Thursday, November 5, 2009

National Outreach Convention

I'm at the NOC this week. It's a great experience, but I feel like I'm drinking from a fire hose. I'm trying to write down as many notes as possible, even as I'm being challenged and renewed in my calling to lead a church that reaches its community. So here are just a few insights I've gotten:

From a discussion group on welcoming guests to your church:

Most people make up their minds about our church within the first seven minutes. That is before the music or preaching begins. Incidentally, the group leader said that a healthy church should have about 5 first-time guests in every service for every 100 people in attendance. I'm not sure where he got that stat from, but I did the math: For our church, that means we should have 20-25 first-time guests in every service! We don't have anywhere close to that, but it sounds like a great goal to shoot for.

From Ed Stetzer, in a message from 2 Timothy 4:5

"Why did Paul have to remind Timothy to “do the work of an evangelist?” Because Timothy was in an established church (Ephesus), and like all established churches, it had grown inward over time. He had so much “pastoring” to do that he was tempted to stop being an evangelist. That's still the downfall of many church leaders today."

"Don’t let outreach be the enemy of evangelism. Don’t just get people to church, get them to Jesus. Outreach is a wonderful tool, but only the Gospel saves. We should strive to know nothing but Christ crucified."

From Efrem Smith, who pastors a multi-ethnic church in Minneappolis:

"The church should look like Heaven will look—diverse."

"Consider the impala. It can jump 13 feet in the air, enabling it to escape from lions. But it can be kept in a zoo behind a 3-ft tall fence. Why? Because it won’t jump if it doesn’t know where it will land. We don’t know what our ministry efforts will produce, so we sit. If only we would jump into the world’s problems, we could break free. We wait for Washington to fix health care, when the church could fix health care itself. What happened to us? We used to build hospitals…we just got lazy."

From Nelson Searcy:

"People usually come to Christ and to your church when one of three things is going on in their lives: They are under tension, in transition, or in trouble. There is more tension, transition and trouble in our world now than ever before, so now is the time for the church to shine."

From Sam Rainer, in a seminar called "Reclaiming a Generation of Church Dropouts:"

"Of those who drop out of church, 70% will do so between the ages of 18-22."

Rainer researched this group of people who are abandoning the church. He found that they are NOT leaving because of music styles, or because they went off to a state college that "stole their faith..." People who attended secular universities drop out of church at the same rate as those who didn't.

The answer is found in two places: The family and the church. Young adults are much more likely to "stick" in church if three things are true of their family:
1. Families who regularly talk about spiritual matters.
2. They serve together in the church.
3. They pray together.
For kids whose families are not involved in church, the more adults from church are involved in their lives, the more likely they are to stay involved in church.

For the church, the keys are:

1. Community: They need a group to belong to (which leads me to praise God that our church has put such a priority on our college and career department!).

2. Transparency: They want to feel that their pastors are open with them. They want to know why, not just what they are supposed to do.

3. Mentoring: This doesn't have to be anything formal. They want older adults to just "hang out" with them.

4. Opportunity: For young adults today, the worship service is no longer the front door of the church...instead, it's the missions program. In other words, young adults are drawn to, and will stay in, a church where they feel they can make a positive difference in the world. For me, this was one of the most profound things I've heard at this entire conference.

5. Shooting straight: They really want to know the truth. We shouldn't worry about offending people or being controversial. Just tell the truth.

6. Team leadership: They HATE autocratic leadership. They want to feel they have a part in the direction of the church.

7. Correction: They want accountability. Believe it or not, many young adults are drawn to churches that practice church discipline.

8. Forgiveness: Most young adults have no concept of forgiveness or grace. They carry guilt and shame, and need to know that God can overcome their sin.

9. Diversity: Young adults look at race in a different way than previous generations. They are used to being around people of other ethnicities, and do NOT want to be in churches that are all one race.

10. Joy: They yearn for true celebration. This world offers counterfeit celebration; we must offer them something a genuine reason to rejoice.

If I can find the time, I will post some more insights tomorrow. I should be home tomorrow night, Lord willing. Thank you, WBC, for sending me to this conference, and I look forward to seeing you on Sunday!

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