Can Free Will Baptist Churches Grow? p. 3
If you hear the subject of "church growth" discussed and come away feeling one of two ways - Pumped and ready to storm the gates of hell with a water-pistol (but having no practical steps for growing in MY context)... or, Discouraged - "What is wrong with me and my church? Maybe I should just move to another work with fewer obstacles..." I understand you.
Key to the whole discussion (at least in Free Will Baptist circles) is the pastor - from his leadership to his example. There are a few things pastors can do to help his church become Great Commission minded:
1. Preach passionate gospel messages with an urgent plea to see people come to know Christ. Sunday morning is the service in which you will have the most non-members attend. Some are searching for a new church. Some are searching for meaning and purpose in life. Some are searching for a reason to keep living. Preach the gospel. People need Jesus. Craft your sermons to include something for the saved AND the lost alike. Talk about evangelism when you are out of the pulpit too. Pray for it constantly. Let your people hear your concern. Have 'altars of prayer' where you encourage your people to gather at the front to pray, in unity, for souls to be saved. Soon your passion will become infectious.
2. If you don't have a visitation program, start one. In the course of your pastorate, surely you have come across men who share your passion for souls. They may not know WHAT to do or HOW to do it, but they want to learn. If nothing else, start asking one man to go with you on visitation. All the while, talk about why it is so important and tell him to run "interference" for you if there are interruptions during the visit. Pour your knowledge of evangelism into him. Once you have trained him, the two of you can multiply yourselves into others by finding other men who desire to be involved but don't know what to do. Before you know it, you are impacting lives both INSIDE and OUTSIDE your church. You may not see many people come as a direct result of your visitation efforts, but God WILL bless and send other visitors because He rewards faithful obedience.
3. Develop a "Visitor" or "Guest" packet with sufficient info about your church with a visitor card inside. Train your ushers to put the packet in the hands of every guest and ask them to fill out the info card and drop it in the offering plate when the offering is received. All cards should be given to the pastor immediately following the service. The pastor should send a "thank you" or "welcome" note, printed, signed, and mailed on Monday. Then add those cards to the visitation list (unless they have indicated NOT to contact them.)
Another way to compile a 'visitation list' is to constantly appeal to your church for the names of Neighbors, Friends. and Love-ones (your NFL list) who do not attend church OR have drifted away from church. Today it is much more difficult to get into a person's home without an appointment or invite - but if you say, "Your aunt wanted me to meet you and I just wanted to drop by and introduce myself. Here's my card if I can serve you or your family in any way, call me. Would you mind if I pray right now and ask God to bless you and your family?" In those few moments, they have already made a decision about YOU and your church.
THEN, twice a year have a push to get those on your NFL list to a church service. Once in October and once in the Spring (I always use Easter), we make an all out blitz to contact our NFLs and invite them to be our guests for a special service where the Gospel will be shared. Have a meal planned afterwards. Go all out to put your best foot forward in this service - Your best singing, your best preaching, meet-and-greet... do it big! Prep your people for the logistics of parking, seating, handing out visitor packets, etc. This is a great way to give your people a painless way to invite their friends. It creates momentum AND restocks the card file for visitation. If you do this correctly, you will find your average attendance rising significantly.
4. Enroll people in a Sunday School class after their 2nd visit (unless they live out of town). This will create another contact point within the church from someone other than the pastor. People halfway expect pastoral contact when they visit a church. But to be contacted and invited to a Sunday School campaign or activity by A LAYMAN might provide just enough to distinguish YOUR church from their experiences with other churches.
5. Everything in your Sunday morning service should be geared toward leading people to make a commitment - whether they are lost and need Jesus, or saved and needing to take the steps of membership or service. Be encouraging, engaging, and evangelistic.
6. Get out in the community. Look for ways to minister to people who do not attend your church. A GREAT way of meeting people is by developing a relationship with the local funeral home(s) and tell them to call you if they have a client who doesn't have a church home. Volunteer to preach funerals. People will never forget you were there at a critical time in their lives!
Next time I want to talk about how to assimilate new people into the church family...