Six Surefire Ways To Alienate New People

Matheus Ferrero

Nobody tries to alienate people that are visiting church. As ministry leaders, we should be as inclusive as possible without sacrificing the message of the gospel. Even so, churches across the country are accidentally excluding potential attendees by simply forgetting what it’s like to be new. We need to be intentional about what we do, what we say, and how we say it.

However, if you wish to ostracize your weekly visitors then, by all means, try these six surefire ways to alienate new people at your church.

Sing Songs That No One Knows

I know that your worship leader has been working on his/her new album and that the congregation loves it. However, the new people don’t know those songs and can feel very alienated during the worship service. Even songs that were written and recorded by professional but little-known worship groups can be a challenge for the newcomer.

Solution? Consider playing at least a couple songs that are popular in case someone new shows up.

If you must play an obscure song, mix it into the set after you’ve brought the congregation into worship together and helped everyone connect to God.

Fail To Introduce Yourself To The Congregation

You wouldn’t think this would matter too much but you would be surprised. A new person has no idea who anyone is. So, when someone gets on stage and starts talking, visitors don’t know if that person is the lead pastor, an elder, a member, or some dude that had the guts to grab the mic.

By asking each speaker (announcements, welcome, offering talk, etc.) to start by saying something like, “Hi, my name is Bill and I’m on staff here..” or “My name is Paula and I’m a member here…” helps new people get some context for who is who.

This helps people feel more comfortable. By the way, when you don’t do this, newcomers assume that almost everyone up on the stage is working at the church.

Have An Exceptionally Long Meet & Greet Time

First of all, you should ditch the “meet and greet.” You know what I’m talking about–it’s the moment that the worship leader or pastor says, “hey there, take a few minutes and say hi to the people around you.” They might as well be saying, “hey there new people, for the next few minutes you’ll be standing uncomfortably by your selves while everybody says hi to people they already know.”

Too harsh? Not really. Ask anyone who’s visited a new church how they feel about being forced to meet new people in such a non-escapable environment. Only the most gregarious and outgoing new people appreciate the meet & greet.

Be Sure To Mention Situations and People Inclusive To The Church

How does it feel to be left out of a private joke? Pretty terrible. That’s sort of the feeling that new people have when the pastor is speaking about a situation that only the current congregation knows about. “Remember when Tom flooded the basement?” he might say. “That was a bad day!” Well, we can only guess because we weren’t there and we don’t know who Tom is.

You could say, “In 2001, Tom, our janitor accidentally impaled a water pipe while installing the new sign for the children’s area. By the time we figured out where the water was coming from we were standing in ankle deep water!” (autobiographical illustration, by the way)

That helps because you’ve given enough information to help even a first-time guest know what you talking about. They won’t feel left out of the joke that way.

A related habit that a lot of ministry leaders have is referring to Bible passages and stories casually, assuming that everyone knows them. If you refer to a well-known Bible story or verse, don’t assume everyone knows about it already. That’s insider talk and it subconsciously excludes people who don’t know the Bible.

Don’t Give People Time To Find Bible Passages

As a preacher, this is a huge pet-peeve of mine. The reason? I used to do this A LOT! When I first starting preaching I would place bookmarks in my Bible ahead of time so I could find them fast. The problem was that no one else in the congregation could find them as quickly.

For example, if you are speaking and you say, “please turn to 1 Peter 3,” you need to turn there with everyone else. Once you get there, look out in the audience and see if most people are done flipping pages. Once they are, then you can reference the verse you’re asking them to find.

You say, “but there will be a lot of silence while we are all looking.” Yeah, that’s ok. People won’t be listening to you when they are searching in their Bibles anyway. This is especially true for new people who aren’t as familiar with the Bible as everyone else. For many visitors, this could be their very first experience with God’s word. Make their first experience a positive one by helping them feel successful in finding the Bible verses you’re talking about.

And for Heaven’s sake (literally), use the Bible when you preach!

Overwhelm New People By Being Too Friendly

For a while, the greeters in our church were too happy to see new people. It’s true! I actually got that feedback from a visitor once. They said, “your people were too happy to see me.”

What they meant was that the greeters sort of bombarded them on the way in the door. It’s the same feeling you might’ve had the last time you walked onto a used car lot–the sales guy runs out of the office and attaches himself to your leg.

Smaller churches are especially susceptible to this problem for a couple reasons. First, because they tend to be so excited to see new people, hoping that the church will grow. Second, because there are fewer people it’s easier to determine who is new.

The solution? Whelm people. Don’t OVERwhelm them, don’t UNDERwhelm them either. Just ‘whelm’ them. Yes, it’s a word.

Be happy to see them and welcome them cheerfully. Then let them experience the church at their own pace. Most visitors don’t need to know everything about the congregation on their first visit.

6 Simple Keys to Presenting Powerful Sermons

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

This is a guest post by fellow Tribe Writer, Rachel Larkin. Rachel lives in New Zealand with her husband and their three young adult sons. She is the author of Simple Prayer: The Guide for Ordinary People Seeking the ExtraordinaryShe writes about growing in faith and developing your potential on her website rachellarkin.com. She is also a practicing Chartered Accountant, a homeschooler for 14 years, and craves chocolate constantly.

To find out more on seeing God turn up in your daily life, Rachel has a free eBook available for download – The Untold Story: 7 Steps to Seeing God in the Midst of your Real Messy Life. Make sure to check it out!


All preachers, teachers, and speakers want an audience that is interested in what they have to say. We desire to engage the listeners with our message. After listening to decades of sermons in my life and preaching for the past couple of years I have discovered 6 simple keys to presenting powerful sermons, messages that will resonate with people and inspire personal transformation.

Keep it Simple

The sermons that are remembered are the simple ones. Unless you are speaking to a theology class, cut out all the long technical jargon and keep your language simple.

Resist the temptation to go off on tangents. Make sure each point is related to your theme, each illustration is appropriate and is illustrating the point.

This doesn’t mean that you can’t tackle the complicated topics – just break the topic down to its core. You might only focus on one or two aspects of the topic. That’s okay, there is always another time to cover the other sides. Don’t feel that you must cover everything in one message.

Be Vulnerable

People love to hear personal stories. Sprinkle some of your own experiences that relate to your topic into your message. Be vulnerable and open up your life. Let your audience know that you are also on the same journey as they are. No one has ‘arrived’ at perfection, we are all still growing and learning.

One Takeaway Point

A Sunday morning thirty-minute message only needs one takeaway point. This is an overall theme that is woven throughout. It flavours through every illustration, Bible verse and structure of the message. Emphasise this takeaway point at the end by including a call to action – what does the listener need to do, think, or believe now?

A Sunday morning thirty-minute message only needs one takeaway point.Click To Tweet

Make Good Use of Technology

When I was a young girl sitting in church, there was no technology and we were taught to sit for long periods of time listening to the sermon. Today we have access to amazing technology that if used well can enhance and inspire our listeners. Technology takes advantage of our listeners senses.

Include a short video clip, image or sound bite that helps to reinforce your point. But keep it simple. Don’t fill your PowerPoint slides with lots of words – white space is good. Our pastor delivered the most memorable sermon when he wore a Roman soldiers uniform with all the armor and weaponry – it bought Ephesians chapter 6 alive!

Preach the Word

“The sermon which does not lead to Christ, or of which Jesus Christ is not the top and the bottom, is a sort of sermon that will make the devils in hell laugh, but make the angels of God weep.”- Charles Spurgeon

Ensure that Christ and the Word is central. For Him to be glorified in our preaching, He needs to feature in our sermons.

Pray for your Listeners

The most important key to a powerful and engaging sermon is prayer. Soak your sermon preparation time in prayer. Pray before you start thinking of ideas. Pray as you research. Pray when you organise your structure. Pray as your type up your notes. Pray as you practice.

Pray not just for yourself but primarily for your listeners. Pray that the right people attend – people who need to hear the message that is on your heart. Pray that they will understand and hear God’s voice speaking to them personally. Pray for the soil of their hearts.

Now over to you – what do think makes a sermon powerful and engaging? Share your discoveries in the comments below.

 

Five Reasons Every Pastor Should Be A Writer

If you’re a pastor, then you should be writing. Ok, wait! Before you start with a list of excuses just hear me out (besides, I know all the excuses because I regularly used them to avoid my responsibility as a writer).

Truthfully, I have had an on-again, off-again relationship with writing since 2003. It’s something that I know I must do, even though maintaining the discipline to continue writing every week is challenging. Writing is first and foremost an act of sheer will. It’s not easy. But if you are a pastor I am fully convinced that it’s a necessary part of your ministry. Here’s why:

Expanding Your Audience

At first, this sounds self-serving. However, remember the Apostle Paul’s desire to go to great lengths to reach people for Christ. He said, “I have become all things to all people, that by all means, I might save some.” (1 Cor 9:22)

As a pastor, each week your audience is limited to the number of people that will attend your church on Sunday. That’s a problem because even if you could pack the building every single week there’s still a limit to how many chairs you can set up. And there’s even a limit to how many services you can hold.

These physical limitations are difficult to overcome, but by writing and publishing there is virtually no limit to how many people you can reach. Sure, it takes a while to build a good-sized audience, but it’s worth it.

Building a legacy

Here’s one of my frustrations as a pastor: I usually spend 10-15 hours praying about, thinking about, preparing, and writing a message to teach on Sunday morning. Then, when I’m done…it’s gone. Almost forever. No one may hear it again!

That’s a problem because I believe these messages to be God-ordained and important to the cause of Christianity. Not just to my parishioners but to Christians everywhere. I don’t want them to fade away forever.

A church and its leaders can have a great impact on the community both in terms of outreach and aid. But this is also true when it comes to the philosophy, doctrine, and teaching too.

As a pastor, your teaching is part of your “spiritual fingerprint” in the world. Allow those ideas to make an impression in the world through your writing.

As a pastor, your teaching is part of your 'spiritual fingerprint' in the world. Allow those ideas to make an impression in the world through your writing.Click To Tweet

Content Availability

As a pastor, you are in the business of creating fresh content every week. Literally, it’s your job to look into the scriptures and find innovative ways of communicating those important truths to your congregation. Like me, you take those ideas, format them to be captivating and interesting, and verbally deliver them in the form of a sermon.

While the sermon is meant to be spoken, those ideas can also become source material for your writing. Whether they become a book or a weekly blog, you have ready-to-go content on a regular basis. So, there’s no need to try to figure out what to write – just write what you are teaching.

There’s considerable evidence to suggest that much of the scripture we read each week on Sunday morning are parts of sermons, regularly given by the Apostle Paul. The book of Hebrews is one long sermon!

Note: you’ll notice that Sermon Series become great books, each sermon becoming a subsequent chapter of the book. This is one of the secrets of many ministry writers, from Timothy Keller to Chuck Swindoll.

It’s Inexpensive

Previously, getting published was difficult and expensive. It’s not that way anymore. A writer can publish a blog for a few dollars per month, if not for free. Platforms like Medium are also a great way to publish your thoughts.

Even if you desire to publish a printed book, self-publishing is so simple that there’s no reason not to do it.

Increased Opportunities

Without question, published authors have greater chances to impact their community through speaking engagements, teaching opportunities, and additional writing prospects. This can lead to a larger audience but also to financial blessings as well. Some may shun the financial rewards that may accompany a writing career, but for many in ministry, this can be a realistic way to supplement ministry in a small church.

So where are you in the process of becoming a writer? Have you tried and failed? If so, keep trying! Develop a regular routine and stick with it.

“so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:11)

When Communicating, Less Is More

When communicating, there’s an indisputable truth that exists in this world. It’s the notion that less is more. But for whatever reason, Americans are stuck on the idea that more is more.

This leads to all kinds of problems in life. Think about it, your doctor never said, “Well, Bill, I would be happier with your overall health if you added 30 pounds of needless weight.” In most situations, bigger is not better.

That’s one of the reasons that all ministry leaders should have William Strunk and E.B. White’s “Elements of Style” in their toolbox. Yes, it’s an old book, but it contains ageless truths about the lost art of communication. Listen to this,

“Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that every word tell.”

In ministry, brevity is an important factor while communicating. Especially in an age where the attention span is dwindling at an alarming rate. While Strunk and White’s book generally applies to the craft of writing, you can also apply the concepts to speaking. So many times I have sat in a church service listening to a ministry leader verbally wander through an announcement, meditation, or sermon with no goal in sight. Here’s what the authors say about adding needless ideas to communication,

A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts.Click To Tweet

The book is loaded with helpful suggestions on what it means to make your communication concise and clear. It also contains lots of examples on proper usage of grammatical challenges in writing, for example, where to place apostrophes and commas.

Next year the book turns 100. Considering that it is listed as the #1 seller in all Amazon writing and publishing categories, one can see how the book has stood the test of time.

Grab it and drop it in your ministry toolbox today. It will help you to be a better communicator!

4 Ways To Improve Your Pastor’s Teaching

Bible Pulpit

Each week I spend between 5 and 10 hours preparing my sermon. On Sunday I deliver that sermon two times, once at 9am and once at 11. After each service a handful of people come up to me afterwards and tell me how much they appreciate my words. Most of the time they say, “good sermon” or “good word.” It makes me feel good to hear them say that. I’m not complaining about that.

A lot of times I will respond by asking, “what did you like about it?” or “what stood out to you?” Almost always they have no response. Sometimes they stammer and try to come up with something. They might say “well, it was funny” or “it was just good.” Rarely do they have compelling or helpful feedback. This usually leaves me feeling one of two ways. Either my sermons are just ear candy for people or, they don’t know what makes a sermon good.

If your pastor is like me, he/she need the encouragement. But if you want to give meaningful feedback I suggest you give better reasons for liking the sermon. Here are four principles to guide you.

The Sermon Was Biblical

Many young preachers today rarely crack a Bible when they preach. Or, if they do, they bounce around the text and backup their points. They may use a verse from the gospels, one from the Psalms, and finish up with something from the Epistles. If your pastor preaches from a text and allows the text to shape his/her sermon then you should explain why that is a good thing and how much it means to you. 2 Timothy 4:2 says, “Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.”

The Sermon Was Relatable

Expository preaching is good. But it’s also good to help a congregation find application points along the way. I call this “putting handles” on a sermon. A great sermon will help a person walk out the door and feel hope. This happens when pastor takes the time to find ways to challenge and encourage the listener. So if your pastor was able to build a bridge between the text and your life, make sure to tell them that you appreciate it. This is exactly what the apostle Paul wrote about in Ephesians 3:8-9 when he said, “this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ, and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things.”

The Sermon Was Short

I’ll just say it: we pastors love the sound of our own voices. It’s true. When I was a young preacher starting out I had a tendency to allow my sermons to reach 45 minutes or more. In my opinion this is longer than any sermon needs to be. There are no Biblical rules for how long a sermon should be. Paul preached a sermon that was so long a young man fell asleep–then out of a window! Modern audience get their information in small bites. Most people have trouble paying attention for more than 30 minutes. The reason why a lot of sermons are too long has nothing to do with good content. Sermons are too long due to a lack of preparation. A seasoned preacher will trim unnecessary parts from the sermon in order to deliver a well-crafted message that gets to the point quickly. Moses asked God to “teach us to number our days” (Psalm 90:12). If that is true of our days it is imperative of our minutes. If you appreciate a well-timed Biblical sermon tell your pastor, “thank you.”

The Sermon Was Convicting

People need to be challenged by a sermon – they like to be “beaten up” a little by the text. This is exactly what James had in mind when he described the Bible being like a mirror (James 1:23). A good teacher will hold the mirror of the scriptures up to the congregation. Many times that means he/she might have to bruise some egos and step on a few toes. If you feel convicted during a sermon let the Pastor know. It means that their teaching was a vehicle for the Holy Spirit to do His work.

Your pastor appreciates the feedback – both good and bad. Make sure your feedback is specific. That way your pastor will be able to get a sense of how to stay on track from week to week.