I recently finished reading a great new book by Andy Stanley called Deep and Wide. Andy leads one of the largest, fastest growing churches in the US and is a mine of great leadership tips and ideas. Here are some of the highlights:
- Environment matters – aesthetics, smell, sights, sounds, clutter, decor etc – it all communicates something to those who visit your church/homegroup/explore course/mums and tots group etc.
- Presentation must be engaging – do whatever it takes to make people engage with what’s being said. They don’t have to agree, but you do want them engaged. Stories, stats, points of tension, questions all force listeners to engage with what’s being said.
- Content must be helpful – specific application – not just abstract head knowledge, but applied truth that works.
- “The key to successfully engaging unchurched [and churched] people in a weekend message has more to do with your approach and your presentation than your content.” (230) That one’s controversial and on first reading makes me bristle slightly, but when you stop to think about it, visitors are coming with all sorts of baggage and barriers. Stanley is simply observing that unchurched people engage first with a person/approach/style, and secondly with what you have to say. If they like you they’ll listen; if they don’t they won’t. Why do so many people listen to white-teeth and perfect hair prosperity preaching? First, because the style is easy to engage with; second, because the message is all too palatable. The alternative isn’t to shout hell-fire and damnation at people using all the technical jargon you know. The alternative is to speak truth with a wonderfully engaging style. Those two things aren’t mutually exclusive. The offence should be the content of the gospel, not our approach or presentation. Wouldn’t it be terrible if our presentation and approach hinders people engaging with the content of our message?
- Great opening lines for your church gatherings to make visitors feel valued and welcome:
- If you’re not religious – good; neither are we
- Our aim is to create an environment where people of all sorts love to attend
- If you’re visiting relatives, and they said you had to come to get lunch, sorry; we all have a long way to go
- Relax – we don’t want anything from you; but we do want something for you
- We might not all believe the same things, but we all struggle with the same things
- On leadership and change Stanley observes: any system will conspire to maintain the status quo and resist change – “New ideas are good ideas as long as they don’t require anyone to actually do anything new.”
- Marry your mission; date your model. In other words don’t move from your core commitments, mission, and raison d’etre; but do be flexible in how you apply and work out your core values. The mission is permanent; the vision is long term; the model is mid-term; the programming is short term. Keeping these things in proper perspective helps keep the main thing the main thing, and prevents programs from becoming sacred cows.
It’s a great book, well worth a read. You certainly won’t agree with everything in there, and he does at times fall into unhelpful dichotomies, but all in all there is much helpful gold to be mined.