Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Seven Key Reasons Your Church Attendance May Be Declining

By Thom S. Rainer

My five-year old grandson asked me how old I was. When I told him I would turn 60 in a few weeks, he responded: “I didn’t realize people got that old.”

Indeed, in 60 years, like any of us who have lived a few years, I have seen change, lots of change. And I am seeing change in local congregations faster than any time in my lifetime. One of the most disheartening changes I am seeing is the declining attendance in a majority of churches. I am asked repeatedly to diagnose and help with these challenges.
Though addressing the issue of declining attendance cannot be covered in a brief blog post, I hope it will be helpful to share some high-level perspectives. See if any of these seven reasons apply to your church.
  1. “Cultural Christians” no longer see the need to attend church. “Cultural Christian” is really an oxymoron. I refer here to those men and women who once attended church for social, political, or business reasons. Most of them no longer feel it is necessary to be in church to be a regarded citizen in the community.
  2. Church members are attending less frequently. I have noted in other articles how I see this development as potentially the greatest contributor to attendance decline. Three decades ago, a very active church member attended three times a week. Today we call those who attend three times a month an active church member.
  3. Expectations are lower for church members. One of the reasons church members attend less frequently is that very little is expected of them in many churches. If we expect little of our members, that is exactly what we will get.
  4. Insufficient emphasis on groups. This reality may be one of the most neglected areas of church life. Groups of all kinds – home groups, small groups, Sunday school classes, life groups, and others – are key to assimilation and greater commitment. The importance of groups must begin with the pastor and all other key leaders in the church.
  5. Inward focus. In too many churches, the emphasis is on “me, myself, and I.” Some members are more concerned about the temperature in the worship center than the eternal destinations of their neighbors. The “me-focused” church is on its way to decline.
  6. No clearly defined process of discipleship. Eric Geiger and I reported on this issue in our book, Simple Church. Growing churches are much more likely to have a clearly grasped and implemented process of discipleship than declining churches.
  7. No strategic plans for multi-venues or multi-campuses. As I noted in my article Monday, the trend of multi-venue and multi-campus churches may be the most significant in church practices in the past three decades. Even smaller churches are now planning for more than one site or venue. Those churches not making such plans are more likely to be declining.
Decline in church attendance cannot be defined in seven simple statements. But these reasons are at least broad explanations of what is taking place in many of our congregations. I would love to get feedback from you on these issues.

Monday, June 29, 2015

LifeWay releases WAR ROOM resources

The War Room Church Campaign Kit provides a comprehensive tool for churches seeking to plan and promote prayer efforts in their congregation and community. It comes complete with a step-by-step planning guide, supportive sermon outlines, a 5-week small-group study (with War Room Bible Study Book and supporting film clip DVD), evangelism outreach materials, and a DVD-ROM with promotional trailers, flyers, posters, and web ads, all designed to create an exciting campaign for your church. Also includes a guide to help churches launch a prayer ministry.
Learn more about this and other WAR ROOM resources...

Friday, June 26, 2015

TRANSFORM Teacher Training Event - Pasadena, TX - August 29


August 29, 2015 (Saturday)
Pasadena, TX: First Baptist Church
One-day training teachers can put to use the very next day!

  • Description
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    TRANSFORM equips teachers to build groups with a central focus on seeing lives transformed through teaching. Leading them to recognize that teaching is more than just sharing information—teachers will discover ways to build on relationships with their group members to see lives changed.
    During this six-hour event, your teachers will come to understand:
    • The meaning of transformational teaching
    • How to teach with the goal of transformation
    • Practical teaching methods
    • How those they teach learn
    • How to prepare to teach 
    • Classroom dynamics and more
    Leaders will be able to focus the entire day on the very narrow age segment they teach and will gain new insights and hands-on skills they can put to work immediately.
    The day is facilitated by one of the finest faculties in the nation—a team of experts who’ll provide your leaders with cost-efficient, local training for only $35 per person. TRANSFORM can have a huge impact on the future Bible teaching that takes place in your church. Don’t miss this unique training opportunity
    Cost: $35 per person


    First Baptist Church
    7500 West Fairmont Parkway
    Pasadena, TX 77505

    Wednesday, June 24, 2015

    Church security: need highlighted by S.C. shooting

    By David Roach
    The massacre of nine Christians during a prayer service at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C., highlights the need for all congregations to implement security measures, a security expert told Baptist Press.
    "The biggest obstacle for churches is just not believing that [a violent attack] could happen at their churches," said Jimmy Meeks, a Southern Baptist police officer in Hurst, Texas, who presents church security seminars across America. People "don't listen to what needs to be done until they believe it needs to be done."
    Since 1999, there have been at least 971 incidents in which "deadly force" was employed at faith-based organizations in the U.S., according to statistics posted online by church security expert Carl Chinn. Those incidents resulted in more than 550 deaths, with more deadly force incidents occurring in Baptist churches than among any other group, according to Chinn.
    Prior to the Charleston slayings, the most notorious church shootings on record included a 1980 attack at First Baptist Church in Daingerfield, Texas, that left five people dead and 15 injured, and a 1999 shooting at Wedgwood Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas, in which a lone gunman killed seven people and wounded seven more before committing suicide. In 2009, pastor Fred Winters died from four chest wounds sustained during a shooting at First Baptist Church in Maryville, Ill.
    Though some church violence garners widespread media coverage, violent deaths continue at a rate of more than 30 per year even when there is little media attention.
    Establishing and training a security team, Meeks said, is the most important way a church can protect itself from violent intruders. He added that small and large churches alike need security teams.

    Monday, June 22, 2015

    LifeWay reports strategic changes

    By Lisa Cannon Green

    LifeWay Christian Resources is poised to reach a million people this fall with its Christ-centered curriculum, The Gospel Project, leaders announced at the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Columbus.

    During his report to SBC messengers, LifeWay President Thom S. Rainer laid out three strategic changes LifeWay is making to prepare for the future and serve churches more effectively. These strategic changes include selling its sprawling headquarters in downtown Nashville later this year and building a smaller facility nearby.

    Wednesday, June 17, 2015

    12 Quick & Easy Summer Ideas for Your Church

    By Diana Davis

    Looking for simple summertime ministry ideas for your church? Try some of these!

    Red, White & Blue Drive-Through. A banner on the church lawn reads, “Drive through for free snow cones 1-5 p.m. Saturday, July 4.” Red, white, and blue balloons mark a drive-through lane in the parking lot. Happy snow-cone-makers work quickly to avoid long lines, and give a church brochure and verbal invitation to worship with each treat. Add extra fun with a patriotic harmonica or kazoo trio.

    Cool Comfort. Open your facility to those in the community who may not have air conditioning. Provide play areas for moms with young kids. Set up a workspace for college students with free Wi-Fi access. The summer heat is especially dangerous for seniors. Providing a cool place for them to spend their days may even save a life. You may need to provide transportation to and from their homes.


    Friday, June 12, 2015

    I Will - Nine Habits of the Outwardly Focused Christian released by Thom S. Rainer

    Every day we are faced with the needs of those around us. Emotional. Physical. Spiritual. What are we to do about it? Are these problems for our pastors to address or is there a way for the church member to make an impact that will last? In I Will, bestselling author Thom S. Rainer answers these questions by offering nine simple traits that all church members can incorporate into your life no matter your background, stage of life, or sense of capability. This is the follow up to Thom S. Rainer's wildly popular book, I Am a Church Member that many across the country have used in church-wide studies to train their congregations.

    Wednesday, June 10, 2015

    Living Proof Live Simulcast with Beth Moore - September 12

    Bring Beth Moore To Your Community - September 12, 2015

    Which Registration Is Right for You?

    • Large Church ($1,500): Church membership 250+.
    • Small Church ($850): Church membership less than 249.
    • Individual ($20): Watch in the comfort of your own home.
    • Small Group: Get an Individual registration for each woman in your group.
    Host this event in your church, in your home with a group of friends, or use as a personal study time.

    Why Simulcast?

    • Community Outreach - Impact the women in your community.
    • Customizable and affordable - Make it as large or as intimate as you want.
    • Convenient - No travel required.
    • A great kick off to a women's Bible study in your church.
    • View women's stories from previous simulcasts.

    How To Participate

    • HOST a simulcast in your church. Invite the women of your church and community.
    • WATCH the simulcast in your home or with your small group. Get an individual registration for each person in your group.
    • ATTEND a simulcast at a local church.
    • View 10 ways how to host a simulcast (pdf).

    What You Need

    • A computer and internet connection.
    • 1MB of continuous download capability for standard definition (DSL connection).
    • 3MB of continuous download capability for High Definition (cable modem or broadband).
    Spanish, Closed Captioning, and American Sign Language available.

    Friday, June 5, 2015

    Survey: 'Nones' open to variety of denominations

    By Ken Walker

    Americans have a surprising openness to Christian churches, even those who are supposedly turned off to religion, a new survey from LifeWay Research shows.
    No matter which denomination is in the name of a church, fewer than half the nonreligious say "it's not for me." Their views are more favorable than unfavorable toward a wide range of faiths -- Catholic, Methodist, Baptist, Lutheran, Assemblies of God, and non-denominational.
    These findings, based on a new survey of denominational opinions by LifeWay Research, may come as a surprise to those who've seen recent headlines. Growing numbers of people who don't identify with any church have gathered considerable media attention. But LifeWay Research vice president Scott McConnell said many of these "nones" aren't as closed to church as some may assume.

    Wednesday, June 3, 2015

    On Point Free Webcast for Group Pastors - June 9

    If you are a small group pastor or lead in a groups ministry you need to know about On Point.
    Would you benefit from encouragement, training, and having hard questions answered about groups ministry? On Point is just what you need.
    On Tuesday, June 9 at 1:00 CST tune in to hear from several of the leading groups ministers from around North America as they offer practical training and concrete encouragement to help you in your ministry. 
    Here is what they will cover:
    • Recruiting and Developing Leaders-  Reid Smith
    • How to Start Groups with a Short-Term Study - Mark Howell
    • How to Connect People in Four Weeks - Tyler Gregory
    • Creating a Culture of Discipleship - Brad House
    • Key Practices of Coaching - Bill Donahue
    • The Group That Prays Together - Ben Reed
    • The Transitioning Stage of Group Life - Carolyn Taketa
    • How Do I find a Role for Everyone in My Group? - Steve Gladen
    • Building Rhythm into Group Life - Jared Musgrove
    • How to Lead a Transformational Bible Study Group Meeting - Spence Shelton
    • How to Engage People Disillusioned with Small Groups/Mid-Sized Groups - Daniel Im
    • Three Practices of Healthy Missional Communities - Todd Engstrom

    You can register for On Point HERE

    For some ideas on how to take full advantage of this even check out this blog post.
    Please share with any fellow groups leaders you know to participate as well!

    Join us for a free online demo of Ministry Grid and get 30 days of access for all your church's leaders for FREE.

    Tuesday, June 2, 2015

    2016 VBS to 'submerge' kids in God's Word

    By Aaron Earls

    Next summer, kids will have the opportunity to dive past the surface and go deeper into God's Word with "Submerged," the 2016 Vacation Bible School theme from LifeWay Christian Resources.
    The theme helps challenge a culture consumed with celebrity -- one marked by the image of beauty and popularity, LifeWay VBS specialist Jerry Wooley said.
    "It's a value system that's unrealistic and an impossibility to achieve or maintain," he said. "During Submerged, kids will discover it's not what's on the surface that matters, but the internal truth that only God can see."
    Each day of next year's VBS, students will explore the way Jesus saw people and examine the truth of the key verse,Psalm 139:23-24: "Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my concerns. See if there is any offensive way in me; lead me in the everlasting way."
    "This is an adventure that will take us not only to the depths of the ocean," Wooley said, "but to the depths of our hearts as well. We will be challenged to let God not only search our hearts, but reveal the truths of our hearts as well."
    VBS remains one of the most effective evangelistic events for churches. Using the most recent statistics available, Wooley said nearly 3 million people participated in VBS at a local church in 2014. Approximately 80,000 children made professions of faith during those weeks and more than 1 million unchurched individuals were identified as a result.
    Wooley believes the same could happen again next summer as Submerged reveals our greatest need. "God sees our heart and knows our thoughts," he said. "He sees what lies below the image we want the world to see, and He loves us anyway. He sees and knows our true potential, our sin and our need for a Savior."
    For those ready to start planning for next summer, VBS 2016 Jump Start Kits will be available for purchase in October, with other resources scheduled to be available in December.
    VBS 2016 Preview events, designed to give leaders a hands-on opportunity with the new material, are scheduled for January in Ridgecrest, N.C.; Fort Worth, Texas; and Nashville.
    For more information, visit

    Thursday, May 28, 2015

    The Benefits of An Age-Aligned Scope and Sequence

    By Matt Capps
    With the new cycle of The Gospel Project starting in the fall, now age-aligned, we decided to publish a detailed scope and sequence document that includes the projected dates and Bible passages that will be covered during the 2015-2018 cycle. This is an excellent resource for pastors and church leaders who want to develop a wise discipleship path for the next few years.

    Because The Gospel Project is now age-aligned, you can literally know what passages your entire congregation will be studying in their groups until 2018. There are a few reasons as to why this is helpful.
    1. Age Alignment Helps Parents Disciple Their Children
    Parents are primarily responsible for the discipleship of their children (Deut. 6:4-9). The problem is that too many parents do not feel equipped to disciple their children, much less have intentional conversations with them about God’s Word. This is where Bible study age alignment in your church can help. Age alignment positions your parents to have one conversation with the entire family. It also enables parents to pour into their kids from the overflow of what they learn week by week.

    Monday, May 25, 2015

    Seven Trends in Worship Service Times

    By Thom S. Rainer

    If your church has one service at 11:00 am on Sunday mornings, it is likely in the minority. In a recent reader survey we conducted with 1,649 responses, slightly over half of the congregations had only one worship service on Sunday morning, and the times of that single service varied.
    The “sacred hour” of 11:00 am is no longer the worship time for a majority of churches.
    Though we don’t have definitive information on the origin of the 11:00 am worship time, it appears to be related to an agrarian society. We started our services late in the morning so the farmers could milk the cows and do necessary farm chores.
    So what are the trends in worship service times? Our information is based upon the survey we noted above as well as anecdotal data derived from our interaction with thousands of churches.
    1. Churches with multiple Sunday morning services will soon be in the majority. This trend, once more common with larger churches, is now taking hold in congregations of all sizes.
    2. The 11:00 am worship service is no longer the designated time for a majority of churches. The so-called sacred hour of worship is not sacred in most churches. This change started slowly, but it is pervasive now.
    3. Earlier Sunday morning services are gaining in popularity. Worship services with start times from 7:00 am to 8:30 am are growing in many churches. This trend seems to be related to the growth of empty-nest boomers.
    4. The growth in the number of non-Sunday primary services is steady but slow. There has not been a huge upsurge in the number of primary services on a day other than Sunday. The steady growth, however, is an indication that this approach will soon be common in many churches.
    5. The number of churches with concurrent worship service times is small, but will continue to increase. Concurrent services require either a video feed or different preaching/teaching pastors. As the trend in multi-site churches continues to grow, so will these service times.
    6. The most popular worship times start between 9:30 am to 10:30 amThis mid-morning worship time attracts attendees in churches with both single and multiple worship services. As I noted in number three above, I anticipate a shift in popularity to even earlier services.
    7. Worship wars over service times will continue to wane. Though the worship wars have largely been about music style, there have been many wars over worship times as well. We will see fewer of these battles as more churches adopt varieties of worship times.
    What are your church’s worship times for its primary weekly services? Has your church made any major changes lately? What have been the results? Let me hear from you

    Wednesday, May 20, 2015

    Leadership Challenges in Revitalization

    By Ed Stetzer

    I fell in love with church revitalization early in my ministry when I led a church of 35 senior adults during a brief stint teaching at a seminary.

    The median age of the people was 68. It seemed like there was an oxygen tank or a walker at the end of most pews. They came to me and said, “Dr. Stetzer, help us reach the young people.”

    Leading a church in revitalization has taught me some invaluable lessons. While the process is often difficult and slow moving, if approached correctly it can reinvigorate and empower God’s people to produce lasting fruit.


    Monday, May 18, 2015

    8 Characteristics of Breakout Church Leaders

    By Thom Rainer

    Little doubt exists that many churches in America are sick. The statistics paint a dismal picture. But I remain optimistic about churches across our nation because we serve a God of all possibilities.

    Can a dying church find life? Absolutely. But it takes leaders who are willing to do the hard work of leading their churches toward health.

    While conducting research for Breakout Churches, a study of churches that moved from decline to significant and sustained growth, I discovered several traits that distinguish breakout church leaders from merely good leaders. Here’s a brief look at each.


    Friday, May 15, 2015

    Customizable studies available for churches

    By Aaron Earls
    Where can a church begin looking for the right Bible study materials? For some, it may be within the church itself.
    With help from a new web-based tool offered by LifeWay Christian Resources, a congregation can now have easier access to customizable content that accompanies a sermon series or undergirds a special church-wide campaign.
    "Up until now," said Michael Kelley, director of Groups Ministry at LifeWay and executive editor of HomeLife magazine, "if a church needed curriculum written specifically for them, the only real option was to invest a significant amount of time and money in producing it themselves."
    Even for churches that may have the resources to manage a project of this size, the work often suffers, Kelley said, "because the church is simply too pressed for time in all their areas of ministry."
    To solve that problem, Kelley and others at LifeWay developed "With, a church can have customized content and still devote their energy to other areas of ministry," Kelley said.
    The site has more than 1,200 searchable studies on 400 topics from all 66 books of the Bible. If a passage or topic isn't available, one of the best features of, Kelley noted, is that users can request a specific study at no additional charge and a LifeWay curriculum specialist will contact them within 48 hours. Users can also add church-specific logos and terminology to their Bible study templates.