Everyone loves a good anachronism. Sure, less than ten percent of books purchased right now are printed versus digital, but we all have at least a book or two that we like to hold onto. Sure, over ninety-eight percent of music purchased in the United States of America is digital, but there’s still a fun tactile magic associated with holding onto a record. Sure, we can snap, tweet, gram, and post our thoughts all over the internet, but there’s still room for good old-fashioned conversations over tea. In a world of K-cups and coffee makers, there’s still room for a great tasting cup of french press coffee.
We love anachronism. There’s proof everywhere you look. The future is very different than we thought it would be. Instead of every new thing replacing every old thing, the new and the old are learning to live in harmony with one another. Why else would my favorite iPhone case be made of walnut wood and handcrafted leather?
The church is no different. Being relevant doesn’t mean throwing every old thing away for the sake of every new thing. Being relevant is about finding the same place of harmony in your church that your community has between the new and the old.
So I’ve compiled a list of four things old fashioned churches do that still have a great deal of value today.
four great ideas from old school church that will trigger growth
#1 keep your sanctuary open during the week for prayer
The entire northeast region of the United States is actively aware of the Catholic church and her many castle-like buildings. Growing up in New Jersey, I was profoundly affected by the Catholic Church. I attended many Catholic events and even went to a Catholic youth group for a brief spell. You literally can’t drive two miles in any northeastern city without seeing another old and beautiful church building. I will say that I never found the Catholic church to have exciting weekend services or a riveting heart pounding message, but she has her own beautiful resume of unique and powerful attributes that make the Catholic church successful and dearly loved by so many.
The one thing that always stuck out to me the most was the intense level of availability that the Catholic church exhibits. Modern evangelical churches still don’t seem to have figured this one out yet. Any time of day, I can walk into almost any Catholic church in my hometown and pray in their sanctuary. They’re not in there testing videos for the weekend, or building stage sets; they truly regard that place as a sanctuary.
Try opening your auditorium up as a sanctuary for prayer and meditation during the week. Consider asking your media team to work with the stage and sound in the evenings when possible, while giving them a specific day of the week for larger projects. Sure, exceptions will apply, but the idea here is that you’re creating more opportunities for people to be in the House of God. Try starting small with something like opening your auditorium up between 7 AM and 10 AM every weekday. This allows your staff and media team to keep doing their work, but also creates a time for the public to come into a reverent place to pray.
It may not sound like much, but when someone makes the trip to come and pray in your auditorium in the middle of the work week, there’s likely something weighing on them heavily. This means they’re sharing that profound moment with your church, and it makes the church even more special to them.
#2 create a modern version of the church directory
When I was a kid, our church used to have this goofy little publication called “The Church Directory.” It was truly as cheesy as you could get. Every family, pastor, and church member showed up on a particular day to take professional photos in their “Sunday Best” for the purpose of it being printed in the directory. Updated yearly, this was essentially a church yearbook without all the stuff that made a yearbook awesome. The directory did do one thing though; it helped create community. It caused people to connect on a different level, and meet people they didn’t otherwise think they ever would.
It’s easy to write this idea off and say “That’s what Facebook is for!” However, it’s just not the same thing. Facebook has millions of users, and it’s basically a big gymnasium where everyone complains about their lives, and all their friends can overhear them while they’re speaking. The directory has it’s own quaint yet powerful appeal that caused millions of church goers for the better part of a century to visually recognize who is in their community and church family.
Consider printing the church directory again! Many online companies are able to print these up at affordable prices, and truthfully it’s possible at all church sizes. Charge the ‘at cost’ rate for participating church goers to have their own personal directory delivered. Come up with an exciting and creative name for it besides “The Church Directory” of course. If your church is under 500 members, consider including everyone’s pictures as well as their email address, occupation, and where they can be found on Twitter or Instagram. If your church is over 500 members, you’re not going to be able to include individual photos, but you can easily publish a yearly photo book celebrating the best memories of the previous year. You could also try something awesome like highlighting every single person by name and photo who was baptized in the past year!
The sky is the limit here, but the goal remains the same; creating community and connecting people by making opportunities for them to recognize and remember each other. Plus, print publications are great church growth tools; people love to show their friends that they got printed somewhere.
#3 know your neighbor sunday
I know you remember this one. This is that little event that used to happen once a month for about seventy-five years in the American church. Essentially, you would walk into a church on a Sunday morning, and there would be a table setup with an entire A.C. Moore supply of name tags. You would write your name on the tag, peel it off the sticker sheet, and plaster it on your shirt for all to see throughout the morning. Sounds silly right? Here’s the thing though, it actually works. If you’re new to the church, you don’t know anyone. While if you attend a church of over 1000 people, you just don’t know everyone. So churches of all sizes can benefit from this kind of ecclesial throwback.
We do this at business meetings, conferences, school events, and expositions all over the world. So why shouldn’t this work for the church? Whose idea was it to stop having “Know Your Neighbor Sunday” anyway? You’re going to need a better name than “Know Your Neighbor Sunday” for sure, but I used to meet and learn the names of so many people for the first time when my church did this back in the day.
Try doing something like this in conjunction with life events that are already happening. Like for instance, when your community goes back to school after the summer, call your first Sunday after that the “First Day of School” where you theme the entire weekend around having school back in session just like when everyone was a kid. You can give out a syllabus, name tags, and all sorts of nods to the past, like church branded pencils, pens, or notebooks.
However you work it in, “Know Your Neighbor Sunday” needs to be a strong creative comeback. Community and connection are critical to church growth and are often the thing that is in shortest supply.
Did I mention that you shouldn’t call it “Know Your Neighbor Sunday?” Just checking.
#4 hold a church-wide business meeting
Remain calm. I know a shiver just went up the spine of every pastor in the world. We all have nightmares where we recount the terrible times spent in a good old fashioned church-wide business meeting. We’re not talking about the same thing here, though. The point of the church-wide business meeting was for church leadership to communicate with the church at large about major changes and plans for the future. It was a place where church members could ask questions, get real and fair answers, and walk away with a better understanding of what’s happening under the hood of God’s world-changing machine. When you take out voting and line-by-line budget reviews, the idea of a church-wide business meeting doesn’t seem so bad does it?
The idea of doing a church-wide meeting like this is to create a safe place where staff can answer questions of church members. Communication is never a bad idea, and transparency is usually a safe bet too. The church-wide meeting is about three things: trust, unity, and direction.
Sharing some general budget numbers, and a real financial outlook for the next year breeds trust. If you’re under the guise that trust is a one-way-street, and the church should trust you as a leader because God put you there, you’re making some dangerously stupid decisions. Trust works both ways, and church growth will come from earning the trust of those who follow you, and vice versa. Besides, don’t you want your church members running around telling everyone how much you have your stuff together? This is trust; trust is a very powerful growth engine.
Answering questions, and creating a place to ask these questions, is one of the best ways to equip your church’s advocates to wrangle gossip and explode with positivity before concerns even make it to you. These folks are your first line of defense in all the many places you can’t be at once. This is unity; unity is a very powerful tool to narrow the backdoor.
Perhaps the best purpose of a church-wide business meeting is telling people about your vision for the future. Let them know the burden that God has placed inside you to change the world. Paint the picture of what that looks like, and inspire them to do absolutely anything to accomplish those goals. This is direction; leadership is far easier when everyone is going the same direction.
This can’t be boring, though. Don’t use the word meeting per se. Create an event out of this idea. Serve some food. Play some games. Celebrate some stories of life change in your church. Make a time that people look forward to because they get excited about being on the inside and learning about all the ways their church is amazing from the inside out.
our tank would love to help you execute these ideas
If you’re scratching your head about how you’re going to execute an idea in this post, or you just want to make sure you really hit the nail on the head, ‘the tank‘ is here to help. The tank is our expert team of micro-consultants, and they’re full of strategies and ideas that can help you create a church directory, plan an awesome church-wide business meeting, or any other thing you’re brewing up.
Chief Executive Officer
TK has worked in the church for over a decade and brings years of executive leadership experience along with years of experience in media and technology. TK has a Masters in Public Administration and is an expert of navigating the minefield of procedural issues churches experience. He’s not quite so stuffy though; he is vibrantly creative and understands what it takes to create and plan a weekend from start to finish including video, music, and production.