Church Involvement

Creating a Culture of Involvement in Every Church

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.   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 SEC states but I have also spoken to congregations in other states.   My focus has been on SEC states because the CIC (Church Involvement Conference) is here in Athens, TN and folks from surrounding states attend.   Presently, I have contacted churches in three states.  I have a long ways to go to talk to 120 congregations.

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.  Some of these have so many items in their job descriptions I wonder how they have time to get anyone involved in anything.  Some have only 50% participation of their membership.   One congregation could not locate an IM so the eight elders are the IMs.   I kind of like that.

What I ask:   I ask questions about their training, books they’ve recently read, if they write articles for the church bulletin, how they go about getting folks involved, what percentage of their members are involved in ministry, and if they know certain folks that I know. I also ask them if they know of something (like a conference, workshop or lectureship) designed specifically for IMs.   So far, there are none other than our CIC which meets every January.

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

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

door1

 

Why Aren’t Some Members Involved?

getinvolved_1000Why Aren’t Some Members Involved?

Why aren’t all of your church members involved in some sort of ministry in your church?   Is it laziness or ignorance?   Or is it something else?

They’ve never been asked.   Some members have never been approached and been asked to get involved.   Whose fault is that?   I know members shouldn’t want to be asked, but there are members who will not get involved until they are personally approached and asked.     We have to decide to either ask or continue to watch these folks stand idle on the side lines.

Some members are not equipped.   Some folks are not involved because no one has taken an interest in equipping them to serve.   Some folks need some guidance and unless they get it, they will not serve.

Some folks are worldly.   The third soil of the Parable of the Soils was the thorny ground.   This soil represents folks who are too busy with worldly pursuits and concerns to have time to serve and bear fruit.   This is the toughest member to deal with because he/she has an excuse for every request or offer you have for him/her.   Bottom line: they ain’t got time for the Lord’s cause.   However, in my personal experience with these folks, I simply refuse to take “No” for an answer.

Some of the church’s ministries are not challenging enough. Let’s face it: some of the ministries in the church aren’t very challenging or rewarding.   Many of our ministries in the church are maintenance ministries and some members (especially millennials–those born in the 80’s and 90’s) are not interested.   It’s not that they think such ministries are beneath them; they are interested in helping folks in very practical ways.   The solution is to allow these people to come up with their ideas and then empower them. People want to make significant contributions to others and they want to experience spiritual growth as they serve.  Such requires that our ministries are fresh and challenging.

Some folks have been overworked and been unappreciated.   It’s kind of like, “once a Bible teacher, always a Bible teacher.” There are folks who have served for years and have never had a break and in many cases these folks have never been shown any public appreciation or been honored.   Most people do not serve to receive recognition or honor.   However, we all need to be appreciated and honored (honor to whom honor is due is a Biblical concept).   And, we all need a break from time to time.

Some folks have had bad experiences. Something went wrong, someone got upset, someone took control away, someone criticized—something went wrong. Some volunteers will “bail out” quickly when things get rocky in a ministry and may never return to volunteer for a ministry.

As a leader do what you can to prevent bad things from happening and making the serving environment one that is conducive to getting and keeping good volunteers.

Travis Irwin

Involvement Minister

Athens, TN

 

You & The Pulpit Minister

pulpit4If you are an involvement minister (or any type of minister other than a pulpit minister) your best support should come from the person in the pulpit.   What do I mean by that?

In spite of all that we teach (in churches of Christ) about the preacher not being the pastor and the preacher not being “the” leader of the church, he welds great influence. He has great influence because he does in fact ‘pastor’ the flock by teaching, and preaching, he visits the sick, buries the dead, performs weddings, attends all the church functions, does counseling, he usually knows everyone by name, and generally speaking, he is ‘everywhere.’   And, he also commands the pulpit. He, in spite of what we say about preachers not being pastors, is (in most cases) the spokesman for the local church.   He represents the leadership at large and what he says really means something.   When he says it, it’s serious business. No pun intended, but when he says it, “it’s gospel.”  When you or I make a two minute announcement, it doesn’t have the same effect.

How does this relate to other ministers in the local church?   You, as a youth minister, senior minister, college minister, involvement minister or whatever kind of minister, if you don’t get his support in and out of the pulpit, you have a hard row to hoe or worse.

When you have his support, life is good and your ministry is blessed.

Usually (with or without the pulpit minister’s support) you will have to write articles for the church bulletin, create attractive power point slides, use the church mail, use the church phone tree, talk to individuals, make phone calls, use facebook, use the church group email and hey, you may even get to make a 2 minute announcement from the pulpit, but nothing is as powerful as the pulpit minister saying something about you, your ministry, what you’re trying to accomplish or encouraging people to support your ministry.   Nothing!  I am NOT saying that your ministry is totally dependent upon the man in the pulpit.   I AM saying that he can be your best ally and your ministry will benefit greatly.

But there is something even more important that the pulpit man can do: he can preach lessons that support and teach what needs to be taught.   Here’s an example:   two years ago our 2014 congregation focus was ‘Down on the Farm’ Jesus’ Plentiful Harvest.   I asked our preacher to preach a full year on this theme. And, he did!   He spoke on the four ways we bear fruit for the Lord.   We had banners and projects for the members to do as a way of bearing fruit. He totally supported this by his preaching and announcements. It was wonderful and the response of the congregation was 100% involvement.   I’ve done other campaigns without such support and things went did ok but we would have done better if we had used the pulpit in a better manner.

If you are an involvement minister your best ally is the guy in the pulpit.   Ask him to make short announcements for you about ministry.   Ask him to preach sermon series on relevant topics to your ministry.   Be bold and ask him to preach for a full year on a theme that will motivate your members to move from the pew to the place of service.   Avoid being presumptuous and overbearing.

And you must also support him.   As much as we may deny it, you are second fiddle.  Some of us in such positions get a little jealous of the pulpit.  You need to realize that your preacher did not design it this way.   It’s just a fact of your church’s life.   Accept your position gladly and prayerfully. In some sense, you are a John the Baptist. You are like the folks that Paul mentions in Colossians 4 who supported his evangelistic work.   He could not do what he did without them.  You are part of a team that will only succeed when unity, harmony and support are mutual goals. There is no room for jealousy or competition in the Lord’s church. There is however, lots of room for cooperation and submission and verbal/written support. This is the Christian thing to do for both you and the pulpit minister.

Use every tool at your disposal to promote your ministry and kindly ask your preacher for his support in and out of the pulpit.   Any preacher worth his salt will do this—because he is first and foremost a servant, second he is spiritual and third, he is concerned about the overall growth and welfare of the church.

Note:  I love and appreciate pulpit ministers for at least two reasons:  my dad was a pulpit minister and second, I was a located full time pulpit minister for over 30 years.  I worked with and supported our involvement minister and several youth ministers during those years.  I have found that pulpit ministers consider themselves as stewards of their ministry and the pulpit.  They are almost always more interested in the welfare of the local church than getting their way.  I also know that preachers are, in some very real sense, limited in how much time they have to present lessons and make announcements.   As associate ministers we must keep this in mind when we ask them to verbally promote our ministry from the pulpit.   My good friend Jerrie Barber states that good relationships are what is needed in churches for things to go well.  I believe Church staff must have a good working relationship and that is priceless.   In fact, they should be friends as well.

Travis Irwin, Athens, TN

Your Main Purpose as a Leader

What is YourLeader Purpose as a Leader?

Paul told the Hebrew and Thessalonian Christians to submit to their leaders.  The question for you (as a leader) is this, “Are you as a leader worthy of such submission?”

Tons of books have been written about leadership with definitions, leadership styles and suggestions on how to be an effective leader.   Leadership is found in families, churches, businesses, communities and a hundred other places.

But what about your leadership in the church?   I think you have two main responsibilities as a leader:   (1)   to provide vision [direction] and (2) development.

Whether you are an elder, deacon, pulpit minister, ministry leader, Bible class teacher or some other type of leader in the church, you are to cast some sort of vision.   The vision may be specifically about your ministry, your preaching, your nurturing of the church, your plans for numerical church growth or something relevant with what you do as a leader.   Most leaders in the church have no goals for themselves much less the membership with which they work.   People thus do not know where they are going and what to expect.    What you have, without vision, is a totally ‘maintenance’ church and folks don’t get excited about maintenance and the church does not grow no matter how good you maintain things.

The second thing you should be doing is developing the people around you.  You should be developing future leaders, you should be developing the gifts of your members, you should be developing your ministry, you should be developing yourself, etc.  Such development assists in fulfilling the vision you have cast. Once again, we are not known for developing anything.   We wonder why we don’t have any folks to replace us (and others) when we resign or die.  We haven’t developed any one.   We wonder why we don’t move to higher levels of service in the church; we have not developed ourselves or others to have a higher more effective level of living and serving.

Many church leaders view their main purpose as maintaining what has been entrusted to them.  There are two problems with such reasoning:  (1)   it is NOT biblical and (2) the church does not grow spiritually or numerically with such thinking.

May I assist you learning how to create vision for your church and how to develop the folks around you?   Travis Irwin, Athens, TN

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