Wednesday, April 8, 2015

What every pastor should know

Every writer comes across a book now and then that makes him or her wish they had written that book.  That's the way I feel about What Every Pastor Should Know: 101 Indispensable Rules of Thumb for Leading Your Church by Gary McIntosh and Charles Arn. Even more than wishing I had written the book, I wish the book had been available when I served as a pastor.

One of the great things about this book is that it is not necessarily one you want to sit down and read from front to back. The 101 rules of thumb are grouped together in sections which makes it a convenient guidebook. If you have a church leadership question you can turn to the chapter that covers your question and quickly get the information you need. My recommendation is that you do read the book so you'll know what's covered and so you'll begin to gather information that will help you more effectively lead your church.

For the next few days, I want to share with my readers some teasers from the book so you'll begin to see some of the material covered in this book. The authors go into much more detail about each of these issues than I will cover, but I want to simply demonstrate some of the information that pastors need to know that is discussed in the book.

Many smaller church pastors tell me they have a problem closing the back doors of their churches. They bring new people into the church, but within a matter of months these folks seem to disappear. The book explains that of all the people who drop out of church, 82 percent leave in the first year. Further research has found that many of them leave at the six-month mark and at the twelve-month mark. The authors provide some clear steps the church needs to take to ensure that their new members want to continue to be a part of the church.

The most important reason new members remain at the church is that they have made friends with people in the congregation. It is vital that newcomers have at least seven friends in the church within the first six months. Those who have two or less friends in the church are more likely to drop out at the six month mark.

I know that many smaller churches pride themselves on being the "friendliest church in town." From attending a different church nearly every week I can tell you that many are not. They may be friendly to their fellow members, but I've been in many churches in which my wife and I were totally ignored. If you are seeing a lot of people slipping out the back door there's a good chance that your church is not doing a good job of developing friendships with your newcomers.

Declining churches will only retain about 9 percent of their visitors. Growing churches will average about 21 percent retention, and those churches who make it a high priority to follow-up with their visitors will see more than 30 percent of their visitors become involved in the life of their church.

At this point, it is simple math to determine your visitor retention rate. If it's less than it should be, then you need to determine the causes for that and correct them. Again, this book will provide you with some information to help you increase those figures and close that back door.

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