Church Involvement

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

Month: November 2015

About this Website

Getrinvolved3About this Website

Thank you for taking the time to look at this website. I hope you find something helpful here. This website exists…

  1.  To encourage church involvement.   We are told that 4000 churches in the USA close their doors every year.   There are many reasons why this occurs. I believe one of them is the lack of (membership) involvement in most churches.   In many churches, membership is little more than showing up for a religious service a few times a year and possibly contributing money.   However, if every member of the church was involved in intentional ministry, the church would be strong and would always be attracting new members and churches would not close their doors.   Being involved in ministry is a mark of discipleship and every member is to be a disciple of Christ first.
  2.  To assist congregations of the church of Christ.   I am a member of the church of Christ.   My dad was in ministry in the church of Christ and I have been a minister in the church of Christ for over 45 years. I am very familiar with how leaders and members of the church of Christ think, worship and work.   I can be helpful to them if they wish to get all their members involved in Christian ministry.   However, there is material found on this website that can be helpful to any group of believers.
  3.  To create discussion.     Most churches have a pulpit minister and some have a youth minister.   Very few have involvement ministers.  I’m hoping to help churches without involvement ministers while I am also hoping to connect to involvement ministers and create some discussion about what they are doing where they are.   I would like to share some ideas and I would very much like to hear from other involvement ministers to hear of their successes and, yes, their failures.

Contact information:   travisirwin@att.net or travis@churchinvolvement.com

You can also call or text 423 920 3060.   Travis Irwin of Athens, TN

 

10 Questions that Could Change Your Church for the Better

Following are ten questions that when answered could change your congregation Q1for the better

1.  When was your congregation established?    The answer will tell you where your church is in its growth cycle.

2.  How many elders do you presently have?    What is their primary or most important responsibility?

3.   How many deacons do you presently have?   What is their primary or most important responsibility as deacons?

4.  How many ministries do you presently have?    What is the ultimate goal of all of them?    In other words, towards what goal are they working?

5.    Do you have ministry leaders for any ministries (these are ministries that do not have deacons over them)?

6.      What passage of Scripture best describes the purpose or mission of your congregation?

7.    Does your congregation have a mission statement?     If you answered “Yes,” what is it?

8.   Does your mission statement affect your ministries in some way?   How?

9.  Do your ministries have their own mission or vision statements?

10.    What percentage of your congregation is involved in the ministries of your congregation?

The answers to these questions reveal a lot about your congregation:  its age may indicate if it has leveled off in growth or if it is declining.    How church leaders (elders and deacons) look at their position or role has a lot to do with the growth or decline of a congregation.  Some leaders believe their purpose is to maintain things.    Most church ministries are maintenance in nature and are internally focused (serve only the church membership and have no external purpose).   While every congregation must have maintenance/internally focused ministries, churches will not grow unless ministries have spiritual and numerical growth as part of their purpose. This requires having externally focused ministries (ministries that serve the non-churched in the community).   Churches that have no explicitly stated mission (usually) aim at nothing and hit it with amazing accuracy.    While the Lord has already given us at least two mission statements (cf. Matt.22:37-40; 28:19-20 et al), churches that grow have specific goals in how to fulfill these mission statements.   Making a statement of mission doesn’t necessarily make anything happen.

This is why these 10 questions can be helpful.   They can help someone like me direct church leaders into the direction they need to go.  However, when church leaders honestly answer these questions, they will come to know what positive changes need to be made to cause the church to grow numerically and spiritually.    On the other hand,  the answers may reveal that a congregation is healthier than some may have thought.

Travis Irwin, InMin

travisirwin@att.net

Fearfully & Wonderfully Made

eye2Fearfully & Wonderfully Made

I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well. (Psalm 139:14 NASB)

Dr. Jim Patterson is a dear friend and my former optometrist in Ashland, Ohio.

After every eye examination he would either give me good news (my eyes were healthy) or bad news (I’m getting older and I need bifocals).   He would always show me a chart of an eye and explain everything in detail.   I appreciated Jim’s great care but I was even more impressed with the chart of a human eye.   It was colorful and very complicated.   Obviously, the human eye has design and purpose; it is not an accident.   It is amazing and the human eye shouts, “God!”

Take any other part of the human body: the respiratory system, the circulatory system, the brain, the digestive system, the reproduction system and the hands, feet, arms and legs and you are impressed with each.   We are fearfully and wonderfully made.   Such things stop me in my tracks and my mouth automatically opens with praise to the Creator.

We usually emphasize only the physical aspects of ourselves when we quote this lofty verse.   We must also remember that He created us with a personality, emotions, intelligence and the desire to love and be loved.   At our rebirth, He gifts us with a spiritual gift, He inserts passion to serve and then He also gives us skills and allows us to live long enough to experience life.

I am physical, but I am also spiritual, emotional and intellectual—all by God’s purpose and design.   As an involvement minister I see how God has designed folks for service.   I am just as amazed and awe struck with God’s creative work in this area as I am with His creative work in the physical.   My mouth opens up again with praise.

As members of God’s family, you are fearfully and wonderfully made by Him for HIS purpose (Colossians 1:16).   I would like to think you would want to know as much about the way He has created you (not just physically but also in the other ways mentioned herein) so you could serve Him more fully.

I strongly recommend that every Christian do the available inventories to learn how God has created him/her for service.   You and I bring glory to Him best by being living sacrifices in the physical body in which we live (Romans 12:1-2).   I suggest to you that as we allow ALL of our very being (our physical, spiritual, emotional, intellectual selves) to serve Him and others, it is then He is glorified and it is then that we begin to fully understand Psalm 139:14.

Trav

Living On Purpose

what is my purpose - spiritual and philosophical question in vintage wooden letterpress printing blocks isolated on white

Living On Purpose

The buzz words today are “intentionality” and “purposeful.”   People want lives that are full of purpose and specific intention.   Jobs, money, education and things are becoming less important to people.   They want to live lives that make a difference—lives on purpose.

Colossians 1:16 tells us that all things were created by Him and for Him.   We understand His creative powers yet we fail to meditate on that second phrase:   “…and for Him.”     Our very reason for our existence is His purpose.

But how do you discover His purpose for you?   God’s Word is clear on several levels.

God’s General Purpose for Every Person

1 Corinthians 10:31 says that everything we do should be for God’s glory. Creation exists for His glory (Psalm 19:1-2).     And, we are part of His creation.

This does not mean every person knows God’s purpose for his/her life or wants to glorify Him, but this is our purpose as part of His creation.

God’s Purpose for the Church

Ephesians 3:9-11 tells us the church’s purpose is make known the wisdom of God. It’s also said a different way in Matthew 28:19 where Christ says, “Go make disciples….”    Once again, some churches know this and some don’t.   It is evident in churches that know this: they are making disciples; they are growing spiritually and numerically.

God’s Specific Purpose for Individual Christians

Those who have been recreated in Christ have been recreated for good works (Eph.2:10).    However,  God has specific a purpose, I believe,  for each child of His.

I am making an assumption on this last statement, but the assumption is based upon common senses and one Scriptural principle.

  1.    Every Christian is different. This is a given. No one will disagree with this statement.    This is common sense.
  2.    Every Christian has different spiritual gifts, life experiences, life skills, personalities and passions.  This is common sense but it is also taught in Scripture (see 1 Corinthians 12 and Romans 12).   Having expressed this, the next logical thing is to ask the question, “Why does every Christian have differing gifts, etc.?”     I believe it is because God wants individual Christians to fulfill their individual/specific purpose in their lives contributing to the overall good of the church and their community.

Do you want to live a life of intentionality?   Do you want your church to be a church that has purpose?     If you answer, “Yes” to the first question, you will need to do some in-depth study and reflection to discover your God-given gifts, passions, personality, life skills and life experiences as an individual. Knowing these things may help you in discovering a specific purpose for your life. You may already be involved in things that are a part of that purpose.

If you answered “Yes” to the second question, then you need to discover the strengths and values of your members PLUS discover what your community’s and church’s needs are.   Most churches do a lot of good, spend a lot of money and exert a lot of effort.   This is what I term the “Shotgun” approach to ministry.   If your congregation is doing all of this, and it is causing the church to grow numerically and spiritually, your church may be on target.   However, if your congregation is floundering and it is not growing numerically or spiritually, I think you need to do some research.   It will be a good investment of time.

When you invest the time and effort required, you will have a better idea of what God’s specific purpose is for you as an individual or as a congregation of the church.

Trav

purpose13

Bottlenecks & Delegation

bottleneck1Bottlenecks & Delegation

Requesting and receiving information (from your members) along with assessments and coaching, you will get some useful information that will greatly bless your church and her ministries. In fact, you may create new ministries with this new-found knowledge.   This information is priceless and you mustn’t forget that it takes a considerable amount of time to get it.   Use it wisely.

How may you use it wisely?     What happens in many congregations is that the information that has been discovered stops with the people who need to put it to use: the elders, the deacons and the ministry leaders.   One writer calls this a bottleneck.   Instead of being a conduit of information, this information gets stopped and doesn’t do anyone any good.   Instead of precious information flowing through leaders, it gets stuck with leaders.   Their lack of action impedes progress.

When all the researched information about your members is compiled and given to these church leaders, it should be used immediately.     The good folks that took the time to fill out the inventories and receive coaching should be approached by those receiving the information so these good folks can be placed in ministry in order to use their gifts, passions, life experiences and life skills.   If not, it’s a waste of time and money and the good folks that provided the church with this information may be upset or become apathetic when they are not put to work.

What’s the real problem?     The problem is that many (well-meaning) deacons and ministry leaders will not delegate work to their new found work-force.   Some deacons and ministry leaders prefer to do all the work themselves rather than training all the new volunteers that have been given to them (through the inventories and coaching).

The solution is simple:   deacons and ministry leaders must take the time and put forth the effort to train others to do their work.   Initially this may seem mad to do so, but the pay-off is huge to the deacons, the ministry leaders, the workers and to the church.   If done well, ministries will grow in scope, in number, in size and effectiveness.   Members will have ownership in the church’s ministry and you will have an air of excitement in your church.

Allow me to illustrate:   if I am a deacon in charge of the “Financial Peace University” ministry and I integrate new workers into my ministry, I don’t have to do all the work in promoting, advertising, writing and facilitating the class.   Others can do any or all that is necessary for the FPU ministry to be successful.  In fact, they may do a better job than I.   The ministry has more potential to grow numerically when I allow others to work within my ministry.   The work of a deacon and ministry leader is get the (necessary) work done to make the ministry successful.   However, the ministry leader or deacon does not have to do all the work him/herself. He/she can delegate it to others—in fact, if he/she is smart/wise he/she will do so.

If your congregation decides to start a serious involvement ministry, your deacons and ministry leaders need to pledge or promise not to become a bottleneck in the process of getting all your members involved in ministry.   Their job is to facilitate everyone and put them to work—church leaders are to become conduits of precious information concerning members/volunteers.    Simply put: this is making less work for the deacons and ministry leaders, not more.     In fact, if they lead their ministry correctly, they can move onto other ministries and projects.

Even today, if your church has not assessed all the members, the deacons and ministry leaders must delegate their work out to other members in the church.   If you do not do this, the deacons and ministry leaders lose, the members lose and the church loses great opportunities of growth, and the non-involved members continue to be non-involved.   Refusing the delegate can also lead to burnout.

If you as a deacon or ministry leader want to formally get permission to delegate, please do so.   If you seek this permission, I am convinced the elders will love to hear those words:   “I’d like to delegate work in my ministry to others so they can use their gifts, passions and life skills.”   Tada!   That’s what church work is all about: putting everyone to work in the kingdom.

Trav

bottleneck-cartoon

Stewardship & Ministry

Tamworth2Stewardship & Ministry

We are to be faithful stewards (1 Corinthians 4:1-2) of all that God has entrusted us.

The picture to the left is a picture of Tamworth Castle in Tamworth, England.   As you enter the castle, there is a large imposing sign that lists the name of the castle steward.   This gentleman did not own the castle nor the grounds surrounding the castle.   He was, however, the manager and caretaker of the castle, the grounds and all the adjoining farms.   He was the steward.   He labored for the good of the owner.   He was expected to bring a profit and to add worth to the properties of the lord (owner).    That’s what stewards do.   The concept of stewards is found throughout the Bible and yet most Americans don’t have a clue about stewards.    It is a foreign concept in our culture because most Americans own their own property.

Biblically speaking, we own nothing; everything belongs to God (Psalm 24:1). We are merely managers of what He has entrusted to us: our children (Psalm 127), the earth (Genesis 2:15), the grace of God (1 Peter 4:10-11), our time (Eph.5:15-16) , and our money and possessions (Matt.25:14-46), etc.

Our Creator has also gifted us and entrusted us with spiritual gifts, passions, personalities, life experiences, life skills, and a host of other gifts.   The question now is: what are we doing with these gifts?

Do we hoard them?   Some folks collect stuff just to look at.   It collects dust and brings its owner pleasure by simply being there to look at.    Luke 12:15 says that life is not about ‘stuff.’   Some folks believe otherwise.

Do we use them for our selfish means?   Some of us use what God has given us for our personal pleasures.     We wouldn’t think of sharing our abundance with others because it’s our stuff.     The rich fool of Luke 12 was condemned not because he had lots of stuff, but because he was not rich towards God (vs.15-21).  It’s clear that he was a poor steward of all that God had entrusted him.   The only person that this rich fool was concerned about was himself (look at the “I”‘s in the text to see this).

Do we use them for the good of the church?   Our time, money, health and spiritual gifts are to be used to strengthen and bless the church.   Eph.4:11-12; 1 Cor.14:26c; Galatians 6:10; 1 John 3:16-18; 1 Timothy 6:17-19.

Do we use them for the good of our neighbors?   Our resources are entrusted to us for the good of our community and the world.   Jesus said the second greatest commandment is loving our neighbors; this simply means that we do no harm to them and we do good for them.    In the parable of the Good Samaritan, we learn who our neighbor is and how we are to treat him/her.  Read  Luke 10:25-37; Matt.25:31-46.

Luke 16:10 teaches us that faithfulness in stewardship will be rewarded with more blessings or resources.     What’s my point?

Church leaders, are you teaching your church members to be good stewards?   Are YOU, as church leaders, being good stewards of what God has entrusted to you?

Are you and members of your church using the blessings that God has entrusted to you for the good of your community and the good of the church?   I’m not just talking about money; I am also speaking of our buildings, our life skills, our life experiences, our spiritual gifts and our passions.

The same question could be asked of individual members of the church:  are you using all that God has given you for the good of others and the church?   If you are, you are on your way to being a good steward and the Lord will reward you.

Trav

Overgeneralizations & Ministry

Individuality Overgeneralizations & Ministry

When we speak of over generalizations, we are usually referring to things related to bigotry and racism (e.g. all of a certain race, nation, people are such and such).   This is NOT what I wish to discuss here.   Then what am I addressing?

Sometimes when attempting to get people into ministry, we categorize them as young/old, male/female, gifted/not gifted, passionate/impassionate, or interested/not interested.   But there is a greater danger:  overgeneralizing their gifts, passions, personality types, life skills and life experiences.    In other words, we prejudge what we think they are and what they can or cannot do based upon our overgeneralizations.   We leave out the most important ingredient:   listening to them and understanding their individuality.   I will make 4 suggestions below to prevent overgeneralization in the church.

Be Conscious of It

Take nothing for granted—even YOU can over generalize.   From time to time, you may want to ask yourself, “am I pigeon-holing this person?” or “am I looking for the uniqueness of this person?”    For example, a person who has the gift of teaching may not want to teach children.   Yes, this person has the gift, but if he/she doesn’t want to teach children, we’d better know that.   Don’t jump to any conclusions based upon general definitions of gifts, passions, life skills, or our preconceived ideas.

God Treats Us as Individuals and We Should Treat Each Other This Way

We are members of one another and individual members (Romans 12:5 NASB).   The church is a group of born again believers; we usually emphasize the unity of the church and the oneness of the church.   However, God also recognizes individual church members and He has gifted each one differently.    No two of us are the same.   Each is vital to the well-being of the church.   One day we will each stand before God as individuals (Rom.14:12) for how we lived and served as individuals.    Our individuality should contribute to the welfare of the body.

While we ought to have a deep appreciation of the wholeness of the body of Christ, we mustn’t forget the importance of the individual in the church and his/her unique contribution to the church.   While we ought to be concerned about the welfare of the whole body, we must not overlook how individuals uniquely contribute to the welfare of the whole.

Inventories, When Used Properly, Prevent It

Inventories and assessments are very helpful.   Used improperly you will miss out on the uniqueness of individual church members and you may appoint them to ministries for which they are not gifted or impassioned.   Properly used, inventories/assessments can be a blessing to individual Christians and to the entire church.    People will learn some wonderful things about themselves and church ministries will benefit greatly.   Inventories, used properly, emphasize a person’s uniqueness.    Remember, this is all by God’s design and it is for His glory.

Coaching Enhances the Individual

What is coaching?    It’s kind of like mentoring and counseling.   A good coach will interview a person and look through his/her inventories and make suggestions, ask questions, answer questions and explain items.    The overall purpose of coaching is to show an individual just how unique he/she is and how God has designed him/her for ministry.  The ultimate goal is to help someone see how he/she can best serve (based upon how he/she is designed by God).  A good coach may be able to show an individual what God’s specific purpose is for his/her life or at least guide him/her through the process.   Good coaches also know that not all church ministries fit the people he coaches.    Sometimes, a special or new ministry is born because a good coach recognizes the uniqueness of an individual that he is coaching.

Use any diagnostic tool carefully and with the individual person in mind.   You will be pleased to see the result,  the person involved will get excited and the church will benefit greatly for years and into eternity.

Trav

Millennials & Church Ministry

Millennial2 millennial3 Millennials & Church Ministry

This article is not about theological/eschatological millennialism.   It is about the population born in the 1980’s and the 1990’s.     Consider some characteristics of these folks:

Special – they have always been treated as special.

Sheltered – they were highly protected as children.   Sometimes their parents were called “helicopter parents.”

Confident – they are motivated, goal-oriented, and confident in themselves

Team-oriented – they are group-oriented rather than being individualistic

Achieving – their generation focuses on good grades

Pressure – they had tight schedules as children

Conventional – they are civic-minded and avoid non-conformity

They are the largest living generation (88 million to the 76 million boomers) and there are more of them in the work force than any other age group.    Most of them have college debt and are less likely to own a home, and 59%  of their parents (boomers) financially support them in some way.   They do not invest (they think it is too risky); however, they do save.  25% of them never marry.   They seek to balance work with family.

How Does Any of This Affect Church Ministry?

First of all, these are over generalizations and there are many exceptions.   However, some of these characteristics are having and will have a great impact upon the ministries of the local church.   Wise leadership will be aware of this and use these for the glory of the Lord and the good of the church.   If you have lots of millennials in your local congregation, you need to stop what you’re doing and give thanks for them.  The majority of millennials do not attend church anywhere.  If they are attending your church, give thanks.

If you haven’t noticed yet, you will learn that they have lots to offer.

Church Leadership Must Create an Atmosphere of Teamwork

Church leadership may not like certain things about the millennials.   However, church leadership should and must communicate with this generation.   In some cases, church leadership is not trusted or known by the millennials.   Leadership must take the first step in getting to know these young folks and allow them to know the leadership.   Trust is created by relationships.   Leadership needs to create an ‘open door’ policy with this generation.   Millennials must feel like they can approach leadership about anything anytime. By the way, this is a good policy for all members of the church.    An atmosphere of teamwork must permeate the local church:  leaders and millennials are on the same team.

Millennials are Civic-Minded

They believe in and are involved in local noble causes.   Can you think of a more noble cause than the church?   Millennials are sometimes more comfortable and more involved in local civic causes than church causes or ministry.   This may be due to the lack of challenging (or what they would call) noble causes/ministry in the church.   Boomers and Builders give liberally to the church; millennials give to several causes.   Millennials look at the BIG picture.      How may we address this?   Congregational mission statements.   When millennials (and for that matter, all members of the church) are challenged by a biblical purposeful mission statement and all the ministries of the local church contribute to that mission statement, millennials may be more likely to get involved and expend their resources to the cause.   This takes time, prayer and lots of communication.   Leaders need to put forth effort to harness the millennials’ interest in serving others and put it to work for the local church.

Millennials are Team-Oriented

There are few things as important to a millennial as ‘relationships.’   They love small groups, they love good Bible classes designed for them.   They love people who accept them and think like them.   Ministry is one of the best (if not the best) places for teamwork in the church. They like working in groups.   Some churches prefer a more intergenerational mix of groups; millennials prefer, it appears to me, to serve in groups with their peers (fellow/sister millennials).   Their intentions are pure.

Millennials respect older members; this would be people their parents’ ages and their grandparents’ ages.

Leadership needs to create ministry that calls for teams that are well-balanced and well organized for the good of the church and the community.

Millennials are Special

These are the children whose parents spent thousands of dollars on birthdays, proms and graduations.     Their parents often used the phrase, “You are special” when addressing them as children.   This may have contributed to some of the entitlement that (some) millennials feel.

They are special in the biblical sense that the Lord has designed each of them (in fact all of us in the church) with gifts, passions, life skills and life experiences that make us each unique (special).     God has a general purpose for millennials and a specific purpose for each of us. Emphasize just how special each member of the church is.

Millennials are Confident

Many millennials are highly educated and trained (they are the most educated generation in the USA).   They are motivated, goal-oriented and are confident about the future.   They are hopeful and optimistic in many ways.   Instead of being threatened (as is the case in some churches) by such, why not use these for His glory?   If you have confident millennials in your church, use all their blessings for the good of the church. This may take some creativity and thought and guidance, but the benefits will be great.   It would be of great benefit to you as an individual and to the church as a whole to learn to listen to millennials.   By the way, millennials are tech savvy and know how to use social media for the good of the church.   We are considering starting a ‘social media ministry’ using our millennials to assist.

Challenges that Some Millennials May Bring

Some millennials, if not challenged properly, will go elsewhere to church or not at all. Some millennials may not have an appreciation for current ministries in the church; they may even appear insensitive and cliquish.   Some may have an entitlement mindset.   Some may even run ahead of the church leadership without seeking ‘permission’ to do a project.

Millennials are not necessarily known for their loyalty to the local church or the church of Christ. Most millennials are free thinkers and don’t like to wait to do things.   They also expect the church do things well when they are done; they believe their children deserve it.  They will not waste their time or resources on ministry without a biblical or meaningful (to them) purpose.   My experience with them is that they create their own projects and ministries, many times without any permission or guidance from the church leadership.    This can be good and this can be bad; the attitudes of both parties play an important role here.  As a leader you must remember that their intentions are good.   It may appear that they do not want your guidance.   However, that is not so; you must approach them without questioning their motives.

If church leadership can harness the blessings and the positives of the millennial generation, every generation of the church will be blessed, the church will grow and the Lord will be glorified in its locale.   The unity of the church will also be enhanced; this makes the church more attractive to a lost community.

In closing, if you are a church leader,  go back to the beginning of this article and read through the description of millennials again.    Do you see some things listed there that trigger some creative thoughts in your mind?     What is it about these folks that would be a good ministry for them?

Communicate with, pray for, build relationships with, value, and equip millennials for service and watch the Lord bless your efforts.   In fact, do all of these with all members of the church and reap great benefits.   Trav

 

 

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