12 February 2009

UM Reporter Article

I thought you might like to see the article about University's journey to pay apportionments that appeared in the February 6th issue of the United Methodist Reporter.

My continued thanks to all of you who made our 100% payout possible!

The Largest Gathering

Continuing from yesterday...

Sunday morning worship is the largest gathering of our church week - numerically. And since we only have one worship service here at University, we are all in the same space at the same time hearing the same music and message. This provides quite a powerful experience that can catapult us into our week or plunge us into despair over the "state of the church".

When we gather together each weekend we invite members of our community to participate with us in worshiping God. We invite those who are not currently connected to us to see what it is we do together in order for them to determine if they would like to remain a part of who we are.

The fact that guests can come and blend in with 150 or so other people during worship gives them an opportunity to check us out from a distance while still gaining enough proximity to form an opinion about us that will stick with them. This blending in provides guests a chance to see how we respond to new people in our midst - to see whether this is a place that welcomes new folks or values only those who are already connected.

Weekend worship is the best place for us to make a great first impression with the community at large. As the adage goes, "we only get one chance to make a first impression." And our chances come along mostly on Sunday mornings. Guests begin to form their impressions from the moment they drive onto our campus - and a general rule is that we have about 10 minutes to "wow" them and gain the best possibility of a repeat visit.

Therefore, their impression of the church may be formed long before I get up to preach or even before the first note of music is played. Further, it is incumbent upon the members of the congregation to extend radical hospitality every weekend. We need to impress upon our guests that we are expecting them and that we are prepared for them. This expectation and readiness shows up in things like signage, greeters/ushers, nursery workers, cleanliness, and a myriad of other ways - most of them small.

Thoughts? Comments?

For more info on making great first impressions, check out this book or this blog!

11 February 2009

The Widest Funnel

On Sunday morning I talked about the first two areas of focus for our church: weekend worship experience and ministry with students.

(If you want to hear the sermon, click here.)

I want to expand some on my beliefs about weekend worship experience and why I placed it at the top of the list.

The reasons I gave on Sunday morning included:
  1. Worship is the largest entry point for new people into the church
  2. Worship is the largest gathering of the church body during the week
  3. Worship is a critical time for us to make a great first impression
I want to spend a little time expanding on the first point.

When a person from our community (Wichita Falls) who has no previous connection with our church decides to find out what we are about, they will likely do two things: first, they will check out our website or phone book ad to find out what time worship begins; and second, they will come to worship at the time stated either on the website or the phone book ad.

Worship is a large funnel for new people into our congregation because there is a certain level of anonymity that comes along with joining with a large group of people. Most people looking to connect with God within a local church will begin with a weekend worship experience before trying any gathering smaller than that.

Granted, some people come into the life of the church through an outside group that meets in our building (i.e. Scouts, Bridge Club, etc.) OR through a Sunday School class OR through our Wednesday night Cornerstone Cafe, but those are only a very small percentage of new entrants. The largest percentage still comes through worship on Sunday morning.

Therefore, our weekend worship experience must continually be passionate, innovative, and relevant in order to give new guests the best opportunity to see who we are and what we, as a community of faith, are all about. We also need to make sure that we have good systems in place to follow-up with guests that come to worship and leave us contact information. This lets them know that we care that they worshiped with us and that we want them to continue explore a life of faith here with us.

If you are interested in reading more about the future of the musical aspects of our worship service, read this article and let me know what you think.

06 February 2009

Mad About Mad Church Disease!

I pre-ordered three copies of Mad Church Disease from Amazon back in September and they arrived at my doorstep one week ago. I have already finished it. It was phenomenal! I plan to re-read it several times before Anne comes to speak at University in April, but I also plan to truly interact with the questions and exercises that she lays out for her readers.

I have a feeling that this book will be a welcomed breath of fresh air for pastors and church workers who are on the brink of burning out - no matter what the reason(s).

If you would like on of my extra copies, let me know and I let you have one. I plan to keep several copies of the book on my shelf to hand out as I meet pastors who may need her encouragement.

If you want your own copy of Mad Church Disease, just click here.

Making Good on a Promise

My newsletter article for this week stated that I would begin conversing about the Five Areas of Focus for University UMC. Therefore, I wanted to get that conversation going.

If you are a new reader here at CTM, then you might want to read this post and this post before diving full force into the discussion that starts today.

If you are a veteran reader, then keep reading.

Sunday morning I will begin to cast the vision for ministry here at University over the next 3-5 years. I usually have a hard time deciding what I want for dinner, so a long-range plan like this is new territory for me, but I know that God will be the guide for this journey and all I will need to do is continue to be faithful in my leadership.

When I came to University last summer, I knew that the climb would be uphill for quite a while (and it still is), but that there would come a point where our efforts at changing the direction of the church would begin to build momentum and a full head of steam. I believe that this weekend will be a huge push in that direction and that light bulbs a-plenty will be going off all over the sanctuary.

I want all of you to know that I have not approached this vision casting task lightly, nor do I want to paint any skewed pictures of the future that we could neither attain nor live with for the long term. Bill Hybels says that a vision is, "a preferred picture [of the future] that produces passion." Therefore, I want to paint a clear picture that everyone at University can get excited about and throw their weight behind in order for our church to make kingdom impact here in the Wichita Falls community.

Who's with me!?!?