I was in the West Coast last week and this week interviewing pastors on my “influencer” series. Most of the interviews are one-on-one, but some happen as focus groups. Pictured is a focus group I met with in Seattle. Below are some of the great ideas they shared:
* Gifts for first-time newcomers. Churches often like to do something to make newcomers feel welcome, but some are troubled by the consumerism that may be reinforced by giving them a gift. One church I visited last year, for example, sent me a $5 Starbucks card to thank me for my visit. One of the churches in this week’s focus group, which has a big emphasis on building wells in underdeveloped countries, capitalizes on the idea of using people’s visits to do good to others. “For everyone who fills out our guest card,” they announce, “we’ll make a $10 donation to a group we sponsor that helps churches provide a freshwater well for their communities.” As one of the pastors privately remarked, “You’ve got to be a total jerk not to turn in the card!”
* Partnering with the local YMCA. In one city the Y includes classes on debt management (using Dave Ramsey materials), addiction recovery, and other areas that the church also addresses. “We began to ask the Y about a potential partnership,” one pastor said. “Our people would be more than happy to teach classes like that.”
* Shaping the Culture of the City. One pastor has a background and hobby with martial arts. Their church sponsors clubs for the mixed martial arts in ways that combine a faith factor. The idea of combining sports with faith is the topic of a future HBO documentary, and this church was filmed for it. “Our church desires to help set the tone for the culture in our city,” the pastor said.
* Intentionally Multi-Ethnic Churches. Another pastor’s city and congregation is largely white but he was very intentional in hiring an African American for a recent prominent staff position. “We’ve been very intentional in reaching out across racial lines,” he said.
* Citywide Youth Group. Another pastor is raising the impact level of the youth in his area by having, in effect, a city-wide youth group. Over 30 churches participate. “Its young people seeing Jesus exalted in their city,” the pastor explained. They also do projects together, such as funding relief efforts in Haiti.
* Planting Churches to Reach People Like You. One church planter in the focus group grew up in a home where they had a very bad experience with their church, such that all of them dropped out and many fell away from the Lord. He invited family members to move to the city where he’s planting a church. “I asked them to help me form a church that would reach people like them,” he says. They came — and are bringing their friends as well.
I’ve now conducted over 50 interviews, mostly with growing churches led by people under age 40. I am very encouraged by the spiritual passion, innovation, and strong outreach they evidence. I’ll release my first report on what I’ve learned in the November issue of Leadership Network Advance. If you don’t subscribe to this free summary of ideas, trends, and resources for church leaders, do sign up at www.leadnet.org/update.
Meanwhile, what good ideas are you seeing in churches that you could add to this list?