Transitions can be awkward!
Much is written about the more awkward church transitions – going from one service to two, growing from a school gymnasium to your own building, starting up a new campus. And perhaps the most awkward transitions of all are those that take you from nothing to something – from no youth group to five kids in your youth group; from no children’s ministry to a children’s church comprised of a baby, three preschoolers and a third- and a fifth-grader.
- How does a young church navigate those awkward nothing-to-something transitions?
- How do you create momentum when you’re stalled?
- How do you build confidence when you’re in the turmoil of transition?
For a year after the launch of Epiphany Station in Thief River Falls, Minnesota, their attendance was stalled at 50 people – the same number of people they started with. But at the beginning of their second year they started The Story, and 31 weeks later at the conclusion of The Story they had doubled in size to 120 people. Pastor Jeff Gauss says, “I don’t know if that was all The Story – there were a lot of factors in play. But certainly The Story played a big part in helping us to streamline our energy and focus our resources in one direction, and get everybody pointed in the same direction.”
Here are some reasons The Story is great for a church in transition:
1. If You Offer It, They Will Come
When you’re transitioning from nothing to something, it is important to find something to offer that is not too complicated or involved, because you won’t have the resources to lead it or the attendance to make it work. The blessing of a program like The Story is that it can be deployed just as effectively in small churches or large churches; with people who are unchurched or who are church veterans; with small groups of kids across a wide age span or with a large group of kids concentrated in one age bracket. In order to attract families, churches need to offer something to attract them to. The Story is a great entry-level way to start a quality program for any age span with minimal resources and volunteers.
2. “Confidence is a Byproduct of Predictability”
This maxim from business consultant Bobb Biehl conveys an important lesson for churches in transition. Times of transition, such as when you have a new pastor, or are starting a new campus, or launching a new ministry, are times of high unpredictability.
Confidence is a byproduct of predictability –Bobb Biehl
When things are unpredictable, confidence is at its lowest. But, as you learn the ropes, as you get to know your new leader or how your new ministry team will work together, your confidence builds. This is true of leaders, and this is true of congregation members. The best thing you can do to help your congregation thrive through a transition is to provide them with at least one area where things are stable and predictable. When you are doing a program such as The Story or Believe, which carries you through at least 30 weeks, your people gain confidence from knowing what’s coming, from being able to rely on the quality of the program, and from not having to worry about what’s happening after this six-week series. They’ll become more invitational too! When Mary knows that in a few weeks your church will be in the chapter on Esther, and she knows her neighbor would love that, she’s more likely to invite her neighbor to church – her confidence is a byproduct of predictability.
3. The Draw of the What Happens Next? Factor
Many churches that have done The Story report an interesting trend. They noticed in increase in both the number of people attending and the consistency of their attendance. One explanation for this is that The Story has a built-in draw that gets people to come back week after week, because they want to find out what happens next. Valley Christian Church in North Platte, Nebraska, demonstrated that The Story can have a solidifying effect on attendance.
Pastor Brent Montgomery says, “Our church attendance was wavering between 60 and 80 people on a weekend, and now we have a solid 80 to 100. The Story has firmed up people’s commitment and made the casual attenders more consistent, those on the fringes more connected.” Sometimes, a transitioning from stalled to growing is just a matter of getting those who are already connected to your church to come more regularly.
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Special thanks to Shelley Leith, Director of Church Relations for Zondervan Publishing, for providing this post. We greatly appreciate your support!!