Rick Warren recently described how Saddleback Church has changed its outreach and evangelism strategies over the years.
When he first graduated from seminary, computers were large, slow machines used by very few people. The Internet was in its infancy, and no one had heard of email.
The church used the tools that were available back then, and now that much of our society has become more digitized, they use the new tools that are available.
They’ve never changed their message, but they have changed how they get that message out.
This is a lesson every church needs to remember: While the Gospel never changes, the tools we have available to us to share that message have changed, and we would be foolish to not use those tools.
As I’ve worked with smaller churches over the years, a majority of them have complained about the lack of young people in their churches. Yet, these same churches do little, if anything, to effectively reach young people.
When I point out that young people spend a great deal of time on social media, the leaders of these churches often respond that they don’t do social media.
I’ve had a few pastors even respond that they have nothing to do with computers at all, and they wonder why the ones they claim they want to reach feel that these churches are irrelevant and out of touch.
I am currently serving as a transitional pastor. Last week, I sent out a voice message on One Call Now, a new program the church recently purchased.
This message reminded everyone on the church’s contact list of an all-church gathering for the next Saturday.
Young, old, teens, anyone who has given the church their contact info received that call, and it took me all of two minutes to do it. I had never used that program before, but I can see how effective it can be.
The church has a responsibility to use whatever tools are effective today to share our message with as many people as possible.
This includes good (and I stress good) websites, social media, blogs and whatever else we can find that the people we want to reach are using.
It also means that we must stop using tools and strategies that are no longer effective.
Your older members and shut-ins probably enjoy receiving a monthly newsletter from your church, but most people are not going to read it. They are more apt to seek out information about your church on your website.
It’s important to periodically review your outreach efforts and determine which ones continue to be effective and if any need to be eliminated.
Wise stewards will use their resources for those things found to be the most effective.
For example, for a few years now, I have posted a number of links on Twitter to articles that I thought would be helpful to bivocational ministers and other church leaders.
I have a list of blogs that I read and select about 20 of the best articles to provide my readers with helpful resources.
However, in recent months I’ve noticed a decline in the number of people clicking on these links. Yesterday, I made the decision to stop doing this.
It took roughly an hour a day to post these links to Hootsuite to be posted on Twitter throughout the day.
I can no longer justify this use of my time based on the number of people reading these articles and the few responses I ever receive back from those who do.
I plan to keep posting on my blog as its readership is a little stronger, and I will continue to seek other ways to add value to my readers.
In the same way, churches must regularly assess the impact of their efforts and make the needed adjustments.
Otherwise, they might be spending time and energy on initiatives that are no longer seen as helpful to their members and the larger community.
Dennis Bickers is a church consultant and author. He served previously as the bivocational pastor of Hebron Baptist Church near Madison, Indiana, for 20 years followed by a 14-year ministry as a resource minister with the American Baptist Churches of Indiana and Kentucky. He blogs at Bivocational Ministry, where a version of this article first appeared. It is used with permission. You can follow him on Twitter @DennisBickers.