As I mentioned in the other blog today, I have visited several churches over the last six months. The experiences have varied. Although I have been in church ministry for almost 20 years, I am far from an expert on ministry. I would, however, say the following things to churches and pastors if I had the chance:
1. Prepare to have first time guests. Have a strategy! Put people in place who can guide guests to a nursery, restroom, or just make them acquainted with your ministries.
2. Musicians and audio/video, prepare! The lyric mess ups in a service can be a MAJOR distraction. It sends a message to guests and regular attendees that you didn’t care enough to get ready ahead of time.
3. Eliminate unnecessary aspects to your service! First time guests aren’t interested in someone spending long drawn out periods giving announcements and prayer requests. Do make prayer a priority, but set aside a time in the service for people to come and pray and altar workers to be available.
4. Make the decision time sacred! Don’t allow a bunch of people in and out when the pastor is calling people to give their life to Christ. These distractions could be just the thing the devil uses to keep someone from making that important decision.
5. Be user friendly! Don’t talk in code. Explain your ministries. People coming for the first time don’t know that the JOY club is what you call your senior adult ministry. Have signage to direct people to the worship center, classrooms, restrooms, etc.
6. Pastors, be real! Preachers who have the “preacher voice” are a dime a dozen. They have this special talk with words most people don’t know. You might impress your preacher buddies, but most in your church or outside your church won’t relate. Just be you! People will more likely be real with you too, and God will expand your opportunities for ministry.
7. Pastors, keep your promises! If you tell someone you’re going to take them to lunch, do it! I can’t tell you how many promises pastors have broken to me. I’m sure I have unintentionally not followed through on things. I realize how that made me feel to be on the other side.
8. Church member, allow your pastor and his family to be normal like you. God holds everyone to the same standard of holiness, so you better live up to what you expect from your pastor and his family.
9. Don’t be so mechanical that you don’t allow room for the Holy Spirit, but don’t be so long winded and consider it spiritual! I’ve seen both extremes.
10. Throw negativity out the window! People want you to be straightforward in your preaching, but don’t allow every service to be doom and gloom. Preach the whole counsel of God! People need encouragement and correction. Let the Holy Spirit be the One who does the work.
11. Finally, eliminate dead time!!! The pastor I worked for in my first full time ministry always said this to me. I finally understood it. Keep the service flowing! Have the piano or guitar play lightly in the background for announcements, fellowship, prayers, etc. People hate choppy! I hate services that feel like roller coaster rides. I’m sure I’m not alone. One second of dead time can take minutes to regain people’s attention.
These are just suggestions. I see these things, and many people are never trained to make them better. Why have mediocrity when you can have something that is first place for the One who deserves our best? My philosophy has always been, “If this ministry for Jesus can’t be first class, wait until it can be.”