Archive for The Future

Reaching Millennials (5 of 5)

5. Show a Willingness to Change

We will never be ready to embrace change. When we force the change, we will stir up resentment and anger. Why? Change usually happens when we aren’t enough prime for change. We can convince ourselves that proposed change needs to be close to perfect before we pull the trigger.

G.K. Chesterton was a Believer who often debated writer and atheist George Bernard Shaw during WWI. Once when Shaw was attacking the lack of love from Christians, Chesterton made the point that all Believers are on a journey and learning as we move forward.

“Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly.” – G.K. Chesterton

A church that attracts the millennial generation is one that is teachable and willing to change, even when the details aren’t complete. If we wait till we have all the answers or even clear plan for success with change, we’ll likely never even start down the path.

The message the church sometimes sends, “When this or that happens, then we will be ready for the change.” Guess what – we will never be perfectly ready for a change. It’s understandable that the Old-timers in a congregation especially resist change. They’re dead set on avoiding the discomfort of getting out onto the thin branches.

I’ve heard ditty “The older you become, the wiser you will be.” For the most part, the truth is “The older you grow, the more careful you become.”

Take a risk. It’s almost a guarantee that we will raise the ire of some who are defensive about any tinkering with the church they seem to own. Those already here is their “Church family” as they see it, and you don’t want to mess with someone’s church family. Research, as well as experience, tells us that it’s not possible to be in the family of any sort that is larger than about a dozen. Anger that comes from the old guard stems from the fear that they will not be comfortable any longer – which might be partly accurate. They want to be part of the group they’ve grown close and the predictability. As well, they like being a big fish in a little pond.

If you want to help these folks, smile and show them patience. Point them to the fruit that is coming as God opens to people like them who were once new once upon a time.

When we embrace change with a smile on our faces, they will be more likely to cooperate with the new thing – the new atmosphere – that God is building.

Bonus Tip: Fun, fun, fun!

God has built into all of our hearts the desire to embrace life with joy. The Westminster Catechism nails it down in a sentence:

“Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” — Westminster Catechism 1.1 & 1.2

Some in this generation have decided that to fit into the Christian world, they need to become angry. I know that was the message I heard from well-intentioned veteran Believers.

God’s presence creates an atmosphere that creates the best party imaginable. When we take ourselves too seriously, we destroy the feel of a party and can create a funeral service. I figured out that no one is looking for a funeral. They’ve had enough of that during their week.

When we take ourselves too seriously, we will likely kill the party that God wants to build. I’ve found there are ways to redo parts of the typical Sunday service. For example, at the end of worship, instead of going through the robotic words of, “Say hi to your neighbor” mix things up with non-religious ways to accomplish the same thing.

Try this – Turn to your neighbor and say, “I’m getting hungry. I hope doesn’t thing doesn’t run too long.” They will laugh and even with more enthusiasm connect with those around them.

A church with momentum has the feel of a party – the opposite of a funeral service. People are in a desperate search for healing and encouragement.

Funerals don’t change people. They just make them even more miserable than the way they came in. Positive parties bring encouragement, joy, and even healing.

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” —Plato

Sometimes a good way to start this change is to adopt a motto. Here’s one of mine –

“Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is… fun!” (2 Cor. 3:17, KJV)

Reaching Millennials (1 of 5)

Reaching Millennials (2 of 5)

Reaching Millennials (3 of 5)

Reaching Millennials (4 of 5)

Reaching Millennials (4 of 5)

4. Lead and Challenge New Behaviors

This generation isn’t just willing to be challenged – they nearly demand it. A significant part of their mentality is they want to make the world better than they found it, whether their focus is on the environment, or putting an end to bullying. They are just waiting for the call to action to jump into a life of influence, particularly when it comes to learning to love the people around them. Their requirement is that you take the role of a “Lead goose” in the V-formation. Where you go, they will follow. It’s a doing thing, not a talking one.

Call them to change the world with you, not for you.

Provide them with simple, doable tools that will get it done. One that I’ve seen work incredibly well is going into the community to reach out to those in need (I like that term versus “The weak” – using the first gives room for change. Just because they are needy now that’s not a category they will live in all their lives).

It’s easiest to begin outreach to these folks.

Even if your knees are shaking from fear, they will be thankful and show you their love.

Reaching out is as simple as bagging up some sacks of groceries. Recruit, a couple of friends. Find an area where people seem like they might need some food or know of a neighbor who does. I usually say, “Do you know of anyone around here who could use some groceries?” I learned to say it this way after blowing it by asking, “Are you poor?” Like I said above, even though I was goofy, they thanked me profusely. There is an excellent communication network among people in need – far better than suburbanites. If they need the groceries, they will let you know. Otherwise, they will point you down the street. When you connect with someone who needs the groceries, spend a little bit of time with them. Ask them if they could use some prayer. They will always have a prayer issue. Then pray on the spot. When millennial folks do this even once, they will be lit.

Coming soon: Part 5

Reaching Millennials (1 of 5)

Reaching Millennials (2 of 5)

Reaching Millennials (3 of 5)

Reaching Millennials (3 of 5)

3. Build an Accepting Community

Pastors who lead congregations that feel “Stuck” – no sense of momentum, resistance to any new idea or direction.

In conversations with dozens of pastors and leaders, I hear the same sentiments.

“We are a very loving congregation, but no matter what we do, we have no momentum.”

After sitting in on some of their services, it seems right that their group is loving. On the other hand, those congregations are usually dug in and unwilling to upset what is already there.

Sometimes I’ve followed up on a list of their recent visitors to ask how they felt in visiting the church and if they will likely return. More often than not they too picked up on the love between members, but they didn’t feel love aimed at them. One couple said they felt “invisible” among the people. Acceptance goes beyond the required, “Turn to your neighbor and say hi” at the end of the worship.

When you go into the community to bring God’s kindness, you send an invitation stop by and check it out. Ask yourself (and detractors who might put fear into the mix) by saying something like, “If we open the doors too widely, who knows what sorts of people would show up – and bring in their problems here.” It is easy to justify attitudes and situations that stink, and that will cocoon us from being soiled by new people.

I usually ask them, “‘I hear your concern.’ How about this question, ‘Who isn’t welcome here?’ Here’s another one that goes with the first. ‘How long does it take for someone to change? As far as I can tell, it’s God who does the heavy lifting when it comes to hearts breaking. Our job is to love them and accept them as they come to us.’ Remember – acceptance isn’t the same as approval.’”

Every couple of weeks, at the end of services I usually ask the congregation to invite some others out to lunch. Usually, three individuals or couples are easier than just two. The new person will be more likely to say yes to dinner with three than two.

I suggest they take the new people out to lunch on their dime and maybe get them a burrito “that’s as big are your head” to give them a touch of the generosity they need to show. It’s amazing what can happen over a 45-minute lunch, even at Taco Bell (if that’s more in line with your budget).

Coming soon:4-5

Reaching Millennials (1 of 5)

Reaching Millennials (2 of 5)

Reaching Millennials (2 of 5)

2. Outward Focus on Loving the City

Millennials are not just open to being outward toward the world around them; they are also open to the possibility of failure. Unlike most, they are willing to take the risk.

Possible failure isn’t something we naturally embrace at any age, but the younger we are, the less we are concerned with it. No matter the typical age of a congregation, if we hope to reach Millennials we need to take more risks. The tendency of established churches is to avoid danger in the least.

Risk-adverse churches will fail to draw the majority of Millennials. On the other hand, those that are willing to take a chance at possible failure are the ones that this generation will be magnetic to them.

Congregations that insist on playing it safe are the least likely to tinker with what they already have in place – what feels safe.

  • Their image
  • Money
  • Time
  • Enthusiasm

It doesn’t have to be that way forever. We can change to become a church that draws Millennials.

  • By investing money with less regard for what might happen
  • By talking/teaching about it without it bearing fruit
  • By recruiting many in the congregation
  • By training leaders who join up but don’t stick with it
  • By the current leaders begin to do what they want the rest of the flock to do
  • By being willing to look possibly dumb by the critics

To begin to reach regularly out a congregation needs simple and realistic tools that will allow them to get to work. Anyone wants to see a return from the seed they plant. Mainly they just need practical tools that will enable them to get to work.

An easy outreach project to begin with that is likely to succeed is the “One-dollar Carwash.”

  • Set up some sign holders/cheerleaders to draw cars.
  • Go to the trouble of getting professional vinyl signs – you will communicate excellence. In future outreaches, they will still look great.
  • Have an array of washers to do different parts of the car. The introverts don’t need to risk talking to drivers. We can do that by walking through some new doors. Put a couple of enthused, friendly outgoing people who find it easy to connect with drivers.
  • Put a “Designated Evangelist” in place to explain what you are doing. When they go to pay for the wash, tell them, “Oh, you don’t understand. We pay you for the privilege of serving you with this.”

I often ask if I can pray for them for ten seconds. Of the hundreds I have offered prayer to, only two have turned me down so far. That shows a bit of the spiritual hunger of most people. Sometimes people tear up. Of course, we get questions. The three most common are: “Where do you meet?”, “Do you have something for kids?” and, most telling, “How long do your services last?” (Gulp!) Most can’t imagine giving more than an hour to a service.

Coming soon:3-5

Reaching Millennials (1 of 5)

Reaching Millennials (1 of 5)

There is no magic to reaching the Millennial generation. On the other hand, if we hope to get them, we simply need to do and be what God’s word has called us to be about all along.

Sometimes working with Millennials is about as frustrating as trying to use Jello as a baseball. The truth is they are not just a gift to your church. They are even the strongest booster rocket you can desire.

They call us to think through what we want to see. As you look this over realize a couple of matters. These are descriptions of the sorts of churches that Millennials will consider joining.

As you read these over, resist the trap of “Cognitive dissonance” – that is, the tendency to assume the best about what we are doing, even when our image is far from reality. This confusion is more prevalent in the church world than any other.

When we begin to make changes those already in our church usually resist – even to the point of threatening to leave or even worse, to stir up others to leave because all of the sudden “My” church has changed to a different direction.

1. Be Generous with Money

In the eyes of many Millennials, the church seems to exist mainly to for self-perpetuation. More than their predecessors, they live out the line “Put your money where your mouth is.”

To reshape that assumption, let’s be known for our extravagant generosity. Let’s even go so far as to be willing to nearly “Squander” money on the world around us. All hyperbole aside, let’s drop any caution and now define ourselves as incredibly giving without being overly concerned with that self-interest mindset.

The Orthodox Jewish Bible uses the word “Generous” to describe one of the marks of the fruit of the Spirit in Ephesians chapter 5. When we show generosity, we establish credibility. As we go into the community to give away bottles of water at a stoplight, sometimes people ask how we can afford to pay for all of this.

“Oh, we pay for it out of our offerings. We can’t help but spend a lot of money in our community to bring the same love that Jesus showed in his day.”

“But how do you cover all the expenses your church needs if you give so much away?”

“We see the city is worth investing in – worth showing love by serving. We believe that if Jesus were walking around town today, he’d being doing this sort of thing.”

As we loosen our grip on funds, our reputation as a giving church will begin to spread like a life-giving tsunami. As it was with Jesus, when we get into the community “Advertising” will take care of bringing all the attention we need to notice and experience God’s tsunami, his love, attention, and acceptance, they will start to “Gossip the Gospel.”

When we start to flow with God’s generosity, we are merely opening the door for our people to do what has already been in their hearts.

When it comes to outreach to the needy, pantries are good, but don’t let that be the limit of your outreach. Sometimes those with the greatest needs can’t get to any pantry without a lot of difficulties. Jesus reached out to the poor in a variety of ways. The most common way Jesus reached out was to meet needs as he ran across them.

Invest a given percentage of the congregation’s income back out into the community. A smart way to begin is to commit to percentage giving. If you already have required portions, you are expected to pay – tithes to the denomination, the denomination’s requirement to foreign missions, etc. You can negotiate those percentages.

Coming soon: 2 – 5

Celebrating My Greatest Mistakes Of 2011

At the end of the year some time ago I gave a message on a few year-end reflections I had cloaked around “My Biggest Mistakes of the Year.” To my surprise more listened to that message than any in the previous year. The following year I did the same with fresh, new mistakes. Again, there was an enthusiastic response. I continue to make this a year-end message, but I am now doing an enhanced version online for some of my sites – thus what you are now reading.

On the surface of things, it may seem a little dark to ponder one’s mistakes, but I don’t see it that way, and neither does God. In the Bible, God consistently choose people who were prone to make mistakes yet went on to be stellar examples of lives strongly lived.

Peter, for one, was a mistake maker who went on to great things. His mistakes didn’t impair him from greatness. He took risks that often led to failure but always left a deposit of faith in him. He was able to walk on water when the others were afraid to step out of the security of the boat. He failed after a step or two, but he received an amazing installation of faith just the same.

What you read here are my confessions from this past year. Each of them is an area where I blew it but then made a mid-course correction along the way.

Click here or on the above image to download the PDF.

Risk – our way of life

Risk is our friend. Little happens that is worthwhile that doesn’t involve taking a significant chance – one that might end in failure.

How often do you take a risk? Every time I bring up the topic of risk it seems almost everyone thinks they are big risk takers. Everyone? Really? If that were so the world would be a different place. I’m not talking about an itsy bitsy non-dangerous one that is hardly worth mentioning, but a big and hairy – something that needs to be spelled with a capital “R”?

You say you want to change the world… Maybe you pray that. Maybe you read books that explain how we can change the world. The word “missional” is all the rage these days which is another way to explain how we can change the world, but how many missional people are actually getting dirt under their fingernails in order to change the world versus just reading more books and thinking great thoughts about changing the world. How many actually smell like windshield washing liquid because they have been out squeegeeing cars?

We must work while it is light for darkness is coming when no one can work.

Do the work

It’s all about doing the work, not talking about the work.

Leaders aren’t leaders until they lead.

Writers aren’t writers until they write.

Worship leaders are so until they bring others into worship.

Evangelists are only evangelists when they evangelize. Connect with the Lost.

Don’t just talk. Do the work. Start today.

“Evangelism” or “Missional”

I am officially skeptical of the term “missional” at this point in the game. I have heard and read a pile of material on mission this and mission that, but have seen precious few practical results. I am fairly convinced that most of those who write under the rubric “missional” are confessing that they know little of practical outreach. The word is mostly a theory in spite of its promise to stimulate an outward focus.
It can become an end in itself to study and discuss the attributes of outreach while never getting around to actual outreach. It has become faddish to talk missional but not actually do missional. On the other hand, the term “evangelism” is in your face and practical. It may be more of an old-fashioned term but everyone knows that it is activational. There is no doubt that when one uses the “E” word one is talking about actually doing something. Call me crazy, but I suggest we drop the “M” word in favor of the tried and true “E” word.

The Ideal Sized Congregation? Try 500!

Great churches come in a variety of sizes, very large ones, medium-sized ones and smaller ones.
It is a mistake to read the above points, to agree with them, and then to discount the vital role mega churches play in the strategy of God for reaching the world. God has in mind to use mega churches in great ways in our day. Above all else I believe he wants to redeem these churches to do great works of evangelism across America. Done rightly such churches can serve as catalysts for the greater community they find themselves in so that churches of all sizes can gain confidence for evangelism.

An equally disastrous mistake would be to arrogantly discount the above points as irrelevant rants.

I believe the most efficient church size is…500.
I stated this conclusion several years ago in a book based on the numerous observations made in that book (Making A Good Church Great, Regal, 2010). I am more convinced now than ever that my original hunch was correct.
Ponder this: it would be more productive to produce 10 life-giving churches of 500 in weekend attendance than in building one mega church of 5,000.
I believe there is ample evidence to make the point that the per capita level of spiritual vitality is usually greater at a medium-sized church versus a single mega one. The individual Believer will likely evidence greater fruit of discipleship in medium sized churches than in mega ones.

Mega church pastors are called by God to accomplish great things.
I don’t wish anything ominous upon the shoulders of my mega church brethren, yet it is a fact that to whom much is given much is required. Those who lead very large congregations will stand before God in the not too distant future to give an account of the way they acted as stewards of the provision of God in their time as the leader of an immense congregation with immense resources.

How did I do as a teacher? Did I boldly and lovingly present to my people the uncompromising truth of the Gospel?
How did I do as a model? Did I show my people the life of Jesus through my life?
Did we do the work of evangelism? Did we consistently, profoundly seek to
bring our city to Jesus?
Were the poor shown an abundance of the mercy of God?

Such questions put the fear of the Lord in me. With this burden of responsibility in mind I don’t miss a day of my time of leading a mega church. I pray mercy upon you if you are a pastor in a congregation of this sort.

If you are a pastor in another size congregation you have it easier in many ways. Pray for mega church pastors near you. I hope you will mutually stir up the “love and good deeds” Scripture calls us to walk in.