In most parts of the US today, people from all over will fill church sanctuaries as a part of their new year’s resolutions.

They crossed the finish line of 2012, but we’re happy with all of the results of their lives and have again caught a glimpse of the sobering reality that without God their lives will only get minimal results – both externally (jobs, possessions, achievements, etc.) and internally (our hearts, minds, and emotions, etc.).  As a part of this reality, they have resolved in the new year they are going to treat God MUCH better.  They are going to pray more, read their Bibles more (some even asked for new ones for Christmas), attend church more regularly, and connect more at the church.

As Church leaders, how we can better prepare for their arrival and sustain their presence once they come?

Here are a few questions to get us started:

1. What sort of language are we using?

Every culture has its own language.  The church world is no exception! If you want these crowds to keep coming back, you might need to explain “Kairos” and “Dunamis” or even “Highly Favored” instead of barking that they just need to mature spiritually.

2. Have you prepared for their kids?

As a former youth pastor, I am clear that there are more and more families who are selecting their church homes based on what the church will offer for not just mom and dad, but for John, Jr. and Jane as well. Have you prepared your children and youth ministries for receiving the new folks?

3. Have you created a strategy for them to grow with you?

These folks are hungry to get their ‘GROW’ on! They want to pray more, but may not know how. They want to start reading God’s Word and don’t know where to start. They want to start having people hold them accountable for how to live out their faith, but don’t know how.  Do you have a plan in to help them learn how to pray, read God’s Word, connect with people, give of their talent, time, and treasure? A simple plan will help.

4. Is your ministry equipped?

Your ministry approach is like college orientation.  It’s great to have an awesome orientation for incoming freshmen (worship service), but its even better to have the infrastructure and back-in approach together to offer once orientation is completed. In a college setting, that’s the classes, academic advisers, websites, administrative procedures, academic calendars, etc. In a ministry setting, that’s the teachers, classes, workshops, studies, website, counselors, handouts, etc. Is your church equipped to disciple them after the benediction?

5. How long is your worship service?

If your worship service is designed for those that are already church-ed, it’ll probably be too long.  Long gone are the days of three hour services and even the expectation of folks staying in church all day. Most people are looking for an impact-ful experience in about 90 minutes or less (120 minutes if it is totally amazing!). If your worship is too long, with too many gaps, hasn’t been planned out, and is overwhelming, you may lose them for good.

6. How are your people?

There’s really no way for me to sugar-coat this one other than to say, if you’ve got nice people that’ll be the best marketing you can’t pay for. If your members and/or representatives are mean, fake, or ‘uppity’ (that’s not a real word!), you can have a great preacher with great music, the mean-spirited folks in the pews will keep others from returning to your church.  This kind of marketing is destructive and debilitating to any church. Almost anyone is looking for a church that genuinely loves people.  At the core of it, we’re in the people business.  This can’t be ignored, because it speaks to the culture of your church.

7. Do you follow-up with them?

With most businesses today, after you engage with them one time, you’re on “The List”. While this can be nagging, the wisest companies know how to keep you in the loop without overwhelming you.  They ask you, “when do you want to be contacted?” They’ll send you a birthday email or birthday postcard.  Amazon sends book recommendations based on your searches. Best Buy sends you emails based on previous purchases and upcoming holidays. Local restaurants send you coupons for free appetizers for additional meals purchased.  The church can learn from this. How can we effectively follow-up with people once they connect one time? I believe data management is one of the next frontiers of effective ministry management. Find a way to get your “Lists” together!

This is just a start.  I’m sure that others could add to this list.  You could probably add to this list yourself.  The whole point is, since they’re coming, you might as well be prepared for them. I’d love to know what you’re doing already to prepare. Do you mind sharing?

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