Bright ideas for churches
January 10 2003 by Mark Wingfield , Baptist Standard

Bright ideas for churches | Friday, Jan. 10, 2003
  • Who are they? When lay members of the congregation are involved in worship roles such as Scripture reading, prayer or welcoming guests, provide a two- or three-sentence biographical sketch about each one somewhere in the worship bulletin. Even in medium-sized churches, many people may not know where the person works, who they're married to or how long they've been a member.
  • Information online. Use the church's Web site to publish information about the upcoming Sunday service - who will be preaching, what the special music will be, who will be baptized.
  • Encourage them. When someone is to be baptized, invite church members who have played a role in that person's spiritual development to write notes of encouragement that can be given to the baptismal candidate that morning.
  • Why do you do it? Often, churches wrongly assume that everyone who attends worship understands why things are done the way they are and the symbolism behind everything. Use a few key phrases in the worship bulletin to give occasional explanations of the church's practices and symbolism.
  • Leave an impression. If your church operates a welcome center to greet Sunday morning visitors, prepare a flier with a list of all the available Bible study classes, the room numbers and the teacher's name and contact information. Escort the visitors to the class and introduce them to the teacher.
  • A bloomin' idea. Recycle Sunday morning floral arrangements by making smaller bouquets that can be distributed to the church's homebound members, the sick or to visitors.
  • Make contact at lunch. If you're a teacher of an adult Bible study class, get to know your class members by inviting one person to lunch each month. Through the course of a year, you will have made 12 solid contacts and strengthened the bond of the class.
  • Let them eat doughnuts. Rather than relying on individual adult Bible study classes to provide refreshments and announcements on Sunday mornings, serve doughnuts and coffee in the church lobby or some other gathering area between early church and morning Bible study. Hand out a brief flier with announcements, and encourage fellowship in the church.
  • Give mom a hand. In addition to the usual parking spaces for visitors and the handicapped, reserve spaces near the door for pregnant women and single mothers. Train greeters to help carry in diaper bags, infant seats and other items single moms wrestle with.
  • Spot the lot. If your church is located on a major road, especially in a suburban area, post a sign that says "Commuters Welcome" and encourage residents to park there for carpooling. Rather than sitting empty on weekdays, the church parking lot becomes an outreach to the community.
  • Reward unseen helpers. Ask church members to nominate individuals seen doing special things that might otherwise go unnoticed. Then once a quarter, recognize those who "got caught doing something nice."
  • Break bread together. Organize a dinner club in which single adults and couples who agree to participate are assigned to groups of eight to 10. These small groups are then encouraged to meet once a month or once every other month for dinner. After a set number of dinners, the groups are reshuffled, ensuring that over time everyone meets a wide cross-section of church members they might not otherwise have known.
  • Say thanks. Send quarterly thank-you letters to all givers from the pastor or finance committee chairman or deacon chairman. Tell about specific ministries the church accomplished during the quarter with the money. Highlight what contributions will be used for in the next quarter. These letters both express gratitude and demonstrate that church contributions make a concrete difference.
  • Stand with the candidate. As a baptismal candidate stands in the baptistry, ask those who have taught, prayed for or cared for the person in his or her spiritual journey to stand as a symbol of support for their baptism. An additional option is to ask one of those individuals to speak a few words of witness on behalf of the baptismal candidate.
  • Let'em be mum. Never fail to greet first-timers in worship, but avoid putting them on the spot by asking them to stand (or to sit while everyone else remains standing). Speak to them as "guests" rather than as visitors, and give them the option of filling out a guest card or not. Remind all guests they're not expected to contribute when the offering plates come around.
  • Bake'em welcome. Rather than visiting church prospects empty-handed, go with a baked good such as homemade cookies or bread. A simple delivery of baked goods provides a good entry point for immediate follow-up on Sunday visitors.
  • Increase lay involvement in worship. Involve laymen and laywomen, even youth, in worship by asking them to read Scripture, lead prayers or welcome guests. When everyone on the platform is a staff member, it gives laity the impression that only professional staff must lead worship.
  • Light the way for families. During the Advent season, if your church uses an Advent wreath in worship, invite a different family or single adult each week to light the candles as a part of the worship experience.
  • Keep a list. Clergy and lay leaders alike can keep outreach on the front burner by maintaining a personal list of six or seven current prospects for prayer and contact. When someone on the list moves beyond the prospect stage, add another person to the list.
  • Wish a happy birthday. Send birthday cards from the pastor's office or other appropriate church leadership to all church members and children. This is a little touch with a personal impact.
  • Send an e-mail. Find new uses for e-mail as a more efficient and speedier means of communicating with church members. Bible study classes may use e-mail to communicate class news and prayer concerns. E-mail also offers a quick way to send out reminders of committee meetings or to distribute minutes or other information.
  • Be prepared. At the church welcome center, be prepared to offer more than directions to a Bible study class. Be prepared to tell how to contact a minister, what current discipleship classes are offered, what holiday activities or special programs are planned, how to join the church. Also, remember that walking into a strange church building can be confusing to a guest, so be ready with maps of church facilities.
  • Let'em eat free. Provide complimentary meal on Wednesday for first-time guests and new members. Send a coupon in the mail as a reminder.
  • Who's calling? Make sure someone is available to answer the church phone on Sunday mornings. Voice mail won't do if someone needs to get an urgent message delivered.
  • Silence the bells. Print a simple statement in the worship bulletin requesting cell phones and pagers to be turned off during worship.
  • Say hello. Enlist church members of all ages to serve as greeters on Sunday mornings. Station greeters at all primary entrances, so that everyone who enters receives a warm welcome. Don't forget that children and youth make good greeters as well, and it's a good way to model for them a welcoming spirit in the church.
  • Spread the word. Keep a supply of Bibles on hand not only in the church office but also in Bible study classrooms to give to guests who don't have one.
  • Give a boost. Church staff members frequently hear complaints and criticisms. Buck the trend by writing notes of encouragement to staff members.
  • Give'em a buzz. When parents drop off preschoolers for worship care, give them a buzzer or pager like the kind used in restaurants. That way, parents can be notified during worship if they are needed without disrupting the service. It also gives peace of mind to new parents.
  • Give a keepsake. At the time of a person's baptism, offer some small keepsake as a reminder of the day - an embroidered handkerchief that can be used in the baptistry and then kept, a candle from the baptistry given with the reminder that "you are the light of the world."
  • Write an old-fashioned note. In an era of voice mail and e-mail, a handwritten note sent through the mail makes a big impression. Use hand-written notes to express appreciation or sympathy or words of encouragement.
  • Set a standard. At the conclusion of committee meetings, set a standard and a timetable for measuring whether the objectives desired have been met. Build in from the outset the expectation that what has been discussed will be done.
  • Take the night off. At certain times in the year, designate a Family Night Off and cancel regular Wednesday evening or Sunday evening activities, with an admonition for families to spend that time together in a special activity. The church may even provide resources for a family worship or study time.
  • Publish glad tidings. Look beyond the church for opportunities for the pastor to write a column about spirituality or faith. Small-town newspapers, neighborhood magazines and other local special-interest publications often are glad to have such columns. The content should not be promotional but rather helpful, which in turn identifies the pastor and the church as resources for help.
  • Let'em ask questions. Once a quarter or so, host an "Inquirer's Lunch" for those exploring church membership. Tell participants they will be free to ask anything about Christianity, being a Baptist, the Bible or church life.
  • Make an electronic flier. Create a brief presentation about the church in PowerPoint or some other media and burn it onto CDs for distribution to prospects as a sort of electronic brochure. Include music, photos and text.
  • Bake the bread. Involve church members in baking bread to be used for the Lord's Supper. This bread will look, feel and taste much more authentic than the "Baptist chiclets" often used. Also, in keeping with Jesus' instructions that the bread symbolizes his body and the Apostle Paul's analogy that the church is the body of Christ, this "body-baked" bread takes on a stronger meaning in worship.
  • Park it. If your church parking lot is large and distant, involve deacons or other volunteers to offer valet parking for the elderly and unaccompanied women.
  • Give'em a break. Once a quarter, sponsor an adult social night. Encourage adult Bible study classes to hold fellowships on this night, and provide childcare at the church. Parents can drop off children at the church, go to a designated location for their class fellowship and return later to pick up the children at church.
  • Prime the pump. When posting a sign-up list, always have five or six names on it to start. A blank list communicates the message that no one is interested or no one plans to attend.
  • Start a curriculum library. In youth or adult Sunday School classes where members don't read their lessons, start reference libraries for the class or department rather than purchasing individual copies of literature that go unused. When questions are raised in class, encourage members to go straight to a Bible dictionary, commentary or atlas to find the answer.
  • Be a name-dropper. In church newsletters, make a conscious effort to use member's names. If people know there's a chance their name is going to be the church newsletter, they will read it.
  • Build bridges in print. Use the church newsletter to publish photos and stories about people of different generations. Highlight stories of love, service, friendship and family. This can help people find common ground and learn more about people they see but don't know.
  • Send an alert. Use e-mail to send an alert to deacons, Sunday School leaders and other interested individuals when someone goes to the hospital or dies. This rapid response can rally prayer support and personal care.
  • Encourage them. Create an opportunity for the church's older adults to visit with children who are approaching baptism. The adults may share stories of their baptism and its meaning to them through the years. Adults also may pray specifically for the child and his or her family.
  • Give a greeting. Assign church members as hosts throughout the congregation each Sunday. These hosts may be given responsibility to speak to every person who sits near them in a specific area. This will make it harder for anyone to come to church without being greeted warmly.

    If this column sparks an idea that you would like to share, send it to Tony Cartledge, Biblical Recorder, P.O. Box 18808, Raleigh, N.C. 27619-8808 or editor@biblicalrecorder.org. Additional suggestions may be published in a later issue.

    (EDITOR'S NOTE: Wingfield is managing editor of the Baptist Standard. This list was compiled with input from Marv Knox, Dan Pryor, Robert Guffey, Tony Cartledge, Ken Camp, Johnny Pierce, Jerilynn Armstrong, Diana Garland, Phil Hester, Carolyn Shapard, David Winfrey, Charlie Warren, Trennis Henderson, Bo Prosser and Jana Pinson.)

  • Friday, Jan. 10, 2003

    Bright ideas for churches

    By Mark Wingfield Baptist Standard

    Sometimes, it's the small things that make the biggest difference. In that spirit, here's a collection of ideas used in a variety of Baptist churches that could be adapted to other locations to add sparkle, energy or a special touch to what's already being done. These are not programs to launch or philosophies to embrace. They're simply ideas that work.

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    1/10/2003 12:00:00 AM by Mark Wingfield , Baptist Standard | with 0 comments
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