Back to Church Day
Due to a combination of complicated factors, including lack of visionary leadership, the church is declining in a growing community. Sunday School attendance is down 30-40% in four years while during that same time new schools and churches just down the road have been built and planted. Notwithstanding the church is in a very visible location on the road to the courthouse - non-Baptists and non-Christians alike know where the church is.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but from my observations I see church membership (generally) as concentric circles:
Center: The "core" group - these church members rarely miss an activity and will volunteer for activities without prompting. You can count on these folks to keep their word.
First outer-ring: These folks are at church 70-90% of the time. Everyone knows them, they may hold a post or two in the church, and will be happy to help out when asked.
Second outer-ring: These church members are present more often than not, most people know them, but not all, and they may be slightly unreliable. When asked to help, there's a good chance they'll accept, but have to ask to find out.
Third outer-ring: Never really sure when they'll be at church - they still may help out, but not everyone knows them, or knows them well. May show up for Sunday School and worship once every 4-5 weeks
CEO ring - Christmas and Easter only: There faces are recognizable, but very rarely do they show up.
The rest of the residential community surrounds the "circles" of the church, much like it surrounds the physical building.
Ideally, folks on the outer rings and from the community are moving toward the center of the church, or the core. Healthy churches have a "positive flow" and strong ratios between the core and the CEO's. Until a positive flow is achieved, outreach to the community is futile - if a positive flow is rooted in the surrounding community yet rams into the negative flow coming out of the core, conflict ensues.
Laity leaders are agitating because the decline in numbers is palpable, even without the assistance of a spreadsheet. A movement to reach out to the community was begun, yet my suggestion was to shore up the folks that are already connected to the church. In business the same principle stands: satisfy the needs of your current customers before you look for new ones.
If we're not meeting the needs of the current members of the church, how can we guarantee we'll meet the needs of new ones coming in from the community? First things first.
Thus, I suggested a "Back to Church Day" to coincide with the "Back to School" time of year. Parents are making Fall schedules and getting ready to get "back in the grind". The parking lot will be paved by then, providing a visual reminder that stuff is happening at church, as well as the day will be the Sunday after Kristen and I leave. The church, whether most realize it or not, is entering a "now or never" stage - thus this effort needs to happen now.
My idea is that this will be a "renewal of committment" day. Publications and postcards will be sent out detailing service and ministry opportunities for folks to get involved with. I'm hoping a "fair" type thing can be set up after services where representatives from various ministries can have a table with an interest signup sheet, more information, and a visual (sound committee = microphone). Church members can then visually see all of the opportunities in the church and get more information from the folks who are already involved.
Anyways, this is the project I'm sinking my teeth into as we transition out of the church. I pray that church members can find 2-3 hours out of the 168 hour week to serve their God through the opportunities offered at Hillcrest. I pray the pastor will set the tone for this effort by challenging the church to become more than it is, to challenge members to grow and stand up from their comfortable pews, if they come and sit in them at all. Church members must be willing to serve, but also partake in opportunities to be fed. They must take responsibility for properly teaching new members and youth and children what it means to be a Christian and responsible church member.
I pray the "negative flow" of frustration and disappointment can be stopped and reversed - Hillcrest has so much potential, yet it will be up to the leadership to challenge church members to recognize the opportunity and train them to seize God's will for "the little church on the hill".