How to Revive your Local Adventist Church: Step Zero

How do you revive your local Adventist church? That simple question has a ton of answers. For some, reviving the local Adventist church means the church must transition from traditional to contemporary. For others, it means that the church must acquire a good pastor. Some will put their focus into church governance, structure and processes. Others will go straight into creating a strategy. And if you ask me, I would say that step 1 is this: you have to discover your story. 

However, there is a step before step 1 without which you will struggle all your days as a church. I call it "Step Zero".

Picture a person going for a walk. They do some stretching, get their Spotify playlist loaded and their headphones comfortable. Then they take the first step. But before they took the literal step they took a metaphorical step in order to ensure they could have an enjoyable and productive walk. That metaphorical step consisted of stretching, Spotify and headphones. That was Step Zero.

They could have gone for the walk without Step Zero, but by doing those basic preparations they set themselves up for a way more enjoyable experience. In my estimation, church optimization needs a Step Zero. Can you move ahead without it? Sure. But it won't be anywhere near as smooth. While your church's style, governance, structure, strategy and story are important Step Zero is the warmup that can get you and your church prepped for going on that journey.

So what does Step Zero look like for a church? I am not an expert so I don't pretend to have it all figured out, but in my experience it has come down to 5 simple actions:

1. Build Relationships

This is so obvious some of you may be rolling your eyes right now, but trust me this one is seriously the key. If you fail to build relationships you will fail to optimize your church. Period. People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care.

2. Visit, Visit, Visit

Don't buy the "modern people don't like visit's" nonsense. Everyone likes a visit. What modern people don't like is wasting time. So it boils down to whether they consider your visit a waste of time or not. And that depends on whether they perceive you to be authentic or phony. If you are the kind of pastor, elder or deacon who is agenda driven, self-centered or uncaring then yes, you are a waste of time. But if you are the kind of leader who is relationship-driven, cares about the well being of others and has no agenda other than to love people then no, you are not a waste of time. Please, come visit me.

3. Invest in your leaders

In Adventist churches all your leaders will be volunteers. Rarely is a person in leadership actually paid for their role in an SDA context. This means you need to invest in them. When you publish your Nominating Committee report don't just include your leaders names - take the extra time to add their emails as well. Then, email all of them every quarter to ask how they are doing and what you can do to help them. Celebrate them from the front. Visit every single one of them. And stand up for them.

4. Update your Church Roll

Please, for the love of all that is good and just in this world, update your church roll!

OK, let me put it differently so it makes more sense: Nearly every church I have ever worked at has incredibly outdated membership rolls. It's crazy. One church had a roll that was 22% accurate. They had over 100 people that had not been there in years, around 50 who were members of other churches, and even 5 that had died. Out of nearly 260 names on the roll, only 60 of them where actually at the church.

But here is why its important. How your leadership manages its membership roll says tons about how much they care about their members. The only reason I knew the roll was so out of date was because I set a goal to visit all the members. The roll had been out of date for nearly 10 years and no one had noticed. In the business world, one of the most important things you have is your client list. This tells you who your customers are and enables you to market new products to them. It is an indispensable resource. In the church, the membership roll is one of the most important things you have. It tells you who your people are and enables you to communicate easily with them. You can move forward without it, but its way smoother if its updated. Involve your elders so that you can actually change the culture of member care at the church as well.

Updating a roll can take up to a whole year of back and forth work so if you haven't done it, get started! And if you want some tips on how to go about the update, comment below and I'll share how I do it with you.

5. Preach the Bible

Two things here. First, if you are a terrible public speaker stop whatever it is you are doing and get better at it. You don't have to be the next Billy Graham, but you should be able to get up front and say something simple and meaningful. If you can't (you know who you are) then do something about it. Please. I'm begging you.

While preaching is only a small percentage of what pastors and elders do, it carries the most weight sometimes. Seriously, your ability to communicate effectively can be the difference between someone inviting their friends to church or not. Don't brush it off. For those interested, I highly recommend the book "TEDTalks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking". It is seriously, the best of its kind.

Second. Preach the Bible. I don't know why that seems to be so hard for people but I hear it over and over again. Shallow, cheesy, uninteresting and straight up irrelevant talks. If you are going to go up there and take 15-30 minutes of my life (no longer please) then at least honor my time by sharing God's thoughts with me, not your own.

And that's it guys! Step Zero. I encourage leaders to do Step Zero for an entire year before diving into Step 1. Of course, there is give and take depending on your church context, but that's the general gist. Share your thoughts below!

PS. I will be publishing a book on optimising your church for revival and mission which will be a much more detailed version of the blogs you read here each week. If you want to know when the book is available don't forget to subscribe to the mailing list! You can do so in the side bar (or down below if you are on mobile).

Pastor Marcos is a millennial Adventist pastor with a passion for Jesus, the narrative of Adventism and the relevancy of the local Adventist church. He pastors in Western Australia where he lives with his wife and children. You can follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
How to Revive your Local Adventist Church: Step Zero How to Revive your Local Adventist Church: Step Zero Reviewed by Pastor Marcos on November 12, 2017 Rating: 5

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