Church Involvement

Category: Intentionality

Transition: A Third Choice


There are basically two kinds of churches: (1) the growing kind, and (2) the dying kind. Both present challenges. One is more exciting than the other, and one is more depressing than the other. I’ve worked with both kinds and presently, I am working with a growing church.

The reason a dying church is a dying church is because its leadership and members want everything to remain the same. What is ironic about this mindset is that things don’t remain the same for such a church: they deteriorate. Slowly and surely, guests stop visiting, members grow older, new souls aren’t added, people die and before too long, the church has ceased to exist (or at best is barely hanging on).

However, growing churches are constantly changing, growing and going through necessary transitions. Such transitions take place when staff changes, when membership numbers grow, when needs grow, when facility needs change, when individual members grow spiritually, etc. Growing churches are constantly adjusting to new things and new people. This change can also be called ‘transition.’  Transitioning can take place on many levels. The most obvious are in staffing, ministries, attendance and membership expansion. While some of us may be uncomfortable with such things, we need to look at such things as the blessings of church growth and transitioning.

Consider some things about this thing called transition that may help us look at it as a blessing and not as a curse.

Transition Is Normal; We Experience & See It Everyday.   We  have a certain amount of control over the type of transition it is and the speed of the transition.

Transition Is Helpful (when handled properly).   You cannot be timid about transition and you must be wise as it occurs.

Transition Is not an Enemy; Satan is the Enemy.    We’ve all heard the statement, “we shouldn’t change just for change sake.”   I think most of us would agree.   However, any change (and those advocating it) is considered evil by some.   The intent and the basis (is it biblical or not?) of change can be from the Lord or from the devil himself.    Remember that advocates of change are not necessarily the enemy; Satan is the enemy and he is behind any change that is evil.

Transition is neither good nor evil in itself. What got us to the transition state and how it got us there is a moral issue. We cannot, we must not, we should not and we will not compromise the Word of God for any reason. Our numerical and spiritual growth should always be based upon God’s will—and God’s Will makes it plain that we should always be growing.

As we transition we need to do so gracefully and in a Christ like manner.


Recommended reading:  Transitions Making Sense of Life’s Changes by William Bridges (subtitled: Strategies for Coping with the Difficult, Painful and Confusing Times in Your Life).


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 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.



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


Core Values & Your Church


Core Values & Your Church

The first thing most church members or leaders are going to ask is, “What is a core value and what does it have to do with church?”   

In human terms, core values are your personal priorities.   They influence how you think, make decisions, how you treat others and how you live. For example “honesty” is a core value that affects what you say and how you deal with others.   In the local church setting, core values define the local church and reveal what that congregation (as a whole) values.   These values determine a church’s purpose, her vision, decisions, plans, and ministries.   They are a church’s priorities.   Good or Biblical core values ‘run’ or ‘drive’ the church in a positive direction.  Self-centered core values stunt growth and create division and actually drive a church in a negative direction.  The idea of core values is taught in Matthew 6:19-21 (Where your treasure is that’s where your heart will be also–‘Irwin’ Translation) and Colossians 3:1-3 (Set your mind on things above….).

Core values are usually found within a church’s mission statement and vision statements.   All 3 (the mission statement, vision statements and core values) should (and usually do) relate consistently to one another.   They basically flesh out what the church is all about.

Some examples of church core values are:   truth, fellowship, worship, compassion, unity, love, acceptance, fruitfulness, holiness, prayer, excellence, integrity, discipleship and empowerment.   Sometimes core values are seen in people:  children, the lost, the poor, etc.  On one church website they listed 5 core values and each one was about young pe0ple; no other age group was mentioned.  This was very specific and it affected their worship, ministries and overall work of that church.  What core values do you think Jesus had?  Has?   What should YOUR core values be as a Christian?   Church leader?   Congregation?

At first glance, some folks might say, “Yes, these things are our values, so why we be so concerned about them?”

Every church has core values (written and unwritten, spoken and unspoken, known and unknown, intentional and unintentional).   Most churches do not have them written out.    Seldom does a church leadership share them with the church or prospective members.   You may hear some of the core values from time to time from the pulpit, in the announcements, in the prayers of the church, in sermons, in comments from the leaders or in a classroom. They can also be seen readily in a church’s budget. But they are not formally stated as such.  Do they need to be written?   Not necessarily so, but Biblical core values can benefit (when intentionally known, reviewed and lived out) the church in the following manners.   They can…

Keep a church focused on her local mission (we often get distracted from this).

Keep the church motivated in fulfilling the mission of the local church

Keep and encourage unity among her members

Keep the goals of the church clear in the minds of her members (we need reminding often of what we are all about).   At times, we need to be reminded of how we should be, think and live.   Core values, often repeated, educate as well as remind brethren who they are to be.

Biblical core values can create passion and excitement in the local church.   Much of what churches do is maintenance in nature. While maintenance is vital, missional core values create excitement in the local church.     Some congregations start a building program to create excitement. But such an endeavor is expensive and temporary at best.

They can inspire members to be more and do more

They can assist in making better decisions; whatever violates your core values receives a negative vote.   It’s that simple.

They help churches and individual members reach goals

They can prevent discouragement.

Biblical core values determine purpose and intention.

Core values should be determined by the leaders or by spiritually mature members of the church.

Some churches are not growing because ‘growing’ is not a core value.   Some churches tolerate immorality because ‘holiness’ is not a core value.   Some churches have personal comfort as a core value; they are more interested in being comfortable than reaching out to the lost (or stepping out of their comfort zones).

Note:  Core values can and should change simply because we are (to be) growing as individuals and as a collective group of believers.

I am NOT promoting human creeds.   I AM promoting church focus.   Too many churches have no real goals towards which to work.   Many congregations are on what I call “automatic pilot.”   They have sweet Christian members that go through the same motions and activities with little result.   As much as the Lord wants us to assemble, He also wants us to do so many other things that are just as important to the health and well-being of the local church.   Also, many church leaders assume that their members know what the Bible teaches about Christian living and values.  However these have to be taught again to every new Christian and every generation of children and adults.

God has mission statements for the local church and He wants the local church to envision what can be done specifically when we take Him at His Word and do what He says—-when we have His core values.

The church is only as strong as her core values, and her core values must be based upon the Word of God.

How may you learn what your church’s core values are?   We’ve already mentioned some ways a church’s core values are seen and acknowledged.   However, if you wish to know the core values of the church, you can simply ask the members.   Having done that, you will want to ask another question:   “based upon the Word of God and the local needs of the church and our community, what should be our core values?”     I think you will be pleasantly surprised and challenged.    The church leaders should ‘lead’ in the pursuit and discovery of Biblical core values for their congregation.

If we can help you in defining your core values or assist you writing out a mission statement and vision statements, please let us know.

Travis Irwin, Athens, TN


Articles I Recommend

articles3This week, I recommend the following 4 articles:

The first article is one that came out recently in the “Christian Chronicle” that addresses the way we value leaders and people in general in our culture and its adverse affects.   This article is written by Jonathan Holmes and it can be found at the following link:

Thumma and Bird are best known for their book The Other 80 Percent. This is a link is to their website that offers up-to-date relevant articles for churches that really take membership involvement seriously.

There is a correlation between a child remaining in the church as an adult and his/her involvement in ministry as a church.   Church leaders must value children and focus on the many ways a child can serve.

Most churches are always looking for ways to get more members involved in the ministries of the local church.   I came across this article this week that list some ‘out of the box’ suggestions that I really like—I think you will, too:

One more from Rick Warren on “Why Your Volunteers Quit”

Guest Article: E.R. Brannan

ERBrannanTravis in my service as Involvement Minister at Madison I broke my ministry into four areas;

MEND- Almost every new member needs mending if only the newness of being in a new fellowship.

BLEND- Many studies show that one who has not found at least family to whom he can relate within three months will be gone in a year.

SEND- The new member must be given some responsibility related to his skills and interest to feel that this is “my family.” 

TEND- AS the elders permit the Involvement Minister can be of great help in helping them shepherd the flock.

God bless,


Comment:   ER Brannen is one of the most respected men in the brotherhood and has years of experience in the ministry—and it shows.   I appreciate what he is saying here and it has already assisted me in my ministry in Athens.   Thank you, ER.   tdi

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.



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