Every church is unique. But that doesn’t mean pastors understand their church’s distinct needs and concerns. In ministry, we too quickly see the common threads between all churches and miss the differences. This is because we’re often speaking to our congregations a lot more than we listen.
Any attempt to understand your church better is an investment in ministry. It enables us to minister to specific questions and concerns. Here are some ways you can get to know and appreciate your church’s unique characteristics a little better:
1. Provide opportunities for sermon questions
Pastors think they get more input about their messages than they actually do. Someone might pat you on the back and say, “Good message.” But that’s not really feedback. You might even have the odd person suggest ways the message could have been better—or more accurate. But you seldom hear from the people who struggled to understand it, or don’t know how to apply it.
You know the message you preach is important. Why not make sure it hits home? Creating opportunities for people to ask questions helps you get a read on where they’re at theologically, and what they struggle with. It also can help you write stronger messages in the future.
Need some suggestions for making this happen?
- Invite people to text questions during the message. Give yourself 10 minutes at the end to answer them.
- Create a fellowship time where people can gather for refreshments after the service and ask questions.
- If you have a church app, it can be a place for people to ask questions that you can answer in blog posts throughout the week.
2. Hold “town halls”
Once a quarter, open the church up during an evening and have dinner brought in. (It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. Pizza will do.) Use this time to facilitate discussion about concerns people have, topics they’d like to hear more about, and areas in the community where they want to serve.
Once you feel confident facilitating these gatherings, try opening them up to the community. You’ll be surprised by how enthusiastically a town will get behind a church that demonstrates a willingness to listen.
3. Put an internet forum on your website
A lot of people will say that social media killed web-based discussion forums. That may be true in part, but they still have their place. Facebook groups provide a lot of opportunity for discussion, but their shelf life is limited, and there’s no way to find topics that interest you. A forum allows you to find discussions based on your interest in specific topics.
A forum also gives you the ability to ask questions, and it encourages feedback and discussion. You can sit back and watch your community interact and get a sense of what’s important to them, what questions they have, and areas you might want to address in the future.
4. Send out surveys
The occasional anonymous survey will put your finger on your church’s pulse by giving them the opportunity to be completely honest with you. You get to ask the questions, and they’ll give you the information you want. This is perfect if you’re looking to…
- Choose the direction of ministries
- Evaluate leadership and staff
- Choose potential sermon series for the year
- Identify issues and concerns
If you’re serious about understanding your church, a survey is a powerful tool in your belt. It’s an effective way to identify the needs, perceptions, and obstacles in your community.
Take the Time to Listen
It’s easy to assume that our map is the territory. It could be that our understanding of our church is more a reflection of our perception than reality. When we believe we understand our church better than we do, it can cause problems for everyone.
By creating opportunities to listen and looking for ways to understand your church better, you can make it so much easier to jumpstart individual and corporate growth.