Great things begin to happen in you, your church, and your people when you make a concerted effort to “get out there” with them. I am talking about “pastoral prospecting” or the art of initiating relationships with people outside of your Sunday congregation. Here are the next three benefits:
4. Pastoral Prospecting Demonstrates Proactive Leadership.
Leaders do not react—they act. Not only do they act, but they act first. What does this mean? Leaders are out front—not in the needy, attention-seeking way—but in an inspirational manner that says, “Follow me!” In their popular work, The Leadership Challenge, Kouzes and Posner put forth their number one principle of excellent leadership: “Leaders model the way.”
When a pastor, layman, or church leader takes initiative and says, “I am not going to wait on people to show up to be ministered to—I am going to find people to minister to…” he has demonstrated high-quality, positive, and proactive leadership. Additionally, he is following the example of Jesus who touched lives one person at a time, saying, “The Son of Man has come to seek and save the lost.”
5. Pastoral Prospecting Builds People and Relationship Skills.
There is nothing quite as daunting as walking up to a stranger and initiating a conversation. I am not going to pretend like it is as fun as riding a rollercoaster or as easy as watching television. It takes time and effort to learn how to initiate conversations with people that lead to relationship and ministry. The good news is that every pastor and person knows how to have a conversation. Really all that is left is to begin initiating conversations. Over time you will get better—mostly by making mistakes. As you put out the effort you will find that most people appreciate your time and concern.
6. Pastoral Prospecting Fills Your Funnel.
In a brief stint working in the financial industry, I was taught that you reach people by beginning with as many people as you can find. This was called “filling the funnel.” The concept works well anytime you are trying to reach people with a message—especially the Gospel.
For the sake of our example, let’s make some assumptions:
Now, set a goal. Say, “I want to reach one family each month—12 families per year.” If we assume the average family is 3 people, then you are personally attempting to add 36 people to your church this year.
So working backwards, in order to have 12 families join this year, I need to have 36 families visit our church. In order to have 36 families visit our church, I need to make a quality contact with 360 families this year. That works out to 1 quality contact/conversation every day.
The idea of filling your funnel is beginning with as many people as possible in order to reach as many people as possible. It understands the reality that:
This is just part of working with people. But the greatest and most encouraging reality is this:
If you put yourself out there and meet enough people you will find people who want Jesus and a church that will help them follow Him!
Many of these people you will never meet unless you put forth the effort and take the initiative to find them!
Return tomorrow for the last 3 of the 9 Benefits of Pastoral Prospecting.
© Charles D. T. Miller, 2014
Yesterday I challenged us with the concept of shepherding—and specifically shepherding outside of the constraints of your building and confines of digital media. It is physical ministry that involves spending your time interacting and engaging with people—some who are Christians and some who are not.
For the next few posts we focus and narrow further on the benefits of “pastoral prospecting,” or the intentional strategy of a pastor and/or church leaders in initiating face-to-face conversations with people outside of their church for the eventual purpose of evangelism and discipleship.
The obvious benefit is that it is a Biblical strategy—Jesus sent out his disciples in pairs to the homes of people in neighboring towns and villages. Jesus visited the homes of the lost, called disciples at the pier, and even approached Matthew while he was collecting taxes. Further, the great missionary, Paul, built and established churches all over the Roman Empire by personally engaging people in synagogues, in the market place, and even in prison. It is obviously a Biblical practice to speak face-to-face with others in an effort to build a relationship and introduce Jesus to people.
So, this list contains 9 Benefits of Pastoral Prospecting in addition to being a biblical practice!
1. Prospecting Creates Community Visibility.
Every pastor and every church should strive to be a vital and visible part of the community. Some pastors make “cold-calls,” systematically moving from one home to another in the neighborhoods in their cities. Some pastors join civic organizations and build intentional relationships there. There are a number of creative and effective ways to build personal relationships in the community—feel free to experiment and find your niche. The point is to get out (of the church) and to get in front of people—one conversation at a time.
2. Prospecting is Cost Effective.
How much you spend on Pastoral Prospecting really depends on your personal style and specific strategy. You can get by with a simple business card, a brochure or postcard about the church, and a thank you card. Online you can order 500 business cards ($10), 500 postcards brochures ($20), and 500 thank-you cards ($155) at www.vistaprint.com. This provides you with the opportunity to have 500 personal conversations, give information on your ministry to 500 people, and send 500 notes thanking them for their time. All of that will cost you $185 plus postage and your time. If you made it a point to find 5 quality prospects each week and followed up with them, these materials would last you for up to 2 years. The cost is very minimal, but the impact is tremendous.
3. Prospecting Addresses the Data on Reaching the Unchurched.
www.evangelismcoach.org provides two lists from Thom Rainer’s book Surprising Insights from the Unchurched that shows the top reasons why the churched and unchurched choose a church. According to Rainer, 90% of the unchurched joined because of the pastor, 49% joined for friendliness, and 41% joined because they were invited. When the pastor initiates a conversation with someone to care for their spiritual needs or invite them to church then he has employed 3 of the 5 top reasons the unchurched join a church.
Rainer also informs us that 53% of the churched join because of the people are caring, 52% join because of the preaching, 45% join for friendliness, and 35% because they “like” the pastor. Again, initiating face-to-face conversations with people outside of your church gives you the opportunity to engage people in a way that corresponds to how they select a place to call “home.”
Essentially, “pastoral prospecting” is a biblical, cost-effective way to introduce yourself to the community in a way the unchurched and those looking for a church understand.
Return tomorrow for the next 3 of the 9 Benefits of Pastoral Prospecting.
© Charles D. T. Miller, 2014
This is for all of the pastors, the sheep, and anyone interested in reaching the next few generations for Jesus Christ. I am beginning a series of posts designed to get pastors out of the office, out of the study, and out of the church!
God chose 2,000 years ago to refer to the preacher, the elder, the bishop, and the leader of the local church as a “pastor” or literally, “a shepherd.” What is the responsibility and calling of a shepherd?
A shepherd feeds the sheep (John 21:17)
A shepherd cares for the health of the sheep (John 10:11)
A shepherd searches for the sheep (Luke 15:1-7)
This series of posts will deal with that last concept—searching for the sheep—also known as face-to-face pastoral prospecting. This is setting aside part of your time each week where you leave your home and the church premises to go and spend time praying with and providing spiritual direction for people.
Why is this necessary or essential?
With the rise of the digital age and the innovative forces alive in the technology sector people are spending more and more time online, on their phones, and behind the curtain of social media. Any church with a desire to reach this generation knows the importance of maintaining a church website, a social media presence, and communicating in other digital formats. But there must be more...
We were created to interact with each other face-to-face, an activity for which there is no other substitute.
“Yeah, well—that is what the services are for!” would be the reply of the tech savvy, culturally relevant, and bearded seminarian.
But please understand that there is virtually no opportunity for meaningful face-to-face communication and interaction during most church services—especially if a person arrives shortly before the service and leaves shortly after.
Social media, websites, church apps, streaming sermons, and all other uses of digital communication with our sheep are viable, appropriate, and valid. They are proper in addition to, but not at the expense of, “shepherding outside the fence.”
Quickly, here are three key areas every pastor, staff pastor, leader, or teacher can immediately employ to begin “shepherding outside the fence”:
1. Spend Time in the Homes of Your People
People are more relaxed and open in their home. I have found that people share more of their thoughts and feelings when you visit with them in their home. Be sure to call first and set up an appointment if both spouses work and/or have children at home.
2. Care for the Sick and the Shut-in
When your people are in the hospital or unable to consistently attend church due to their health, make it a point to visit with them. For those sick and in the hospital, your prayer and presence can be a calming influence and a reminder for them to trust the Lord.
3. Practice Pastoral Prospecting
A generation ago the greatest evangelical churches in America were built on the premise that churches do not wait on people to come to their church. Instead, these pastors and churches took the initiative of going out and personally initiating conversations and inviting people to come. I believe “pastoral prospecting” is once again on its way to becoming one of the most effective means of sharing the Gospel and growing evangelical churches.
So, how about it pastor? Are you ready to get out of the Christian cubicle and “shepherd outside the fence?” Church leader and concerned member, do you want to help serve in this type of rewarding, people oriented ministry?
Return tomorrow as I begin to share the 9 Benefits of Pastoral Prospecting.
© Charles D. T. Miller, 2014
I was completely shocked last evening when my wife walked into the living room and said, “Robin Williams committed suicide—it is on every news channel!”
My first memory of Williams was as “Mork” on “Mork and Mindy.” I literally grew up watching the show and enjoyed his energy, wit, and precise humor. As I grew up, I watched any and everything he was in. My favorite characters were “Genie” in “Aladdin” and “Mrs. Doubtfire.”
The suicide of Robin Williams is sad—just as the suicide of anyone is profoundly agonizing. The New York Times reports that suicide rates continue to go up in our country. In 2013, more people died from suicide than in car accidents. According to the non-profit group, Suicide.org, 750,000 people attempt suicide every year in the United States.
The harsh reality is that suicide affects people that we know. Studies show that 14% of high school students have thought about suicide and 7% will attempt suicide. The elderly and terminally ill are especially at risk. There is also an increase in suicide rates for white males over 50 years of age.
We don’t know Robin Williams and we could not have helped him. But we know our family, friends, and acquaintances and we all have the ability to help them. Here are some suggestions:
1. Listen to Hurting People
The number one cause of suicide is untreated depression. At any given moment, 9% of adults are depressed and almost 4% are severely depressed. People you know are hurting and dealing with depression. Learn to be a sympathetic listener.
2. Offer Hope and Affirmation
A person dealing with depression and contemplating suicide has reached the conclusion that their life has no value or meaning. As a result, they quit trying and they quit living. Once they have reached this point they see no value in living. The pain they feel overshadows anything positive in their life.
You can help by offering them hope. Let them know that things will get better, that they are loved and needed, and offering to help them.
3. Take Them to Find Help
As a pastor and friend I have dealt with about 30 suicidal friends and church members. When I find out they have thought about suicide I personally take them to the hospital or counselor, and/or I wait with them until a family member can come get them and take them for medical and professional help.
4. See Them Through to Healing
I am a pastor, so naturally, I believe their ultimate hope and peace is found through a loving and forgiving relationship with Jesus Christ. Beyond that, there is still much healing that needs to take place in the life of your friend. Continue to listen and affirm them. Pray with them and remind them to attend their counselling appointments and to take healthy steps to cope with stress in life.
If you or a friend are struggling with depression or having thoughts concerning suicide, please reach out to a friend, teach, pastor, or call 1-800-273-8255.
Pastor, do you have an office or a study? It really is an interesting question. The contemporary pastor—whether intentional or not—wears several “hats.” He is the shepherd, the preacher, the counselor, the administrator, and—if necessary—the custodian! These come on top of the personal responsibilities of being a husband, father, grandfather, son, brother, and friend.
Being a “young” pastor, I was not even aware of how much modern culture had shaped my view of the pastorate, the responsibilities of the pastor, and how easily we are called away from our first duties for other tasks. It was while I read Eugene Peterson’s Working the Angles: The Shape of Pastoral Integrity that I was challenged to ask the question, “Do I have a study or an office?” Perhaps the better question is, “Which one should I have?”
According Peterson (and I agree) the pastor should have a study, rather than an office. Now this is more than an exercise in semantics. Rather, it is choosing to intentionally look at the role and responsibility of the pastor in a specific way—as a shepherd, leader, and spiritual guide. Peterson theorizes that understanding your work space as a “study” will steer the pastor back to his three primary responsibilities: prayer, reading Scripture, and giving spiritual direction.
On the contrary, seeing your work space as an “office” will point you more in the direction of a CEO, manager, and executive. While there are aspects of the CEO, manager, and executive that corresponds to the leadership role of the pastor, it is important for the pastor and his congregants to understand that the priority of the pastor is not to manage the church, but to lead and guide her.
With that in mind, here are 3 Steps for Transforming the Pastor’s Office into a Study:
1. Call It What It Is…a Study!
Put a sign on the door—“Pastor’s Study.” Do not ask people to “meet at the office.” Meet in your study. Again, it is not semantics—but rather it is a tool of instruction to retrain you and others to better understand the nature of pastoral ministry.
2. Divide and Conquer!
At a previous pastorate at a very large church the administrative aspects of leading the church were daunting. I constantly found the administrative tasks distracting me from the most important tasks of pastoral leadership. I ended up having two working areas: a study and an office. I spent a couple of hours a day in the office returning calls, meeting with staff, counseling, etc. The rest of the time I spent in the study praying, reading the Bible, and preparing sermons. If you have the space or can make the room, I encourage you to designate separate space away from the study for administrative tasks.
We all know and appreciate one simple fact about ministry: People are the ministry. In 2014 there are dozens of ways to interact with people: face-to-face contact, email, letters, phone calls, texts, social media, and the notorious church bulletin. Never has there been a greater opportunity for pastors to engage and interact with people than what we have today. At the same time, though, each of these avenues of communication also represents a potential distraction from the priorities of prayer and Bible study. Balance is the key. Do not hide in your study like a hermit, but do not neglect your time of prayer and deep study. It is that time in prayer and study that equips us and enables us to properly engage our people.
I know a lot of super talented pastors—they are good scholars, men of prayer, excellent communicators, and capable leaders. Most do very well in all aspects of pastoral ministry. To insure our effectiveness and our commitment to pastoral priorities, please have a study—not an office. Excel at the primary tasks of prayer, Bible study, and spiritual guidance.
My name is “Charlie” and I have a Compulsive Competition Disorder. But since I am confessing, my wife does too. We are both second-born children, less than average height, with an intense drive to win. It makes for interesting times. I remember beating April sixty consecutive times in checkers. I also remember the trash-talking after she finally beat me—and then continued to beat me until I refused to play again. I remember playing her one-on-one in basketball. I remember the intense debate about the ethics of blocking your wife’s shot. “Just bring your ‘A’ game—girl!” I said.
Fast forward four years. I’m playing games with my girls—who are capable toddlers by now. I can’t remember if it was checkers or basketball on the Li’l Tikes hoop—but my oldest gets mad, “‘Cause Daddy won’t lemme win!”
“Just bring your ‘A’ game—girl!”
Fast forward a little. They’re not toddlers and it’s not checkers anymore. It’s Mario Kart—and I’m feeling good. I am the generation who grew up on what has evolved into “The Gaming Industry.” I remember pinball, the arcade, Pong, Atari, Pac-Man, Nintendo, Donkey Kong, the Sega Genesis, and the Play Station. You, Mr. Wii, are merely a dumbed-down—albeit more glamorous—version of all your oft-conquered predecessors. You will be no match for the digital coordination I honed as a child of the eighties and nineties—and I still have the thumb-callouses to prove it.
Let me begin by saying Mario Kart is a lot harder than it looks, and those girls are smarter and meaner than they look. They giggle, toss their hair, and smile a lot—but underneath the perfume and ponytails lie caged animals ready to pounce on their next victim. We tried track, after track, after track. The results were always the same: Katelynn and Kirsten—first and second, and Dad—12th. Twelfth really isn’t that bad, until the sassy senoritas point out that twelfth is last and you can “finish twelfth without even holding the Wii remote.”
I’m a man—and these are girls. I won’t stand for that disrespectful and sarcastic tone. Obviously, they learned this type of trash-talking from their mother. I vowed to speak to her later—much later. It’s time to man-up. And I did what any man who just lost to the Olsen Twins would do—I went primitive and opted for raw violence. “Who wants to box on the Wii? What—no takers?” I felt rather confident that my role as the leader of this pride would go uncontested.
“I’ll box you!” The quiet, middle daughter mocked.
“Bring it!” I thundered.
“You’re goin’ down!” she returned.
“You want some of this?” I baited.
“Oh yeah—I do!” she saw and raised.
I was merciless. I beat that Wii-likeness of Kirsten with wild abandon. But she kept getting up. The first round ended with the calm assurance that the second round was ill-fated for a similar conclusion. My prediction came true—in an ironic sort of way.
I beat down an 8 year-old girl in the first round. I sent Polly Pocket to the mat twice. But when the bell for the second round started, Muhammed Ali came out of the corner. I landed two punches and took the next thirty in both eyes, on the chin, and right in the nose. I was down but not out.
“It’s time to play for real!” I warned her.
“Good!” she assured me.
After a left-right-right-left—followed by an ungodly uppercut—I was down and out. When the referee counted to ten, four girls were screaming. I was not a happy camper.
“You girls are mean—beating up on an old man like that! Do you think Jesus likes all of this violence and hatred?” I pressed and appealed to their gentler side.
“Just bring your ‘A’ game next time!” they mocked.
Touché my young padawans.
Are you successful? In order to answer this question you really have to ask a few more questions, like:
What is success?
How do you measure success?
The Christian believer has a bit of an advantage over his unbelieving friends, family, and co-workers. How so? Our worldview determines how we should view success.
1. God Defines Success.
Success and the pursuit of success can be such a trap. Some measure it by physical health or attractiveness. Many measure it by career advancement and the accumulation of wealth. Still others measure success by how others perceive their status in the community, company, or civic organization.
What is interesting is that a person can be a stellar success in one or all of these areas, yet not be a success in what really matters most. If we let God define success and help set our priorities, then we have a legitimate opportunity to be successful in the most important areas of life:
“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” Matthew 6:33
God’s kingdom and righteousness is simply understood as allowing Him to rule in our life in a way that causes us to love Him and those around us. We need to be successful at loving God, loving ourselves, and loving each other—even THAT person—the one who appears to be unlovable.
2. Success is Being Who God Created You to Be.
1 Corinthians 12:12-31 is a lengthy explanation by Paul declaring the legitimacy of the differences between believers. Paul shares the heart of God by helping us to understand that God made each of us differently and gifted us uniquely so that we may serve in different roles in the church and His kingdom. Paul points out that one gift is not better than another—simply different. This difference is determined by God.
What is important is knowing Who God is and who you are in Him. Your life is meant to bring glory to Him. What unfolds before us each day is an opportunity to follow God and live our life to its greatest potential—or do something else.
3. Success is Not Measureable, but it is Knowable.
We live in day where you are not successful unless you are the best. Each year, 20 college football coaches are fired because they did not win a conference or national championship. If that handful of coaches had won their conference over the other guys, then the “shoe” would simply be on the other foot. We all know there is more to being a successful college football coach than winning a national championship—things like building character, graduating student-athletes, and developing leadership.
The problem is character-building and leadership-development are more abstract and extremely difficult to measure. Wins and losses, championship trophies, and alumni and booster donations are much easier to quantify.
This mentality bleeds over into the life of a believer. It’s much easier to measure success by church attendance, your 401k, or your credit score. It is much harder to determine if you really love God and other people. It is more difficult to measure the depth of a person’s character or the strength of their integrity.
While success is difficult to measure, quantify, and track—it can be known. David was considered a man after God’s heart and it was not because of his military success. It was due to his ability to repent after complete failure. John the Baptist lost his entire movement, was politically incorrect, and lost his life in prison. Yet Jesus said, “He is the greatest man ever born of a woman.” Consider Jesus. He lost thousands of followers, failed to observe political protocols of the day, refused to yield to popular consensus, and was abandoned by all followers and family except for three people. If you hold to a secular view of leadership and success all of these are abject failures.
Yet, we speak of these men thousands of years after they have come and gone—and the world will continue to be inspired by their example thousands of years after the Trumps, Gates, and Buffets are forgotten. Why? Because genuine success is achieved in your mind, heart, and relationships—not on a scoreboard, a financial statement, or a bronze plaque.
When I go to sleep at night I want to know a three things: I want my wife to believe I am a good man, I want my daughters to believe I am a good father, and I want God to believe I have followed Him. If I can have this, then I am successful. If I can string together 10,000 more days like that, then I will be happy with the success God has given to me. I am not competing with anyone other than myself!
© Charles D. T. Miller, 2014
Charlie has served in numerous leadership and executive ministry roles since 1997, specializing in organizational change, visionary leadership, and strategic planning. As a senior pastor and non-profit leader he is recognized for growing churches and organizations that suffer from decline. Charlie holds numerous graduate degrees, including a Th.D. and a Ph.D. in Executive and Organizational Leadership.