Over the last several years, I have read and studied a LOT of church growth material. I’ve attended seminars and conferences and spoken with many great experts on the subject. This weekend, Ricardo Norton from Andrews University was the adult speaker for our Hispanic Camp Meeting and had a good seminar on church growth. He gave five characteristics of magnetic churches. I don’t remember much of the content for each, but I wrote down those characteristics because they describe the churches that I’ve seen doing the best work at attracting people.
1. Magnetic People
Friendly people go a long way in making a good first impression and increasing the chance of making first time guests into regular attenders. The first person that they see should give them a friendly welcome and make them feel at home. I have visited several non-Adventist churches in the past and have always been nervous to be called out in a place that I don’t know. The places that I felt most welcomed were places where the emphasis wasn’t on the fact that I was a visitor, but the fact that I was there when I could have been anywhere else (having a good “people person” at the door or at the greeting area can help to strike the balance between overlooking and overbearing someone). These churches also usually have a few good “connector” people who are able to link guests to general information, other people, church events and (usually) food!
If someone is at church on a Sabbath morning, it’s because something is happening in their lives where they find themselves seeking. Don’t let them leave disappointed. Show your interest in them by taking their name, thank them for being there and doing some sort of follow up which will let them know that they are cared for and loved with actions more than words.
2. Magnetic Preaching
You don’t need Dwight Nelson at your church to meet this point. If you are a pastor, you certainly want to make sure that you are bringing your best on Sabbath morning, but churches shouldn’t expect the pastor to be the one to present each week. Whoever the speaker is, they should have a passion for Jesus and a desire to convey what He has done in their lives to others. You can read books or attend seminars on how to how to better organize and deliver your message for understanding, but nothing beats a sermon that comes through an authentic experience with the Lord.
Recently, a friend of mine shared an interesting point in this area. You may be familiar with the Natural Church Development (NCD) survey from NADEI. If you’re not, you can find out about it here:
He said that someone asked in a seminar he attended recently:
Q: What is the biggest factor for growth in Adventist churches in the NAD?
(The sample was 447 churches, composing almost 12k people. Third latest study after value genesis, and health survey.)
*It’s not small groups, or evangelism, or loving relationships*
A: Q74 on the survey – Our leaders are spiritual examples to me.
The lecturer then reflected that this is unique to Adventists and doesn’t discount other important things for healthy churches. He mentioned that the answer explains why matriarchs/patriarchs or pastors who are not spiritual (or seen as spiritual) leach life and hamper growth. Are your leaders willing/able to share what Jesus has done for them this week?
It reminds me of quote I once heard that said, “A man can make a difference in others when God is making a difference in him.” Speakers who are dedicated believers themselves go a long way in helping your church be a magnetic one.
3. Magnetic Worship
The point here is not worship style. Some churches are still fighting the “worship wars” and that’s not today’s topic. The idea here is that music should be uplifting and quality. The worship that your church presents tells others what you think about the person you’re worshiping. If you find your church routinely doing things last minute or winging it, people will notice. I’ve been at churches where they’ve only sung hymns but the atmosphere was definitely uplifting.
Make your worship one where excellence is an important value. You don’t have to be a time Nazi or leave everything “to the Spirit” either. The point as that, whatever you do, make your worship time a time where people can connect to each other and to God and know that there will be.
4. Magnetic Activities
You can’t expect to only have worship services and expect people to flock to church. More than anything else, people come through activities which speak to them. If your church has a mission statement, this makes your job easier because you know the demographic that you want your activities to cater to. No, your church can’t reach everyone. Your activities will determine the kind of people you attract to your church.
Make your activities something that people feel comfortable inviting their friends to. Not every event has to be an overtly religious one, either. How about a game night, sports day, health fair, or family seminar? These types of events will go a long way in getting the church to have a good reputation and attraction in the community.
5. Magnetic Venue
Personally, I believe that a church building should be functional and clean. I’ve known congregations that met in renovated storefronts, shopping centers, homes, and theaters. I’ve also seen churches that rented or owned traditional-looking churches with steeples and the like. Wherever you meet, make sure that it has, above all, the facilities to do the things that you need it for (i.e. childcare, bathrooms, worship area, mingling area, etc.) and is kept looking as best as you can make it.
Obviously, once people are in the door, is it up to the Holy Spirit (and your church structures) to move people from seekers to believers, from believers to disciples, and from those disciples train a few to be leaders in order to reproduce and expand the church. But by having these characteristics, magnetic churches ensure that they’ll constantly have a steady stream of people to serve in the communities that they live in.