The Congregational Development Corner

8/15/2016

10 for 10 (10 steps for 10 percent growth)

During the 2016 Annual Conference session, action steps for congregational growth were shared during a Fruitfulness in Evangelism panel discussion, moderated by Rev. Jay Hanson, director of Congregational Development. Five clergy – Rev. Antonie Walker, Rev. Leigh Ann Raynor, Rev. Hale Bishop, Rev. Matt Hearn, and Rev. Jim Cowart – each shared two key tools for evangelism and growth and together gave clergy and lay attendees 10 action steps for 10 percent growth.

In the next several Advocate issues Congregational Development will share articles to give you and your congregation practical steps for church growth and development.

Do you see what I see?

By Rev. Leigh Ann Raynor

I start this article with a statement that I hope applies only to the “things” in your life, not to your relationships. The statement is, “The longer we are around something, the less we notice it.” Let me give you an example. Since 1981 I have lived in six parsonages, two of which I truly disliked. The one I disliked most had a different color combination of orange carpet in every room. Orange and red shag in the bedrooms, orange and green shag in the living room, orange and yellow shag on the stairs. But the worst was the kitchen, which had indoor/outdoor carpet with a pattern consisting of orange, black and green.

I truly hated every carpet in that house, but here is what happened: the more I was around it, the less I noticed it. As loud and hideous as it was, it disappeared to me because I had grown so familiar with it. When I would have guests in the house, however, I would open the kitchen door and they would immediately exclaim some version of, “Oh my gosh! How do you live with this?” It would take me a second to realize they were talking about the carpet since I barely noticed it anymore.

Unfortunately, it can be that way in our churches as well: the more we are around something, the less we notice it. It is important, however, to look at our churches with a visitor’s eyes. What do our guests see that we no longer notice? People who are in our churches every week or multiple times per week can grow so accustomed to the peeling paint or the dirty carpet that they no longer notice it, but your guests will see it right away.

I know that we can’t always afford to fix everything that needs to be updated in a church. At Porterfield we have an entire building of carpet that needs to be replaced, but it just isn’t something we can do right now. But since we can’t afford every repair we need, these are the things we do:

  • Our Trustees maintain a list of everything that needs to be done, they prioritize that list, and they are constantly working on it, item by item, as the church can afford.
  • We have church members whose passions are in gardening. They planted beautiful flowers at several of the entrances of the church.
  • Most importantly, we keep the buildings as clean as possible. Our custodians do a good job, but prior to special occasions when we know there will be a lot of visitors (like Easter) we have a church-wide “cleaning day” during which many members give their time to give the church a good spring cleaning.
There’s no doubt in my mind that our visitors notice the age of some things at Porterfield, but hopefully they also notice that while the buildings are old, they are clean. It doesn’t cost anything but time to have a spring and fall cleaning at your church where as many people as possible come to help.

It is also important that we look at our own behavior through the eyes of a guest to our churches. Most church members would describe themselves as being friendly, but sometimes the reality is that they are friendly to each other. It is important that we train people to be on the lookout for any guests we have on Sunday morning. Help them to feel welcome without feeling overwhelmed. Definitely have a time of greeting or passing the peace on Sunday mornings. Regardless of what individual members think about doing that during a service, a time of greeting will make your guests feel welcome without being singled-out.

And finally, look at your neighborhood with fresh eyes as well. At Porterfield we have a ministry that was an idea we appropriated from Thomasville First. It’s a Welcome Basket/Bag ministry, and it’s the easiest ministry you’ll ever do. We had reusable canvas bags imprinted with our logo and other information. We keep those bags stocked with information about the church, as well as a small gift like a coffee mug with the church’s logo. When one of our members sees that they have a new neighbor, they pick-up one of the welcome bags and then add to it a frozen chicken casserole and frozen pound cake that other members have made specifically for this ministry and that we keep in the freezer at the church. It is an instant welcome basket for your new neighbor, and it gives your members an opportunity to invite that person/family to your church.

My advice for growing the church starts with looking at your facilities, your neighborhood, and even yourself, through the eyes of a guest.

Leigh Ann Raynor is the Senior Pastor at Porterfield Memorial United Methodist Church. She can be reached at lraynor@pmumc.net.