Church Involvement

Creating a Culture of Involvement in Every Church – 2018 Church Involvement Conference January 19 & 20

Always Being Prepared for Something

God is Always Preparing You for Something

One of the most impressive (to me) Bible stories is the story of Moses.   Think about this:  he was born into a hostile environment, found by the Pharoah’s daughter, raised in the palace, nursed by his mother, a favorite son of the Pharoah and then murders an Egyptian.   That’s the first 40 years of his life.

Having run for his life, he ends up marrying a shepherdess and becomes a shepherd for 40 years.   I mean, what kind of highly educated man would want to do that?   But he humbly shepherded sheep until He encountered God in the burning bush.

Those first 80 years of his life prepared him for his ultimate calling:   to lead God’s chosen out of slavery and into a new land.

One of our retired brothers has worked in the jail ministry with drug dealers and addicts.   I recently learned that he had been a drug head when he was younger and had struggled with it all his life.    He also shared with me his feelings about it all:   “The Lord has prepared me for this ministry.”    I agree.   It’s difficult to argue with that.    His female counterpart is a mother of two fine young folks and works in a factory.    She works long hard hours and has opened her home to more than one female addict.    I ask her ever-so-often, “Are you ok?”    Her answer?   “I love this.   This is what I should be doing.”   I agree.    I believe that God has prepared her all her life to do what she does week after week in our county jail.

What is (and what has) the Lord preparing you for?   If you’re a recovering addict, he may be preparing you to work with addicts.   If you have survived cancer, he may be preparing you to help others who are struggling with cancer.   If you have been through a divorce, God may be preparing you to minister to divorcees.   If you have lost a loved one, He may be preparing you to help others in grief.   If you are extraordinaire with computers, the Lord has prepared you to help with websites and computer issues for others (and maybe even the church).   If you are in medicine, the Lord has prepared you to help those who cannot afford health care (home and abroad).     If you have the skills of a carpenter, he has called you to share that expertise with those that need it.  The list can go on and on.  God is always preparing us for something now and later.

When I was in undergraduate school I prepared to be an educational director.

The Lord sent me to Ohio to preach for 30 years.   I now do involvement work.  I am convinced that my service in pulpit work prepared me for what I do now.

Hindsight is always 20/20.   It is usually when we are older that we can look back and see how God prepared us for some special ministry.    It is sobering and humbling, too.

More recently I have survived a rare deadly cancer.   God has prepared me to help others going (or about to go) through the same experiences.   My wife and I started a cancer support group.   Last evening we had our largest group meet.  I believe that the Lord is not done with me yet and that He is still preparing me to serve in other ways.

I have lived long enough to see that God is always preparing others and myself for something.   It is usually something bigger than any of us!     Be open to His leading and be sensitive to his preparing you for service even in the difficult times.   I promise you that He is always preparing you for something.  Trav

Valuing People Intrinsically and Extrinsically

Do We Value People Intrinsically or Extrinsically?

Several years ago our church secretary contracted MS.   I can think of few diseases more humbling and devastating than MS.   This MS attacked this mother of two school girls and wife of a good church leader.   She was no longer able to be our secretary and soon she could no longer drive.   As the disease digressed, she could no longer cook or do any of the domestic duties that she had loved doing for many years.   Her husband took early retirement to care for her.

When she was struggling greatly with this ‘new norm’ she felt useless and even worse, she felt worthless.     I can relate with this in some small way:   when I was fighting cancer over the past eight months, I was weak: I couldn’t work, I could barely walk, I spent the majority of my day getting up, getting dressed, taking meds, eating and exercising, taking treatments and going back to bed.   To say the least, what this mother experienced was very painful—much more painful than what I experienced.

In a feeble attempt to help this Christian sister, I did some study about valuing people; I learned that we either value people because of their intrinsic worth or because of their extrinsic worth.   What’s the difference?

When we value people extrinsically, we value them only because of something that makes them valuable to us:   their looks, money, intelligence, athletic ability, their friendship to us, their work—in other words they are valued for things external to themselves.   Their value is based on who they are, what they can do (for themselves, us or others) or for other obvious reasons.

On the other hand, others of us value people because of their intrinsic value (not so obvious). What is this?   Simply put, this is the value of a person because of their pricelessness.   A person is valuable ‘in and of themselves.’   They are valuable because they are created in the image of God.   This secretary was valuable to her family and the church for many extrinsic reasons but some of those reasons went away with her physical abilities.   But I assured her of her intrinsic worth.   This is one of the many reasons that we value human life no matter the age or physical or mental condition of the person.

How do we value people in the church?  Even though we are not to value people as the world does (cf. Romans 12:1-2), we do.   Sometimes we value only those folks who can give us something, or do something special or those with whom we have a relationship. Sometimes we unintentionally and unknowingly devalue people who are not our age, our gender, our race, etc.  I’ve seen several folks in the church overlooked or not befriended because ‘they have nothing’ to offer (a form of judging).   But we are to love (value each other intrinsically) each other unconditionally (cf. John13:34-35) and accept one another (Rom.15:7).   In spite of our sin, Christ knew our intrinsic value and died for us.   My point?   Everyone is valuable in the world, in the community, and in the church.   We need to treat everyone as valuable because God does.   Many lonely souls sit in church pews because no one values them as does the Lord.   People continue to be lost because we do not value their souls as does the Lord.

Before I move on, I think we should value people extrinsically also.   Is this a contradiction?   No, this is just stating a fact and recognizing that God wants us to honor those to whom honor is due and appreciate those who do the will of God.   To totally not recognize or appreciate extrinsic value in the church and community would also be wrong.   There needs to be balance.

A lesson for involvement ministers:  If we are not careful, as involvement ministers, we may only value those in the body who are active members.   I confess that I get frustrated, angry and disillusioned with members who would prefer to sit in a pew than to serve in the kingdom.   However, they are just as valuable as those who are involved in a half dozen ministries.  They are intrinsically valuable and always will be.   God loves (intrinsically values) them as much as He loves me.

The Lord really emphasizes both values systems.   If you think about it long enough, you will realize that the Lord set up both value systems (in pure form) and follows them both; this simply means we should too.   We are created in His image (intrinsic value) and we are created by Him (his workmanship; Eph.2:10) for good works (extrinsic value); in some very real sense we become more valuable to the kingdom, the world and our families as we use the gifts and blessings God has given us. Either way, we and our souls are worth more than the entire world. We are precious in His sight.

We simply need to recognize our worth and the worth of others in these manners and when we do, we will all be happier and love life more and glorify the Father who loves us just the way we are.   The world will be a better place and the kingdom will grow and grow and grow.

(see an excellent article that touches upon this topic in the latest “Christian Chronicle” by Jonathan Holmes)  http://www.christianchronicle.org/article/are-ministries-reflecting-society-more-than-jesus

Travis Irwin

Athens, TN

Respond or React?


I remember a Bible class years ago wherein my teacher said something that sticks with me years later.   He said,   “Jesus never reacted; He always responded.”   I’ve studied the life of Christ since that day and that saying is 100% true.   Even with the Pharisees He didn’t react:  He responded by teaching truth and revealing truth about His accusers.  His answers and even His descriptions were meant for teaching not as a means of reaction.

I suggest that reaction leads to more reaction while response many times squelches potentially volatile times (see Proverb 15:1: a soft answer turns away wrath but a harsh answer stirs up wrath).    I also suggest that reaction can start a chain of reactions and events that can lead to hard feelings, people taking things personally, people leaving your congregation, one time friends turning their backs on you or things worse.

Here are some ground rules for preventing causing reactions in others:

  1.  Don’t be reactive yourself.   No matter what is said or done, don’t react. Don’t stoop to the same unchristian behavior of others.
  2.  Expect others to be reactive.   I have found that many Christians to be some of the most reactive folks in the world.   Don’t expect the majority of your brothers and sisters to respond; most will react. This is why point #1 is important.
  3.  Before speaking, think and pray things through.   I’ve written letters and later tore them up and threw them away because they were written in anger.   Give yourself at least 24 hours to think something through before writing about it or talking to others about it.  What if you are suddenly attacked?   Granted, this is the most difficult time to not react.   However, you can pray that you will not be reactionary when sudden attacks happen.
  4.  Get counsel.   Sometimes a good friend, spouse or impartial third party can listen to you and be totally objective and give good advice.   Be as impartial as you can when sharing with others and do not seek sympathy; seek counsel.   An impartial person can tell you if you are over reacting or if you need to forget the whole thing or how you need to respond.
  5.  Some things just aren’t worth the time or trouble.   We usually realize this if we think about it for a while.   We learn that some issues aren’t worth talking about and we just need to leave them alone or deal with them later when our emotions have calmed down.
  6.  Timing is everything.   Others are under great stress and they seem to always be under a time crunch.   Also, their lives are very full—in fact, most folks are overcommitted.   Their fuses are short and they don’t like foolishness especially if/when they interrupt something you said, wrote or did as ‘foolish .’   When you verbalize or write on an opinion that may stir the emotions of others, take timing into consideration.  I remember one older preacher suggesting that preachers preach on immodesty during the winter when people are not being immodest.   Proper timing is not compromise, it is wise.
  7. Learn to listen.   A lot of disagreements are because people don’t listen well and misunderstand others. Find out (listen and don’t interrupt until he/she is completely finished) exactly what a person’s complaint is and why and then answer that. Ask questions for clarification. Another person may not understand you, but this is no reason for you to misunderstand him/her.

Trav

HELP!! I’m Trying to Find Involvement Ministers

HELP!!  I’m Trying to Find Involvement Ministers

For over three years I’ve been looking for involvement ministers (IM).   The reason is simple:  I want to build a network of IMs who can assist each other and help those entering that ministry.

I do not know of any schools of preaching or colleges/universities that offer classes on this ministry.

Also, I am hearing more and more of full time evangelists, missionaries and youth ministers who are transitioning into involvement and yet I don’t know how they go about getting their training.  I am also very much aware of the many different approaches to IM and different philosophies of IM.

My method:   I have attempted to find IMs in various ways. One is to look at websites of churches of Christ (www.churches-of-christ.org).   A more recent method is to call churches that have over 300 members (using the Directory of Churches of Christ in the United States).   Churches with fewer members probably can only afford one minister and he is probably a pulpit minister.  My focus has been primarily on the states that touch the State of Tennessee,  but I have also spoken to congregations in other states.   My focus has been on these states because the CIC (Church Involvement Conference) is here in Athens, TN and folks from surrounding states attend.   Presently, I have contacted churches in seven states including approximately 124 phone calls.   I have two states to go and about 96 more calls to make.   A report is copied and pasted below this article.

What I’ve Learned So Far:   I’ve talked with one female IM and a total of about nine IMs.   IMs go by different names:  IMs, Discipleship Minister, Family Life Minister, Spiritual Growth Minister, Connections Minister, etc.   Some of these folks have transitioned out of another ministry (usually youth) and have differing job descriptions.   An updated report follow this article.

What I ask:   I ask questions about their training, books they’ve recently read, if they would write articles for this website, how long they’ve been doing IM and a host of other questions.   Many of them have transitioned from a ministry to IM.

I make some offers:   I encourage them to check out my website, to attend CIC, to submit articles for my website, and offer coaching and consulting. Some of these folks have travelled to Athens and we’ve spent a day or more together. That offer is open to any congregation or transitioning ministers.

What YOU can do:     if you are reading this and you are an IM or know of any IMs, would you please contact me and introduce yourself or those you know who are IMs?   That would save me lots of time for sure.   My email is travisirwin@att.net

I will update this article from time to time so please keep an eye on it.   Trav

Results of a Personal Search for Involvement Ministers

by Travis Irwin, 2017

 

Alabama – 45 calls

VM’s – 4   SEC/Office – 6     IMs – 5     Deacons – 4   Elders – 3   Assoc – 1   Couple – 1

Arkansas – 30 calls

VM’s – 4     SEC/Office – 3    IMs – 5   Deacons – 2   Elder – 3  Minister – 1    Assoc. – 3

Georgia – 10 calls

IMs – 5     Deacons – 1     Woman with the elders – 1    VM – 1

Kentucky – 18

VM – 2   IM – 3

Mississippi – 15 calls

VM – 2     Need one – 1   Office – 2    IM’s – 4   Deacons – 1

North Carolina – 9 calls

VM – 1    1 vmbox full     No IMs in NC     Sent materials to the churches with over 300 members

South Carolina – 5 calls

Deacons – 1     Office – 1     (IM called) Connections – 1    Need one – 1

Virginia – 5 calls

New members – 1     Office – 1    Family Life – 1

Criteria:   congregations with over 300 members in states that physically touch Tennessee.  No Non Institutional or One Cupper congregations were contacted.

5 of the IMs are female and the rest are male.   I still have to do the stateof Tennessee (87 calls) which will bring the total to (when completed) 214 congregations.

Codes: VM is voicemail (left a voice seeking a return call), SEC is secretary (spoke only to the secretary), Deacon or Elder (he is the IM), Office (info sent to the church office to be distributed to the leaders), Assoc is associate minister who does the IM. In one situation, the eight elders do the IM.   “Need one” is where the secretary commented that their congregation needed an IM.   Today’s date is June 20, 2017.   I send information to these about the “Church Involvement Conference,”  this website, the retreats that I do for churches and a free booklet and this report.  It is an honor and joy to talk to IMs; they range from new ones to those transitioning from one ministry to IM.   They are all excited about their ministries.

Travis Irwin

Athens, TN

Is Attendance Service?

Does Church Attendance Constitute ‘Serving?’

Some very nice members of the church, I’ve  been told,  equate attending Bible classes and worship assemblies as their ‘service’ in the church.   Is Bible class and worship attendance the same or equal to ministry in the church?

If you want my opinion, I would say “No.”   Upon what basis? It is based upon what James says in James 1:22 that we are to be doers and not just hearers of the Word. Hearing the word is not service.   Doing is service and service is doing.

The answer may be “Yes” if members came to the worship assemblies with the purpose of edifying their fellow and sister Christians.  The edifying may be considered as ministering to the assembled saints.    Also most folks don’t participate in the singing of the assemblies, and most rush out of the worship assemblies to get to the local eatery (before other churches do) and thus do not greet or fellowship with other Christians.   There’s not much serving going on in such instances.  Those who remain to greet and encourage after services are using their gifts and are serving.

We usually say that we assemble to worship.   I’d say so.   But hopefully we also assemble to edify and encourage each other.  In my estimation, edification and encouragement may be considered as serving others.    Sitting and listening are not necessarily service.   Participation with the intent of glorifying God and edifying one another would be considered as service.

What about those who lead worship or those who teach our classes?   We speak of those who ‘serve’ at the Lord’s table and from that standpoint those who lead us in worship are serving.   Those who prepare and teach/preach Bible lessons, I believe are serving.   Such folks are using their gifts and are serving.

What’s my point?   If you are a Christian and you want to be a serving Christian—not just a Christian in name—you will want to use/exercise what God has given you in the area of service or ministry in your home, in your workplace, in your school, in your community and yes, in your church even in the assemblies.    For example, if you have the gift of pastoring, you will shepherd sheep.   If you have the gift of exhortation, you will exhort.   If you have the gift of giving, you will give liberally.   You need to discover what your gift is and use it (go to www.churchinvolvement.com for more information on The I Serve U Inventories).

I suggest to you, in my opinion, sitting in a pew and listening (and looking around) are not the same as service (and the same for attending a Bible class).   I remember a sign I saw years ago over the entrance into a church’s auditorium; it read:  “Enter to worship, leave to serve.”   Sounds reasonable to me.    What do you think?  I’d like to hear from you.

We need to teach and train our brethren that they need to attend Bible classes and worship assemblies to become more like Christ (to become serving disciples) and to honor the One who saves us.   We also need to teach them that service is doing something active versus something passive (sitting) and that service will go outside the four walls of a church edifice.

Trav

 

Are We “Accommodating” or “Assimilating?”

ARE WE ‘ACCOMMODATING’

            ‘ASSIMILATING?’

To accommodate someone is to do a favor for or help someone.   In the church, we use the word to describe how we adjust meeting times, offer child care, provide adequate parking, offer age (or need) sensitive classes, and generally provide for the creature comforts and spiritual needs of those attending our classes and assemblies.

On the other hand, there is that other word:   assimilate.   It means to make part of oneself or to accept or to incorporate.   This is best illustrated by a new member being welcomed by a church family, being introduced to the members, being invited to classes, being the recipients of Christian hospitality, becoming a part of a ministry, and becoming part of the whole congregation.

Too often we are do a pretty good job of accommodating our brothers and sisters in Christ (and even guests).   In some sense, we want to attract and keep members and this is often done with accommodation. On the other hand, we often fail in assimilating them into the whole body to a point where they feel accepted, valued, and needed.   Accommodating is a gracious gesture; assimilating is an act of true discipleship and fellowship.

Accommodating is generally amoral and it has its limits.   We cannot compromise God’s truth to accommodate others. Assimilation, on the other hand, is a necessity for the local church to experience its peak performance.   Assimilation creates an environment of spiritual and numerical growth. Assimilation requires full participation and cooperation of every member for all the benefit and for the church to grow.

While it could be argued that both are important, assimilation is the more important of the two.   It better matches the Lord’s design and purpose of His church.   The Lord is more interested in our growth than our personal comfort.

Among the many things that constantly challenge local church leaders, this is the most challenging: doing and providing things that promote constant church growth.   One of the many things that church leaders can do to assimilate their fellow and sister members is to help them discover and use their spiritual gifts and passions for the local church.

I have designed an inventory that assists church leaders and members in discovering six priceless pieces of information about each member, that when used wisely, will strengthen and promote member assimilation and cause the church to grow.   The inventory is called the I Serve U Inventories and they are designed to be comprehensive, easy to do and fun.   If I can help you in this assimilation process, please let me know.     Trav

The Greatest Commands & Your Giftedness

The Greatest Commands & Your Giftedness

We are all familiar with the confrontation between Jesus and a lawyer in Matthew 22:34-40.   The lawyer wanted to know what the greatest command was.   Jesus answered:  love God with all your being, and love your neighbor as yourself (Irwin paraphrase).  Jesus said there was a greatest commandment as it relates to our God and one that relates to our fellow and sister human beings.

We usually quote Romans 13:8-10 to illustrate what it means to love our neighbor: love does no harm to its neighbor.  In other words, the spirit of the law of Christ is love and when we love our neighbors we do only good for them and obeying the Lord is a form of doing good towards our neighbor.  We also understand to love God is to obey Him (1 John 5:3).

But how do these greatest commands apply to the blessings we enjoy as Christians?   How do we express our love for the Lord and our neighbors with our spiritual gifts, passions and other blessings that God has richly bestowed on us?

We express our love for the Lord by using our gifts to further His Will on earth.   Long story made short, we use what God has entrusted to us to further His will in private life, in public life, in the life of the church, etc.   We do not exploit His gifts for selfish or evil purposes but for HIS good purposes.   God is glorified by such action and much good is accomplished and the church grows numerically and spiritually.   God is exalted by such love.

We express our love for our neighbors by using our gifts to bless them.   When I use my gift of compassion (for example) to serve my neighbor, he/she is blessed by my benevolent acts towards him/her.   When I use my gift of teaching for the good of my neighbor, he/she hears and hopefully obeys the gospel.   When I use my life experiences, life skills and education for the benefit of others it is a win-win situation:  God is gloried, I fulfill my God-given purpose and people are blessed.   Life is better for all involved.

We are stewards (managers) of all that God has given us.   Paul says that stewards are to be faithful (cf. 1 Cor.4:2).   We are faithful stewards when we love our God and love our neighbors [as we love ourselves] by using all the blessings the Lord has given us for the furtherance of His will on earth and as we bless the lives of those around us.   Such stewardship is true stewardship.   Our blessings are not only for our good.  They are also to be used for the extension of God’s kingdom and for the welfare of others in and out of the church.

Are you using God’s blessings to fulfill the Greatest Commands?   Are you a faithful steward of all that God has put into your care?

Travis Irwin

Involvement Minister, Athens, TN

www.churchinvolvement.com

Priceless Helpful Information About Your Members: Members’ Inventories

Other than their names, physical addresses and phone numbers, what information about your members would be most helpful to you?   If you are an elder, deacon, ministry leader or pulpit minister, what information about each member would you deem most helpful in growing the church?   What information about each member would create a culture of involvement in the local church?   What information would be most helpful to each member as each attempts to discover his/her uniqueness for ministry?

This is the purpose of membership inventories.   Good ones are designed to assist members and church leaders in discovering things about the members that promote Christian service and church growth (spiritually and numerically).

Before Inventories, there must be Biblical instruction.    The Pew Institute did a study of several religious groups and it was found that a hefty 47% of the membership of churches of Christ were involved in ministry.  But what about the other 53%?   In some congregations the percentage of non-involved members may be higher according to the well-known 80/20 rule.   How do you go about getting everyone involved?

All of God’s people must be taught that discipleship requires servanthood. God’s people must be taught that they are a priesthood of believers.   God’s children must be instructed that each Christian is uniquely designed for ministry.   God’s church must be taught that bearing fruit is required of each member.  God’s folks must be instructed that each member should contribute to the body of Christ in some positive way other than attending church assemblies and giving money.  Biblical instruction will educate the brethren in these matters.   When members learn that filling out a member inventory is related to God’s teaching on ministry and that the ultimate goal is spiritual growth, they will be more likely to cooperate fully.

Member Inventories are harmless and most helpful.   A member inventory is NOT a test. It is not designed to question one’s mental state.   It is not designed to expose a person’s sins.  A member inventory is designed to assist a member in discovering his/her (for examples) non-miraculous spiritual gifts, passions, etc.  It is designed to help a member see how God has uniquely designed him/her for service.  Members get excited when they make these discoveries about themselves and about others.   Having discovered this, the member is ready to pick ministries to serve in.

Using the information to the max.   A congregation can best reap the benefits of the members’ inventories by creating a database with this new found priceless information and making the database available to all the church leaders who can then pick and choose folks to serve in different areas of the church. It is also most helpful for a few members to become ‘coaches’ who assist members in finding ministry that is most ‘fitting’ for them (fitting refers to ministry for which a member is best suited according their giftedness, temperament, etc.).

More and more church leaders are looking for means and methods of getting those under their care involved in ministry in and out of the church.   If you are one of those church leaders, please allow me to strongly encourage you to do research in the area of member inventories.    My inventory is I Serve U Inventories and you can find information about it from this website or email me.

Travis Irwin

Athens, TN

Travis Irwin has served in youth ministry, pulpit ministry and in the involvement ministry over the past forty-seven years.   He is presently the involvement minister for the Athens church of Christ in Athens, TN and he has designed his own member inventory.  He can be contacted at travisirwin@att.net or 423 920 3060.

 

I Serve U Inventories Now Available.

I Serve U Inventories are now available.

What information about your members (of your church) would you find most helpful—-other than their names, physical addresses and phone numbers?

After eight years of study, Travis Irwin says that there are six pieces of information that church elders, deacons, ministry leaders, preachers,  involvement or connection ministers and members need.  Having and using this information will change the DNA for the good of the congregation until the Lord returns.

What pieces of information are the six?   Spiritual gifts?   Yes.   But this is not enough information to make a radical change for the good of your church.  You will need (and want) the other five pieces of information.

Q&A about I Serve U Inventories

Who is the author of the I Serve U Inventories?

     Travis Irwin is the author of the inventories.   He has over 40 years of ministry experience in the churches of Christ and most recently he is in his ninth year as involvement minister with Athens church of Christ in Athens, TN.   Over the years Travis Irwin has studied many inventories, but he has been unhappy with all of them. He decided to write his own and he created I Serve U Inventories.

What are the benefits of the I Serve U Inventories?

  • These inventories reap 6 priceless pieces of information that will greatly benefit church leaders, church members and the entire congregation.

 

  1. These inventories are well designed and they are original.
  2. These inventories are self-explanatory and easy to use.
  3. These inventories are less expensive and less complicated than others.

What are the costs of the I Serve U Inventories?

   Congregations choosing to use these inventories have several options:   (1) buy a license to print and use the inventories, (2) buy inventories that are already printed or (3) have Travis Irwin introduce the inventories to your church leaders in an appropriate setting. If Travis Irwin introduces the inventories to your church leaders, the church can use the inventories for free.

To contact Travis Irwin, go to www.churchinvolvement.com

Call or text: 423 920 3060 or email at travisirwin@att.net

I Serve U Inventories copyrighted, 2016.   These inventories are used exclusively in the

I Serve U Ministries.

The I Serve U Inventories will get that information for you and will help create a culture for involvement in ministry in your church.    Contact Travis Irwin at 423 920 3060 or email him at travisirwin@att.net

 

Keeping Members From Going Out the Back Door

door1“Closing the Back Door: Keeping the Members You Have”

Most church leaders and ministers recognize that there is a retention problem in our congregations.   It appears we baptize 20 to 40 people a year and yet that many (if not more) disappear or leave the church (I call this members going out the back door of the church).   There are 3 reasons why people leave the church: (1) they fall away, (2) they move away or (3) they pass away. We have some control on #1 and no control over reasons #2 and #3.

What May We Do About Those Who Fall Away?

I think there are three basic reasons why we have this retention problem in some churches and why people “fall away.”   We need to fix the problem.

First, in some congregations we promote baptisms to the neglect of spiritual growth.   We are in a hurry to baptize people (nothing wrong with that) and then we ‘forget’ or neglect those we’ve baptized because we’ve got to get to the next person that we wish to baptize into Christ.     Simply put, we are all about teaching and baptizing folks and then we forget/neglect the ones we’ve taught and baptized.     Some churches have poor retention because they have no plans to teach and mature new Christians.   Many of these novices grow tired of coming to church and not having the personal attention they need to grow and they slip out the back door.

Second, there is confusion over the role of preachers and elders.    In some sense, both evangelists and pastors are to equip the saints for service (cf. Eph.4:11-16). However (in many congregations) we expect the located evangelist to fulfill His God-given roles of preaching, teaching and evangelizing the lost PLUS many congregations expect the preacher to fulfill the role of a Pastor (feed the [saved] flock, protect the flock, discipline the flock, comfort the flock, go after sheep that have strayed, equip saints for service, visit every member, keep up with every member, get every member involved in ministry, mentor every member, do all the funerals and weddings, and basically be everywhere, etc.). What happens in many cases is the preacher does not have the energy or time do both: he simply cannot fulfill his biblical calling well and he cannot do the work of the elders/pastors well.   The result:   more members ‘go out the back door.’   However, when an evangelist fulfills his primary biblical roles and elders/pastors fulfill their God-given primary roles, the back door gets shut and few people can walk out the back door.   At the very least, those attempting to go out the back door are intercepted.

A third problem is that many new members aren’t befriended by other members of the church—and they fall away (go out the back door).   Brother Fravil Yeakley (church growth expert for the churches of Christ) many years ago told us that new members must make at least six new friends immediately upon becoming members.   If they don’t, they will fall away within six months.   I’ve seen that prediction come true too many times.   Every growing church needs to have some ministry or means of new members being befriended.   It may be through worship assemblies, Bible classes, small groups or ministries.   Whatever that means is, it must be an intentional.

The point?   We all bear a responsibility to increase the retention rate and close the back door.   Please share any suggestions you may have. Trav

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