What is your comparison point?

We all compare new experiences to a benchmark we have in our head.  When we try a new cafe and we compare their coffee to our best coffee experience at our favourite cafe.  When shop in a new shopping mall we compare it to the benchmark that we have in our mind about our ideal shopping experience.  When we visit a new church or ministry we compare it to our ideal church or ministry whether we know it or not. 

So as the leader in your ministry what is your comparison point?  Sometimes it can be another church or ministry.  We tell ourselves if we could just do it ministry like church X or church Y then we would get it “right”.  These other churches may have totally different circumstance and resources to us but that doesn’t stop us from comparing our ministry to theirs.  The key thing is to know what your bench mark is so that at least you are honest with yourself and your team.

Perhaps your comparison point is not another church but a previous era at your own church.  Remember the good old days when we got ministry “right”.  Church members often compare your current situation to a previous golden era where everything seemed to work so smoothly.  The trap with this style of thinking is that our world and culture has changed so dramatically.  Imagine comparing youth ministry pre Facebook to the Facebook era; let alone comparing ministry practices from the 1980’s to ministry to youth today.

What ever your comparison point is you need to identify it so that the unconscious comparison becomes more conscious.  Comparison is not a bad thing as long it it encourages us to be better rather than it weakening us.

Finally it is most important to compare our ministry to what God is calling us to.  The Holy Spirit is moving your forward not trying to recreate the past.  Compare your ministry to what God has in store for you, not the previous golden era.

markoffaith, Mark of Faith, mrmarkmcdonald

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Is your church ready for Visitors?

Is your church entrance sending the message that visitors are welcome?

Is your church entrance sending the message that visitors are welcome?

In the New Year people will visit new churches, try out new ministries and attend prayer meetings.  So it is likely that there will be visitors hanging around your church buildings this month and next month.  So what do you think the church buildings look like?  Now try to think how new people will see them.  We need to tidy up the church buildings in the same way that we would clean up our home if we thought visitors were dropping in.

Recently we invited neighbours to come to our place for lunch and we thought we better clean the place up.  Looking at our house from the perspective of a visitor I noticed a whole lot of mess piled up on our front porch.  For weeks I had walked past it without noticing it but with visitors coming over I paid more attention to the details.  Most of the items just needed to be put away so the place looked tidy.

The same is true for your church buildings.  Recently I visited a church foyer that was spotless and had clear signage telling me (a visitor) where to go.  However I also attended a church where the foyer was a mess, it still had Christmas items laying around in February.  Sometimes we need to imagine our church through the eyes of a visitor and here are a few things they will notice:

  1. Can I find the correct room?  It is so important to a first time visitor that they can find the room they are supposed to be in.  Try to think like a first time visitor, is it really obvious which door they should enter?  If not then you need to have a person or sign directing people where to go.  Can parents find the kids ministry room?  Can young people find the youth group in the various rooms on your site?
  2. Where are the toilets?  Often people will ask where the toilets are so it isn’t a big deal but if they are really hard to find then put up a sign.  Often visitors will go to the toilet before your service because they are nervous about how long the service will take.
  3. Is the space tidy?  A visitor should not have to see decoration failing down or mess from a previous event.  Have the musicians kept their area tidy or is it a mess?  Is the hospitality area clean?  Are the toilets clean?  Are there tidy facilities for parents to change a nappy?
  4. Stay up to date – replace any old posters or out of date event material.  Make sure that the bulletins from each week are put in the recycling bin.  One church I visited had flyers for a theological college that were five year out of date.
  5. Less is better – don’t try to fill your foyer or notice board.  If a space is too cluttered then the mix of things confuses people and everything blends in.  Instead of trying to advertise every ministry event in your district, give clear message to visitors about what you would like them to attend.  One church I visited just put up new notice boards and they filled it with at least 50 ministry events across the city to the point that their own ministry events got lost in the noise.
  6. Where is the coffee?  If you go to the effort of putting on tea and coffee make sure that visitors know where to find it.  Don’t expect them to follow the crowd; they will most likely avoid the crowd and go to their car.

Every time we have visitors to our house we hope that they love our home as much as we do.  The same is true with our church buildings except we want them to love our church not the buildings.  Richard Riesling in his book on Church Marketing says that visitors have made many decisions about your church before the service even begins, make sure that they are the right decisions.

markoffaith, Mark of Faith, mark of faith, mrmarkmcdonald, markoffaith.net

Why I like Vision Sunday videos

It seems to be the season for Vision Sunday videos popping up on youtube and vimeo.  They are becoming more and more common as churches use multimedia to share their vision with their members and those on the fringes of their church.  While more churches are using this format, I don’t grow tired of watching them, even though there are many similarities.  They are not so much a copy of each other as they are similar in the bold way they cast vision.

In this short post here are three reasons I love Vision Sunday videos:

  1. They give me hope – all of the videos that I have seen have made me want to join the church, even though I love my own church.  They shine forth a vision of hope and joy that God will build the Church.  In an era of sexual abuse scandals and low attendance figure I want to connect with the hope that God is and will build His Church.
  2. They take time to make – most of these vision would take weeks to put together, both from a technical point of view and a vision point of view.  These aren’t random thoughts or last minute ideas, they have prayerfully launched a God ordained vision.
  3. They encourage me to be bold – none of the videos that I have seem are promising to do more of the same.  Churches use Vision Sunday videos to launch bold new initiative.  Even if the new ministries perform only half as good as the church hopes it is far bolder than doing nothing.

There are many videos out there that you can watch, some from churches that are from a different denomination to you and I, but watch them anyway.  What bold new hope do you get from watching these?  Please don’t watch them with a cynical attitude of “that will never happen”.  Even if half of it comes off then the Kingdom of God is advance.

Here are two of my favourites:

Liberty Church NYC

Hope Unlimited Church

How to start something new in your ministry

Starting something newAt the start of every year churches seem ready to start something new.  The New Year brings a new season in your ministry rather than more of the same old routine.  Perhaps there is a ministry that was needed last year that you didn’t have the energy for or perhaps there wasn’t space in your program to start something new.  With the New Year comes new energy and we all think we can take on more projects.  So if you find yourself thinking this way this post will help you through the process.

With over 10 years experience in ministry consultancy, most people underestimate the time and effort it takes to start a new ministry.  Many ministry leaders hope to get something started with a few weeks preparation when really it takes months to prepare for a new start.  Recently I was reading a 2012 strategic plan for a church which included plans for a start up ministry in 2014.  In ministry we have to cautious of being inspired to start a new ministry on our holiday and hoping it is fully running the second week we get back.

As many of us begin our ministries after the long summer holiday break, here are a few tips to starting something new in your church this year:

  1. Narrow the focus – once you start planning to begin something new everyone wants to be included more than you had planned so you have to keep a narrow focus.  So a new junior high ministry shouldn’t include senior students as participants.  The new music team should also double as a bible study.  Don’t try to bite off too much when you first start a new element within your ministry; you can always broaden the focus later but it is harder to cut back as you launch.
  2. Prepare, Prepare, Prepare – there is such a tendency to launch something and work out the details later.  If you don’t prepare fully then you won’t be ready when you launch which will turn visitors off.  When we were starting a junior ministry in one of the churches we took six months to prepare even though we had 20 young people ready to go.  We needed time to prepare the first six months of talks, themes and research appropriate activities.
  3. Ride through the dip – six months into every start up the ministry hits a dip in numbers or energy, perhaps due to a lack of money, leaders or participants get bored.  What will be the dip in your ministry?  Seth Godin in his book “The Dip” believes that most start ups fail because they don’t know how to ride through the dip; those that ride through the dip are the ones that succeed.  Perhaps your dip will come in six weeks perhaps it will come in two years but you must ride through the dip in energy and numbers to be successful.
  4. Marketing is important – In his book on Church Marketing, Richard Riesling says that marketing is managing perception.  With any new element in your ministry you have to manage the perception that others have of what the ministry is about.  In the start up of our junior youth group we called it Blaze to evoke the image of a faith that is on fire for God; and we didn’t mention or offer pizza even once.  Mange the perception of your new venture so that people know this is long term and not a flash in the pan idea.
  5. Who will lead it when you are gone – perhaps you don’t need to answer this question before you begin unless you are planning on leaving within six months.  But from the very beginning you need to start training and preparing your replacement.  In fact sometimes other leaders won’t put their hand up until you are a success so start anyway.
  6. Have fun – starting a new ministry is a lot of work but it is so much fun.  Everyone gets excited and there is so much enthusiasm towards something new.  Enjoy this time and have fun serving your ministry.

It is important for us to be looking ahead to see how we can start something new this year that will meet the needs of people next year and into the future.  We can’t wait until our current programs fizzle out before we look to the horizon to see what is next.  Perhaps this year is a year of transition for you and your ministry, I hope and prayer that God leads you where you need to be.

Please leave a comment about how you have started a new ministry.

markoffaith, MarkofFaith, mrmarkmcdonald, Mark McDonald, markoffaith.net

Is your ministry getting ready for Christmas?

Is it really time to be thinking about Christmas, it is only September?  Before you panic, this post is about working on your environment now so that you are welcoming community by Christmas.  We know that many people come back to church for Christmas so you need to start working on creating a welcoming environment so that you can keep them into the new year.

It is a well known that attendance numbers drop off during the winter months, especially at Sunday night services.  People think it is too cold or too dark to got out, it might be raining or they want to somewhere warmer than a cold church building.  So it is likely that your ministry has dropped a few people over the winter months but now is the time to start welcoming them back.  Just as the trees and plants spring to new life around this time, perhaps the ground work you do during September and October will prepare you for a growth period over December, January and February.

Here are a few common sayings in ministry and how you might need to address these at the moment:

  • People always come back to Church at Christmas: each parish has a group of Christmas and Easter Christians that you will see coming back to church this Christmas.  Whilst you might not like it but if you don’t ask then they won’t come; if you are not welcoming then they won’t stay.  Recently I heard that the biggest growth group in Australia is the unchurched who don’t love or hate the church; they just have never been asked.  We often listen to the vocal minority who are vocal about their opposition to the Church but the majority of Australians don’t hate the church; some of them will return this Christmas.
  • Vision leaks:  has your ministry grown tired and lost the energy that it had in the beginning of the year?  Whilst you might know where you are heading you need to tell the people in your ministry as the vision leaks.  Some leaders say that when you get sick of reminding people of where you are heading then people are just starting to get it.  For more on this topic check out the article, Where are you heading?
  • Good habits drop easily but take months to re-establish: perhaps you were a welcoming church at the start of the year but with no new people coming over the winter your team lost the habits associated with a welcoming church.  So in the coming months you need to re-establish these habits so that it comes naturally when the Christmas season rolls around.  For more on this check out this article, Creating a Welcoming Church.
  • Narrow the Focus: whilst you might want to stir up energy by adding new programs to excite people you probably need to narrow the focus rather than widen it.  Sometimes people get confused with where they should put their focus, as the leader you need to target one or two things for people to focus on.  Don’t bring in 50 strategies for creating a welcoming church, perhaps just work on a good greeting before the service/event and unexpected hospitality after the service or event.
  • Good branding just makes bad products fail faster: if you spend a lot of time and effort on marketing your service and events without improving them then they will only fail faster.  Some leaders wait until people turn up to start improving things, which only shows new people how bad things really are.  Improve your Sunday services and midweek events first then invite people to experience the revamp.
  • A good spring clean makes for a good summer: perhaps this is more a gardening image than a ministry one but I think it applies well here.  Some teams plan to leave all their cleaning up for the “downtime” in January but that is when you need to be taking a break and a holiday.  January is not just about your members taking a holiday, you need one as well.  Perhaps a good spring clean in September and October will bring much needed focus and energy ready for the Christmas season when people feel like coming back to church.

So whilst you might think it is too early to think about Christmas, just remember that you need to give November over to thinking about the New Year, which I will post on shortly.  If you need to start your planning for next year in October and November then it is better to start preparations for Christmas now.  Remember we are not just talking about the Christmas Service but the welcoming atmosphere that you hope comes naturally around that time.  A little bit of extra work now will reap better results for your ministry come Christmas.

Please leave a comment about how you are getting ready for the Christmas rush.

Youth Ministry and the disposable razor theory

We all know that young people are growing up in an era where new consumer products launch or are updated on a constant basis.  With the launch of the iPhone 5 last week there will be millions of consumers desperate to get of their current phone contracts just so they can have the latest phone.  In the current marketplace we see many good products relegated to the scrap heap every month just because the latest version is released.  We can trace all of this back to the theory of the disposable razor.

Traditionally a man would buy one high quality razor to shave their face every morning.  The good blades would last a lifetime, which the manufacturer thought was bad for business.  It was in the interest of the manufacturer to make blades that needed replacing so that people would have to buy more product.  Thus the creation of the disposable razor blade; a company would make more money over the long term selling thousands of cheap items than selling one high quality razor.

Fast forward through the years and we see that many products lowered their quality so that people would have to buy more products.  Many products developed component parts that needed replacing so as to sell more products; before digital cameras Kodak made more money from selling film than they did by selling cameras.  The disposable razor theory originally applied to low cost and low quality items.  In recent years the disposable or replaceable concept has been getting more and more expensive. What do people do with their old mobile phone when they buy the new iPhone 5?  When did a $700 phone become as disposable as a $2 razor blade?

Young people today want the latest technology which is totally understandable.  If I needed to buy a new phone or laptop then I would buy the best I could afford too.  However, the rate of change in consumer products is creating a transient culture where young people move from product to product without much loyalty.  Whilst the disposable razor theory was always about products it seems that it is now affecting organisations also.  Sporting clubs find it harder to keep junior players for more than a few seasons.  Scouting groups find it hard to attract young people because it asks for a weekly commitment rather than random participation.

In the Church we too are affected by the transient culture emerging in young people.  The Church is just one organisation dealing with the rate of change in our culture.  Perhaps like some other organisations we have been caught out ‘selling’ the same products in a marketplace that wants change.  If young people update their phone every two years, is it unreasonable to think that they expect some change in their church experience every two years?  If the fashion and music scene changes every six months is it unreasonable to think that young people might expect the look and feel of their church experience to change every six months?

I don’t think anybody ever thought that the disposable razor theory would ever apply to the Church, is it possible that this is what we are now seeing in youth and young adult ministries?  Is it possible that young people are so used to the rate of change that they expect change all around them?  So what should we do about this in our churches and ministries? If we look at Apple, they win the customer by changing the product.  We can’t change the Gospel, but that is not the ‘product’ that we are selling.  We are selling programs and activities in order to win people to Christ.

In our ministries, perhaps we should think about the packaging of our message and line up some ‘disposable razors’.  Here are a few examples:

  • A short course on a topic that is the hottest issue within the community
  • A few camp options within the year from overnighters to week long camps.
  • Opportunities to visit other churches for guest speakers or worship nights
  • Change the theme every school term
  • Have two to three options for high schoolers rather than one youth group for Year 7-12.

Yes this is harder for the youth and young adult ministry but can we really bury our head in the sand and keep everything static?  If we don’t make our programs the disposable razors the risk is that Jesus becomes the disposable razor and young people move onto another spirituality.  We can keep doing what we have always been doing or we can decide to work with young people as they are developing.

My hope is that together we can improve our ministry to youth and young adult to see more ‘customers’ being won to Christ.  If Apple are able to keep winning loyal customers then surely we need to as well, perhaps we need to be a bit more thoughtful in how we can win loyal followers of Christ.

Please leave a comment

Mark McDonald, mrmarkmcdonald, markoffaith, MarkofFaith, Mark of Faith, markoffaith.net

3 website options for your ministry

It is so important that your ministry has an online presence if your are serious about connecting with people.  Not only does it help you connect with the people in your ministry but it also helps you reach new people.  Some researchers, such as Richard Riesling, say that people check out at least 10 churches online before they even step foot inside a church.  What does your online presence say about you and your ministry?

It is still possible to spend over $20,000 on a church website, but who has that kind of money?  The most important part of your online presence is that it is online and up to date.  Nobody trusts a website that is advertising Easter Services just before Christmas.  Whilst your online presence doesn’t have to look impressive, it is important that it has all the information that people need.  I have seen some great looking websites that have almost no value as you can’t find their location or service times.  But I would warn you that the graphic style can be so bad that people choose another church over yours so be careful.

So here are three options for the website in your ministry if you have a really low budget:

  1. Update your current website – whilst many church websites are average at best, at least they have one to work with; it just needs updating.  There are some good quality templates online for only $50-100.  A new template and up to date information might be all you need to improve your online presence.  If you are a ministry within your church, such as the youth ministry, then make sure people can find your ministry page from the Church website home page.  People should be able to get to the information they need in under 5 click.  If you want advice on a layout for multi-department websites then look at a University or School website for ideas.
  2. Start a WordPress Blog – many organisations and churches are using WordPress blogs as their website.  It allows you to begin for free or buy a domain name within WordPress for only $20.  The advantage of this style is that you can have a website directly for your ministry.  Each ministry can have a fresh online presence they can control without being buried 10 levels down on an out of date Church website.  If you want to see a church using a WordPress blog for their website check out www.libertychurchnyc.com  Please note that there are other blog websites available, such as eBlogger, which offer free blog style websites.  Here is how to set up a blog style website for free:
    1. You will need to register your blog/website name when you sign up so think of this before you start.
    2. Go to www.wordpress.com and find the section “sign up free”.
    3. Follow the process to register your blog.  You will get a free web address as blogname.wordpress.com or for a small fee you can buy blogname.com (which is a much better offer and WordPress still host your blog for free).
    4. You will need to pick a theme, which is the design and layout of your page.  My suggestion is to use the “Twenty Twelve” theme as this is designed for websites using the WordPress format.
    5. Start adding pages to your blog as these pages act as sections to your website.  Perhaps you need “Service info”, “events” and a really good “about” page.
    6. Remember that a blog posts are listed in the order that you post, which will help you display up to date information.  The downside is that if you post four or five events at once the most recent post will appear first.
    7. Have fun connecting with people.
  3. Facebook Page – almost everyone is on Facebook and perhaps your ministry needs the social networking that Facebook provides as your online presence.  The other positive about Facebook is that it is free to use and everybody knows how to interact with the format.  Instead of it being about your profile, go to the effort of creating a proper Facebook Page for your ministry.  Facebook Pages give you the ability to create events which will help you get RSVP’s and attendance.  Another positive is that people in your ministry can easily share events and information about your ministry with their friends.  If your set it up correctly you will have a web address that you can use in promotional material such as http://www.facebook.com/yourministrynamehere

Most of us don’t have much money to spend on fancy websites so remember that the most important thing is that you have an online presence.  If you start a website after reading this please leave a link in the comment section below so all my readers can see how it is done.

markoffaith.net markoffaith, MarkofFaith, mark of faith, Mark of Faith, mrmarkmcdonald, Mark McDonald

Overall presentation at Events matters

Have you ever been to an event that has exceeded your expectations?  Have you been to an event where everything looked perfectly in place, well laid out and everything flowed smoothly?  Sometimes in the rush to get our events ready we overlook the presentation of the event to focus on the content.  Whilst content is important, bad presentation spoils content every time.  For example, imagine a poorly designed website which may have great content but you can’t find it.

Last night I went to a youth ministry event by Mustard that exceeded my expectations.  Mustard is a ministry that runs events in schools here in Melbourne and were hosting a Roundtable event for Parents and Youth Leaders.  After almost 20 years in youth ministry I have seen all types of events from well-done presentations to complete train wrecks.  This event was above the average events I attend, even many of the good events that I have been to.  There were just a few things that caught my eye that were better than standard events that I go to.

Here are a few little things that made the overall presentation at the event better than other youth ministry events I have attended:

  1. Welcome signs – as the event was on a large church campus with many rooms there were signs directing me from the car park to location of the event.  Often event coordinators assume that people will follow the crowd or look for where the lights are on to know where the event is being held.  As an event coordinator help participants find the right room with a few welcome signs.
  2. Greeter – at the main foyer there was a person who greeted me and directed me along the hallway to the sign up desk.  At the sign up desk there was a person greeting people in front of the desk and several people behind the desk taking registrations.
  3. Name tags – I am used to writing my name on a name badge with a marker but these name tags had my name printed on the tag as well as the event logo. 
  4. Event logo – The team hosting the event had designed a logo for the event and printed the logo on the registration form, name tags, PowerPoint slides and handouts.
  5. Button Badge – each team member had a button badge with the ministry name on it.  It was that extra step that impressed me.  Each of the team members were smartly dressed rather than dressing like young people because it was a youth ministry event.
  6. Stage set up – there were a few props on stage that got the crowd talking as they entered the room.  These props were then used at a point within the event to explain a key message.
  7. Skype call to Guest – there aren’t many events that attempt a live feed of a guest from another country.  Mustard had a live feed of special guest Cheryl Crawford from Azuza Pacific University and Fuller Youth Institute in the USA.  This isn’t a multi million dollar ministry either; they were just using skype but had done their homework on how to get working well.  Cheryl had been prepared ahead of time and they had a plan for drop outs, which did happen, to keep things moving.
  8. Hospitality – the coffee and tea were laid out really well and there were nice cupcakes to go with the drinks.  Whilst we drank our tea and coffee there were team members connecting with the crowd.  There was a musician creating atmosphere with some live music.  There were also large posters of other ministry events on art easel’s to create atmosphere.

Whilst the ministry team had gone to all this effort to get the overall presentation correct, the content delivered as well.  As we connected over coffee and tea the participants were talking about the content of the talks. If you are interested in the content of the night you hear an audio copy of the event on a special website, click here, which again is above average for many events I go to.

Presentation should enhance the content of an event rather than dominate it.  Yet sometimes we rush our preparation, setup and layout to focus on the content and we overlook how important presentation is.  Take the examples about as a guide of how you might exceed people expectations at your next youth ministry event.

Please add a comment about events that you have attended where the presentation exceeded your expectations.

You might also be interested in Creating a Big Impression at Church

markoffaith MarkofFaith, mark of faith, Mark of Faith

The Excellence debate

“Excellence honours God and inspires others”

Have you ever gone into a church for the first time and seen something that made you think “that is a little out of place”?  Have you ever been to a church or attended a ministry event and thought things looked a little sloppy and could have been done better?  Or on the flip side have you ever been to a ministry event that ran like clockwork and you were impressed?  It seems that we all have our own interior benchmark of what we think is “done well” and what we think is “done poorly”.

Yet I often hear from people that the Church needs to pick up its game in terms of the standard of events, presentation and hospitality.  I have also heard from others who say the Church should never be too slick or fancy.  Whilst some churches are pursuing excellence others are deliberately keeping things low budget so as not to look perfect.  So my two questions for today are:

  1. What level of excellence is appropriate in the Church?
  2. Should the Church worry about excellence?

Let me start by giving you a few examples that I have witnessed from the best and worst of excellence in church and ministry:

Worst

  • I attended a young adult camp where the worship band left plates on stage from breakfast.
  • One church had posters for a youth group that looked like they were designed by a kindergarten class.
  • One church foyer had three different style of notice boards, posters about Christmas at Easter time and a pile of lost property that just looked messy.
  • A guest speaker had to rearrange the stage before he could start speaking because the musicians just walked off without clearing the stage.

Best

  • My church has a well-designed event template for all their posters so they look professional even though the ministry leader drops their event details into the template.
  • A ministry team that turned the cheap hall they hired for a youth camp into an inspiring place for worship.
  • A café night at church that had tasty food with enough for everyone to have extra.
  • A celebration night at church that had proper wine glasses and plates for the food (no plastic forks!)

These are just a few things that I have noticed.  But what have you noticed?  I invite you to leave a comment at the end about what you judge to be the best and the worst of excellence in church and ministry.

  1. What is the right level of excellence in the Church?  The right level of excellence is doing the best you can with the best you’ve got.  Excellence doesn’t mean spending more money; you have to have excellent budgeting skills too.  Excellence is about enabling people to encounter and experience God without any barriers in the way.  If the goal is excellence then we have failed.  Excellence is a tool to help you bring people into an encounter with God.
  2. Should the Church worry about excellence?  The Church should do the best it can to make it easier for people to encounter God, make disciples and join in the Mission.  The Church should be a place that inspires people to see the grandness and greatness of God.  People in ministry should offer the same level of service, or higher, that a person would get if they visited a hotel, restaurant, shopping centre or cultural museum.  I think the problem is that we either don’t inspire people or we go back to “traditional” methods that Christians used last century to inspire people but they don’t inspire 21st century people.

Recently I was listening to a podcast with Louie and Shelley Giglio about the level of excellence at their Church, Passion City Church.  They shared their thoughts about the right level of excellence in two ways:

  • When they get ready for Church or events their team doesn’t pray for excellence, they pray that the Holy Spirit might touch people.  For Passion City Church, it is not about achieving excellence but removing barriers.
  • When the Church is excellent in presenting its craft, services/ministry, then it encourages people to go into their jobs and be excellent at their craft.  Louie said “the best evangelism happens when your lifestyle is so inspiring that people ask you what makes you tick.”

So don’t kill yourself or stress your team or break the budget to achieve excellence in your ministry.  But please don’t be sloppy, unprepared or messy as it doesn’t do anyone any favours.  Could you please leave a comment about what you have seen as the best and worst of excellence in church and ministry?

Why a parachurch may get more young people than your church

In a recent post I wrote about the 10% limit to the size of any youth group compared to the Sunday congregation.  But I bet that some of you know a youth ministry that breaks that 10% rule.  What I have discovered is that some parachurch groups are able to recruit far more members than the 10% limit.  Having worked in and with parachurch groups, there are a few key factors which enable them to reach more young people than a local church can.

Firstly what do I mean by a parachurch group?  In this context I am talking about any agency within the Church that has a specific mission to minister only to young people.  Put it another way I am talking about ministries that don’t belong to “full service” local churches.  These parachurch groups have the specific mission of meeting the needs of young people and usually they have a particular style.  These groups are a valuable part of our Church; they have a specific Charism to a specific group of people.

A few examples might be:

  1. Charismatic prayer groups
  2. Campus based ministries
  3. Market place ministries, some that meet in Pubs
  4. Social Justice groups

So why are some parachurch groups able to recruit more members than many local churches? Here are four reasons that a parachurch group might be able to get more young people than you.

  1. Narrow the focus – many parachurch groups are able to focus on one or two key activities and do them well.  When a ministry only has few things to focus on they are able to tailor everything in the ministry to these one or two activities.  In contrast a full service local church has about 20-30 groups and ministries running.  Often the resources of a local church are spread thinly across a wide range of activities.
  2. Like-minded people – there is an old saying that like attracts like; a parachurch can attract young people with a common interest.  It is easier to attract a group of like-minded people than it is to keep the interest of everyone.  Often the local church is trying to cater to the needs of everyone in their community.
  3. Independence brings freedom – many parachurch groups are able to stay independent of the mechanics of regular church councils and committees.  I was once part of a parachurch group that met every Monday night and we could plan what we wanted with the leaders whenever we needed.  In contrast when I was part of full service local church the parish council met monthly and you needed a months’ notice to get an agenda item on there, meaning it could be two months before we could make a decision.
  4. Larger drawing area – usually a parachurch will draw members from a bigger geographical area than the local suburban church.  A parachurch might host an event for 100 young people that come from 10 suburbs where as you are trying to host an event for the young people in your suburb.

Before finishing I want to add that I am not against parachurch groups, they are vital part of the Body of Christ.  Given that I have been a part of both parachurch groups and local churches, I wanted to pass on some of the reasons why the parachurch groups might get more young people than you can get at your local church.

There are many positives of connecting young people to a local church; the main reason is that the local church is intergenerational.  In a local church young people learn to connect with a wider experience of the Body of Christ.

The real lesson for both parachurch groups and local churches is to focus on what God has called them to do rather than comparing each other.  I hope this helps you in your situation.

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