the denominations from which they came. Of those who changed, only 3% did so due to the theological beliefs of their old congregation and only 5% changed because their beliefs changed. People change congregations primarily for practical reasons, not theological.

If you don’t go much, you don’t change much.  Nearly two-thirds (63%) of those who attend worship services only a few times a year, or never, say they have never looked for a new congregation. That is higher than those who have no beliefs, “the nones.” 


There is some openness among those no religious affiliation. Three in ten (29%) of the “nones” have looked for a congregation in their lifetime.

Seventy percent of searchers said finding a new congregation was easy. Over a third, 36% of those who searched, said searching was easy because of the community they found, with 20% saying specifically it was due being invited by friends or family. So 1 in 5 Americans who search for a church said finding a new one was easy due to invitations.

Faith changes do shift actions. Of the 27% of adults reporting attending services at least once or twice a month now, but previously attended less, half of those indicated the change was due to shift in their beliefs.

Fewer than half of respondents who describe their religion as “nothing in particular” (37%) cite lack of belief as the reason they no longer affiliate with a religion. So for the majority of this group, their views don’t rule out a faith community.

Concerns for church leaders:

Half of all Americans have never searched for a new congregation in their life. They either have never moved and have stayed connected to one congregation, or have never been engaged in a search for faith.

Another area of concern is that 22% of americans attend services rarely or never, but used to attend more often. In this group is 15% of evangelicals. Half of the group cited practical reasons (busyness, priorities, age, etc) as the primary reason for less attendance. When people attend less, it’s often because it’s not a priority.

Seeing these numbers can create tension for some churches, particularly if you are not growing or have seen attendance decline. Training can make a church more friendly. You can improve your impact on families and relocate to reach new people.  There are ways to deepen connection to your congregation and equip leaders to ensure you handle those looking for a church well.

If you need help with any of the tensions, we want to serve you. Schedule a free 30 minute consultation today and see if we can help your church better reach your community.

What makes a great Campus Pastor?

Your church is ready to launch a new location and you only need one thing:  a leader.  Or you just made the hard decision to replace a leader at a campus. They were not effectively moving the vision forward and reproducing the larger church experience. Either way you need a new pastor or leader for that location.

So what are you looking for in a campus pastor? This is where many churches get stuck. Often we know it when we see it, but it’s hard to define the essential qualities. multi imageIt’s not a lead pastor role. It’s not a department role where the scope is limited. This person has to run an entire church structure under the leadership of an existing church leadership team. They have to reproduce a church experience in a new location with new leaders in a new community. It’s challenging and easy to get the wrong gift mix.

What characteristics make a great campus or location pastor? Here are six that you should consider.

  1. Humble Leader – You are entrusting a site into the hands of one person, so they have to be a talented leader and humble to lead under another person’s vision. Because it is not a senior leader role, some assume you can get by with mediocre campus leadership. That is the road of ruin. In human terms, the success of this location rises and falls on the leadership of the Campus Pastor. Get the best leaders you have or can get for this role, preferably someone like a Level-5 Leader described in Jim Collins book, Good to Great.
  2.  Compelling Communicator – Carrying the leadership of a new location creates a high need for a skilled communicator. They must lead the mission so having the ability to cast vision, encourage, give hope and celebrate wins is essential. If he or she will be preaching regularly,  they’ll need that teaching gift as well.
  3. Godly Shepherd – No matter what strategy a church uses, the site pastor must be able to care for people, encourage, equip, and counsel (1 Peter 5:2-3). They are the local pastor for those people, so they must have pastoral ability and/or a team to do spiritual formation.
  4. Team Builder – No site moves beyond 100 people on the talents of one person. An effective campus pastor has to be able to build teams, of staff and volunteers, to accomplish the mission. You can’t teach your way to growth or vision cast your way to effectiveness; you develop others who do the heavy lifting.
  5. DNA Carrier – Everyone reproduces who and what they are in culture. To reproduce the church’s experience and culture, you need someone with the core DNA of the church. If they don’t know what is part of the culture and experience then they can’t reproduce it. This is why 67% of campus pastors come from inside the organization. 
  6. Gospel Driven – Great location pastors think as much about who is not yet in the room as who is already here. Nearly every church that has multiple effective sites is doing it to reach those who are not yet connected to Christ. If leaders lack a heart to connect people to Jesus, it won’t be a big focus of their team or their site and will undermine the main reason for being a multisite church. 

In many ways, they have a similar make-up to a church planter. The key difference may be preaching ability, or not having enough experience to lead a church plant on their own. Ideally they prefer to build under the compelling vision of the church that is sending them out.

If a great candidate doesn’t have all of the above, consider how you build the team around him so that the whole team can get the whole job done. If you need help in this area, or anything related to launching locations, schedule a free 30 minute conversation to see if I can serve your needs.

What would you add to this list? If you are a campus pastor, what would you say is most helpful to you as a leader?  

What You can Learn from 700K Donors

Ever wondered if your church is unique in its generosity, or if your people are similar to others? Leadership Network and Mortar Stone have released a report on church generosity based on some “big data” from Mortar Stone. They tracked giving at churches from over 722,000 households and found some interesting insights that should shape every church’s strategy to grow a generous church.

Hare are some compelling take-aways from the report.

You can’t grow significantly on new givers – The report found that over 12 months, only 6% of trackable giving comes from new givers. While important, new givers don’t significantly impact in year one. Expecting “growth” to cover large budget increases is not the best approach. Every church needs a plan to grow the generosity of those already giving.

Focus on the second gift – Only 55% of new givers will give a second time within a 12 month period. So if you get mobile donate100 new givers, 45 won’t give again that year. So focus on strategies to help new givers give again, quickly, to build a habit of generosity. Thank you letters and making that second gift simple (online giving, mobile giving, envelopes, etc) can help increase that percentage.

Early Attrition is High – On top of the difficulty of making second gifts, only 48% of new givers will keep giving into year two. That means for every 100 new gifts, typically 26 will keep giving into year two. Like any new skill, it’s surprisingly difficult to sustain initial giving patterns. Growing nonprofits need tactics to support new givers, like highlighting the benefits of generosity and helping people learn new financial patterns.

Build consistency not amount – For givers who did continue giving, in year two their giving goes up by an average of 64%. So help new givers build a consistent pattern of giving, and their generosity normally increases.

But people don’t give consistently because of real barriers. Consumer debt, consumerism, lack of trust and fear inhibit families generosity. Many have never learned how to give. So teach them. Provide classes to help people get out of debt, budget, and save so generosity becomes practical and practiced.

Disciple top givers – Being generous should be part of every church’s discipleship plan for everyone. At the same time, 6% of givers donated over $10K a year to churches. Yet those people give 41% of the church’s general fund. That means losing them is painful. So deepen their connection to Christ and their understanding of your churches mission to motivate them towards building God’s kingdom.

Pass the Plate – Churches that actually passed a plate/basket/bucket have 17% larger offerings than similar size churches that don’t pass the plate. It may be a strategic decision to passively receive an offering, but it has a price.

When they are gone, they are gone. Once a family has not given for 12 months, only 3% will give over the next 12 months. To put it another way, if a family hasn’t given in 12 months, 97% of the time they don’t return to giving to your church. The key is to not lose them. If a shift in giving pattern happens, someone should follow-up. Often these are pastoral care moments (loss of job, medical challenge, debt crunch, frustration, etc) where care and help can make a huge impact spiritually and personally.

How does your church or nonprofit compare to these percentages? Have you compared your data from year to year to see how well you are doing at developing and retaining those who fund your mission?

If your church or non-profit needs help developing systems to care for those who give and help you know what their next step is, we can help.  Schedule a free 30 consultation to discuss your church’s situation.

The Worst Moment in Every Worship Service

boredinchurchIf you have ever gone to church, you know the worst moment in every service…announcements. If the announcements are not the worst thing during your service, then you have bigger challenges, but that’s another post.

Announcements feel like lots of words about things you care little about. It takes too long. It’s dull…so we check out instagram on our phone and pretend to listen.

With distraction ubiquitous, everyone tunes out thousands of daily messages. As church leaders, we know this, yet we plunge ahead making 5, 7, sometimes 10 announcements each service. We bombard people with information hoping they will remember something…anything. Worse still, we get frustrated when eyes glaze over or people miss what we think is important.

It’s our fault people don’t hear us. Our messages are cluttered, noisy and less than engaging.

As church leaders we often pretend “it’s all important.” Announcements aren’t the important stuff; not compared to preaching God’s word, worship, and communion. The announcements are close to filler. So either we need to end announcements (and there was much rejoicing) or we need to get a lot better at doing them. A few tips:

  • Humor Makes things memorable – Here’s a promo for a men’s event.
  • Preach the announcements – where it fits the sermon, we work application of the message toward upcoming “events.” If the topic has an application for marriage, one of the things we preach is “many of you need to sign up for the marriage event to invest in your marriage.” When this happens, it’s easy ministry.
  • Group items under one focus: Don’t announce every bible study, or new groups, etc. Talk about why everyone needs a group of friends to help them grow spiritually and direct people elsewhere for details of new opportunities.
  • Videorecord announcements to play during the service. It controls the time and creates clarity every service.
  • Talk to everyone – if something doesn’t apply to half the people in the room or more, leave it out.
  • Teasers – announce “lots of exciting and fun things happening in middle school, women’s study, and with the homeless ministry…details in the program”
  • Tell Stories  – use life change stories to highlight a ministry (video, interview, sermon point)…there is no better promotion.

If you don’t want the announcements to be the worst moment in a service, plan them so that they connect and don’t distract from the main thing, worship. After all, it is a worship service, right?

How have you seen announcements handled? What is your favorite example of a good or bad announcementt?

Watts ChapelPanel Discussion with Watts Chapel Missionary Baptist Church leadership about how other churches have solved the challenges of growth.

Date: July 8, 2016
Time: 6:30 p.m.
Event: Watts Chapel Leadership Retreat
Topic: Growth Strategies
Venue: MacGregor Downs Country Club
Location: Cary, NC
Public: Public