In September 2016, we were blessed to launch CityReach Church Endicott with a team of unbelievable people. When we launched, I had all kinds of magical thinking. I had ideas about the video content and flashy sermons like I’ve seen Pastors Rick Bezet and Craig Groeschel use. I love both of those guys! They are awesome and make incredible content available for others to utilize. However, it became easy to fall into the trap of using only their sermon content. As I used their content, I struggled to preach the “ready-made outlines.” It wasn’t mine and it wasn’t really clicking.
In November 2016, I was in a cohort training led by Pastor Jeff Leake of Allison Park Church and Reach Northeast. Pastor Jeff was a real change agent from God for me over the 7 months of working with him and the other pastors in the group. I had some great take-aways.
TWEAK #1 – Stay Grounded
Other people’s content is good for reference, but the Word God puts on your heart for your congregation and city is much better. Stay connected with your people and their needs. Stay grounded in the word and prayer daily. God called me to be a part of launching his church and God called you to the city you’re a part of. Being you is why God called you. Teach and preach life-giving, relevant messages that are for your congregation.
TWEAK #2 – Build People
Size is important in the way you pastor your church. You don’t pastor a church of 28 the same way you pastor a church of 350. Smaller church pastors need to be in close relationship with everyone in the church. I was pastoring a smaller church like it was a church of 350. I was building systems before I was building people.
TWEAK #3 – Give It Away
Your job is to lead people to Christ. Ephesians 4 lays out additional parts.
Ephesians 4:11-13 (NIV)
So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
Equip and train people for the works of service, so the body can be built up. This is a tidbit Pastor Jeff shared with me from one of our conversations, “I create a vacuum for people to come when I create room for them to serve.”
TWEAK #4 – Engage Your Community
Your church should be inviting people to a place they love and enjoy attending themselves. Be a church that is authentic. You can foster the invite with the way you leverage the calendar. You can use days like the end of prayer and fasting in January to have a big invitation on Sunday. Valentine’s Day could have a Sunday for people to invite couples. Palm Sunday, Easter a.k.a. “The Super Bowl of Sundays”, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and “Back to School” are just a few events you can use to engage your community. At our church, we try to follow these Sundays with a Sunday that will draw people back.
TWEAK #5 – Connect with First Time Guests
It’s important to get first time visitors into relationship with small groups and other calendar events. If you help people establish friendships that makes your church “sticky.” People will want to stick around if they have friends and know the pastor.
TWEAK #6 – Plan For The Upswing
When attendance goes down and it will sometimes- don’t panic. Most churches default to what they did last when attendance goes down and then get stuck in a loop. Instead, plan for your next upswing. Invest in developing systems, making facility & equipment improvements, and investing in people. “When you invest, plan and prepare for growth; you make it easier for God to bring you to your next level.” I wish I could take credit for that last sentence, but that was Pastor Jeff again.
A pastor recently told me it’s a real grind. I felt bad for him because for me it’s not a grind- it’s an adventure. We are part of a growing network with a wealth of support. We are better together.
Go be the you God called you to be.
For additional leadership training and resources from Pastor Jeff Leake, visit www.reachnortheast.com/resources