How to Make Your Church Better in 2016

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Want to make your church better in 2016? Here’s a simple exercise:

At the beginning of each new month, roll a 6-sided die. Then follow the instructions below for the number you rolled.

1. For the next month, set a daily time to pray for your church.

Set an alarm or put it on your to-do list or calendar. Make this an essential daily practice for the next month. Pick a few people in the church that you’ll pray for––perhaps your pastor or another staff member, an important lay leader, and one or two other people/families who come to mind. At the beginning of the month, tell them you’ll be praying for them throughout the month. Ask if they have any specific requests. You might check back in on them once or twice throughout.

2. Make it your practice each Sunday this month to identify anyone who may be in worship for the first time.

Make a point to introduce yourself and ask them a few sincere questions.

If you’re not sure if someone’s new and you’re embarrassed to ask, try something like this: “Hi, I’m not sure we’ve met. I wanted to introduce myself.” Sincere questions can involve how long they’ve been in the area, what brought them to the church or area, or acknowledgments of someone’s family––”Are these your kids?”

Try to also introduce them to someone else, and make sure to say something to them again after worship.

3. Figure out how much money you give on a monthly basis.

If you’re not sure, look at your annual giving and divide by 12. For the next month, increase your giving by 50%.

So if you normally give $500 per month, you’ll give $750 this month. That might require a sacrifice on your part––finding some other places to cut back on your personal spending for the next month.

You surely already know it, but don’t make up for this extra giving by just giving less later. Let it be above and beyond what you had planned on giving!

And since you’ve got a calculator out, this could also be a good chance to assess how much you give. Figure out what percentage of your annual income you’re giving (giving ÷ income × 100). Another way to look at it: compare your giving to your luxury spending. If those calculations and comparisons don’t make you feel good about your giving, consider making the increase permanent.

4. Go to the appropriate person and ask if you can volunteer to help in the nursery or children’s ministry.

In almost every church I see, these areas are desperate for more volunteers. One of our most important duties is raising up our kids in the faith. Your best contribution to that is to know and be known by the kids in your church. (I’ve written more on that here.)

No backing out for reasons like, “I’m just not good with kids” or “That’s not where my passion is.” You can do this. We believe in you!

If your church requires a training or screening, you’ll of course need to look into those details. And the volunteer schedule may already be full for the next month. If so, ask for 4-5 times in the future that you can sign up.

5. Give someone a sincere personal invitation to worship every week this month.

This is a personal invitation. A general Facebook post doesn’t count (though you could do that in addition).

Four personal invitations (one per week) are more likely to bring new people into the life of the church than a mailer to 2,000 houses. And they cost a lot less, too. One invitation could change eternity for someone. You can do it!

6. Pastor’s choice! This one is up to your pastor.

Go to your pastor, or another appropriate leader, and ask where the church could use the most volunteer help right now. Then sign up to help.

One alternative: if you’ve noticed places where you could help make something better, take the initiative and do it. A few weeks ago, someone who wasn’t signed up for our setup team showed up at setup time. I assumed he had gotten the date wrong. He said, “I just saw the team was light today, so I thought I’d show up and help.” Someone else noticed that we could use a ramp for that setup process. So he took measurements and built us a ramp. Those kinds of people are every pastor’s dream. Note: If there’s any question about whether something you’re going to do will be okay, be sure to ask first.

When the next month begins, roll that die again. No re-rolls unless you absolutely can’t fulfill one of these! Do this for a year, and your church will be a better church a year from now. Some of these challenges will be uncomfortable. But they’ll be good––for you and your church.

To be sure, Christ sustains his church and the power of the Holy Spirit makes us better. Everything here is secondary to that. But Christ invites us into this ministry as active partners, and we’re a vital part of what the church will be. Imagine what your church would be like if everyone did something as simple as roll the dice and accept these challenges for a year.

Explore more seeds: view John Wesley’s covenant renewal service for today, updated by Jonathan Powers; read 12 Bible verses that pertain to the new year; Carolyn Moore writes about the importance of getting face to face with God in any new year; read our 10 notable books of 2015 from Andrew Dragos.

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Teddy Ray is a pastor and preacher for the Offerings Community and the Executive Pastor of 1st United Methodist Church in Lexington, KY. He also coauthored Echo: A Catechism for Discipleship in the Ancient Christian Tradition. For more of his writing about theology, ministry, and life with God, see his blog: www.teddyray.com.

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