Getting Small Churches on Mission, Part 1

My friend, Ed Stetzer, wrote a chapter in our book, Small Church, Excellent Ministry. Today he posted a blog  reflecting four big-picture ways for smaller churches to begin moving toward mission.

Be sure to read his blog today and part 2 tomorrow.

No Restraints 2018

NoRestraints2018

Are you a minister serving in a smaller membership church and looking for a resource that will be refreshing and instructional? The No Restraints Conference is the resource for you. Registration has opened for this FREE conference at NOBTS.

Come to New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary for a time of fellowship and training. This free conference will allow you and your wife to worship and pray with other bi-vocational and smaller membership church ministers, as well as learn some new skills to assist with your ministry.

On April 20-21, 2018, we will gather to hear Dr. Frank Page and Dr. Robert Smith Jr. encourage and equip our conference attendees. Register now!

For more information and to register, click here.

nrbackpage2018

 

Small Church Excellent Ministry Book Release

Book Cover

It’s official! While the paperback of the book was released a few weeks ago, the new resource, Small Church, Excellent Ministry: A Guidebook for Pastors, is now on Kindle. This book is a compilation of practical wisdom written by scholars who have served in smaller membership church ministries.

The introduction and conclusion were written by me (Jeff Farmer); setting the context of small church ministry in the United States. I served as a pastor/church planter of a network of simple churches (also known as house churches).

Chapter one focuses on small churches and the mission of the church. Ed Stetzer, Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism and a well-respected missiologist, provides guidance on leading a church to be on mission.

Chapter two addresses the necessity of multiethnic ministry in small churches. This chapter is written by Page Brooks, Assistant Professor of Theology at NOBTS and lead pastor/planter of Canal Street Church, a multiethnic congregation in New Orleans, LA.

Chapter three gets to the heart of pastoral ministry – evangelism. This topic is discussed by Jake Roudkovski, Associate Professor of Evangelism and Director of the Doctor of Ministry program at NOBTS.

Bo Rice provides excellent instruction on sermon preparation in chapter four, and Ed Steele covers the topic of worship leadership in chapter five. Rice is Associate Dean of Mentoring at NOBTS. Steele is Professor of Music at NOBTS.

For the administrative functions of the church, Adam Hughes writes about leadership in the small church in chapter six, Jody Dean details church administration in chapter seven, and Hal Stewart covers discipleship in chapter eight. Hughes is Dean of Chapel. Dean is Assistant Professor of Christian Education and Director of Mentoring in Christian Education. Stewart is Associate Professor of Discipleship.

The final two chapters are written by Patrick Weaver, Research Fellow at the Caskey Center for Church Excellence, and Mark Tolbert, Director of the Caskey Center for Church Excellence. Weaver discusses the vitality of the pastor’s personal discipleship, and Tolbert emphasizes the pastor’s family life in small church ministry.

As you may have noticed, nearly every author is on faculty at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. The primary reason for this is that Dr. Chuck Kelley, President of NOBTS, and Dr. Steve Lemke, the Provost Emeritus, assembled an all-star faculty who are both practitioners and scholars. These men are passionate about equipping pastors to equip the church. They are also men who “talk the talk” and “walk the walk.”

You can find this book for sale on Amazon or you can request it at your local bookstore.

An Often Overlooked Method

orality

“Evangelism principles never change, but methods always should.” I’ve made this comment so many times when teaching students about the importance of evaluating their evangelism methodologies. While so many are unquestioningly committed to their traditional methods, Others are so infatuated with new and improved ideas, that they often overlook tried and true methods.

A recent article at the Mission Network News website reminds us that orality has always been an effective method of communicating the good news and discipling believers. Many believe that orality, sharing the Gospel and discipling people utilizing oral methods, is a missions practice best suited for global missions. However, it is quite effective in the United States as well. According to a study conducted in late April by the U.S. Department of Education and the National Institute of Literacy, 32 million adults in the U.S. can’t read. That’s 14 percent of the population.  Beyond that, most of the adults in the U.S. prefer learning using oral methods.

This year when you are developing your church’s evangelism/discipleship strategy, consider learning to use Oral approaches. You can find some great tools at the following websites:

International Orality Network

e3 Partners

 

 

 

Top 10 Factors Predicting the Most Committed New Members

10 Factors-New Members-01

The Caskey Center for Church Excellence, in partnership with the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism and Lifeway Research, recently completed a study examining the personal evangelism habits of smaller membership church pastors. These pastors are serving in 1,500 Evangelical Protestant churches in the United States.

While we asked, “the past 12 months, how many people have indicated a new commitment to Jesus Christ as Savior through your church?” a significant follow-up question asked was, “Among these commitments in the past 12 months, how many have ALSO become active in the life of your church?” The importance of this question reveals whether the churches are effectively fulfilling the Great Commission. While it is important to GO and make disciples of all the nations, a church isn’t making disciples if those new believers aren’t being taught to observe all that Christ has commanded.

The infographic above reflects the Top 10 factors predicting the most committed new members in a smaller membership church.

1. Higher Percentage of Unchurched Attendees

This is also the number one factor for predicting churches with the greatest number of new believers. Pastors and churches that are successful at reaching the lost and keeping new believers engaged in the life of the church are those churches (pastors) who have created an environment where unchurched people feel welcome and wanted.

2. Lower Church Attendance

This variable is number three for predicting new believers, it is the second highest factor in predicting the most number of committed new members. Rick Warren has often been noted to say, “churches must grow smaller in order to grow larger.” In this quote, Warren is referring to the importance of small groups in churches. In larger churches, small groups are the setting where people make meaning relationship connections with other believers. This becomes their spiritual “family” for support and encouragement. In smaller churches, that sense of family is church wide. New believers tend to have significant relationships across the entire church body.

3. More Classes Offered for New Attendees

The importance of teaching fundamental doctrines and disciplines to new believers cannot be overemphasized. Those who are given a solid foundation early in their commitment to Christ tend to maintain their involvement in the church.

4. More Training Events Attended by Pastor

As the pastor is better equipped to engage in personal evangelism, he becomes more effective at both personally sharing the gospel and coaching church members to share the gospel. Members tend to follow the example set by the pastor.

5. Pastors Ask for Personal Commitment More Often

It is certainly true that people cannot know Christ unless someone tells them the gospel. It follows that those who hear the gospel will not make a commitment unless they are invited to do so. We must invite people to make a commitment to Christ.

6. Higher Percentage of Church Budget Spent on Evangelism/Missions

Jesus said in Matthew 6:21, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” In other words, we budget for what we value. If you are passionate about reaching the lost in this world with the gospel message, then you will devote financial resources to reaching the lost in this world.

7. More Reports of Members Evangelizing

Evangelism and ministry is not the exclusive responsibility of the pastor. The most effective evangelistic pastors are the ones who create an culture of evangelism within the church.

8. Higher Percentage of Hispanic Attendees

This is certainly a descriptive factor rather than a prescriptive factor. Of the pastors who responded to the survey, Hispanic churches are effectively engaging with the lost world. Can your church begin an outreach or mission to Hispanics in your community?

9. More Affirmation that Pastor Communicates Well with Unchurched

What is particularly interesting is that the ninth predictor for predicting the most new converts and the ninth predictor for the most committed new members are the only factors in each top ten list that are different. The ninth factor for the most new converts is “More Time Dedicated by Pastors to Evangelism.” While they are different factors, there is definitely a similarity. For one outcome (new convert), the pastor must dedicate more time to evangelism. For the other outcome (committed new believers), the pastor must be adept at communicating well with the unchurched. A key to that communication is to be able to share the gospel without using “churchy” words. Just because you know theological terms, doesn’t mean you have to use those terms all the time. Find ways of communicating the concepts clearly.

10. More Frequent Ministry Activities Outside of Church

Evangelistic churches are ones that are in the world, not withdrawn from the world. We must love people where they are in order for them to know the love of Christ. We cannot wait for them to come find us.

 

 

 

Top 10 Factors Predicting The Most Converts

10 Factors-Most Converts-01

In March 2017, the Caskey Center for Church Excellence partnered with the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism and Lifeway Research to study the personal evangelism habits of pastors serving in small churches. The study involved a survey of 1,500 smaller membership church pastors serving in Evangelical denominations across the United States.

Once the data was collected and analyzed, we discovered that there were 10 factors that contributed to greater numbers of people making first time commitments to follow Christ. These factors are descriptive. They reflect the methods and makeup of the churches who effectively reached lost people with the gospel over the past year. However, some of these factors may be prescriptive. If you are serving in a church, particularly a smaller membership church, you may want to consider these factors. Create an environment for personal evangelism.

1. Higher percentage of unchurched attendees: The pastors/churches who effectively reached lost people with the gospel were the ones who connected with unchurched people. Those who focus on reaching “church folk” just don’t have the exposure to lost people. We must be incarnational. Go into the unchurched world. Have gospel conversations. Create a welcoming place where unchurched people feel loved.

2. Higher percentage of Hispanic attendees: This is certainly a descriptive factor. Hispanic churches are effectively engaging with the lost world. Can your church begin an outreach or mission to Hispanics in your community?

3. Lower Church Attendance: Small churches are great places to engage in Gospel conversations with the lost. As worship attendance increases, it can become difficult to have personal interactions. I think that many people crave family connections, and smaller membership churches are able to provide that environment.

4. Pastor asks for personal commitment more often: It is certainly true that people cannot know Christ unless someone tells them the gospel. It follows that those who hear the gospel will not make a commitment unless they are invited to do so. We must invite people to make a commitment to Christ.

5. More Training Events Attended by Pastor: When a young man learns to be a carpenter, he begins with one tool, then adds others as he becomes proficient. Before long, he is a master carpenter with many tools in his tool belt. For pastors, ministry training (evangelism, missions, preaching, teaching, leadership, etc.) is how we add tools to our tool belt. Evangelistic pastors are evangelistic because they seek to become proficient with evangelism tools. The more tools you have, the more versatile you will be.

6. More Classes Offered for New Attendees: These churches were prepared with classes to teach foundational beliefs to new attendees. This gave new disciples a jump start on how to be a disciplemaking disciple of Jesus.

7. More Frequent Ministry Opportunities Outside the Church: Evangelistic churches are ones that are in the world, not withdrawn from the world. We must love people where they are in order for them to know the love of Christ. We cannot wait for them to come find us.

8. More Reports of Members Evangelizing:  Evangelism and ministry is not the exclusive responsibility of the pastor. The most effective evangelistic pastors are the ones who create an culture of evangelism within the church.

9. More Time Dedicated by Pastors to Evangelism: Evangelistic pastors are intentional about being in the community and sharing the gospel. Church members see the importance of evangelism and follow the pastor’s lead.

10. Higher percentage of church budget spent on evangelism: Jesus said in Matthew 6:21, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” In other words, we budget for what we value. If you are passionate about reaching the lost in this world with the gospel message, then you will devote financial resources to reaching the lost in this world.

Dr. Mark Tolbert’s Amplify Presentation

Tolbert Amplify

In the spring of 2017, the Caskey Center for Church Excellence conducted research on the personal evangelism habits of smaller membership church pastors. This was a national study of 1,500 evangelical pastors, and we conducted this study in partnership with the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism.

The video in this link is of Dr. Mark Tolbert’s presentation of some key findings of the study at the Amplify National Evangelism Conference.