We Need More Scoring Chances

I was listening to a local sports talk show the other day. They were analyzing what happened for the Calgary Flames in the last game. One commentator said, ” They didn’t have enough scoring chances.” I had been thinking about how few new believers we have had in our little church in the last couple of years, and so I immediately thought about how this fits with our desire to have our friends come to know Jesus.

We need more scoring chances! We need to find ways of setting things up for a conversation about Jesus. I don’t mean we treat people like projects or statistics. Nothing like that. But we do want people to surrender their lives to Jesus. After all, the Bible is clear that if they do not, they are headed to hell. So we want to have conversations with our friends where we introduce them to Jesus. We wan to be able to talk about the prayer Jesus recently answered. We want to talk about the peace we experience as we are in relationship with Jesus. We want to talk about how our life with Jesus gives us a purpose beyond just the endless rat race of life.

hall12So we need more scoring chances. These will come as we intentionally connect with our friends. And as we are playing Dominion with them, or as we enjoy ice cream at Dairy Queen. These opportunities to talk with them about Jesus will come as we hang out together over the years talking about our kids and our holidays, maybe even sharing holidays together! We will find times to talk about Jesus as we go through tragedy’s and joys together. Opportunities will come as we continue to pray for them and love them and care for them. Some of those opportunities might come as we invite them to events at church.

Jesus loves our friends even more than we do. Jesus wept over Jerusalem. He understands when we weep over our friends. And as we pray, Jesus has promised to send his Holy Spirit. Pray that the Father would draw our friends to Himself. Pray that the Spirit would open their eyes to the truth of Jesus. As we look for more opportunities to love our friends, the time will come where we can help them come to faith in Jesus!

VBS Still Draw Kids!

It has been a while since I actually helped with a Vacation Bible School even though our church has run one just about every summer, but it’s awesome! We have a great team and have had attendance that exceeded our expectations! Here are some of my thoughts about VBS.

It still draws kidsDSCN0168 DSCN0162

We have had more kids show up than we expected. In our small town of 650 with an attendance under 100 in our local elementary school, we thought we should plan for about 40. We had 34 show up the first day and new kids have come each day. We have now had close to 50, though not every kid has come every day! It still draws kids.

It’s worth doing

It’s worth doing. In a small town with not much happening, it offers something in town for the kids to do. I’m sure that part of why the parents send the kids is so they can have a few quiet hours at home. But it is worth doing because you can share the gospel with children, many of whom do not attend church regularly, if at all. It’s worth doing.

It’s worth doing well

Too often we do what we have always done and don’t take time to add in something new. I pushed our group to develop a team and to meet to plan things months in advance. It’s too easy to just expect things to work without putting in the effort. It’s worth doing well.

Make sure that it connects with the kids

Do your best to find a theme that connects with the kids. There are all kinds of great curriculum out there. Find something that will tell the salvation message but in a creative way. You want something that allows for great decorations and songs. Maybe your crafts and games can even tie into the theme. Make sure you connect with the kids.

Connect with the families

We have the privilege of meeting the parents or grandparents as they drop off their children. And we plan a Friday night Wrap Up Supper and Program specifically with the hopes that the parents will want to come see what their kids did all week and we will have the opportunity to meet them. Connect with the families.

Thank you ladies

Most VBS programs happen during the day. Most men work during the day. So thank you ladies. You are the ones who are leading VBS programs all across the country. If you have men in the church who can come and join in, do your best to get them involved. It’s great to have ladies, but the children benefit from seeing that the men are also part of the church activities. Thank you ladies.

It’s a great outreach

VBS still works in rural communities as a means of sharing the gospel message with the children of your church and community. The message come out in the songs and crafts as well as in the Bible stories. And the message can be shared briefly as part of the Wrap Up night so the parents hear it as well. It’s a great outreach.

Transforming Church in Rural America: Breaking all the Rurals – Shannon O’Dell

I look for books that speak to the rural ministry context from the rural ministry context. These are few and far between, but I found a great book that I want to encourage you to read! This should be a “must – read” for every rural pastor.transforming-church-in-rural-america

Shannon O’Dell is writing from the experience of small church and small town. He knows of church with 40 people and about how rumors fly through a small community. He is writing from the American experience, but it is really not that much different than our Canadian rural context.

Here are a few quotes from the book:

“I realized I needed to be focusing on growing individual congregants, not a big congregation.” p. 39

“”MAKE US BELIEVE! Because when the Church does not believe, when the ‘us’ (the Church) is removed, guess what? I’ts just MAKE BELIEVE. See, many of us believe in Christ. We recite the Apostles Creed or Nicene Creed and confess that we believe in Him. But many of us have not jumped the hurdle of believing Christ. We believe in Him theologically (mentally), but we don’t believe in Him practically.” p. 63

“That day I learned that people say they want to reach the lost, until we start changing things they are familiar and comfortable with in order to do what it takes to really reach the lost.” p. 73

“Are you really called to rural America? If you are, you better pony up because it is going to be the greatest opportunity and also the biggest challenge you have ever experienced, particularly when people leave, because even though they leave your church, they are never, ever gone from your life.” p. 74

Okay, that’s enough. You need to get the book. In reading it, there were times I really identified with what was being said, there were times I was challenged, and most of all I was encouraged that there are still people with innovative and creative ideas called to rural church ministry.

 

 

Get Rid of the Baby!

Here’s my challenge to you this Christmas. Get rid of the baby Jesus. The little plastic one in your nativity set. Throw him in the garbage – or if that seems to harsh – put him back in the box. When you set up your nativity scene – don’t include the baby Jesus.

Why would I say that?

Don’t you think it’s kind of weird that when we celebrate Jesus’ birthday, we always think of him in the manger? We celebrate the empty tomb at Easter, why not the empty manger at Christmas?Star-of-Bethlehem

When you celebrate your birthday do you always pull out the pictures of you in your crib? Happy 4th birthday! And you have a picture of you in your crib. Happy 16th birthday! And you have a picture of you in your crib on the Dairy Queen cake. Happy 24th birthday! By now you might have a baby of your own. Do you put a picture of you in your crib on display at your Birthday party with your friends? Do you pull out a picture of you in your crib at your 65th birthday?

I know, there is something really neat about that nativity scene we put up every year. Even the parts that aren’t really in the story – but hey – its tradition!

But my concern is that we forget that that baby grew up. He was the one who was crucified, and rose from the dead. He is the one who ascended into heaven. He is the one who said he was going to prepare a place for those who love him. He is preparing heaven right now!

So…if your “baby Jesus” is getting in the way of you remembering the grown up, risen, ascended Savior Jesus – then maybe you need to get rid of the “baby” Jesus and really get to know Jesus.

Let’s celebrate our Saviour this Christmas. Happy Birthday Jesus!

Chili Brings Them Out!

I like planning events that the church can use to invite friends to church. Our most recent Chili invite 2013 picone was this past Sunday – our third annual Open House Sunday & Chili Cook off. We have our service – pretty much the same as usual. We added in a Chili Trivia Quiz and took time to announce our programs for the fall. We had a shorter sermon than usual and dismissed our children and youth during that time to be introduced to their classes. And then we had chili!

In our posters and invitations we announced that people could enter a chili in the chili Cook off. We had 18 entries! And 4 of P1030472them were from people in the community who have never been to a church service before! One couple had been to our children’s choir presentation in December. We had all kinds of chili. The have to name their chili so we had names like Blazing Saddles, Divine Intervention, Chili Sundae, Hillbilly Chili, and even Chilly Chili which was a Chocolate pudding and marshmallow “dessert” chili. We planned for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place prize prizes – $100 to a nearby train car restaurant, $20 Tim Horton’s card, and a BIG chocolate bar. Everyone got to try all the chilies and then vote for their favorite.

It was a great morning. Our average attendance is around 60 and we had 92 people out. We had at least 20 new people! Everyone seemed to have a lot of fun! During the service, the gospel was presented as one young man shared his testimony and also through the sermon.

And now the people who came are promoting our church and our event to others! One ladies writes a blog and she posted a very favorable entry about the whole event.

Our desire is that these events will do two things: 1. help people to invite their unsaved family and friends, and 2. that the event will help all who come take one step closer to Jesus. Many people today want to Belong before they come to Believe. We think this morning helped to make people feel welcomed. We’ll see what God does with this one fun event.

Plan It Well!

Our church does a few annual “Big Days” or special events.

We begin the fall season with an “Open House Sunday & Chili Cook-Off”. This is our “kickoff” to the new season. We invite our friends and family and announce the event 6510028_origeverywhere we can. People can take special invitations to give out with all the details on them. This is the Sunday we announce our Care Groups and begin our Children’s Ministry. People prepare their favorite chili’s and people get to try all of them and vote on the one they like the best. A silly prize is given out.

Christmas Eve is one of the common ones among many of us. We usually have a full house as we celebrate with the Christmas story and carols. We’ve had hot apple cider for after which has gone over very well.

We always try to make the Sunday before Family Day a big event. We again prepare invitations for people to hand out. The day begins with a pancake breakfast – actually this year it was waffles and sausages. And we always have some kind of fun activity to do together. We have played “Name that Tune”. This last time we moved chairs to the side and played some “Sunday School Picnic” type of games before we had an abbreviated service.

3943719_orig 2040929_origOur Easter Eggstravaganza takes place at the community hall. This has been a big hit for our community. We have had up to 250 people and we usually average 60 at our regular services! Again, we give out invitations, have a few fun activities, offer free family pictures by a local photographer, and have activities on the tables. We do a breakfast, an Easter service, and then the Easter Egg hunt for the kids.

While we do other things, these are a couple of our big ones. And we try our best to plan them well!! I’ve developed a checklist template that guides our planning.

How to plan a Big Day well:

  • Special Day Details: Event ____________/ Date _____________/ Time ______________
  • Purpose: Why are we doing this? We need to be clear of why we are doing the event and what we are hoping to accomplish.
  • Food: Food – usually there is food. What will it be? Who will prepare it? Who will buy it? Will it be served? etc.
  • Service: What will the church service look like? Will kids be part of it? Will the sermon address a related theme to the special day? Will there be testimonies? What about special music or scripture readings? Any video clips? How will the Gospel be presented? How will a “decision” be asked for? How will people be invited back to regular services or church activities?
  • Activity Details: What will the activity be with this Big Day? Who will plan it? Who will run it? Where can we do it? Is there any special planning needed?
  • Promotion/ Publicity: Are posters being printed? Where will they go? Who will put them up? Are invitations being printed? Will they be ready at least 3 Sundays before the event so they can be handed out to the congregation for them to use? Any advertising in the local paper? What about a sandwich board in front of the church? Can we send some papers home through the local school?
  • Set up/Take down: What tables and chairs need to be put up? Who will do that? Who will put them away? Are there decorations to put up? Who can do that?
  • Take Home: What will people take home? It’s always good to send people home with something. A Bible? A little gift? A Jesus DVD?
  • Contact Information: How will we gather information from new people who attend? One thing that we have used quite often has been a Connection Card where we ask them to fill out their information and leave it on the tables. Or you can have a “Guess how many Jelly Beans” Jar and ask them to fill out their information along with their guess as to how many candies in the jar. Remember to give the candies out to the closest guess.
  • Prayer Plan: How will the church be praying for this event? What prayer reminder can you give people? I’m thinking of giving everyone a Chili Bean in September to remind them to pray for our Open House and Chili Cook-off event.
  • Photography: Is anyone going to take pictures for later? Who? How will they be stored? Who will get them onto the church website and Facebook page?
  • Budget: It’s a good idea to build a little budget before the event so you can plan your spending. Remember that you can always bring some money back in through charging a little – if appropriate – or through asking for church or community sponsors. We’ve had different opportunities to partner with community groups who like certain events we are doing and they are willing to help support them
  • Celebrate: How will you thank your people afterward for all their prayer and invitations and hard work? How will you let people know what actually took place? How many new people? How many new conversions?

I hope you have many great events, events that are fun, that bring friends out, and invite those present into a relationship with Jesus!

What’s the Next Step?

In the busyness of planning events and running programs and ministry, I tend to forget the “what’s the next step?” principle too often. I was reminded of this after an event I attended recently.

We all showed up for an outdoor church service in the park. It was a great morning. The sun was shining, birds were chirping, neighbors were passing through the park, ball players were cheering in the distance. We enjoyed some great music and worshiping together. The sermon was very encouraging and uplifting. But there was no next step. I’m not pointing fingers at anyone else, I’m just being reminded of how often I forget about that.Next-Step-720 It might have been nice to explain a little about the church and what the next thing was that people could take part in.

The “what’s the next step?” principle is something I came across some time ago and strive to make a part of all my planning and running of events. Though I forget about it more than I’d like.

The Next Step principle is that everything we do in the church or through the church should lead people to a next step.

  • Sunday Morning Worship Service: What’s the next step if people show up for a Sunday morning service? I would love to see people connect – specifically through joining a small group. Even though we are a small church, we use Connection Cards which invite people to leave their contact information with us. If it is during the off-season, then I at least send them an email as well as a letter welcoming them back. And when we start up our small groups again, I have the information so I can contact them and invite them to join one.
  • Sermons: I usually include some Next Steps on the back of the Connection Card. This is usually an invitation to respond to the sermon in some way. It may include the next step of memorizing a verse from the sermon, or a response to God, or even an action to take that week in a practical way.
  • Special Events: The Next Step for our Big Days (Fall Chili Cook-off, Easter Eggstravaganza, etc) is to invite people to come to our services again, with the prayer that they would be drawn to our church family and to God through them.
  • Small Groups: One Next Step we would love people to take is to step into leadership. As they grow as part of the small group, we want them to see that they don’t need to just continue as participants, but they can step into a ministry and serve there – maybe even into leadership.
  • New Believers/ New Attendees: One Next Step is to encourage those who have come to faith in Jesus to attend a Baptism Class and to consider Baptism as an expression of their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

All of this means we need to continually think ahead. Where are we hoping to lead people to? What is the next step of growth that we can invite people into?

Enjoy planning your Next Steps.