Americans are giving more to charity now than ever before. $410 Billion in 2017, a 5% increase over the previous year and the highest amount ever. Charitable giving is up across multiple income levels and in most demographics.
But people are giving less and less to the church. Only 32% of the total given to charities goes to a local church, and that number has steadily declined over the last two decades. Giving to churches is down across the board.
You can dive deeper into these numbers by readingthis Blackbaud report, but here’s what it means for your church.
People are diversifying their giving, prioritizing other non-profits over their local church. They are giving to the humane society, GoFundMe campaigns, and fundraisers for chorus trips.
This poses a fresh challenge.
When it comes to money and the church, things are changing.
Churches who are on the front end of this change will be poised to grow, while churches who neglect these shifts may start or continue to struggle with financial health.
Here are five shifts that I think leaders need to make in regard to how we talk about money in the church.
#1 – Shift from just preaching on giving to preaching on money.
When you think about preaching a sermon on money, what topics come to mind?
We asked pastors to share their actual money sermons and then analyzed them for content.
83% of the messages were focused on giving.
Even when broader topics like stewardship, contentment, or financial health were mentioned, the lion share of these messages made giving the foundational topic or the clear call to action. These weren’t money sermons; they were giving sermons.
There is nothing wrong with preaching a giving sermon, and generosity is certainly an important component of being a good steward. But preaching on giving is not the same as preaching on money.
If you want to lead a financially healthy church, you must address broader money topics than just giving. Definitely keep preaching on giving, just don’t forget to preach on money.
Your sermons on money must provide practical and tangible help. You need to talk about spending, debt, contentment, saving, stewardship, communication, faith, trust and so much more. People need help and hope, not just a challenge to give money to the church or advice on how to get out debt.
When you adopt a helpful posture like this, you don’t have to apologize for talking about money in church.
The people in your church are bombarded with unhealthy financial advice. They are marketed to by every facet of society. Unless they have a Christian financial planner, they won’t hear about wisdom with money anywhere else.
If you don’t talk about wise financial principles, who will?
That’s why our team is working on practical financial tools to help you teach wise financial principals to your church.
There’s so much more than “give the tithe” and “get out of debt.” The churches who help their people be wise with money will be much better positioned for financial health.
#2 – Giving means more than giving money.
When you say the word “giving” in your church, what do you mean?
Most pastors, particularly Gen-X or older, meanfinancialgiving.
But that’s not what everybody, particular Millennials, hear.
The Generosity Gap,a research study from Barna Study, released in conjunction with Thrivent, highlights the generosity gap that exists in churches.
Giving means different things to different people. Let me just highlight a few findings of the report, which is certainly worth studying.
Financial giving ranks third on Christian’s list of most generous actions. For Millennials, it’s even lower. They rank hospitality as the most important act of generosity. That means when you talk about giving and generosity, people aren’t necessarily thinking about money.
When people were asked “what’s the most generous thing a person could do?” people ranked “taking care of someone who is sick” much higher than “donating $40 to an organization.” Again, more and more people are not equating generosity with finances.
Is it okay for church members to volunteer for their church instead of giving financially? 67% of pastors strongly disagree. \But 40% of Christians strongly or slightly agree. In other words, there’s a big gap.
What does this mean for churches?
First, we need to use clear language. When we’re talking about financial generosity, we need better words than “give” or “support.” Consider the words you use and make sure they mean what they think you mean.
Secondly, we need to recognize that people are looking for broad ways to support organizations they care about. The research shows the people who give most financially are also most likely to serve or volunteer. Don’t limit giving choices to finances; look for ways to expand your approach.
#3 – Take care of your existing donors before you worry about attracting new donors.
How can we get more people to give?
That’s a common question we hear from many of the churches we serve. It’s not a bad question.
When it comes to church giving, the 80/20 principle holds true. 20% of your people give 80% of all that is given to the church. That means there are a lot of people connected to your church who are not financially supporting the church.
They are attending. But they are not supporting, at least financially.
So it’s beneficial to develop a strategy to encourage people to cross the line of generosity.
But the very first thing you should do if you want more people to engage in giving to your church is develop a robust strategy of care for your existing donors.
It sounds counter intuitive, but the way you reach new people in this area is to serve your existing donors.
I’m not talking about the occasional mass thank you email or including some pictures with the year-end giving statement. I’m talking about a serious donor care strategy.
What specific things can you to do care for your donors?
Start saying thank you immediately. Most people provide receipts and miss the first opportunity to connect a gift to the mission.
Communicate regularly with your donor base. Communication is a form of appreciation. Talk to your donor segment differently than you talk to the rest of your church.
Send gifts. Coffee mugs with your church logo or books that have been meaningful to your own faith are affordable and meaningful ways to say thank you to the people who support the church.
Host a donor appreciation event. Bring in a speaker or throw a party. Don’t be afraid to do it well.
Send hand written thank you notes. In a world of tweets and likes, old-school communication stands out. You can do this when someone gives for the first time, when someone gives an unusual gift, or for no particular reason at all.
Make sure every donor has a “pastor.” A good pastor shepherd’s people, so make sure everyone who financially supports the church has someone who checks on their life, family, and faith.
If you want to know more, download the free Senior Pastor’s Guide to Stewardship. It will walk you through several pastoral approaches to talking about money and managing money in a church setting.
#4 – Your church needs a funding plan as much as it needs a spending plan.
Once a year, finance teams and ministry leaders embark on a process of updating the budget for the new year.
Every church is different, but it’s not unusual for two or three months of reports, requisitions, comparisons and planning to be debated, crunched and ultimately presented to the congregation.
A lot of work goes into making a budget, the document that shows how all this money is planned to be spent.
You know what’s an afterthought in many churches?
Where the money is going to comefrom.
What would happen if we shifted some of the time spent on the budgeting process into time spent discussing funding options?
What would happen if your financial leaders took a posture of facilitating financial growth in addition to the posture of being guardrails to spending?
Finance teams need to have a perspective and give input on the revenue side of things, not simply serve as a watchdog of expenses.
This isn’t the job of most finance committees, but there are probably people in your church who could help you here. Find people with a growth mindset to help you process ideas and make real plans to facilitate generosity in your church.
If you’re aChurch Fuelmember, you’ll find an Annual Funding Plan template and a coaching video you can watch with your team. Just follow the plans we lay out for you and you’ll move your church forward in a big way.
Working on a funding plan is an important exercise that will help you proactively meet or exceed the budget.
#5 – More shifts are coming.
In the coming years, we will continue to see shifts in generosity in culture and in the church. That’s why the biggest shift you could make in your church is to prepare for uncertainty.
Many churches will see their financial base motivated to give to other (and more personal) causes, and harder preaching likely won’t change the patterns.
Alternative funding models will become more important to many churches as they consider ways to remain financially strong in the wake of decentralized generosity. Leaders will look for new ways to generate revenue from their facility or alternative funding strategies to pay staff.
There’s not a one-size-fits-all approach here but an imperative to stay open. There’s not a cause for fear, but there’s a greater reason to stay tuned into the trends and respond with strategy.
In the coming years, we will see more shifts, and the churches that are flexible and responsive will not only stay healthy but thrive.
Feel like your church should be more financially healthy?
Ultimately, the financial situation in your church is up to God. It’s His church and you’re a steward. But He chooses to work through people and entrusts us to lead well.
That’s why we created a free guide filled with stewardship principles that will help your church.
Get your FREE copy of the Senior Pastor’s Guide to Stewardship today.
One of your most important jobs as a church leader isn't casting vision—it’s creating clarity.
People (even good people) naturally drift away from what’s most important and to whatever feels urgent. That’s why your job as a leader is to constantly bring people back to the main thing.
You can’t accomplish this with sermons, chitchats in passing, or random updates alone.
Great leadership takes consistent conversations.
Let me clarify what I mean.
When I say “conversations,” I’m not only referring to …
What I’m arguing for are actual, face-to-face conversations. The type of talks you have with your staff and volunteer leaders to get everyone on the same page, help your team improve, and broaden own perspective by getting feedback.
Having these types of conversations with your team is critical. But I understand the thought about having them can make you feel uncomfortable or unprepared.
In this post, I want to help you to prepare to have seven critical conversations with your team.
I’m going to cover:
How to prepare for important conversations
7 types of critical conversations
Let’s get started!
How to prepare for important conversations
There’s more to having critical conversations with your team than just sitting down for a fireside chat.
Yourchurch culturewill influence how these conversations are handled and received. For example, if your church culture possesses a negative, accusatory, or performance-oriented vibe, when you have a critical conversation—even if your goal is positive—then the way it’s received by your staff member or volunteermaybe negative.
Think about it.
When your church culture is tumultuous like a stormy sea, then you’re already swimming in choppy waters. Practically speaking, if your church has an unhealthy culture, then you’ll have to remove the toxins in order to optimize the important conversations you need to have.
This doesn’t mean you can’t have critical conversations. It can take weeks, months, or years to restore or build a healthy church culture, and a part of moving in a new direction is preparing to have these conversations well.
Let’s take a look at how you can prepare for critical conversations in your church.
#1 – Clarify your goal
Below we’re going to walk through seven types of important conversations you must have.
The first step you need to take is to clarify your goals.
Do you need to have a conversation about a staff member’s performance?
Are you seeking to develop a team member’s skills?
Do you need to clarify your vision or expectations?
Are you interested in getting feedback on a new initiative?
Regardless of the type of conversation you need to have; you need to clarify what you want to accomplish. Now, for some of these conversations, such as addressing a staff member’s poor performance, what you want to achieve will take more than one meeting and can be a long-term process (e.g., 1–3 months).
To clarify your goals, you’ll need to ask three questions:
Does anything (i.e., roles, responsibilities, expectations) need clarification?
What are the next steps?
When will you meet again?
Does anything need clarification?
Before ending any important conversation, you need to make sure you and whomever you’re meeting with is on the same page. In the end, make sure everything is clarified by asking:
Do they understand your concerns?
Do they have any questions?
Do they have any additional feedback?
This isn’t necessary foreveryconversation you have. So don’t worry about forcing goals or next steps after every meeting if you don’t need to.
What are the next steps?
At the end of your critical conversation, you’ll need to determine the next steps.
After you’ve identified a problem or clarified a goal your staff member needs to accomplish, it’s essential to provide the next steps, which will include specific tasks that are measurable and actionable.
Providing a clear plan will help you and your team know what’s expected.
When will you meet again?
Finally, the next step you’ll need to take before concluding a meeting is to provide a timeline.
When does the work need to be accomplished? When will you meet again?
Go ahead and schedule your next meeting, put it on the calendar, and also plan on following up in the meantime.
#2 – Get your mind right
What comes to mind when you think about having an important conversation?
What about the times you could have challenged someone to accomplish a big goal?
Do you feel stressed? Remorse? Anxiety?
If you’ve avoided or haven’t planned on having critical conversations, you’ll need to figure out why this is the case. Said another way:What has kept you from having important conversations?
To have important conversations, you need to be prepared to handle thememotionallywell. If you know these types of conversations cause you an emotional burden or inhibit you from keeping control, acknowledge this ahead of time, and figure out how you can best prepare yourself emotionally.
Don’t be scared to seek out help during these times. Seek out the advice from a mentor, friend, or Christian counselor to help you work through challenges.
On a different note, there’s a good chance you’ve probably never thought about having one of these conversations, and that’s okay. Everyone—including every church leader—is a work in progress, and there’s always more to learn.
But have you chosen to avoid important conversations?
If so, why?
Answer this question and identify a solution to whatever is stopping you from having important conversations with key members of your team—both among staff and volunteers.
After working with many church leaders, we often find the reason why they haven’t had these conversations is because of concerns about the conversations themselves. Leaders may worry about what someone will think about them personally or may never make a move because they don’t have the right words to say or the timing feels bad; but generally their concern revolves around themselves and what they think.
If this is you, here’s what you need to do:
Focus on the goal of your conversation, don’t worry about what you’ll say, and be prepared to listen, which leads us to the next point.
#3 – Use both ears to listen
In every conversation, you need to be able to talk and listen.
When it comes to important conversations, your ability to listen is even more critical than your normal, everyday chitchats. Think about it.
Are you challenging certain staff members to accomplish a goal or learn a new skill? During your conversation, do they express a willingness to embrace your vision? Do they give you the impression that they’re willing to grow or is this something that’s your idea?
Do you need to talk with a poor performing staff member? After you bring up your concerns, be prepared to allow them to share feedback. Listen to what they have to say. Reflect upon their point of view.
Focusing on listening will accomplish two big goals. First, it’ll help you to take the pressure off of yourself by focusing less on what you say, and more on how the person you’re talking to responds. Second, it allows whomever you’re talking to to express his or her thoughts in a meaningful way.
Is there a project behind schedule?
Let them know you’re aware, ask them what challenges they’re facing, and sit back and listen to what they have to say. Let them know you’re there to remove roadblocks—not create hindrances or unnecessary anxiety.
Can the quality of their work improve?
Ask them if they would like to improve their skills. See how they respond, and let them know you want to empower them to do the work they’ve been called by God to do at your church.
Remember, God gave you one mouth and two ears, so plan on spending twice as much time listening than talking during an important conversation.
#4 – Act now
Benjamin Franklin was full of practical advice, including this gem:
“Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today.”
Dr. Franklin may not have been talking about critical conversations. But his advice is spot on.
Many church leaders dread having important conversations or they’re too busy to think about putting them on their schedule. In either case, if you’re reading this post, then hear me loud and clear:
Today, schedule the most pressing, important conversation that comes to mind.
Don’t think long and hard about this.
If something comes to mind, great. Take a moment—right now—to schedule this conversation for this week or next. You can work out the details later.
Nothing or no one comes to mind?
That’s okay too.
Just move on.
7 types of critical conversations
What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think about having an important conversation?
Confronting a staff member or volunteer?
If so, you’re not alone.
As I shared above, many church leaders avoid potentially challenging conversations for different reasons, so it’s natural if this is the first thought you have.
But here’s the deal:
There are seven important conversations you need to have with your team.
Will you need to confront someone on your team?
Yes, at some point. That’s just to be expected when you add one sinner together with another sinner on the same team and in the same space.
But the important conversations you need to have are so much more than this.
Here they are:
Let’s take a look at these in detail.
#1 – The “evaluation” conversation
Alright, let’s go ahead and get this out of the way:
You need to evaluate your staff members and key volunteers.
Before your mind goes negative, hang tight.
These types of conversations are not meant to be like this: “You’re doing wrong; here’s how to do things right.” The evaluation conversation is a regular check-in with your staff or volunteers to see how they’re doing.
By spending time with your team one-on-one, you’ll be better able to gauge how they’re doing personally, professionally, and spiritually. You’ll also be able to discover concerns, fears, and struggles they’re having with their work.
When you spend one-on-one time with your team and ask purposeful questions, you’ll be able to head off any significant problems or avoid potential landmines.
Here’s the deal.
As a church leader, one of your responsibilities is to shepherd your staff and volunteers. To do this well, you’ll need to plan on spending time with them one-on-one in a weekly or monthly meeting and once every three months for an evaluation.
As for the one-on-one meetings, these provide more than a to-do to mark complete or a meeting to reschedule every week. Spending time one-on-one with your team places you in an ideal position to shepherd them, helping them to reach their potential.
Don’t take these regular check-ups for granted. Make them a priority, and the time you spend in these meetings will save you a tremendous amount of time later if someone chooses to quit or something blows up because you were able to spot it weeks or months ahead of time.
When it comes to your 90-day evaluations, treat these conversations as an opportunity to see how well your individual team members are performing in relation to the church’s mission. Are they progressing? Are they falling behind? What roadblocks are inhibiting their performance?
During these conversations, help your team to identify goals to accomplish during the next quarter (90-days).
#2 – The “personal life” conversation
Being created in the image of God, the people in your church are social beings.
They desire a relationship with God, and to varying degrees, they’re interested in having friendships and encouraging interactions. It’s not like people walk around looking for a beat down.
What’s the point?
If your staff and volunteers have relationships at church, there’s a really good chance they’ll stick around. As for you, this doesn’t mean you can or should be BFF’s with everyone on your team. If you’re in a position of authority (i.e., you have you the power to fire someone), you have to balance things a bit.
However, you want to build trust with your team members, and to do this well, you’ll have to have personal life conversations. Said another way, you’ll need to share some personal things from your life, and ask them about what’s going on in their lives.
I’ll admit this can be challenging for conversations with the opposite sex. But this shouldn’t stop you from developing a trusting relationship with your staff or volunteers.
How you handle meeting with someone of the opposite sex in your church should be discussed with your leadership. If you haven’t already, consider putting in place some boundaries, such as meeting with the door open or in public areas, driving in separate cars, and maintaining openness with your leadership team and significant others.
Not sure how to build a trusting relationship?
Here are some ideas to help you get started:
Have an open-door policy
Offer to help
Ask about his or her life
Talk with him or her about Jesus
It takes time to build a trusting relationship with people. Don’t rush this process. Spend time with your team, ask questions, and listen well. In time, you’ll build a solid relationship of mutual respect with your team.
#3 – The “goals” conversation
As a church leader, you want to set up your team for success.
One step you’ll need to take is to help your staff and volunteers set goals.
Not just any goal.
But goals that will develop them individually and support the mission of your church.
Think about it.
You don’t want every member of your team going in different directions. This causes confusion, leads to poor performance, and will stunt the forward momentum of your church.
Does this mean that no one will ever be able to explore different interests? Not at all. They may just have to moonlight or do work on the side to develop skills that are not related to their work.
How do you help your team to set goals?
There are five things you should focus on:
Connect their goals to the church’s mission
Lead them to set job-related goals
Break down their goals by quarter
Monitor their progress
Reward them when they accomplish their goals
There are many different tactics you can explore. But if you nail down this 5-part strategy, you’ll be well on your way to setting up your team for success.
#4 – The “clarity” conversation
Have you received a clear vision for your church?
Have you shared this vision with your team?
Great, but your work hasn’t stopped after making one announcement—it has just begun.
Here’s what you need to know:
Your staff, volunteers, and the church will naturally drift away from the church’s vision. They don’t do this on purpose or because they’re bad people. Rather, this is simply natural and to be expected.
To keep yourchurch aligned, you’ll have to champion your vision and work with your team one-on-one to fight for clarity.
With your team, there are five things you’ll need to clarify:
The purpose of your church
The mission of your church
The most important thing they do
Goals and expectations
#5 – The “opinions” conversation
As a church leader, you need to plan on listening to your team.
Like everyone in your church, you have blind spots, you don’t have the complete picture, and God gave you your team to fulfill the mission of your church.
In fact,according to research, one of the key skills you need to master as a leader/manager is valuing the opinions of your team. As you lead, you want to maintain a two-way dialogue.
Whether you meet weekly or monthly, or plan on just asking your team questions, strive to learn how your team feels about their work, how things are going, and if they need clarification or support.
This can feel uncomfortable at first, but, in time, you will reap tremendous rewards in building relationships of mutual trust and respect.
#6 – The “team” conversation
Your church is a church.
In other words, your church is a team. It’s not a loose collection of individuals doing their own thing—which is especially true for your staff and volunteers.
For your church to fulfill its mission, you’ll need to lead your team toward a common goal. The idea is to have everyone working together, serving one another, and moving toward fulfilling the same mission—not pulling for their own agenda.
For this critical conversation, you’ll want to have one-on-one chats, but you’ll also need to have team chats where everyone can share from his or her heart.
To help your staff work together as a team, it’s vital that everyone is working from the same playbook (mission and goals), collaborating on projects and tasks, while helping each other to love one another well.
#7 – The “get better” conversation
This is similar to the goals conversation, but with a twist.
Instead of focusing on what your team members can accomplish, the goal of this conversation is to help people develop skills.
For this conversation, there are three big ideas:
Clarify their role
Identify related skills
Keep an eye on the future
The first thing you need to do is to clarify their responsibilities. Do you all have a clear idea of what’s expected of this position? After you nail this down, then you can move on to the next question.
For your staff or volunteers, what skills or strengths can they further develop to perform their work better? There will be a time when you’ll need to train someone to learn something new. But it’s best to focus on improving their skills and strengths that will provide the greatest return on investment for the work they’ve been called to do.
Finally, keep an eye on the future by identifying people on your team you can prepare to serve in a different position or to take on more leadership. In short, identify any gaps they need to fill from who they are now to where God is leading them to be tomorrow.
Over to you
As intimidating as having important conversations is, you know the value of them. That's why Church Fuel has created the 7 Conversations Guide. With this helpful resource, you and your team will be able to have meaningful conversations that are also effective. This free resource is available for download now. Get your hands on it to start bridging those conversation gaps today.
Everything you believe about student ministry isn't true.
This isn’t completely your fault.
It’s easy for myths to work their way into what we believe.
Over the years, a variety of student ministry myths have taken hold.
Here are a few examples of what I’m talking about:
Bigger entertainment leads to better outreach
Killer music is the key to a weekly night of worship
Students crave newer facilities with the latest gadgets
If you believe these myths, hold on for a moment.
These ideas may work for some churches in the short-term. But these ideas tendnot to create lasting results. Besides, it’s nearly impossible for your church to compete with the entertainment industry. No one has enough money for that.
Now that we have that out of the way, it’s natural to think:
What in the world works in reaching students with the gospel today?
Thankfully, what works isn’t earth-shattering, and it won’t cost your church a ton of money.
According to research conducted byThe Barna Group, there are two really simple ideas your church should focus on to reach and retain students:
Practically speaking, there are many different ways your church can implement these two principles in your student ministry. Let’s take a look at five ways you can put these ideas into practice.
#1 – Use a two-pronged approach
Student ministry can play a big role in sharing the gospel with students.
In fact, according to a different study byThe Barna Group, the majority of Christians in the United States commit their life to Jesus before they turn 18. Here’s what they found:
The current Barna study indicates that nearly half of all Americans who accept Jesus Christ as their savior do so before reaching the age of 13 (43%) and that two out of three born-again Christians (64%) made a commitment to Christ before their 18th birthday.
Did you catch that?
The majority of self-identified born-again Christians (64 percent) in the United States placed their faith in Jesus Christ before they turned 18. This means that students between the ages of 13–18 are a prime field to share the gospel.
Before you turn your student ministry into a full-blown evangelistic outreach, hold on.
Unlike yourcollege ministry, your student ministry should possess a two-pronged approach:
In short, don’t eject parents and guardians from your student ministry, and find ways you can include your church-wide family into the lives of students (more on this in a bit).
With that in mind, as a student leader, you still want to take the gospel to students.
(Keyword is take.)
Many students will be attracted to your student ministry for different reasons, and will attend when a friend invites them or when their family attends your worship services. But at the end of the day, you and your church must also go to students. Let’s dig into what that looks like.
#2 – Serve the schools in your area
The first place to reach students are schools.
This doesn’t mean you can walk into any school willy-nilly and start a Bible study. That won’t work at all.
To be present at schools, you’ll have to build a relationship with teachers and administrative staff. This isn’t a process you can rush, and keep in mind one thing:
Many schools are under-resourced (in terms of staff and money), and they’ll likely be open to practical support from your church.
Think of practical ways you can be an encouragement and provide tangible support for schools. From providing lunches or coffee to offering your facilities for events, identify ways you can show some love and build relationships.
In time, through your presence, through students from your church in the school, and through connections with parents and guardians, you’ll be able to create awareness for your student ministry.
#3 – Get ready for students
You’ve reached new students.
You’ve made a ton of new connections.
And now they’ve attended your weekly gathering or event.
So what’s the next step you want them to take?
If you don’t know the answer to this question, then everything you do to reach students will be a bust because you don’t have a practical way to retain them.
Here’s the deal:
Engaging new students who attend whatever you organized sets the stage for the remainder of their experience. If you make it easy for them to take a meaningful next step with your ministry, you’re in a much better position to share the gospel and get them plugged into your church. Miss following up or providing them with a tangible next step, and you run the risk of losing them.
The next steps you provide can vary. But remember, the two things you need to focus on is building relationships and making disciples.
Next, we’ll look at a few ways churches are finding success in accomplishing these goals.
#4 – Create community while making disciples
At first, there are two next steps you want to encourage students to take:
Does your church currently run a student ministry?
Then there’s a good chance you’re already running a weekly meeting.
Planning on launching a student ministry?
Then consider organizing a weekly meeting for your students.
For your weekly meeting, it’s ideal if it's something Christian and non-Christian students can attend. Depending upon your church, this idea may make some parents or guardians uncomfortable. So be prepared to cast a vision your church members can get behind, and be ready if some families don’t catch the vision.
In reaching students, this is the first step they will take in getting connected with your student ministry. A weekly meeting requires little commitment; it’s a great opportunity to experience your student ministry; and students will have an opportunity to hear the gospel and meet other students and members of your church.
After leading students to attend your weekly meeting, another step churches have found helpful is to provide small groups.
Providing small groups for your students is one way you can lead people from a weekly (larger group) meeting to a small setting where they can meet people one-on-one and study the Bible together.
A student ministry small group does two really big things:
Connects students with other students
Provides adult volunteers with an opportunity to build relationships with students
Both of these ideas are key to building relationships with students and making disciples. Basically, the more people students meet throughout your entire church—the better.
#5 – Make your student ministry sticky
Want to make your student ministry stick?
Get students to stay around by encouraging them to volunteer.
When talking about volunteering, I’m not necessarily talking about leading other students or your children’s ministry, and I’m not talking about cleaning up after your service either. There are many roles students can fill that require more than being a warm body in a pew.
For example, students can volunteer in strategic positions, like:
Tech and sound
In your student ministry, encourage students to get involved in your church. There’s no need for them to sit on their hands when they can use them to serve.
That’s not all.
There’s another way you can encourage students to serve:
Through domestic and international mission trips.
Mission trips—even if they’re domestic—are a great way to give students a taste of serving. A mission trip is a short-term commitment that can be a long-term influence in students’ lives for Christ.
Over to you
I hope this truth brings a breath of fresh air:
Creating an exciting, powerful, and world-changing student ministry doesn’t require a multi-million dollar budget—it primarily requires building relationships and making disciples. In your church, how this looks will be different based upon your location, demographics, budget, and staff or volunteers. When praying through how to reach and retain students, use these principles and ideas I shared above. But be open to doing whatever it takes to build relationships and help students to follow Jesus.
Regardless of how much time or how many resources you devote to this ministry, it can feel like it’s never enough.
You need teachers and helpers.
You need a solid curriculum and engaging activities.
Your volunteers come and go, and it can seem like you’re always in need of help.
If your children’s ministry stresses you out, you’re not alone. Countless church leaders have expressed feeling a similar sentiment.
When hearing from church leaders, here’s the one problem most of them have in common:
They need more volunteers (like yesterday) in their children’s ministry.
If this is you, don’t sweat it. I’ve got you covered.
In this post, I’m going to lay out tactics you can use to inspire more volunteers to join your children’s ministry today, as well as different ways you can prepare volunteers to serve tomorrow.
Let’s get started!
#1 – Always pray
At Church Fuel, we focus on providing insanely practical resources to help you lead your church.
Even though there tends to be practical answers to ministry problems, this doesn’t mean you should skip right to the best practices without prayer.
There’s an old adage that goes like this:
Work as if everything depends upon you. But pray as if everything depends upon God.
I understand it’s stressful when you need more volunteers.
If you’re like me, you just want to get right to work recruiting people.
But fight the temptation to move forward without prayer.
Remember, God is at work in your church.
He will lead your church members to serve his church.
Before you implement the tactics below, be sure to be in constant prayer. In time, God will raise up volunteers to participate in his work through your children’s ministry (Matt 9:38).
#2 – Build a leadership pipeline
Do you need more children’s ministry volunteers ASAP?
If you’re in dire straits, take a deep breath—everything is going to work out.
I’m not encouraging you to be patient for patience’s sake.
There are two practical things you need to keep in mind:
You need more volunteers now.
You need to prepare more volunteers for later.
Below, I’m going to share several tactics you can use to encourage more people to volunteer in your children’s ministry. So let me punt on this for now.
Here’s one thing I want to stress:
You need to create a leadership pipeline.
In other words, you need to develop a system your church can use to lead people to volunteer. This way, you won’t always have to scramble to find people to serve.
As a church leader, you need to have one foot in the present and one in the future. When it comes to volunteers in your church, you need to prepare for the future by developing people today.
#3 – Make it easy to volunteer
Serving is a natural outcome as a Christian.
When you place your faith in Christ, you’ll grow a desire to serve God, serve people, and serve your church.
What does this mean for you?
There are more people in your church who desire to serve than the number who are currently serving.
What’s the holdup?
Well, it depends.
From not knowing how to get involved to feeling incompetent, there are a variety of reasons why your church members are not volunteering—especially in your children’s ministry.
One key to encouraging people to sign up is to make volunteering easy like Sunday morning.
Practically speaking, here are three things you must do:
Get a legit curriculum
It’s one thing to need more volunteers. It’s a different ball game actually being organized enough to handle more volunteers. As a church leader, you need to be prepared to handle an influx of people.
The first thing you need to do is clarify expectations.
Here are some things volunteers will likely want or need to know:
What do I need to do?
When do I start?
How long do I need to commit?
Who do I ask for help?
Do I need training?
Who do I report to?
What are the security protocols?
How do we contact parents when a kid is sick?
How do we handle discipline?
Nailing down the answer to these questions will place you well on your way to making it easy to serve in your children’s ministry.Finally, you need to invest in a legit children’s curriculum. Make sure your volunteers have everything they need ahead of time. From the lesson they’re going to teach to the craft they need to build, provide your children’s ministry volunteers with everything they need.
The existence (or absence) of a compelling vision will also influence your children’s ministry.
As a leader, help your church members to see what can be possible.
Show them how your children’s ministry connects with God’s plan.
Help them to see how their work supports the mission of your church.
Paint a compelling picture of sharing the gospel and supporting parents and guardians in making disciples of their children.
Don’t be apologetic.
Don’t rely on shame or guilt.
Share a vision for your children’s ministry that people can see and feel.
#5 – Just ask people
Life in your children’s ministry is busy.
When your church members observe what’s going on, they may think everything is running like a well-oiled machine when you know there are a few volunteers ready to retire because they’re burned out.
Don’t assume this is a bad thing.
In sociology, there’s a thing called the “bystander effect” that can potentially explain why people don’t raise their hands to help—it may be because they think someone else is already taking care of the job.
There’s one easy way to counteract this belief:
Ask people one-on-one to volunteer.
Whether you ask someone in person, over the phone, or via email, directly asking them to consider participating in God’s work through your children’s ministry is arguably the best way to encourage people to volunteer.
Don’t be afraid to ask, and again, don’t be apologetic.
Remember, God is at work in your church. He is calling people to serve, and you are simply providing them an opportunity to exercise their calling and gifts.
If so, then high school students can be a great source of children’s ministry volunteers.
When you invite students to volunteer, be sure to connect each one with an adult volunteer who will show them the ropes. What is more, adult volunteers can also serve as amentor and another voice speaking into their lives.
If you go this route, I suggest asking your student ministry leaders who they think will be good volunteers.
#7 – Launch a short-term campaign
Still in a bind for more volunteers?
In the life of your church, there will likely be a time when you’ll need an influx of volunteers.
Instead of just banking on a church announcement to do the trick, put together a short-term campaign to get people excited to join your children’s ministry.
For your campaign, set a goal of how many volunteers you need, and come up with a catchy theme you can use, such as:
Change Someone’s World
For the Future
Seeds of Faith
Jump on Board
Building the Future Together
When running your campaign, don’t forget everything I just shared.
You don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater (principles) to recruit a few more volunteers.
With your campaign, set a start and end date and go for it!
Depending upon your situation, you can also preach a sermon or sermon series on volunteering in general or children’s ministry in particular. This is the same idea we shared whenlaunching a small group event.
Over to you
A good approach to boosting engagement and increasing volunteers in your children’s ministry is to have a long- and short-term approach. As I mentioned above, there will be times when you’ll need to focus on recruiting volunteers now, and that’s okay. Even though this will be the case at times, I encourage you to still work toward creating a long-term plan. You can thank me later.
Your church isn’t growing. You’ve been doing the same thing for months or years. You can’t remember the last time you witnessed someone commit his or her life to Jesus. You’re disappointed. You feel stuck. And you’re not sure if God’s at work in your church.
Here’s the deal: You’re not alone.
According to arecent study by Exponential and LifeWay Research, 6 out of 10 Protestant churches have plateaued or their attendance is declining. What is more, less than half of the churches surveyed saw fewer than 10 people commit their lives to Christ.
Now isn’t the time to give up, throw up your arms, and walk away. If you’ve been planting seeds in the life of people, it’s only a matter of time until God grows them and brings people to faith (1 Cor 3:6).
How can I be so confident? Simple.
God is faithful, and we’ve had the opportunity to help many churches break the 200 attendance barrier. In our work, we like to keep an eye on what churches are doing to attract people to their church with the goal of making disciples.
In this post, I’m going to share seven things your church can do to attract more guests this month.
Let’s get started!
1. Get ready for visitors
The first few minutes of someone visiting your church are crucial. I can’t stress this enough.
Most people decide whether to return to a church within the first 6–10 minutes of entering the campus.
Faith Perceptions has found that friendliness alone won’t make guests return to a church, but an unwelcoming encounter is enough to send them packing.
I know you’re excited to reach new people for Christ.
But before you launch a new outreach campaign or invite new people to your church, your church has to be ready to welcome first-time guests. If you’re not ready, good outreach and marketing efforts will only make your church fail faster.
Think about it like this:
If you were a farmer and you prayed for it to rain, but you didn’t prepare your fields for the harvest, then you lost out. Or let’s say you’re a business owner; you make widgets and you launched a marketing campaign to sell 100 widgets, but you only have 25 on hand or your widgets are terrible. If that’s the case, then your marketing efforts will cause your business to fall flat on its face.
Not convinced this is true? Here’s something else to chew on:
For better or worse, most people will make a decision about your church within the first few minutes of their experience. What is more, if you don’t follow up with your visitors, then you run the risk of not connecting with them again.
Ready to get started?
Here are a few things you’ll need to get ready:
Church connection cards
A welcome plan
A follow-up plan
Let’s take a look at these in turn.
The first impression you make with any potential visitor is online.
Most people who are thinking about visiting a church will search online for somewhere to visit before thinking about stepping foot into your worship space.
To create a good first impression with your online visitors, here’s a list of information you must have on your church’s website:
If you need to, ask someone who’s not familiar with your church (even if it’s a family member or friend) to check out your website to see if they can easily find what they would look or if they were planning on visiting your church.
Alright, so someone has visited your website, and now they’re ready to visit your church. The next place you need to prepare is your parking lot.
To get your parking lot ready for visitors, here are 3 things you need to consider:
Marking visitor parking
Providing clear signs
Placing parking lot attendants
These three tactics alone should place your church well on it’s way to preparing for visitors.
After people exit their cars, the next thing you need to think about is providing clear signs. Not only signs in your parking lot(s) pointing people in the right direction, but signs in your foyer and lobby letting visitors know where to go to get information or where your sanctuary is located.
Remember, visitors will be feeling nervous.
Make it easy for them to get around your facilities.
Now, there’s a good chance you have no information on your guests. To make sure you don’t lose touch with them after their first visit, be sure to provide church connection cards to capture their contact information.
Having a hard time getting people to share their info?
A lot of what I’ve been talking about deals with “marketing assets.” But even if you create eye-catching material, it cannot replace the importance of creating a welcoming environment for people.
From placing greeters and ushers at key locations to building a welcoming church culture, you want to prepare your church members to identify, welcome, and make visitors comfortable at your worship service.
The last piece you need to prepare is your follow up.
Alright, your church is ready to welcome visitors.
Now it’s time to talk about attracting guests to your church.
2. Identify specific needs in your community
Think about the felt needs of your community.
Do you really know the needs of individuals or families?
Do you understand their common objections to Jesus?
Are you aware of what may compel them to visit your church?
Immersing yourself in your community is vital to reaching your community for Christ. As a church leader, you have to get to know the community you serve. If you’ve lived in the area for any length of time, you probably have a pretty good idea about some basic information, such as the schools, demographics, average income, family dynamics, and employers.
As you get to know your community, you want to build relationships and answer this question:
Why would someone want to visit a church—especially your church?
Apart from asking someone this question, a survey by Pew Research unearthed the top reasons why someone may visit a Protestant church in the United States:
To become closer to God
So their children will have a moral foundation
To make themselves a better person
For comfort in times of trouble
Based on this survey, there are really practical things your church can leverage to attract guests to your church. Here are just a few things that come to mind:
Preach a sermon series on drawing closer to God or parenting
Provide Bible studies or resources on living a “better” life
Offer counseling services or partner with a counselor
After spending time with people in your community, you may unearth different needs or angles you can take to answer questions and provide guidance for people to learn to live and love like Jesus.
Don’t be put off by the idea of meeting the spiritual and physical needs of your community. Jesus himself met the spiritual and physical needs of people, and he calls us to do the same today.
Share the gospel.
Find out the spiritual questions and struggles in your community.
Meet the physical needs of people.
3. Make it easy for people to plan their visit
As I mentioned above, people in your community are searching for a church online. Not only is it a good idea to provide basic information on your website, but many churches today have found success in promoting a “Plan Your Visit” option online for visitors.
Here’s how it works:
Make it easy for your website visitors to then physically visit your church by providing a simple, clear process.
Before getting into the details, here are a few examples of what I’m talking about:
To pull this off, you canadd an app or have your developer build a dedicated page or pop-up.
Remember, many people who visit your church’s site are looking for a church. By adding a “Plan Your Visit” section on your site, you are letting them know you’re interested in having them visit your church, and that you want to make it as easy as possible.
The info you add in this section will be similar to what I suggested above (e.g., what time does your service start, what’s your address, what can I expect, and what should I do with my kids). But there’s one thing you should be sure to include: An automatic reminder.
When someone shares with you their email address, you can send them an automated message (email) reminding them what time your service starts and other details. This little feature will encourage people to follow through and not get cold feet.
4. Ask people to visit
If there’s just one thing you take away from this post, let it be this point:
Most people will attend your worship service if they’re invited by someone.
Based on one survey, 82 percent of unchurched people would consider attending a worship service if a friend, neighbor, or coworker invited them.
This percentage is huge.
There are no other outreach events or tactics you can use that can even come close to matching these results. Don’t believe the hype from other ideas. Asking someone is still the single best thing your church members can do to reach more people.
In the business world, this is known as word-of-mouth marketing, and it’s just as effective. I know technology can make it feel easier to reach more people (like social media advertising), and it’s definitely worth pursuing. But don’t overlook the importance of challenging your church members to invite people.
Practically speaking, as a church leader, here are ways you can equip your church members to invite people:
Provide evangelism training
Offer simple suggestions people can use to ask someone to visit
Use invite cards
Create shareable social media content
Share stories/testimonies during your announcements or sermon
This promise may have worked well in the movie Field of Dreams. But it’s worthless advice for church websites.
Here’s the actual deal:
If you promote your church’s website, people will come.
When it comes to promoting your site, there are different tactics you can use, such as posting about it on social media, including it in your church’s bulletin, or mentioning it in direct mail.
These different tactics are helpful in the short term. But the most effective thing you can do to turn your website into a tool that regularly leads new people to visit your church is to optimize your website for search engines.
This tactic is referred to as search engine optimization (SEO), and for your church, it means optimizing your site to rank for local searches like “church + zip code” or “church nearby.”
Remember, as I pointed out above, most people in your community will check out your website before they visit your worship service. These people will not generally review pages of church options online. They’ll primarily take a look at the churches on the first page of their search results.
What’s the bottom line?
If your church’s site doesn’t rank toward the top of the first page of local search results, then there’s a good chance no one will find your site in search engines.
To optimize your site, there are several things you can do:
Claim your local listings (e.g., Google, Bing)
Claim your church on local directories
Optimize your site for relevant keywords
Include your church’s name, address, and phone number on every page
Use these tips—along with other tactics—to optimize your site for search engines.
6. Run short-term outreach events
During the life of your church, it’s easy to start going with the flow of things.
Every week, your church does the same thing.
From gathering your people together for a worship service, Bible studies, or mid-week services, there’s a rhythm to the life of your church.
This isn’t a bad thing at all. But if you’re not careful, the rhythm of your church can be like sitting in a rocking chair that lulls you to sleep.
Thankfully, you don’t have to change your weekly rhythm to fight this morass and reach your community. You can arrange short-term outreach events to rally your church around a common cause.
The ideas are endless, so there’s no need to stick to an annual event unless you’re experiencing consistent results. Feel free to mix up what you’re doing to reach different people in your community. For example, if you want to reach families, then you’ll need to organize a family event. However, if you want to reach single adults or couples, then the outreach event you organize will be different based upon attracting that target audience.
Here are two free resources we created to give you some ideas:
There’s one added benefit to short-term campaigns that’s easy to overlook:
This is also a great way to increase your volunteer base and train volunteers.
When putting together your plans, be sure to open up the opportunity to volunteer to your church. You might be surprised who steps up to help out.
7. Advertise on Facebook
Do you know where most people in your community socialize?
If you guessed social media, you’d be correct.
According tothe Pew Research Center, 7 out of 10 adults in your town spend their time on social media—especially Facebook.
Practically speaking, to reach people in your community, your church needs to consider advertising on Facebook, since just having a Facebook Page no longer cuts it.
For starters, advertising on Facebook probably isn’t what you think.
It’s not expensive.
It doesn’t require a ton of technical expertise.
And it’s not like sending a piece of direct mail—it’s hyper-targeted.
When it comes to advertising on Facebook, you can run ads promoting “Plan a Visit” or an outreach event you’re organizing. Or you can promote a piece of content you created—such as a sermon clip, a Bible verse image, or a short video—to be seen by more people.
Not sure if Facebook advertising is a good fit for your church?
You don’t have to sign a contract with Facebook or commit to spending thousands of dollars. You can test a short-term campaign for little money, and see what type of results it generates.
Over to you In attracting people to your church, don’t overlook the actual people in your community. It’s really easy to think of outreach and marketing in general terms. But as you spend time with your neighbors and community leaders, you’ll be able to take these ideas—and others—to form a specific plan to make disciples of people in your community.