Building a bridge to success


By Aaron Summers

None of us intend to fail. Not one. We want, if not expect, to succeed. Sure, there are those circumstances that can change our thoughts and shatter our dreams, but we still set out to succeed in overcoming those as well. If we fail, we get frustrated.

So it is in ministry. 65% of our churches are plateaued or declining. That statistic is not news.  Every one of us start at a church to succeed in not being that statistic. Yet, it still happens. It has to me and it has to you.

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What can we do? We usually start the evaluation process. Some evaluate other locations.  Some evaluate their current location. One way to evaluate our own location is through demographics. We can also look at the types of people in and around our church. Rick Warren uses The Circles of Commitment:

  1. Community (outermost circle)
  2. Crowd
  3. Congregation
  4. Committed
  5. Core (innermost circle)

The whole point is to move people from unbelievers (community) to fully devoted followers of Christ (core). But we still have 65% plateaued or declining.  

That is so defeating!

I have enjoyed listening to Robby Gallaty and reading his works. His idea is very similar in that the church should desire to make disciples more than just converts. I applaud this and am moving our church in this direction. He has an entire structure for development groups.  

But how are we supposed to get them from the outer circle to the  inner circle?

Here is the problem we are facing. Let me make a suggestion. I do not propose to have the answers but I would rather try something than try nothing. After much discussion and thought, our 5 circles became clear. What we needed was a pathway to move people from one circle to another. Will Mancini has written some groundbreaking materials in this area. In his book, Church Unique, we learn the importance of establishing a strategy map.

As a way to provide bridges between the circles I discovered the three must-do’s to provide transition.

  1. Connection means to provide a point of entry to the next level. A Fall Fest or Egg Hunt or VBS is a way to generate interest. Interest might lead a family to gather with you in worship. Consider what connection point you can use in-between the levels. A group party is a great connection point to introduce someone who is in worship but not Sunday School yet.
  2. Conversation means to engage people through text, email, calls, or coffee. I have seen many connection points but no follow-up. If we aren’t going to follow-up then why do the connection? We must be intentional about this. My friends at Text In Church provide a free template revealing a great process of following up. This can be used after an event to help move inward. This could be used after being a guest in worship.  Regardless, there must be a conversation after the connection.
  3. Celebration means to recognize the moments when our new friends and church family move further in the relationship with Jesus and you. Some considerations might be to give a guest a gift. Some churches have t-shirts or bibles for those being baptized. What about those going to Sunday School that weren’t? I fear we often lose sight. We just think it is supposed to happen and so we don’t celebrate it. What do we do if someone completes a series of classes or a 12-18 month discipleship group? We pat them on the back, or less, because it is what they were “supposed to do”. We can do better.

The bridge to success is only a walk away. Won’t you walk it with me?

Summers serves as Lead Pastor at First Baptist Church of Crowley in Crowley, TX.

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