Advent resources

New satisfactions

Church life offers many satisfactions, perhaps none quite so thrilling as entering a packed sanctuary filled with music, friends, and energy.

Another satisfaction, known especially by clergy and lay pastors, is sitting with one or two people and helping them work through the “changes and chances of life.”

I also think of retreats – work projects that draw people outside themselves and into a common purpose, and the joy of watching strangers connect.

One challenge of Multichannel Church is that its satisfactions aren’t always familiar or easy to grasp. Some require learning new ways to see faith community happening.

Let’s say you start a Wednesday night gathering to broaden the reach of a congregation with average Sunday attendance of, say, 200. Participation starts small, of course, perhaps 20 people, all of them from the Sunday 200. One by one they drift away, until the core group is 10, and they aren’t having as much satisfaction as on Sunday.

Change the goal. Make the goal reaching new prospects, not providing one more ministry to regulars. You ask Sunday regulars to help you get started, but the thrust of your marketing and programming is to “touch,” say, 20 new lives. Now the 20 look different – a 10% increase in your average weekly “touches.” Moreover, the new 20 soon will become 40, because these 20 will bring friends.

Another example: You start a neighborhood-based gathering in, say, the community room of an apartment complex. Your initial thought is that 40 of your 200 live in that general area and might come. They don’t come, of course, because they have already decided where church fits in their lives.

Change the focus. Again, starting with a core group, reach out to people in that neighborhood who know nothing about you. Invest in marketing, go door to door, make the gathering’s content and feel appealing to the people who actually live in that neighborhood. Bring those new people into leadership, and nurture an entirely new dimension of your congregation, one that might never bear fruit in higher Sunday attendance, but will deepen your impact.

Another example: you start a series of online initiatives, such as a sharing group that uses blogs, a prayer circle that exchanges Facebook posts, live streaming of Sunday services, virtual leadership meetings, and classes taught in “webinars.” None is equivalent to familiar in-person ministries. But let’s say your online initiatives start touching former members, people who have moved several states away, total strangers, children away at college, and shut-ins.

To appreciate these initiatives, you must learn to see their satisfactions — the slow deepening of connection in an online prayer group, the growing number of “hits” on your Web site, the count of people watching your Sunday service online.

Once you learn to see and measure, you will realize that your Sunday 200 has grown some – because at least a few new touches will want to sample Sunday worship – and your overall impact has grown substantially. Now you are reaching 500 each week, then 1,000, because these ministries are scalable (able to grow without vast expenditure or new facilities), and the potential pool of touches far exceeds the likelihood of convincing the Sunday 200 to do anything new.

Multichannel Church is a new way of seeing and measuring. Once you figure it out, you will find more satisfactions than ever.