Pastors Share Ideas with Impact: "How to Grow Your Congregation"

Date Posted: 3/5/2012

IF two heads are better than one, five to eight heads must really lead to big things! Such was the case in recent months when pastor/lay teams of two or more gathered for Consultant Jim Griffiths’ “How to Get More Members” training – sponsored by the TAC Center for Congregational Excellence. This potent two-day focus on ways to bring more people to church – and Christ – inspired the following tips and success stories from attendee teams eager to share their “lessons learned.”


Lessons Learned:


Lesson 1. . . . . . . . . . . .  . .  . . . . . . . . . .  Rev. Lorraine Brown, Faith UMC, Dickinson, Texas

It is always helpful to be reminded that growth will rarely take place until we get out of our comfort zones and invite people to church and meet them where they are. Suggesting a pastor’s role is to be out in the community instead of inside the church office was an eye opener for our team. It has also changed our “ministry lens” to recognize that our immediate mission field is just the 1-mile radius around the church. To be more attentive, we are now asking what the needs are in our community rather than giving them what WE think they need. 


Lesson 2 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  . . . . . . . . . Rev.  Deborah Vaughn, Houston Abiding Faith UMC

Our team has a better understanding of the hands-on nature of ministry and the importance of personal contact and the invitation.  I especially appreciated this concept of “Turning Members into Missionaries.”          


Lesson 3 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Rev Stephen RhoadsLakeside UMC, Houston, Texas

Attending a training seminar like this as a team improves your alignment in vision and focus. The greatest lesson we learned is to try new ideas and not feel too discouraged if some of them don’t work. They are suggestions that help push you into thinking in a new way about your community’s needs.


Lesson 4 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Rev. Kelly McIntosh, Cypress-Waller UMC, Cypress, Texas

This got lay members more involved in brainstorming how we can spread God’s love. We now have Grief Share, Divorce Care, AA meetings and offer two services with the second a praise and worship service. Yeah, God! 


Lesson 5 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Rev. Lillie Ferrell, Clear Lake UMC, Houston, Texas

We are now looking at our campus and worship experience as a visitor might see it.


Lesson 6 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Rev. Brad Morgan, St. Paul UMC, Bridge City, Texas

Since attending the training we have made a major shift away from advertising to a relational attraction model. This model has had a huge impact on the number of professions of faith. Having member support of mission field efforts is essential. Convincing members that interacting with others at the ball park is more important than a committee meeting sometimes, but as a result, half of my son’s team and several from my daughter’s team have visited church and attended VBS. Hearing the importance of involvement with non-church members has greatly helped increase our participation level in the community.

Lesson 7 .  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  . . . . . .Rev. Donald Smith, St. Peter’s UMC , Katy, Texas

Griffith’s workshop provided the motivation and Biblical background to give me the tools to better connect with my mission field. I needed the push and the new strategy is reaping BIG dividends! Since the workshop I’ve gotten involved in the Chamber of Commerce, joined the YMCA Board of Directors, committed to a mentoring initiative to inspire troubled high school students to get into distance running, and started writing a monthly column in a community magazine. Community networking is up and the buzz about St. Peter’s is growing. 2011 was a record year for new members at our church and I know this did not happen by accident!  If you offer this training again, please put St. Peter’s down for three tables of eight!


Lesson 8 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  . . .Rev. Alex Lupo, First UMC, East Bernard, Texas

It may take longer – and more energy than you think but the benefits greatly outweigh the losses:


My team (and I stress the word TEAM) came back and decided we could not let this information reside only with us, so we took the training to the church. We combined the adult classes and generated 4-week curriculum that challenged the church to think of ideas tailored to our own congregation.  In defining our mission field, ministry has taken a more outward focus. We have seen some fruits (attendance is growing and our targeted young families are beginning to appear.) From worship to exercise groups, outward is our direction and focus now.


To actively apply what we learned, we are training active evangelists to share their testimony and introduce others to Christ.  We continually review worship for relevance. Every week, we remind and urge attendees to invite others to church events.


I, as pastor, have developed networking time. I have sat in McDonalds or at the BBQ diner where others see me working and come to me, almost like an office away from the office. This has led to more opportunities so I now attend a countywide breakfast with other leaders representing East Bernard.


Lesson 9 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Pastor Rodney Graves, Beaumont McCabe Roberts Ave UMC

This seminar changed how I do ministry and even how I live life. My wife and I have been modeling how to reach out to the community. By interacting with Lamar University students, several young adults have joined the church and become active in Bible study and other activities, often bringing friends. My wife, Ava, has provided crucial leadership in the launch of a non-profit organization called Growing Community Inc that provides funding for a Community Garden.


Children of all nationalities willingly help plant and harvest the cabbage and strawberries. They are now coming and participating in worship and during the week to work in our computer lab and do arts and crafts. Mainly, they enjoy receiving personal love and care. We are also using our computer lab to help seasoned adults become more adept with technology and to provide tutorial assistance to children. Additionally, we have hosted ESL and SSL classes and Financial Peace University to bring local residents to our church campus for practical life lessons. It is helpful to list our goals and desires on a chart and periodically check off what we have accomplished.


If you missed either of these “Get New Members” seminars and would be interested in attending one in the future, email Debbie Sutton, Congregational Excellence office at;



Reaching your Community Begins with Knowing your Community


Did you know that the Texas Annual Conference office of Congregational Excellence or your District Superintendent can give you immediate and free access to MissionInsite demographic software to make that task easier?


Mission Insite is a web-based application that offers

colorful data and tables for analysis of the demographics surrounding your church. It is free, easy to use (free training available if needed), and even includes an easy way to order mailing lists for direct mail campaigns to your neighbors.


Read how Rev. Ben Trammell at Richmond Faith UMC is using the software to impact the church’s immediate mission field:


1.  The ease at which in generates substantial demographic information about the mission field in which the church exists is by far my favorite aspect of Mission Insite. It is a huge benefit to have data for both the current situation in the community but a projection of what 5 years down the road will look like. It is a great compliment to the intuitive sense of a community you glean by living in it.


2.  The primary use of the Mission Insite data has been as a tool for discussion and discernment with church leadership over the possibilities for ministry in our area, given who lives in our community. Also when we where working to get a sense of ourselves as the DLT in the CN district, we used Mission Insite to look for opportunities in the district for new church starts and cooperative ministries, help churches identify their mission field, and to define the transportation corridors that made up our newly formed district.


3.  During a previous Vision process and during my time as the DLT chair I used it regularly. Now I’ll check and rerun reports every 6 months.