This week I am blogging from #OC14, The Orange Conference in Atlanta. Orange is a gathering of thousands of church leaders, with an emphasis on senior leadership, children’s ministry leadership and student ministry leadership. I am highlighting some of the best material from the Orange senior leadership track. Below are the highlights from Carey Nieuwhof’s excellent session on the future of church.
What was the first piece of music you ever purchased? Perhaps it was on vinyl, cassette, CD or digital. We all love music, but the format we buy it on changes over time.
If you are a music industry executive, you’re challenged. While music remains the same, the technology behind delievering music changes quickly.
For churches, God’s message doesn’t change. However, our method of bringing the message to our communities must change with the times.
“Change is not an option, but how you respond to it is.” – Reggie Joiner
“In order to reach people no one else is reaching, you have to do things that nobody else is doing.” – Craig Groeschel
These are the qualities churches should have if they want to reach people in the future:
#1. Commit to the message, but be flexible with the method. Successful future churches will clearly distinguish between mission, vision and stragegy. Remember, it’s not a message question, but a method question.
Evaluate regularly. Pastors spend all their time preparing and no time evaluating. The congregation does the opposite. We should spend more time evaluating and listening to the feedback people are giving us. Be willing to be flexible on your method (change it), even if it’s a method you introduced.
#2. Give people a place to belong before they believe. Churches tend to interview visitors to see if their positions are similar to the church’s positions. This is starting with theology and not with ministry. To reach unchurched people, start first with ministry and not with theology. This was Jesus’ model.
You should allow people to belong to your church community even before they believe in God. Those who belong often begin to believe. They then become someone new because they belong and believe.
3. Value online relationships as real relationships. The vast majority of people won’t consider coming to your church building to be part of a weekend service. However, most people are online. If you are serious about reaching people for Jesus, you need to embrace online ministry. Some tips:
> Actually connect with social media. Your updates should not simply be self-promotional in nature. People tune them out. Solicit comments and ideas. Respond to people and their requests. Be actively involved in social media.
> Create local, helpful content for your city and optimize that content for search engines. For example, Nieuwhof’s church bought the URL for the name of their city and “Christmas.” Lots of people go looking for local Christmas experiences. When they search online, they find the speciality web site started by Nieuwhof’s church.
> Use multiple channels. Not everybody in your community is using every form of social media. As such, your church should be everywhere on social media. Nieuwhof’s church spends its energy on four social media venues; Facebook (everyone in the congregation has it), Twitter (used by many local community leaders), Pinterest (to reach an army of moms) and Instagram (favored by people under 30).
4. Embrace quicker, lighter and smaller footprints. The speed of church growth is impacted by the speed of decision-making. Quicker decisions are necessary. If you can’t make a major church decision in 24 hours, you’re too slow.
Lower cost venues promote growth. Constructing traditional church buildings is expensive and slow. Renting schools and sharing space with exisiting churches is far more efficient. As soon as one venue reaches capacity, quickly open another. In the end, a greater number of smaller venues can accomodate more people.
5. Encourage experimentation. The greatest threat to your future success is your current success. Be willing to try new things. Remember, we still don’t know exactly what future church will look like. Some ways to experiment:
> Devote 10% of your time and budget to things you’re not sure will work out.
> Reward the effort of your people, but evaluate on results.
> Don’t allow what is good to block what has the potential to be great.
Don’t be like the music industry, trying desperately to hold on to what was. Embrace the changes of today in order to win people with Jesus’ timeless message.
This information was presented at the national Orange Conference #OC14. Click here for more information on Orange.