Is Your Church Staff Ready For….Church?
If you and your church staff haven't already been asking yourselves this question, then you are already a little behind on planning. Your next service is only a couple days away, but you're not too late!
Each weekend millions of people pour into churches for a myriad of reasons. Some are ready to hear something special that will change their lives and others just want a fresh start. Some want to connect with friends and hear great music, and others are just enjoying a break from their kids. There will also be a lot of people that normally don't attend church. Family, friends, visitors, churched and unchurched ... basically people from all walks of life and all kinds of backgrounds. No matter the reason, they have come, and you have a captive audience. From the time they drive or walk on your church property to the time they leave, they are your honored guest. Churches have a special opportunity each weekend to share the message of Jesus with the largest possible audience so let's make sure we take it seriously.
We could get tied up in the minute details of planning, your unique church or community culture, your schedule, and various other elements, but for the sake of simplicity, let's stick to the basics. Here are just a few thoughts that may help your church staff get ready for maximum impact this weekend:
1. We've Been Waiting for You
This is a frame of mind and an attitude of the heart. As your team plans for the sermon, worship, kids activities, space for cars in the parking lot, and the after-church dinner, adopt this mentality throughout the process: "We've been waiting for you!" We've all been to a retail store or restaurant where the moment you walked in, you felt as though you were an inconvenience to the employees. It seemed more like they were waiting on you to leave. That's not a great feeling, and it's certainly not the feeling you want people visiting your church to feel. When you take on the “We've been waiting for you" attitude, it affects your church staff's preparation and builds excitement in you and your team. Your church and visitors will notice, and they will feel welcome.
Let's think of it this way. If you stop by someone’s house unexpectedly and they greet you at the door with something like “Oh, I wasn't expecting you...come in,” do you really feel welcome? What if they greeted you with something like "I was hoping you'd stop by, come on in!” Now you feel welcome, and next time you won't even hesitate to visit.
2. Identify and Eliminate your Assumptions
Sounds easy, doesn't it? Well it's not. The problem with assumptions is that most of us don't realize we have them. Assumptions, by definition, are when we take something for granted. Most churches around the country would say they are all about "reaching" people, at least the ones I visit. The problem is that most aren't aware of how many assumptions are present in their communication, programming, signage and culture.
Remember that people who are new to your church don't know where the "east entrance" is, so don't direct them there unless you tell them where it is. If someone asks you where to drop their kids off, don't tell them "at the kidz zone." They don't know what that is. The fact that they asked a question should ring a bell that they are a guest. The truth is that we all operate with assumptions, and each weekend is a great time to evaluate your property signage, guest information, and what is said from stage. If you assume anything, assume that your guests know nothing about your church. Assume nothing. Explain everything.
3. Keep it Simple
Since we only have them for 75 minutes, we should do everything over the top, right? Not necessarily. The point here is to start with a simple question. What is the one thing you want everyone (adults and kids) to know or do when they leave church? Then, answer that question in your service. All of your planning should go back to that one question.
I always encourage creative expression and excellence, but never at the expense of the audience. The point of a sermon should be clear to the audience. So keep it simple, clear, and concise. I love new music, but the point of the worship service is that the people in the service actually worship. So doing five of the newest worship songs out there may not be the best idea if your church can't worship with you. Keep it simple. Don't try to outdo yourself, or anyone else for that matter. Do what you’re good at. Do just a few things, and do them with excellence.
4. Kids, Kids, Kids!
Don't have a budget for kids? Get one! Have a budget for kids? Get a bigger one. I'm not suggesting that we throw money at the kids department. I'm outright saying it. We hear quite often about investing in the next generation, so let's do it. Put as much energy and resources as you possibly can towards kids. And by all means, make it fun. Of course you will share the story of Jesus, but are you aware of a kids attention span? It's very short. A 2 year old's attention span is about six minutes, and a 5 year old's attention span is about fifteen minutes. Kids remember the same way adults remember: things that are fun, sad, funny, or shocking stick. I recommend going with fun. They will remember what they learned if they have fun, and they will want to come back. Since kids don't drive, they will bring their parents back. I should assume that security is of the highest priority, but second to that should be fun. Give away prizes, change things up, make them laugh, and give them Jesus.
5. What's Next?
By nature, we’re all a little selfish. We tend to ask this question subconsciously a lot, "What's in it for me?” "What's expected of me?” “What about me?” It’s your church staff's job to answer those questions for your visitors. People are in your service. You have a captive audience. Make sure you are prepared for what’s next. What is the series following this Sunday's message? Is there a giveaway planned for your kids' services next weekend to encourage visitors? What's your follow up plan? Is there a plan for Baptism? Don't just think about this Sunday, think beyond.
As church leaders, it is our responsibility to equip our church staff and maximize this unique opportunity we have to show our community Jesus. We can sit around and gripe about the fact that there are people that only come to church occasionally, or we can get busy planning to reach families we may only see once this year.
How do you help your church staff prepare for church?