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Embrace change to grow your ministry

You don't need to remember Danny & the Juniors, the Beatles, Pearl Jam or even Red Hot Chili Peppers to know that churches are plying their trade in a rapidly and vastly changing world.

Three years ago — so yesterday. Thirty years ago — ancient history.

We can bristle, or we can adapt. I recommend adapt — and enthusiastically, because technology, diversity and changing lifestyles are opening important opportunities for ministry.

The challenge is to be as diversified in our ministries as the world around is diversified.

Here are two critical areas where we need to up our game:

PHYSICAL ACCESS

Driving: Except for a few congregations in dense urban centers, we have been car-based for the past 60 years. In fact, many congregations relocated (or started) along Interstate highways, where it was assumed everyone would drive to church. Hence, a need for large and well-maintained parking lots, entrances near parking, and activities that didn’t compete with rush-hour driving patterns. Driving is still the norm, but it’s changing.

Walking: Young adults are choosing homes and services where they can walk, not drive. They are gravitating to cities, where downtown housing is available near workplaces and entertainment.

Your church needs to examine whether it supports a walking lifestyle. If it does, you can add on-site ministries that respond to it, such as pre-schools for walking families, weekday ministries like suppers and classes that are timed for people walking home from work.

On-campus: With suburbs “graying” and destination cities seeing an influx of elderly, churches should be thinking about building retirement housing on their campuses, or adapting adjacent buildings for retirement housing.

VIRTUAL ACCESS

Email: Tried and true and still effective with middle-aged and older. But not effective in reaching young adults and teens.

Social media: What began as friendship nurturing has become a complete communications system. Many rely on Facebook for all communication needs. It’s busy, “noisy” and operates by unique protocols, but it’s a game you’ll need to play for the foreseeable future.

Texting: Great for reaching teens, but must be done with care, hipness and respect.

Blog: Changing rapidly, new tools emerging, Lady Gaga on Tumblr (as am I), Google +, powerful for displaying graphics, presenting content mixed with graphics (imagine your church news as photos with captions, not long articles).

Online meetings: Economical, good stewardship of time, not a total replacement for in-person but a useful supplement. Maybe do every third meeting in person, the next two online. Look at GoToMeeting, WebEx, Virtual Office, Mikogo.

Online teaching (webinars): If small group, can be highly interactive. For larger group, better to do teacher-tell with written questions submitted to a moderator. Do one live, record it, then make it presentation and media available via your Web site for 24/7 accessibility.

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