Ok, so I know that title sounds a bit dramatic and pompous. I agree with you. But this past easter weekend we did just that. Let me share with you what happened.
Let me first say that last year I wrote a post called “When the Big Project Fails,” in which I detail an experience in which we bombed completely as a church and had less than average attendance. And you can read about our experience last easter here.
For this past Easter, we did most of the same things as in our big last series last year. We did the Facebook ads. We had a banner outside our church.
We did do two things differently, though. And let me just say before I share what they were, that I don’t know how much this had to do with it. When dealing with some of these issues I think we have to walk and talk with much humility because ultimately we’re dealing with spiritual issues in which God is in control. So I hesitate to point to anything that our church “did” as the specific reason for growth. I’ll just share the facts of what we did and did not do.
1. We didn’t do mailers or doorknob hangers in the community. Last year we did. And you know what? Thinking back on it, I can’t remember getting any results from it. In fact, in a sense, I felt like it might have actually hindered our congregation. You see, as I was speaking to my congregation two weeks before our easter launch, I told them that we weren’t going to do mailers on purpose. Because I felt as if they had used that as a crutch last time. The idea of, “well, the community has been invited, so now we can relax and pray and wait for them to come.” I told them that if they didn’t bring someone with them to church, we’d just be staring at each other, and there wouldn’t be anyone else there for our easter weekend. It was in their hands. I couldn’t do it. They had to do it.
2. We did mail and call everyone on our membership rolls. As in every church, there are many people on the membership rolls that, for whatever reason, are no longer attending. We prepared a simple flyer outlining that we changed some things around at Carrollwood and that we were using that weekend as a special “open house” for the community so they could check us out and give us another chance.
So all the members of the church got an invite flyer mailed to their house. We also had teams set up that called all those members that we hadn’t seen in a while. We also mailed flyers to those nonmembers that were on our mailing list.
3. We launched a children’s church program that weekend. This was a pretty major change for us at Carrollwood Church. We got rid of our children’s Sabbath school classes (Sunday school for those that worship on another day). Initially, this was a somewhat controversial move. For many churches, it still is a controversial move.
Here was my question and dilemma, though, that I pressed my church to answer: “what are we going to do so that families with young children can worship without distraction and be engaged during the worship service.” Because almost every week I had been hearing from first-time guests asking us if we had something for their kids so they could worship in peace. From the pulpit, while I’m preaching, I’ve seen many parents that have had to leave the sanctuary because their children were acting up. Most of the time they would remain in the lobby and wouldn’t finish the message.
So we decided to launch a program for kids 0-12. They were divided into more specific age groups from there, of course. We also used a professional check-in system. In this check-in system, parents would bring their kids to a check-in desk, register them, and a printer would print out three labels. One would be the name of the child. The second would have the name of the child with a special code. The third label also had the name of the child and had the code number. So one of the coded labels would go on the child, and the parent got the other. To “check-out” and receive their children, the numbers from both labels had to match.
Carrollwood Church is a relatively small, but growing church. We normally average about 85 in attendance. And we normally average about 12-13 kids. But on this particular weekend, we had about 160 adults, with about 40 kids.
What did I see? I saw lots of people bringing friends and kids. This past week, our attendance for the adults was a little lower, but not by that much. But for the kids? I think we actually had more than 40 kids this past week. We had told the kids that if they ever bring a friend they get to choose what prize they want.
So that’s our story. That’s what happened. I know God blessed, and God moved upon our people to invite friends. And I know that the children’s church was definitely a big attraction. And so far it seems to be working. I’ll keep you posted.
So what about you? What do you think?