Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Nelson Searcy & Jennifer Dykes Henson's new book, Ignite: How to Spark Immediate Growth in Your Church, (Baker Books, 2009).
Are unbelievers regularly visiting your church and coming to Christ as a result? God wants to use your church as a powerful tool to draw others into relationships with Him. But, for that to happen, you need to make your church a place that focuses outward and does servant evangelism in the community every day.
When your church consistently offers hope to the people in your local area, you'll see right away that new people are attracted to your church.
Here's how you can attract new people to your church right away:
Place your confidence in God. Remember that God wants lost people found even more than you do. You can count on Him to help you every step of the way as you reach out to the people in your community. Don't let fear stop you from answering God's call to evangelize the people in your local area.
Plan several "big days" throughout each year. A big day is: "an all-out push toward a single Sunday for the purpose of breaking the next growth barrier and setting an attendance record in order to reach as many people as possible for Jesus." Strategic dates for big days occur at various times throughout each year when people are especially open to growing spiritually. These times include Easter Sunday, a day in the fall about one month after school begins when people are thinking about new pursuits, and a day in February because most people aren't very busy then.
Cover each big day (and the entire process leading up to it) in prayer. Set a specific goal that reflects how many visitors you hope will attend your church's worship service on that day. Ask God to show you what His goal for the day is, and pray for Him to accomplish that goal as only He can when the day arrives.
Take your church's evangelistic temperature. Figure out how on fire the people in your church are about pursuing evangelism. Is their interest hot, lukewarm, or cold? Ask: "How many people are accepting Jesus as their Savior?", "How many baptisms are you doing?", "How many of your people are bringing their friends to church?", "How many first-time guests do you have?", "How many evangelistic outreaches do you have scheduled?", and "How often are you praying for the unchurched?".
Have your pastor lead evangelism efforts. It's up to your pastor to lead everyone else in your church by keeping them focused on reaching others for Jesus. The pastor must guide the evangelism strategy and incorporate it into your church's culture. Use sermons, challenges, announcements, and vision casting to raise the church's spiritual temperature. Have the pastor and others tell stories about when they've recently shared their faith or invited someone to church. Encourage church members to share their personal testimonies during church services. Teach about evangelism through sermon series scheduled at different times throughout the year.
Immediately after your church presents a message about evangelism, give people opportunities to practice what they've just learned. Hand each person several cards printed with information about your church and ask them to use them to invite others to an upcoming worship service or event.
Hold church staff accountable to consistently make evangelism a high priority. Make sure that they: serve in evangelistic activities, pray for unchurched friends, pray and fast for the church's big days, and invite friends to church regularly.
Structure your church for growth. Plan regular evangelistic events. Celebrate the good results that God brings from the evangelism efforts of people in your church (such as by holding baptism celebrations and showing video footage of those celebrations in your regular worship services). Ask people in your church's small groups to read, discuss, and apply evangelism book's principles to their lives while holding each other accountable. Allow people to belong to your church before they believe, so that they'll have others around to inspire and encourage them in their spiritual growth.
Mobilize people for evangelism. Help people overcome procrastination with evangelism by creating a sense of urgency about it. Give them deadlines to invite their unchurched friends to specific events and worship services. After you stretch your church's members to evangelize as much as they can, give them some time to rest and relax before you challenge them again. While you want them to pursue an evangelistic lifestyle every week, you don't want them to burn out.
Equip people for evangelism. Have members write down the names of their unchurched friends and encourage them to pray for each one's spiritual growth. Print information about your church (especially its location and service times) on the back of something useful (like a map of your city's subway system, or your local high school's football season schedule) and encourage members to hand these out to people they meet in your community. Give out pens with your church's information printed on them and ask members to give them to friends or use them sign receipts at restaurants and leave them on the table afterward.
Reward people after one of their friends visits your church for the first time by sending them a handwritten thank-you card and an inexpensive gift certificate to a coffee shop, encouraging them to invite their friend to meet them there to discuss what the friend thought of the church service.
Promote your church. Use mass marketing campaigns (such as sending thousands of fliers out to homes in your region or advertising on local radio stations) to promote your church. Keep the culture of your community in mind when designing your campaign. Make your promotions clear, consistent, and creative. Confine your message to the group of people you're targeting in a certain context (for example, if you're buying an ad in a wedding magazine, focus that promotion on what your church offers young couples). Pray about every aspect of each promotional campaign, and expect God to do something great through it.
Identify the types of people to try to reach. Focus on reaching out to the kinds of people that God is predominately bringing to your church. Those are the types of people that those in your church are best equipped to understand and attract.
Help people take the next step. Urge people who are attending worship services, small groups, and membership classes but haven't yet begun relationships with Jesus to make the decision to say "yes" to Him. Help new believers grow in their faith (through baptism, Bible studies, etc.) and assimilate them into the life of your church.
Adapted from Ignite: How to Spark Immediate Growth in Your Church, copyright 2009 by Nelson Searcy and Jennifer Dykes Henson. Published by Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group, Grand Rapids, Mich., www.bakerbooks.com.
Nelson Searcy served as the director of The Purpose Driven Community at Saddleback Church before starting The Journey Church of the City in New York City in 2002. He and his 1,200-member church appear routinely on lists such as The 50 Most Influential Churches and The 25 Most Innovative Leaders. His newsletter for pastors and church leaders, Church Leader Insights, now reaches more than 40,000 subscribers and continues to grow by hundreds each month. Searcy lives in New York City.
Jennifer Dykes Henson is a freelance writer based in New York City. She has served as a writer/producer and ministry consultant to organizations across the east coast. Prior to moving to New York, Jennifer worked with Dr. Charles Stanley as the manager of marketing communications for In Touch Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia. Jennifer and her husband are members of The Journey Church of the City.
Original publication date: Jaunary 8, 2010