What’s Working in Church?

June 10, 2005 by

Colin Sedgwick is the pastor of Lindsay Park Baptist Church in Kenton, Middlesex and wrote a column for the Guardian suggesting how churches can reverse the decline in attendance. He suggests we simply learn from the churches that are growing and see what works.

So what works?

  • Bible-based preaching that has a challenging message (“It is better to be offended than bored”).
  • Prayer is central to the life of the church.
  • Engaging the neighborhood with social activities. “They are not so arrogant as to assume they have a divine right to exist.”
  • Main services are geared so an outsider can easily understand what’s going on: when to sit, when to stand, whether or not to take communion, etc.
  • Children and teens are taken seriously.
  • Musical diversity reigns: old school hymns and modern worship songs side by side.
  • There’s no dress code. Suit and tie or sandals and shorts, doesn’t matter.

To sum it up, “churches that buck the trend see themselves as communities, or families, not simply as buildings where people gather for an hour and then leave to go back into ‘normal’ life. God is taken seriously but not solemnly; worshippers are participants, not spectators; there is silence, but also noise and laughter; there is structure, but also informality.”

I could have quoted the whole thing, and probably should have, so read it for yourself—it’s a quick read. (link via CT’s weblog)

Post By:

Kevin D. Hendricks

When Kevin isn't busy as the editor of Church Marketing Sucks, he runs his own writing and editing company, Monkey Outta Nowhere. Kevin has been blogging since 1998, runs the hyperlocal site West St. Paul Reader, and has published several books, including 137 Books in One Year: How to Fall in Love With Reading, The Stephanies and all of our church communication books.
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6 Responses to “What’s Working in Church?”

  • glenn
    June 10, 2005

    Appreciate the article–it was a good read! I have questions, though.
    My church would precisely fit bullets 1, 2, 3, & 5; but we are definitely lacking on bullets 4, 6, & 7. Our average attendance on Sunday morning is around 70. Our average attendance for Wednesday evening youth group is around 20 (which, by the way, is actually more accommodating to bullets 4, 6, & 7 but lacking on 2).
    I guess I’m just wondering if the church (or youth group) that would grow needs to incorporate all seven points to see this happen. My church is conservative by design, which means some of these suggested practices will rarely find observance. Does this then confine our church to the size that it is with little or no chance for growth?

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  • kevin
    June 11, 2005

    Hey Glenn–great questions, ones that are pretty difficult to answer without actually knowing your church. But I’ll take a stab in the dark, and you can take it for what it’s worth.
    I think that fourth point, making your services accessible to outsiders, is pretty darn important. If visitors come to your church and can’t figure out what’s going on, why would they come back? This is where so many churches fail, and even when we think our church is accessible, that’s only because we don’t really understand the mindset of a visitor.
    Making someone feel welcome and comfortable in a strange setting is hard to do. It doesn’t happen just because the announcement person says we’re happy to see you.
    I don’t think a church will or will not grow just because of how it fits with this list. It’s just a list. They’re good ideas, but it doesn’t mean everything. But I would say that having inaccessible services for outsiders is a good way to hinder growth.

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  • glenn
    June 11, 2005

    point well taken. i appreciate the reply and will ponder where our church is in regards to accessibility to visitors. thanks.

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  • Emma
    June 13, 2005

    Hey, have only just come across this blog but am so glad I have! thanks so much for the article, was a really good read. I am looking at these questions from the perspective of applying them to a school Christian Union… and the main thing we desire to emphasise this year is prayer. How do we encourage our students to come to pray?? We have recently started to have specific prayer times in our weekly meetings, but so much more can and should be done… if only we could encourage them to come!

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  • Cryptblade
    June 13, 2005

    That’s interesting that those bullet points are highlighted. My church fits that to a T (tee..tea…) and my church is definitely growing and continues to grow. But that’s definitely not the only way. I’ve seen other churches do well and they don’t necessarily fit that list to a T..but it’s a good list, a good benchmark.
    But it also begs the question – how is it perceived? A growing church needs funds to sustain the ministry. Can all those bullet points be obliterated when the church, when the pastor, asks for funds?
    Despite Christian teaching that giving should only be done cheerfully (Jesus taught us that), a growing church that asks for funds, for seed offerings, or general offerings – doesn’t that get the church perceived as another money-stealing church?
    I raise this question only for some thoughts. I personally think a growing church can’t be consummed with it’s image regarding that. The church, evangelizing the Word, worshipping God, and meeting the needs of believers is far more important than what non-believers say.

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  • M Squared T Blog
    June 14, 2005

    What’s Working In Churches

    Colin Sedgwick is the pastor of Lindsay Park Baptist Church in Kenton, Middlesex and wrote a column for the Guardian suggesting how churches can reverse the decline in attendance. He suggests we simply learn from the churches that are growing and see w…

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