Your Church Needs Two New Side-Doors Next Year (Charles Arn)

The front doors of many churches today are closing. “Front doors” is a term that describes how most newcomers first come in contact with a church—as visitors to worship or to some other special event.  It is out of this visitor pool that churches have traditionally identified prospective new members.  However, in the past 20 years both the total number of church visitors has been declining, as well as the percentage of visitors to total attendance in most churches. If you want to see your church survive, let alone thrive, I suggest that you build some new “side-doors” that will create new ways to connect with people in your community. What is a “side-door”?  Here is a definition: Side-door: A church-sponsored program, group, or activity in which a non-member/non-Christian can become comfortably involved and develop meaningful relationships with people in the church. A side-door provides a place where church members and non-members develop friendships around something important they share in common. And such friendships are an

Read the full post

SIDE DOORS—How to Open Your Church to Your Community…and Vice Versa (Charles Arn)

Anyone who has written a book knows the feeling of satisfaction when you finally see your long, hard hours of work make it to the printed page. (It usually takes about a year even after the completed manuscript is turned over to the publisher before the book finally arrives!) So, I am particularly excited about a book I have been working on for nearly ten years which Wesley Publishing House will soon be releasing—Side Door. It’s my effort to share with church leaders a powerful missional process that has a proven track record in almost every larger growing church today. But the strategy of building church side doors is definitely not limited to larger churches. In fact, it has tremendous potential for medium and smaller sized churches that want to “break the mold” of traditional (and often ineffective) outreach methods, and begin a strategic new missional ministry in their community.

Read the full post

Are Your New Members Becoming New Ministers? (Charles Arn)

Eleven years ago my wife and I joined a new church. I remember how alone I felt on Sunday mornings in those first few months. My wife was a better “joiner” than I. She had made some new friends and seemed well on her way to calling the church “our church.” But it wasn’t quite as easy for me. Then, one Sunday morning an announcement appeared in the bulletin for the All-Church Work Day in two weeks. “Why not?” I thought. That Saturday I arrived at 8:30 a.m., and was assigned to help paint Room 14. When I walked in, I found two other people working away. We introduced ourselves and spent the next 3 hours painting doors, closets, walls, and floorboards. Of course, you can’t be in a room with two other people for three hours without conversing. And it was a good time. But, what happened next Sunday

Read the full post

Q: Who is More Important Than Your First-Time Visitors? A: Your Second-Time Visitors! (Charles Arn)

My Experience… Ten years ago my family and I moved into a new home and neighborhood, and used the summer to search for a new church home. In 8 of the 10 churches we visited, I filled out a visitor card or signed a guest register. (Two churches had no way for visitors to identify themselves.)  Of the churches visited, 6 of 8 sent a “Thank you for visiting” letter, and 2 had a representative phone us the following week. My family especially enjoyed three of the churches and decided to go back for another visit. I again completed the visitor information and, the following week, checked the mailbox for a follow-up. Monday … Tuesday … Wednesday … no letter … Thursday … Friday … Saturday … nothing. No card. No call. No contact. We returned to the same three churches for a third visit in our search for a church

Read the full post

How to Improve Your Welcome (Charles Arn)

Some time ago my family and I moved to a new house and neighborhood, and in the process visited a number of churches in search of a new place to worship. The experience reminded me of how other newcomers must feel in visiting a church for the first time. New faces…new places …new spaces. The truth is, it’s not a particularly enjoyable experience! Here are a few simple ways you can increase the warmth of your church’s welcome; and, as a result, increase the number of first-time visitors who return…and stay. For Starters… Don’t call them “visitors.” According to Webster, a visitor is “…a person who resides temporarily; one who goes or comes to inspect; one who makes a short stay at a place for a particular purpose.” May I suggest you instead use the word guest, defined as: “a person welcomed into one’s house; a person to whom hospitality is

Read the full post

How to “Hit a Home Run” in Your Next Sermon Series… (Charles Arn)

Here’s how to be guaranteed that listeners will eagerly anticipate your next series of messages, waiting to hear your words—and God’s—on the selected topic. First, some background… A few years ago the U.S. Navy Chaplain Corps asked me to research the attitudes of incoming 18-, 19-, and 20-year old recruits toward religion and church.  I interviewed young men and women across mainstream America.  One of the questions I asked was, “What is your opinion of church?”  Two words came back over and over: boring and irrelevant. “Relevance” is one of the hallmarks of an effective, contagious church. Attendees who find their church speaking clearly and creatively to life issues not only return, but bring friends. “Relevance” is found in the words and rhythm of songs…in the style and appearance of facilities…in children’s Sunday School and topics in the adult classes.  But perhaps more than any other area, relevance must be found in the sermon. In

Read the full post

“New” … Works! (Charles Arn)

Here’s a growth axiom you can take to the bank.  Whether you are pastoring a (large, medium, or small) church…leading a youth group…overseeing a music ministry…or involved with any other aspect of a church in which you believe God desires growth, it is just about guaranteed.  Here it is: New Units = New Growth  It’s a proven principle.  New Sunday school classes attract new people.  New small groups involve new people.  New worship services connect with new people.  New churches reach new people. Why It Works  The most common application of this principle is in starting new groups.  Here is why the strategy of starting new groups is so predictably successful: •  New groups respond to human need.  In long-established groups, members just like to be together.  Relationships have become the primary value.  And that’s good.  But, often such groups lose their outward-focus and no longer contribute to the growth

Read the full post

Are Your Church Facilities an Obstacle to Growth? (Charles Arn)

Check out the interior of national chain stores in your neighborhood (grocery, pharmacy, clothing, restaurants, etc.). On average, retail businesses remodel their facilities every 4-7 years, and with good reason. There’s something about “new.” New additives to toothpaste…new vitamin potency in cereal…new styles in cars…new versions of software. “New” attracts. By contrast, most churches renovate their facilities every 25-40 years; some go even longer without an extreme home make-over. If your church building is over 15 years old, it is probably a growth-restricting obstacle. When it comes to church visitors, you don’t have a second chance for a good first impression. And, one of the first impressions visitors have of your church is its building; first the outside, then the inside. Visitors don’t need to be professional architects to sense that the ceiling is too low, the halls too narrow, the windows outdated, or the color schemes from a different

Read the full post

What Class Are Your Leaders? (Charles Arn)

Over the years I have kept a file of “rules” that seem to be constant in effective churches, regardless of size, denomination, leadership style, or geographic location.  One is the “Class of Leaders” rule: Growing churches have 20-25% of their involved members in Class II activities. “Class II??  I don’t even know what Class I activities are!” you may be thinking. Class I activities:  Church roles and tasks that focus primarily inward on ministry to existing church members, activities, and structures.  Positions such as choir member, usher, Sunday school teacher, board member are generally Class One activities. Class II activities:  Church roles and tasks that focus primarily outward on ministry to non-Christians within a church’s ministry area.  Visitor follow-up, Vacation Bible School, community service are examples of Class Two activities. Here’s the key insight:  There is a direct correlation between Class II positions…and church growth.  But, here’s the catch: Most

Read the full post

Forecasting Your Worship Attendance One Year From Today (Charles Arn)

With three simple numbers you can forecast your worship attendance one year from today.  It’s quite easy, and surprisingly reliable. But before we talk about how…let’s consider why.  Is there value in looking into the future?  Or, as Marty McFly discovered, is it just plain trouble to mess with Father Time? Actually, I am a firm believer in forecasting for the simple reason that if our forecast indicates a potential problem, we can do something about it before reality makes it too late.  For example, suppose your forecast indicated that your worship attendance would be down by 10% in one year.  If you could do something to prevent that situation…wouldn’t you?  I hope so. So, let’s look at how we can cheat the calendar and peek into the future.  It requires three numbers: your “Visitor Volume” … your “Visitor Retention” … and your “Back Door.” Visitor Volume—the number of visitors/newcomers

Read the full post