If Sunday morning truly is “broken” and if what most church leaders know how to do best isn’t working, what next?
That’s the question I asked in last month’s column. I didn’t argue against doing Sunday morning worship. Do it, and do it well. But if leaders want to grow churches and turn around five decades of decline, they need to be doing more.
Communications is #1
Especially digital communications, which can reach far more people than those who walk in the door on Sunday morning.
Leaders should be sending out e-letters that address questions people are asking, not what the church is trying to sell them. Personal, not institutional.
Leaders should be blogging — stating clearly what matters to them, what they are seeing of God in daily life, where they sense God is leading the faith community. Take the risk of being known.
Leaders should facilitate niche communications, such as a youth e-letter a young adult e-letter, a seniors e-letter.
Turn the focus outward
Learn about your larger community. Build bridges between needs out there and your flock. Lead your people into making a difference in the world, not fussing so much about getting their needs met.
Work on “touch management,” that is, cultivating people whom you don’t know but have touched in some way, leading them toward engagement with the faith community.
Work on developing venues where people can connect with each other, with you and with the faith community. The Sunday morning pew isn’t your best gateway. Small groups and mission activities work far better.
Teach tithing and accountability
The Bible doesn’t say, “Tithe if it’s convenient.” It says, “Measure your harvest, and give the first tenth portion back to God.” No debates about “modern tithe.” Just accept the tithe for yourself, and ask others to join you.
You need to insist on useful and consistent metrics. You need to hold people accountable for what they promise to do. You need performance reviews of key volunteer leaders as well as staff. When you assume only paid staff are accountable, you treat everyone else as children and unimportant.
Teach humble submission to God
Teach people to pray; don’t just assume they know from having sat in a pew and having said grace at meals. Teach them to meditate. Teach them how to confess their sins and how to make amends. Teach them about servanthood.
Remember that Jesus never planned a Sunday service, never built a facility, never elected officers, never worried about a budget, never made it easy.
Two-thirds of his teachings were about wealth and power. His goal was to break mammon’s iron grip on humanity. He went into the larger world and allowed people’s needs and questions to shape his life. Only by following this same course will we come close to God’s call.
TOM EHRICH is president of Morning Walk Media, a publishing and church consulting firm based in New York. He previously served Episcopal congregations for 20 years, worked as a newspaper reporter and business consultant. Write Tom at email@example.com.