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Notes from the "Thriving Church" Seminar

Gallatin 1 st UMC, April 26, 2008


Presenter: Tom Bandy of Easum, Bandy & Associates, http://easumbandy.com/

1. Thriving churches –
a. Are those that are growing in the numbers of people becoming disciples, not simply the
number of people who take membership vows.
b. Will do whatever it takes to attract people to become disciples of Jesus.
c. Are changing all the time.
d. Are Spirit-guided from the bottom up and have abandoned "top down" ministries
e. Understand that today the unchurched are not merely indifferent to the church, they do
not like the church. They are alienated from the church and from God.
f. Do not make announcements in the sanctuary; they have a welcome/information center
and other effective information programs.
g. Are able to answer meaningfully the question, "What is it about our church that our
community cannot prosper without?
2. It is crucial to understand the church's mission field.
a. The mission field is the area from which people will come to worship and take part in
the congregational life. The mission field extends as far from the church as people of
the community drive to work or to shop.
b. Churches must know the demographics of their mission field. Why? See para. 3.
3. There are three main categories of "seekers," people looking for spiritual fulfillment:
a. Age 60 and above. They generally value:
i. Church heritage
ii. Good preaching and Bible study
iii. Sound administration, especially financial
b. Boomers, mid-40s to 60. They value:
i. Good pastors (but not necessarily great preaching; they tend to want a pastor
who is sociable and likeable, a “good guy.”)
ii. Excellent programs.
iii. A comfortable style of worship and of church generally
c. Age 24-45 or so. These people are mostly unchurched. This group is not looking for

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programs. They value:
i. Bold vision of a church
ii. Spiritual guides, not only the pastor
iii. Mission impact in the community
4. In a spiritually healthy, growing church:
a. 80 percent of members attend at least 3 times per month
b. Half participate during the week in some sort of spiritual discipline
c. A fourth will be active in hands-on missional activity
d. A third of newcomers are there because of a mission activity of the church
e. Healthy churches leverage technology
5. Key differences between declining churches and thriving churches:

Declining churches: Thriving churches:


Evaluate newcomers as to how they can help the Ask themselves how they can help newcomers
church keep doing what it already is doing grow into Spirit-led discipleship.
Are obsessed with the false idea that "children Understand that people between the ages of 25-
and youth are the future of the church." 45 are the future of the church. Take care of
them and they will take care of children and
youth.
Fear change because "we might lose people." Understand that they have already lost hundreds
of people through ineffective hospitality,
outreach, mission, vision and evangelism.
Are set up as "ecclesial factories," where Are set up as organisms (the body of Christ), not
newcomers are enrolled, indoctrinated, factories, where newcomers are discipled into
nominated and supervised. Christ-likeness.
Signature of declining churches: the deeper they Signature of thriving churches: self-organized
are into decline, the more meetings they hold. mission and ministry groups that have no set life
span.

6. What brings people back again and again


a. Sunday to Sunday, hospitality is the key for newcomers to decide to return.
b. Repeated studies show that newcomers decide not to return within mere minutes of
arrival.
c. There is nothing more important to becoming a thriving church than effectively

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welcoming newcomers on Sunday morning.
d. Churches must have people in hospitality who are gifted for it and trained.
e. Hospitality after the service is just as important as before.
7. Three fundamental anxieties of seekers:
a. Emptiness and meaninglessness. They are looking for Christ the spiritual guide or
Christ the perfect human.
b. Fate and death. They are looking for Christ the promise keeper, Christ the master of life
and death.
c. Guilt and condemnation. They are looking for Christ the healer, Christ the vindicator.
8. What about worship?
a. The type and order of worship is the most contentious issue in most churches today.
b. There are six basic kinds of worship styles. No one service can successfully blend more
than two types.
i. Traditional - this is compassionate, comforting, reassuring. Gives a sense of
belonging, confidence and harmony. Powerfully communicates God's love.
ii. Mission connectional - emphasis is celebration and prayer for outreach to the
unchurched. Consecrates missions and their workers, motivates people to give
thanks and to participate in the hands-on missions of the church.
iii. Inspirational - high performance content and dramatic quality. Gives and
emotional high. Motivates people to align themselves for the week with a
mission or bold purpose.
iv. Transformational - also known as "healing" or "recovery" worship. Dramatic,
sacramental, filled with images, very interactive. Gives inner peace, actual
healing, new direction. Powerfully changes lives for the better. Often the best
choice for a second service, very attractive to the unchurched. Minimum
emphasis on preaching. Introduces Christ the new beginning.
v. Educational - also known as "teaching" worship. Maximum emphasis on
preaching. Intellectually challenging, gives deeper knowledge and broad
perspective. Focuses on understanding doctrine and principles of faith.
vi. Coaching - also known as "mentoring" or "how to" worship. "How to. . ." is an

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important focus. Relevant to the ambiguities of daily living, very practical and
topical. Gives guidance to live a good, spiritually healthy life. Very appealing to
the under 45 group. Models Christ the spiritual and moral guide.
9. Keys to reaching the unchurched:
a. Church's members, pastor and staff must abandon concern with their privileges, be
willing to be discomfited by change, must not worry about continuity of programs or
ministries from one year to the next, and shift focus from shoring up the institution to
making disciples.
b. We must pay more attention to the people out there than the people in here.
c. Giving hope, and reasons for hope, is central to reaching the unchurched.
10. Five compelling ministry areas:
a. Transformational experiences - encounters with God that changes lives.
b. Persistent story telling - intersects the stories of the members with the story of Christ.
c. Peculiar companionships - build personal partnerships for accountability, personal
development and mutual support.
d. Counter-cultural lifestyles - live better than everyday morality.
e. Urgent missions - invest in a major "signature" outreach ministry that capsulizes the
church's identity and blesses strangers.

The declining church is all about belonging.


The thriving church is all about changing lives.

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C HARACTERISTICS OF T HRIVING AND D ECLINING C ONGREGATIONS
From a study of American congregations by Bill Easum and Tom Bandy in Growing Spiritual
Redwoods. Reported in the UM Reporter, Jan. 1, 1999.

Members of Declining Congregations are: Members of Thriving Congregations are:

Committed to the church Committed to Christ

Managing committees Deploying missions

Holding offices Doing ministry

Making decisions Making disciples

Training for membership Seeking quality

Serving in the church Serving in the world

Doing church work Finding personal fulfillment

Retiring from church work Pursuing spiritual growth

Surveying internal needs Discovering community needs

Eager to know each other Eager for others to know God

Loyal to one another Seek out the unchurched

Building faith on information Building faith on knowing Christ

Perpetuating a heritage Visioning/building a future

Declining churches want to do everything on the right side without letting go of anything on
the left. Thriving churches want wholeheartedly to do everything on the right side and are
prepared to let go of everything on the left.

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