Church Involvement

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

Month: October 2015

Will the Church Learn from the Kiwanis Club?

Kiwanis1 Learning from the Kiwanis Club

Social and service clubs are a great blessing to many communities.   They create camaraderie, meet local needs and generally are a pleasant experience for their members.

Courtney Meyer (in Kiwanis magazine, April/May, 2015, pp.30-34) writes about the Kiwanis Club of Deltona-Southwest Volusia (Florida).   Here is a group of energetic civil-minded folks who decided to ask some tough questions—not of themselves but of locals like a policeman, a teacher, a pastor, a librarian, a real estate agent, a school counselor, a small business owner and a health care worker as well as a city manager.    What did they ask of these folks?    What are two top needs of the community?   The answers:  food and community unity.

This local club serves 5 cities and over 120,000 people.   This brief informal survey revealed something that the Kiwanis members did not know:  people were hungry.   They also learned of the homeless issue in their communities.   They learned of those who were already attempting to meet the needs.

The members mobilized and started donating to local food closets and joining hands with other social clubs to meet the need.   Such efforts had never been attempted before.

The results:   people started visiting the Kiwanis meetings.   Kiwanis got a reputation as a good organization that wanted to help folks.    Kiwanis also discontinued their pancake breakfast as a fund-raiser.   They made room for new projects.

What Could the Church Learn from Kiwanis?

  1.    The church should know what the local needs are.   The church that is relevant to the community (in which it resides and assembles) will know the needs of the community and seek to minister to some of them in the name of Christ (Gal.6:10; Matt.5:13-16). Are we as smart?   If we are smart, we will make room for new projects (ministries) based upon local needs.    This Kiwanis Club was not only missing out on helping folks, it appears that it had growth struggles.   After these folks learned of local needs and made some changes, their club become relevant, people were helped and their membership grew.   It has been said many times before, but it is still relevant—especially here:   doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is insanity.   The Kiwanis of Deltona broke the insanity cycle.  Are we as wise?   We show wisdom when we are cognizant of local needs and make room for new projects and ministries to meet those needs.
  2.    Second, churches need to assess their mission statements based upon community and church needs.   Some needs never change (e.g. we will always need someone to prepare the Lord’s Supper, clean the building and get the men together to lead the worship services, etc.).   However, other needs change over a period of time.   Churches many times over look the obvious opportunities of service in their communities because they are comfortable with what they’ve done for many years.   However, ministry is born, lives, thrives, declines and dies.   Is your church fulfilling her mission statement?   Does your church have a mission statement (or are you aiming at nothing) that includes serving your community?   How do your ministries fulfill your mission statement?   What kinds of revision and adjustments need to be made?
  3.    Churches need to be open to the possibility that they could be better stewards of resources entrusted to them (cf. Luke 16:10).   I am one of those naïve people that believes that there are good ministries, better ministries and the best ministries.   I also believe that some needs are greater than others.   There may be times we don’t want to pay the price (money, time, energy and effort) required to meet those greater needs in our communities.   However, we should be good stewards of God’s blessings.
  4.    The ultimate goal is to win others to Christ.   This is a given.   Matthew 25:31-46 comes into play here as does Galatians 6:10 and Ephesians 5:8-9.   We must never overlook our primary mission: making disciples (Matt.28:19; Eph.3:9-11).   If you do research about Kiwanis, you will learn their goal is to help people (especially children) and make life better for them.   Our ultimate goal is to share the gospel with folks.   We want everyone to go to heaven with us.     Trav

4 Soils & Involvement

soils34 Soils & Church Involvement

Depending upon whom you ask, most folks will agree that Jesus used (give or take) 46 parables to teach eternal principles.   He was the Master Teacher and He used parables masterfully to teach life changing lessons.   The parables hit us where life is if we are open-minded and have an honest heart.

The one parable that means much to me, as an involvement minister, is the Parable of the 4 Soils (Luke 8; Mark 4).   It explains much about people.   I am saddened by parts of it and encouraged by others.    It can be a great ‘reality’ check for church leaders.

The four soils represent the hearts and lives of men:

  1.  The hard soil represents the heart that is hardened towards the gospel; this person is not receptive to the gospel (we do not know why).   However, I have seen this type of heart changed.   Usually it takes a traumatic life event to change such a person’s heart.   We can continue to pray for these folks.   These are obviously never involved in ‘church’ ministry.   They may, however, be found raising funds or giving funds for humanitarian causes—just not in the name of Christ.
  2.  The shallow soil.   Some believe that this soil represents an emotional person.   Others believe this soil represents folks who are shallow by nature. Either way, this person hears the gospel, gets excited immediately, obeys the gospel and then, almost as immediately he obeyed the gospel, he falls away. The text says persecution/testing/trouble comes and he falls away.   I think there is a vast amount of difference between this person and a new Christian who needs to be grounded in the Word.   This person appears to be disinterested in maturing in Christ.  These, in my estimation are what we term “fringe” members of the church.   You will seldom, if ever see these folks at church.   Their level of church involvement is basically nil.   Some elders would put these members on the ‘inactive’ list.    Most of us don’t know what to do with these folks.   Some of us question their conversion:  were they really converted?
  3.  The third soil is the thorny soil.   I believe this represents a great number of Christians today.  Americans are very materialistic and this bleeds into the church.   Many American Christians are affluent and have lots of ‘things’ and distractions (however, affluence does not automatically make one a worldly Christian).  Some Christians properly handle such affluence and others fall under the spell of materialism and never mature in Christ.  These folks have heard the word, obeyed the gospel and they have an outward appearance of being a Christian.   They come to church unless there is something more pressing to do (soccer, family gatherings, vacation, shopping, fishing, hunting, boating, biking, celebrating a child’s birthday, a weekend away).  And, most important, they never get around to bearing much good fruit.    The late Marshall Keeble said that we are fruit inspectors.   When we inspect the fruit of these brothers and sisters, there’s not much there.    To be fair, I readily admit that these aren’t bad people: they are not out robbing banks or selling illicit drugs.  They provide for their families, obey traffic laws, pay their taxes, and are generally good citizens.  They just never get involved in the life and ministries of the local church. Why? Because they never grow spiritually mature enough to do so. Why not? They are too busy with other matters.  Many of these folks appear indifferent about their spiritual gifts, therefore they have no interest in developing those gifts.   They have not discovered what their passions are and how they can use their life skills and life experiences in serving others.   It is as if they attend worship assemblies and yet don’t hear the announcements or sermons, see the Power Points and see the articles in the church bulletin offering opportunities of and resources for empowerment in ministry.   It’s as if none of this existed.  Elders and preachers have to call and check on them constantly.   If you want to get them involved, you have to visit them in person and make suggestions as to what they can do in the way of ministry, and while there, it can be a bit awkward for both you and them (by the way, this [visiting these folks] is a very good thing to do and I suggest it strongly).   These folks can wear good pastors down; it appears they need constant encouragement, attention, accommodation and pastoring—-and it seems like none of this does much good.   They don’t grow much. We constantly attempt to motivate these folks, but our motivation appears to be useless. Have I seen some of these actually grow and mature? Yes; it is rare but it does occur.   Do we give up on these folks?   Nope.   Read the epistles and you’ll understand what I’m saying.     Our constant struggle (as leaders) is discovering/deciding how much time and attention we should give these folks.  The Lord is simply, among many things, teaching us here that there are different responses (to the gospel) when we plant the seed.   He doesn’t want us to get discouraged and blame ourselves for some folks’ lack of spiritual growth.
  4. The good soil.   Thank you, Lord!   Most of these are self-motivated servants. They bear much good fruit.   Do they have jobs and families?   Sure, but they still get to church and they serve.   Do they have hobbies, sports interests and school activities to attend? Sure, but they still get to church and they serve.   Do they have houses to clean, lawns to manicure, days off work, motor vehicles to take care of and clothes to keep clean? Sure, but they still get to church and they still serve.   What’s the difference between them and the third soil?   Focus.   Proper priority.  Soil #3 is wrapped up in (preoccupied with) the things and cares of the world.   Soil #4 is wrapped up in trusting and serving the Lord. Such Christian lives are immersed in Jesus (cf. Gal.2:20-21).

A word or two of encouragement to elders, deacons, ministry leaders, preachers and involvement ministers:

  1.  You can’t do the impossible.   Do the best you can.   Pray.   Exhort.   Let God do His thing.  God gives the increase.  His Word never returns void; it accomplishes what he wants it to accomplish.    Keep teaching and preaching and pastoring.   Remember, Jesus didn’t win everyone.   The rich young ruler walked away from Jesus. It grieved Jesus and it grieves us when folks don’t respond.   I’d rather attempt to reach someone and have him/her reject my exhortation than not to try at all.   In some sense leaders will give an account for these folks (cf. Heb.13:17), and yet in the final analysis they must answer for themselves (Rom.14:12).
  2.  Don’t get discouraged.   Focus on the faithful; John did (2 John 4).   Celebrate their faithfulness and fruits.   In fact, when you attempt to contact and connect with the shallow and the worldly Christian, work in teams and have a solid plan of how to approach them. And, above all, do so lovingly and prayerfully. Those with the gift of exhortation can be very helpful here.
  3. Be there for all of these.   When any member has a need and you know of it, offer help, be there, pray for them, encourage them, point them to the Lord, get other members involved in serving these folks (after all, that’s why we have TEAM gifts).   Some of these folks can be draining but they need the love of the Lord also.   Show them how much they need the Lord and how much others need them. When there are difficulties in their lives, encourage them to serve others using the lessons they’ve learned in dealing with these difficulties (cf. 2 Cor.1:4).   A traumatic experience may be the turning point for some of these folks.   Remember, these folks are still your brothers and sisters in Christ.  Your struggle as a church leader is determining much time and energy you will donate to reaching these folks.  You can learn patience in ministering to the folks who appear stuck in immaturity and you may witness a change in their attitudes and their lives.  Remain hopeful.
  4. It’s all about relationships.   People don’t care how much we know until they know how much we care.    John Maxwell calls this “The Law of Connection.”   We cannot ask for a person’s hand (in service) until we win his/her heart.   All of our brethren need to know they are valued, loved and appreciated—even those with shallow or worldly hearts.    We let these folks know we care by having  relationships with them.   If you remember, the Good Shepherd knows His sheep and they know Him.   This is the example that earthly shepherds are to follow.   Paul became all things to all men in order to win some.    I have seen folks get involved simply because someone cared enough to show an interest in them (cf.Phil.2:4) and ask.   You cannot overestimate the value of good relationships in the body of Christ.
  5. Nothing is more valuable than a soul.    If a man gains the whole world and loses his soul, it profits him nothing (Matt.16:26).   Those who are not involved in ministry remain valuable and priceless in God’s sight. They should also be in our’s.
  6.  Keep planting the seed.   Let the Lord take it from there.   He gives the increase.

I am thankful for the Parable of the 4 Soils.   I hope you are, too.  I’d like to hear your input in this discussion.    Trav

Note:   I understand that some folks believe that this parable outlines how a person grows from hard heartedness to spiritual maturity through 4 stages: hardness (not being receptive), to shallowness (emotional receptivity), to religious immaturity (being a religious and worldly Christian) and on to the final stage of maturity in Christ when he/she begins to bear fruit.   While I’ve experienced seeing some folks follow a similar pattern, this is not the general pattern.   In real life, it is apparent that folks are either not receptive, emotionally receptive, religiously receptive or sold out receptive.  tdi

What’s In Your Church Pews?

pews2What’s in Your Church’s Pews?

Every person is invited to the Lord’s banquet.   Every person of every nationality, gender, creed, ethnicity and color are loved and wanted by the Lord.   He died for everyone—no exceptions.   In essence, we cannot be choosey when it comes to those who need the gospel and those who obey the gospel.   We must be instrumental in making sure every soul hears of Jesus and is given an opportunity to follow Him.

However, we do have some input as what sorts of people we have in our pews.   What do I mean?   If you are a serious Christian, pastor or minister, what kinds of people do you want as members of your church? What do you want in your pews? Most of us would say, “I want spiritually mature Christians in my congregation.”   Then, my dear friend, you must do what is necessary (within your power with the Lord’s help), to have those sorts of members.

Developing & Deploying (Team) Spiritual Gifts

If it was expected of every member and if every member were strongly encouraged to know, develop and put his/her spiritual gifts to work, you would be closer to having ideal members in your church pews.   I would also assume that they would attend Bible classes and worship assemblies more consistently.   Yes, the Christian disciplines (e.g. prayer, study, fellowship, fasting, solitude, meditation, worship, etc.) , if practiced, also contribute to making strong mature church members.  However, I think the church has overlooked something else (and maybe this is a ‘new’ church discipline that we’ve discovered).   Allow me to illustrate with the following spiritual gifts how discovering the gifts, developing them and deploying them would create mature church members in your pews:

Pastor/Shepherd – if those with this gift were busy feeding and nurturing souls of the church, you’d have many more mature Christians in the pews. These folks’ passion is to see Christians grow in Christ.

Leading/Administration – if those with this gift were to use it consistently, the church would be organized in such a fashion that it had to grow both spiritually and numerically.   The direction of the church would be clear for all to see and follow.   They are great at organizing.

Teaching – if those with this gift studied diligently and taught solid Bible lessons to children and adults, in small groups and in Bible classes, folks would come to Christ and Christians would mature.    There is no substitute for good Bible classes.

Exhortation – if those gifted with exhortation would take their gift seriously and develop it and use it, there would be very few discouraged disillusioned unfaithful unfruitful church members in your pews.   Most exhorters lack the boldness needed to lovingly confront other brothers and sisters in Christ.

Prophecy – if those with this gift were to humbly, yet confidently speak up when they should, the church would be edified much more than it is and others would realize just how serious it is to be a child of God and they, too would have much more confidence and faith.

Compassion – if those with the gift of compassion consistently and wisely used this gift, the hungry would be fed, the homeless would be sheltered, the grieving would be comforted, the lost would be saved, the discouraged would find courage and the church would be filled with folks who had experienced the love of Christ.    These folks want to help those in need.

Giving – if those who easily make money invested more of their funds into eternal things, there would be more opportunities to reach souls through various ministries like church camps, gospel campaigns, mission work, Christian colleges, schools of preaching, special foreign and domestic ministries to the underprivileged and poor, etc.   They would experience great joy and this joy would spread.

Service – if folks who have this gift exercised it, you’d always have plenty of help to get things done that some other folks just don’t want to do.   These folks do the ‘grunt’ work and want no fanfare or recognition.   They serve because they want to, period.   These don’t make excuses; they make time to serve.   We need to mobilize every person with this gift.

Evangelism – you have a higher percentage of members with this gift than what you think.   If all of them got serious about their gift, they would develop it and start teaching lost individuals about the Lord.   Some of them may even do mission work.   Soon your pews would fill up with new Christians.

Hospitality – if your members in general became more hospitable the church would grow automatically.   However, if those members who have this gift exercised it there would be more spirit de corp and unity in the church and a spirit of love would reign.

How much of this appeals to you?     ALL of it appeals to me.   Yes, I know that all Christians will not be like those above.   However, I will guarantee you that folks in the pews will not get serious about their gifts until their leaders get serious about them.   Team gifts (listed above) are given to make the church stronger spiritually and make it larger numerically.     The church that is serious about developing and using their spiritual gifts, that church will grow.   If you want mature spiritual members in your church pews, continue in the Christian disciplines and also add helping folks discover and use their gifts.

Trav

travisirwin@att.net

Some Possible Ministries for Your Church

Shine3Some Ministries at Athens Church of Christ

When I first came to Athens in October of 2008, the church here had 43 ministries.   Today, we have 38.   Some ministries were no longer viable and some new ministries were started.   Below are some of our ministries.   Most of these are traditional and some are not.   I will also list their mission or purpose.

Financial Peace University

We are blessed to have a young man who is a CPA and he leads this 9 week class. This is a much needed class for church members and folks in the community, and it is well attended.   Many folks are in financial crisis.   However, taking this class pays for itself (more than you’d pay) and it prevents financial disaster while preventing marital issues related to money and it helps folks plan for retirement. Members and non-members attend and this class can be a vehicle in getting non-members to start attending your church services.   Go to www.daveramsey.com for more information.

Mission statement:   to assist families and individuals in becoming better stewards of God’s blessings.   FPU provides the needed curriculum materials, the group dynamic and the learning atmosphere to assist in this process.

You may have to charge full price for the materials or the church may have to pay part of the price and/or provide scholarships to the class.   It is well worth any expenses.

Grief Share

A large number of your church members and people in your community will be touched by loss issues this year.    This ministry is designed for these folks.

Mission statement:   to provide a grief recovery support group where you can find help and healing for the hurt of losing a loved one.

We are blessed to have a mature Christian woman who has lost loved ones and has been instrumental in helping dozens of folks who have experienced loss.   The church provides the videos and materials for the class.   For more information about Grief Share, you can go to www.griefshare.org

Hearing Impaired Ministry (Deaf Ministry)

The volunteers in this ministry ‘sign’ for those who are hearing impaired in our worship services and some even teach American Sign Language (ASL) to others so they can communicate with those in and out of worship services who are hearing impaired.

Mission statement:   to extend the borders of God’s kingdom to include deaf people in Athens and surrounding cities, towns and communities.

We are blessed to have two members who are deaf; one of them is a lady who helps those of us who are ‘hearing’ (who are able to hear) to understand her culture and she also helps teach ASL.

Email Ministry

Most of our families are on a group email list and we send them emails about sicknesses, surgeries, hospitalizations, deaths, bad weather, church events, cancellation of church services, special prayer requests,  and other church-related matters.   This is the mission of this ministry.   Many of our ministries use this group email to inform members of their events and to seek volunteers.

Time Travelers (formerly Senior Saints)

The mission or purpose of this ministry is to provide retirees with social activities, service projects and soul-winning opportunities.   Our retirees are very active and they really enjoy being together.  They ‘are’ the Bear Ministry (which provides small cloth bears for children for the local ER, children’s doctors and EMS).   Many of our retired ladies are heavily involved in ladies’ ministries and in providing and serving food.

Our Congregational Mission Statement

Our congregational mission statement is taken from Matthew 22:37-40: “Love God & Love Man.”   Our ministries exist to fulfill both loving God and loving man.   For a full list of our ministries, please go the church website at www.athenschurchofchrist.org

Please write me and let me know about some of your ministries and what you would like to accomplish through them.   Trav     travisirwin@att.net

Avoiding the Word “Need”

getinvolved_1000Avoiding the Word “Need”

When we are in “need” of more money or volunteers (in the church), we use the word “need” as if it is the only word we could use.   Yes, people “need” to be saved, hungry people “need” to be fed, homeless folks “need” to be sheltered, Christians “need” to go to church, we “need” volunteers, etc.   We assume if we use the word “need” loud and long enough in announcements and Power Points, more volunteers and money will spontaneously emerge in mass. However, what usually happens, is that we don’t get the desired results.

What Do Church Members Think When We Use this Word?

Some church members may hear and think:  “they’re desperate.”   Other members may hear, “evidently, they haven’t been responsible with their resources, so they need more.”   Still others may hear, “this evidently isn’t very important because the announcement said nothing about goals of the ministry.”   Folks are insensitive to such appeals because they hear dozens of them every week on the radio, on TV, in the newspapers and even at work (in some form).   People are bombarded with requests for money, time and various needs all the time.

What You Want People to Hear

What folks really should hear is the importance and the positive impact of their involvement in your ministry.   You need to touch people’s hearts.   When I asked for money to find a cure for Cystic Fibrosis (my baby girl has CF), I would appeal to people’s hearts and speak of my vision (dream) for CF patients.  I would also update folks on the progress towards finding a cure.    This worked and now there is a cure for CF.   The folks who gave of their time, money and energies have ownership in this cure.    They can celebrate a great victory!

When it comes to church ministries we should appeal to potential volunteers’ emotions and help them see our vision (or goal) for a ministry.     Sometimes, it is as simple as saying, “Our goal is to lead people to Jesus Christ.”   Word pictures and actual pictures (still pictures or video) and emotive terms go a long ways in getting others to understand these goals.   Folks want to make a contribution to changing and improving lives.   We need a message (or an appeal) that connects emotionally to our mission/purpose.   Stories and testimonies also assist in moving folks to action (volunteering).   These stories and testimonies illustrate vividly what has already occurred in your ministry and what hopefully will happen if folks volunteer to serve in your ministry.

There is another thing you want potential volunteers to hear:   how your ministry’s project will change their lives.    Personal testimonies are huge here.   If you’ve ever been to a third world country, you know it changes your life dramatically: you are more thankful, you become more compassionate, you want others to go back with you, etc.   Emphasize any positive change that will take place in the lives of volunteers when they serve, donate or participate.

One More Dynamic

When church and ministry leaders make an appeal to the church, they need to follow the previous suggestions.   But they also should word it carefully.   For example, if the church has a building program, leaders should avoid saying, “We need $250,000 more.”   It is better said (for example), “When we raise another $250,000, we will be able to have more advanced audio-visual equipment (e.g. better hearing and better visual effects) and provide more comfortable seating.”     Leadership could approach a new budget with this (if applicable):   “If we increase our new budget by $1000 a week, we could hire a youth minister to mature our youth in Christian service and provide opportunities for fellowship among our youth” versus “we need to increase our weekly giving by $1000 to hire a youth minister.”   List all the advantages, blessings and benefits to both your volunteers and those served.

Is There a Time When It’s OK to Use the Word “Need?”

Absolutely!   But under normal circumstances, the word does not automatically get the results you want.   You must do more than just mention a need.

We are living in a world of professional advertising, color, pictures, sound and emotional appeal.   Christians and non-Christians both are expecting creative appeals.   The cause of Christ, including your ministry, deserve these approaches and the desired results.   Pray over this.   Ask for assistance in creating appeals.   Think through your appeal approaches. Avoid sounding desperate, irresponsible or negligent in defining your goals.

Following this advice will radically change your ministries for the better and change the lives involved in them.

Trav

travis@churchinvolvement.com

The Work of an Involvement Minister

InvolvementThe Work of an Involvement Minister

Several years ago I become an involvement minister and shared the news with many of my preacher friends.   One wrote back asking, “what does an involvement minister do?”   In a few words, I want to share what I do as an involvement minister.

Each Church Would be Different

Any congregation that hires someone to do involvement ministry would have their own expectations as per their specific needs as a church.   I have a job description that includes teaching, visiting, speaking and all the things involved (no pun intended) to get members involved in ministry.   I also attend elders’ meetings, write, counsel, consult, and make lots of phone calls to members.   No two days are alike and I like it that way.   I write job descriptions, mission statements, do evaluations and send tons of emails.   These are the main things I do as the involvement minister at Athens church of Christ in Athens, Tennessee.

The Main Purpose

My main ‘job’ is to get members involved.   I told one of my friends that my task was to get members doing what they should already be doing.   I have been in church ministry for over 45 years; 39 of that in located pulpit work.   What I’ve experienced is that many members of the church do little more than attend church.   I know that is an over-generalization and I apologize to any congregation where that is not true (in fact, I congratulate you if all your members do more than attend services).   My job is to assist members in coming to know how the Lord has gifted them for ministry.   I do this in four steps: (1) help them discover their non-miraculous spiritual gifts (along with their passions, personalities, learning styles, etc.), (2) I define these gifts and passions and coach them in how they relate to each other and how they can be used in specific church ministries, (3) I assist them in developing their spiritual gifts and (4) I help members deploy what they have discovered (and developed) about themselves by contacting the appropriate deacons and ministry leaders who will put the folks to work in their respective ministries.   There are literally thousands of details and lots of preparation and planning.   But the results are astounding and a great blessing to individual Christians and to the entire church, and yes, to the community in which the church resides.

An Offer

If I can be of assistance in helping a church write a job description for a prospective involvement minister or help a church in investigating the possibility of hiring a part-time or full-time involvement minister, I’d be pleased to guide you through the process.

Christ calls us to discipleship.   There are 3 ways to know if someone is a disciple of Christ (that Scriptures explicitly point out):

  1.  By abiding in the Word (John 8:31)
  2.  By loving other Christians the way Christ loves us (John 13:34-35)
  3.  By bearing much fruit (John 15:8)

In the Lord’s church we’ve done a pretty good job with #1 and we’ve done fairly well with #2.   However, I think we can greatly improve on #3, and it begins with equipping every member of the church for service.   Trav

travisirwin@att.net              travis@churchinvolvement.com

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén