How to Help People Answer Their Bible Questions

Screen Shot 2015-03-23 at 4.36.10 PMEverybody has questions about the Bible.

One of our regular responsibilities as church leaders is to answer those questions.

But where can you go for answers?

Two Types of Questions

I’ve discovered that people usually have one of two types of questions.

1. The first has to do with what you find in Scripture. 

Open Genesis 6 and you encounter The Nephilim. Who were these people? Where did they come from? Peruse 2 Corinthians 12 and you find Paul’s thorn in the flesh. What was that? Read Hebrews 6 and you find people who seem to be losing their salvation. Is that even possible? If so, what hope is there for these people?

To help people with these questions, I refer to two books. The first is Gleason Archer’s New International Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties. Dr. Archer was a professor at Trinity Seminary. For thirty years he answered people’s Bible questions for Decision magazine. By the time he was done, he found he has answered questions on most of the questionable passages in Scripture. So he put them all into this wonderful volume.

The second one I recommend is Norm Geisler’s The Big Book of Bible Difficulties: Clear and Concise Answers from Genesis to Revelation. As far as I can tell, Dr. Geisler (a professor at Dallas Seminary) looked at Archer’s book and decided he could add a few things to it. Both books have similar formats. They answer questions chapter by chapter and verse by verse. In my opinion, every Christian pastor and leader ought to have a copy of each of these in their libraries.

2. The second type of question has to do with what you don’t find in Scripture.

This second type of question is a little trickier. Certain questions are too long or too broad to be included in an encyclopedia or compendium, but too short to warrant a whole book. As you may know, I’ve spent the past twenty years surveying people about their questions about God, Christianity and the Bible. (That’s why I wrote The God Questions.)

When it comes to the Bible, I’ve discovered that there are about five major questions most people (both Christian and non-Christian) have:

(1) Why are there so many translations?

(2) Why was God so violent in the Old Testament?

(3) Why is there only one way to heaven?

(4) When will Jesus return?

(5) Where is the Trinity found in Scripture?

Each of these requires a little context and a longer explanation. I devoted a chapter to each in The Bible Questions.

The encouraging thing is: God has provided answers to every question! He didn’t leave us hanging. A little exploration, a little scholarship, and just about all curiosities and concerns get satisfied.

Certain ministry moments are significant to people. The deepest ones, of course, are weddings and funerals. But I have found that answering someone’s concerns about losing their salvation, or reconciling a loving God with the God of the Old Testament can be deeply meaningful as well.

If you’ve got questions, I recommend these three books!

Hal HeadshotHal Seed is the founding and Lead Pastor of New Song Community Church in Oceanside, California. New Song is launching a new campus every year and has seen over 17,000 people come to Christ. Hal mentors pastors to grow bigger, better churches. He offers resources to help church leaders at www.pastormentor.com.

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How to Improve your Connection Card Follow Up

Screen Shot 2015-03-19 at 4.52.00 PMWe are always trying new things, making improvements, arguing about it, and tweaking again how we use Connection Cards to follow up with guests at New Song. These are our best practices.  Right now. See which ideas will work for you.

Why bother with Connection Cards?

Connection cards are the insert in your program where you ask for your guests’ contact info, and you give them opportunity to request information about age groups and ministries in your church.

Everyone in the service fills out a Connection Card every week, or the visitors won’t because they don’t want to shout out that they are the outsiders.  If everyone is doing it, guests probably will, too.

Each week during the announcements, we hold one up and say something like this, “Inside your program is a Connection Card that looks like this. Please fill this out and put it in the offering when it comes around at the end of the service. If this is your first time with us, we’re especially glad you’ve joined us. If you’ll take your Connection Card to our Information Center, we’ll give you a free copy of The God Questions as our way of saying, ‘We’re glad you joined us today!’”

Connection Cards are worth the time we give them in the service and during the week because being able to follow up with guests can make the difference in their sticking around church long enough to find their way to Jesus.

Four Steps in our Connection Card Follow Up

1.  We get our Connection Cards entered on Sunday so we can get busy following up on Monday. It takes an eye for detail to enter them correctly, so we find detail-oriented people and equip them thoroughly. They enter the registration cards from our children and youth ministries as they come in on Sunday, too.

2.  We use Church Community Builder for our database.  We like that we can enter the contact information for individuals and families, and we can set up process queues so a quick check in a box sends an email to the person who should follow up.

3.  Every first-time family gets:

  • an email from us on Monday afternoon
  • a phone call within 48 hours
  • a letter from the pastor in the mail by Thursday.

The email has a link to a short survey on SurveyMonkey.  The phone call is made by a volunteer – not someone who is paid to be nice – so they hear from someone like them. The letter from the pastor thanks them for coming and encourages them to come back next weekend.

4.  By Tuesday night they may also get contacted by our children’s ministry, the youth ministry, the young adult leaders, or by people representing any other boxes they checked. They get the message that we are willing and able to be in relationship with them.

How Connection Cards help us Follow Everyone

1.  We also follow up with people after their second visit.  They get an email from a volunteer on Monday and another handwritten note, but this one contains a gift card for a sandwich, an ice cream or a coffee as a thank you for coming.

2.  After one month, they get a call to check in and help them take their next step in getting connected.

3.  The Connection Cards have checkboxes that we use for communication beyond assimilating newcomers.  Salvation and baptism, child dedication, joining a small group or ministry team, and more, can be checked and will be followed up.

4.  We take attendance based on Connection Cards and follow up with people who have missed three weeks in a row and six weeks in a row.  Those people are in danger of dropping out.

5.  And we update contact info, of course, as it comes in on the weekly cards from the regular attenders.

You might be arguing with me that you don’t have enough visitors each week, or enough manpower, to establish such a thorough system for such a little thing, but I would argue back that if you don’t set it up so you can connect with more guests, you will let them slip away when they come.

Here’s How to Move Forward

1.  Be sure you have a church database that functions to manage information about your families, and to track them through a follow-up process.  Try Church Community Builders if you need a new database. The founders came out of New Song and we are big fans.

2.  Tap the person who is good at database stuff to work with you to get your process set up.  It’s convenient if it is an admin on staff so someone is nearby to make tweaks and keep everyone up to speed.

3.  Build the rest of the follow up team: who will enter the connection cards, who will send the email and the letters, who will make the phone calls to all visitors, and who will make the phone calls regarding specific ministries or information. You may want to hire someone for ten hours a week to manage all your assimilation follow up.

I know that Connection Card follow up is just one thing, but it’s one big thing if you’re looking to grow your church.

If you want more information about Connection Cards and your assimilation system, check out my ebook, Keep Your Guests Coming Back.

Hal HeadshotHal Seed is the founding and Lead Pastor of New Song Community Church in Oceanside, California. New Song is launching a new campus every year and has seen over 17,000 people come to Christ. Hal mentors pastors to grow bigger, better churches. He offers resources to help church leaders at www.pastormentor.com.

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How to Grow your Church in Leaps and Bounds

Screen Shot 2015-03-11 at 7.29.02 PMA trickle isn’t going to cut it.

You might have wished for a new family or two to join your church every week or two, but that’s not how it works. Churches grow in leaps and bounds.

Over the past ten years, New Song has doubled in size. All of our growth has come from leaps forward during strategic seasons and initiatives, followed by periods of consolidation. First, we attract newcomers. Then we enfold them into the family and ministries of the church.

Three Attraction Strategies

We find these three strategies attract a bunch of new families all at once:

1. Wow Weekends

A Wow Weekend is a weekend service with such an interesting guest speaker that when people hear about it they say, “Wow!” We just hosted a former mob boss who was on America’s most wanted list when he came to Christ. He’s the first person ever to exit La Cosa Nostra and live. “Wow!” Our attendance leaped by 400 people that weekend. Now we’re in the process of enfolding those newcomers.

2. Attractional Campaigns

Twice a year we host a four to six week Church-wide Campaign around a widely felt personal need like family, marriage, finances, or questions people have about God.

Rick Warren wrote the original Church Campaign using his book The Purpose-Driven Life. We grew by 8% during that campaign – and it opened our eyes to the jump in attendance that a well run campaign can bring.

During our next campaign (The God Questions) we grew by 10%. During a campaign on the end times (Future History), we grew by 18%. Using Jonah, we grew 17%.

3. Comeback Events

A Comeback Event is a weekend service or multi-week campaign designed to attract the unchurched and draw-back those who have dropped out of church.

A few years ago, we started having a Back to Church Sunday in September. Outreach, Inc. and Lifeway Publishing have grown it into National Back to Church Sunday. Last year 30,000 churches participated – seeing a 35% increase in attendance that weekend.

We are looking forward to hosting a Comeback Campaign called I Love Sundays in the fall of 2015. The I Love Sundays campaign will help families cope with their super busy lives by re-centering around Sunday rest.

Imagine your church taking a 35% leap in attendance on September 20, and then consolidating that growth during late September and early October in a four-week I Love Sundays campaign.

You can get the first copies of the I Love Sundays book, along with the four-week I Love Sundays Campaign, this summer on PastorMentor.com and Outreach.com.

Your Next Step

Now is a great time to put WOW weekends, church campaigns, and comeback events on your church calendar. We have found that late September, late January, and the Sunday after Easter are the best times because that’s when people are more open to an invitation to something special at church.

Next week, I’ll go into how to assimilate those new families once you get them in the door.

Hal HeadshotHal Seed is the founding and Lead Pastor of New Song Community Church in Oceanside, California. New Song is launching a new campus every year and has seen over 17,000 people come to Christ. Hal mentors pastors to grow bigger, better churches. He offers resources to help church leaders at www.pastormentor.com.

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The Speedy Way to Impress your Easter Guests

You want to make the most of Easter this year, but your to-do list looms large, and every day flies by. What can you do that will make a big impression on your guests and is easy to get done?

Give them a copy of The God Questions Gift Edition.

gift book10

Here’s why I recommend this little book for your guests this Easter:
  • It exceeds their expectations.  You are giving them a gift instead of asking them for money.
  • It answers the four critical questions they have about God, the Bible, and Christianity.
  • It leaves them with a great last impression.
  • It includes a presentation of the Gospel.
  • It costs as little as $1.99 each.

This is how we handle it at New Song:

On normal Sundays, during our offering announcement, we ask everyone – including guests – to fill out their Connection Card. Then we say, “If this is your first time with us, take your Connection Card to our Information Center to receive a free gift. (Hold up The Gift Edition.) It’s a book called, ‘The God Questions’. It’s a quick read that will answer the top four questions everyone has about God. It’s our way of saying thank you for coming, and we hope you’ll become part of our family.”

Who wouldn’t love that?

On Easter we go one step further. At the end of the service (after I have given a salvation invitation), I stand at the edge of the stage and say, “I know some of you couldn’t pray that prayer because you still have questions about God. I’ve got an Easter gift for you.” (Hold up a stack of copies.) It’s called ‘The God Questions’ and will answer the top four questions you have about God. I’ll be standing right here (point to the floor in front of the stage) right after the service and I’ll gladly give you a copy if you’ll read it.” This gives me a chance to meet and have a brief personal conversation with every inquiring guest.

This gift and personal touch is the most simple and effective means I’ve found to increase the likelihood our Easter guests will return.

Order The God Questions Gift Edition for your guests today.  Then check it off your to-do list, and move on to preparing the other things you want to do to make Easter the best weekend of the year.

Hal HeadshotHal Seed is the founding and Lead Pastor of New Song Community Church in Oceanside, California. New Song is launching a new campus every year and has seen over 17,000 people come to Christ. Hal mentors pastors to grow bigger, better churches. He offers resources to help church leaders at www.pastormentor.com.

 

The 3 Simple Behaviors of Successful People

There are six of us. All are pastors. All of them lead mega-mega churches. And we get together every January for a Pastors’ Roundtable Retreat.

This year I saw that these successful friends of mine have three things in common.Screen Shot 2015-02-23 at 11.05.23 AM

They show up.
They stay long-term.
And they never stop learning.

A ton of great books have been written on what it takes to succeed, but filling a whole book means it gets complicated.  Try these simple behaviors of my successful friends instead:

1. Successful people show up every day.

Wannabees find excuses. They get sick and stay home. They get criticized and quit. They get busy and stop learning.

Successful people overcome obstacles.  “Yeah, but…” isn’t in their vocabulary. They get sick and still preach. They get criticized and learn from it. They get busy and keep learning.

I’ve been huddling with this group of large church pastors for almost ten years now. We all get sick; we all take vacations. But in those ten years, only one of us has missed a scheduled preaching assignment, and that’s because he was in the hospital with a detached retina.

2. Successful people stay long term. 

Wannabees waver. They see greener grass, greater salaries, or more prestige elsewhere. So they go there.

Success is like digging a huge hole. It happens one shovel-full at a time. Digging a big hole takes a long time.

Of the six pastors in my group, one of us accepted a job as a college president three years ago; the rest of us have all been in our present pastorates for more than fifteen years.

3. Successful people never stop learning.

Wannabees let the tyranny of the urgent keep them from the primacy of the important. They start working on a degree, but get stopped by distractions, or financial mis-management, or family stress. They hire a mentor, but quit for lack of time.

Success is a journey, not a destination. Those who arrive do so by getting a little bit better, a little bit wiser, a little bit more godly every week.

The reason my buddies get together is to learn from each other. One of their favorite things to share is the books we’ve read. They all have mentors. They all have advanced degrees. They all are over 50. And they all intend to keep learning like mad.

Advanced lessons in success include great vision, great skills, great leadership and a dozen other factors. But these three are primary: show up, stay there, keep growing.

Think About It: What do these three simple behaviors look like in your life today?

Hal HeadshotHal Seed is the founding and Lead Pastor of New Song Community Church in Oceanside, California. New Song is launching a new campus every year and has seen over 17,000 people come to Christ. Hal mentors pastors to grow bigger, better churches. He offers resources to help church leaders at www.pastormentor.com.

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Where Do you Start if you Want to Get your Church Unstuck?

Screen Shot 2015-02-15 at 9.51.21 PM I hate it when a church gets stuck.

Especially if that church is mine.

In 2001, New Song moved from a leased facility with a 200 seat auditorium to our own facility with a 600 seat auditorium. Everything increased, except our capacity to care. Attendance rocketed from 500 to 1,100 in one month. Then we started a slow slide to 750. I called it “Living on the backside of a miracle.”

The church had grown, but our Care System hadn’t. So as new people came in the front door, older people slipped out the back. There are only two ways to increase the size of your church: widen the front door, and narrow the back door. Moving into a larger building on a prominent street massively widened our front door. We needed a scalable Care System in order to close our backdoor. Our problem was a systems problem.

Almost all church stagnation situations are systems problems.

In my case, I needed to work on our Care System. Once we did that, we broke the 1,000 barrier and have never looked back.

Everything is made up of systems.

God loves systems. Our planet is part of a solar system. Your body has twelve systems. (All of them are vital, though some seem obscure. What’s an integumentary system?) Your family is a system. The ants in your yard operate as a system. So do the birds and the bees.

The Systems of a Church

Churches are made up of nine systems:

1. Your Assimilation System determines how well and how many people get and stay connected to your church.

2. Your Outreach System influences how many people visit and come to Christ in your church.

3. Your Financial System affects how much and how well money is managed.

4. Your Discipleship System guides how well people grow in Christ.

5. Your Ministry Placement System directs how well people find places to serve and how happily and effectively they serve.

6. Your Worship Planning System impacts the style and quality of your worship experiences.

7. Your Care System controls how well people are cared for.

8. Your Evaluation System determines your rate of improvement.

9. Your Facilities System dictates how you manage your facilities.

Which system should I work on first?

What system do you need to work on right now? That depends.

Screen Shot 2015-02-17 at 6.50.37 PMThe systems of a church are like the staves of a barrel.

Each of the vertical boards is called a “stave.” Each system in your church is its own stave. Water can only rise to the level of the lowest stave. If you’ve got a broken stave, fix it first.

Your broken system could be a non-existent front door, meager per-capita giving, cramped facilities, awkward worship, etc. None of those problems will fix themselves. To get out of trouble, you’ll need to improve that system.

It’s more likely that you need to work on all your systems. To increase the size of your church, you’ve got to increase the quality of each of your nine systems. If no particular system is hemorrhaging, start with Assimilation, because there’s no sense bringing more people in your front door if you’re going to make a poor first impression.

Once a good Assimilation System is in place, it’s time to increase your number of visitors by enhancing your Outreach System. In order to pay for your outreach tools, you’ll want to improve your Financial System.

Churches improve incrementally by improving one system at a time.

Work on your ministry this week by deciding which system to work on first. And check out Why I Love Systems to learn more about how to build a system.

 

Hal Headshot Hal Seed is the founding and Lead Pastor of New Song Community Church in Oceanside, CA. Hal mentors pastors to grow bigger, better churches. He offers resources to help church leaders at www.pastormentor.com.

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