Ever wondered what it takes to move your church to the next level — how to improve your church — to make it better and more effective to mission?
It happens only when you are willing to take the specific steps necessary to examine all ministries of the church and set your mind on doing EVERYTHING at the highest possible level.
NOTE: This is part 2 of a 3-part blog series on growing the church by improving ministries. In part 1 of the series, we launched just that, setting the stage for creating a culture of continuous improvement.
Then in part 3 of this blog series, we’ll cover seven questions to ask when striving to improve a ministry. It’s important to think through everything, especially when you’re about to make changes in the church, so asking these seven questions is imperative.
In part 2 below, we’ll look at how to improve your church by looking at specific church improvement ideas. We’ll examine 8 different types of church ministries and give specific steps you can take to tweak and improve them.
Described below lists the following ministries in the church to improve:
Which Ministry Should I Improve First?
Almost all pastors want to improve the ministries in the church. However, having the intestinal fortitude to look in their own mirror (and the mirror of the church) and take steps to change what they see, is frequently a huge challenge for them.
Here’s probably an odd comparison but it is true, true, true. Just as a person who deals with life-controlling issues has to come to a point of saying, “I am an alcoholic” or “I am a drug addict” so does a pastor have to come to a point of saying, “This church has to change AND I have to change” if the pastor and church are ever going to improve.
Until the pastor can say that, nothing substantive is going to change and the church is certainly not going to improve. Frankly, so much of the church’s growth and engagement results from a pastor’s willingness to eliminate leadership barriers that hinder its growth. That’s why the pastor, staff, key leadership and others have to look in the mirror and determine if they are willing to do what it takes to change.
Once that openness (and desire) to change and improve gets implanted into the heart and psyche of the pastor, there is literally blue sky ahead for what the Lord can do in growing the church.
Let’s assume you are one of those pastors who acknowledges that enough is enough. Now is the time to change and make the improvements necessary so the church becomes even more effective at its mission to see spiritually lost people find and follow Jesus.
With that assumption noted and once you’ve established your desire to change and improve the ministry, this should be your central question…
What are the right ministries within the church to improve?
Honestly, that question can create such a sense of being absolutely overwhelmed that a pastor gets immobilized. Don’t let that happen to you.
Tell “overwhelmed” to get out of the way. Here’s how you do that and start on your journey to make your church the best it can be.
Start With The Low-Hanging Fruit…
It is always best to get a few wins under your belt before you tackle the big stuff. While we’ll cover eight important areas in which the ministries in the church need to improve, don’t try to tackle them all at once.
One – at – a – time! And the first one needs to be the very easiest one for you to get a win.
A Word of Caution
You will be tempted look at all eight of these areas and say something like, “Well, we are already good on two of these so let’s work on the others.”
That’s the challenge for so many churches…
They think they’re “already good enough” in certain areas and they don’t work to improve those areas. They think they should work to improve the others first and then come back to the “already good enough” ones. Don’t do that.
If you feel like you are good in one specific area, you really should look at that one first to work on improvement because it will be the one that you can see a quick win.
You already are doing some things right in that ministry, so why not try to beef it up?
Start with one and sooner or later you will get to all eight. Careful attention and evaluation of every ministry is a must – ALWAYS!
The Danger of the “We’ve Arrived” Mentality
To state what should be the obvious, no ministry has “arrived.” All ministries can be improved. Even if some are great now, they can still be greater!
Let me ask you. Do you think pastors like Andy Stanley, Craig Groeschel, Brian Houston and Chris Hodges think they’ve arrived? Do they think their ministries in the church have no room for improvement?
Not on your life. These guys are continually going through this very process you’re going through yourself — looking for more and more ways to improve ministries.
Ultimately, improving the ministry has less to do with making it perfect and more to do with seeing all areas of ministry increase reach and influence.Improving the ministry has less to do with making it perfect and more to do with seeing all areas of ministry increase reach and influence. Click To Tweet
If you could make some improvements in your ministry, and as a result, have even one new family stick, would that be worth it to you?
That’s what it’s all about – reaching more people with the Gospel. Think about it…
If people like what your church has to offer, and because you “do” the ministry well, they decide to stay, then that’s helping you disciple more people (which is what we’re supposed to do).
When pastors ask for church improvement ideas, I believe churches need to improve in these eight areas first…
The Top 8 Areas of Ministry to Improve
1. Hospitality / First Impressions / Guest Services
Before you start spouting off about how “friendly” the folks at your church are, just keep this in mind. Whenever, I talk with a pastor for the first time and I ask them about their church, 90%+ of the time I hear something like this.
“I serve a really ‘friendly’ church.” I never, ever hear, “I serve a really GROUCHY church!” Never!
It doesn’t matter at all how “friendly” or “not friendly” your folks are. What matters is what you are doing to continually improve this area of ministry called guest services, hospitality or first-impressions.
This is your church’s first impression. You must excel here, no doubt. People judge your church in large part based on the first impression you give them.
For example, you could have preached an outstanding sermon, but if your people weren’t friendly, then a guest likely won’t be back.
You might have a really nice church building, but if an usher grunts at a guest when they ask where the restrooms are, the church loses.
Do you give an over-the-top welcome?
Lots of churches do it well, others not so much. But ALL churches can give this level of welcome. You have to regularly, intentionally train the people at your church to do so.
Without a doubt, church hospitality is probably one of the most labor-intensive ministries in the church… Meaning, if you want to do it right, you need a lot of folks serving in this area. But your church can easily do this.
Let me provide some specifics. Here are nine areas of guest hospitality where you can implement and make improvements.
The 9 Areas of Guest Hospitality to Improve
1) Entrance to the parking lot: Put generally younger folks out at the entrance to your parking lot. As people drive by and as they pull into the lot, these great volunteers simply wave, smile, and generally create the impression that this place (the church) is a fun happening place.
2) Parking lot hosts: Guys and gals who serve on the parking lot are NOT there to park cars. They are there to smile, wave at people, direct guests to Guest Parking and help single moms/their kids or the elderly navigate getting in/out of cars and on into the building.
3) Sidewalk hosts: These folks stand on the sidewalk to smile and talk with people as they come in from the parking lot and move toward the building.
4) Entrance to the building hosts (greeters): These greeters do way more than hand out bulletins. In fact, it is recommended that they do not handle out bulletins but have all hands free to shake hands and not be encumbered with the stuff of typical churches.
5) Lobby and info desk hosts: These are the folks that either roam the lobby or stand at the Info Desk to answer questions of the regulars and the guests.
6) Entrance to the auditorium/sanctuary hosts: These are the folks we recommend should hand out bulletins. In this way, all the business of getting the kids to Kids Church and the nursery, going to the restroom and picking up stuff from the Info Desk is behind them. They can focus on heading into the auditorium. A warm smile and handshake help set the stage for great things to happen in the service.
(NOTE: Is your church positioned for growth? Take the 3-Minute Church Growth Audit to find out! Click here)
7) Sanctuary hosts (ushers): Ushers do way more than take up the offering. These good guys/gals are the eyes and ears for the pastor. They work hard to make sure every person who enters their aisle is welcomed and made to feel comfortable in the auditorium. They are fully attentive to the needs of the pastor should the pastor need to call on them for any reason.
8) Altar hosts (altar workers): I recommend the folks that help the pastor during an altar call are really a part of church hospitality. Rather than serving in any one of the other very important areas of ministry in hospitality, they are serving where people are making the most important decision of their lives in committing their lives to Jesus.
9) Post-service hospitality: Establish a place that is very easy for guests to find where they can go after service to meet some of your finest volunteers to learn more about the church. Do it in a space, not a room. Guests get nervous about going into a room, not knowing whether they will be able to diplomatically get out. Post-service hospitality is a great way for whatever size church you have to feel intimate, to communicate that you really care.
Every one of these people in church hospitality are serving as an extension of the pastor. And the ones listed at the top have a disproportionate influence on whether guests will come back by virtue of the fact, they are the first people the guests see at the church.
Look at each of these areas and start by evaluating places where the guest may not receive an over-the-top experience and begin working to improve those areas.
2. Worship Music
Leading people into the presence of God is a wonderful privilege churches have every single week…
… and what happens during the worship time sets the stage for what God is preparing to do in the hearts of people throughout the remainder of the service.
The truth is, worship music is an important part of people’s decision-making process about attending your church on a regular basis.
Simply put … people want to attend a church that has good music.
Now, let’s put a pause on this for a moment. Here’s the reality. There are lots of things in a church you can do to improve the ministries in the church. But, creating more talented musicians out of thin air is NOT one of them.
The fact is, your church has a very defined number of people who have the human giftings to lead the church in worship or to serve in some sort of an instrumental backup band on a worship team.
So what does a pastor do?
Just throw up their hands saying, “We clearly have sub-par musicians and can’t do anything to make the worship better?” Not on your life.
One of the greatest characteristics of musicians is their desire to be the very best they can be. This is a great trait for a pastor to have in these good volunteers.
I recommend you begin the process of intentionally taking your worship team members through a specific plan to help them grow as musicians.
Don’t tell them they’re lousy singers or guitar players, just invest in each of them as team members.
Let them know that you know they want to always be growing their gift of music and that you want to invest in them helping them realize their dream to be the best they can be.
So even if you’re already doing well, are there ways you can improve your worship music even more?
Provide ways for your worship team members to feel your support. Communicate regularly how what they do sets the stage for the Word to be preached and for lives to be changed. And when a life is changed, go to the worship team and thank them for their role in that change.
(NOTE: Is your church positioned for growth? Take the 3-Minute Church Growth Audit to find out! Click here)
3. Children’s Ministry
About a year ago, a couple of folks in their early 60s, me being one of them, stood in the lobby of Summit Park Church in Kansas City and asked ourselves why we were there.
Grubby little kids were running all over the place, with moms toting the diaper bags and kids’ stuff and dads talked about the Chiefs and the Royals.
We came to the very quick conclusion that at our age we wanted to be around life and vitality and that happens when there are kids everywhere.
The reverse would not be true. Younger families would not be drawn to an older church because of what that church would lack in not having grubby little kids running around. It would lack energy. Make sense?
At the end of the day investing in children is a must for any church looking to reach families, young and old. Many people looking for a church home will base their decision simply on the children’s ministry.
So, what are you doing now to stay relevant in our kid-centric-media-driven society? When a pastor is considering all the areas of ministry, that’s one the biggest thing churches have to constantly evaluate.
No matter what the chronological age of your church or the current demographic makeup of your church, it needs to be a place where the focus is on your families and children.
Your intent is not to kick grandma and grandpa to the curb, but to help everyone understand that the demographic of people in our society that is most likely to come to your church and/or to make a life change for Jesus is the under-40 crowd.
Guess what? These folks have kids, so we need to put our focus there.
Frankly, every church has a phenomenal opportunity in ministry to children. With access to all the latest gadgets and videos, children now look to the latest and greatest for their source of entertainment…
Why not find that at church?
The church can be front and center in ministering to those kids through a wealth of content available from kid-focused ministries and digital resources.
Churches that look for ways to use the latest technology to reach and connect with kids at church win – plain and simple!
Minister to a kid and you’ll get the parent. Want to learn how improve your church? Focus on kids and improvement is around the corner.
Preaching obviously has massive importance for the church. We all know that to be true.
So, the question is, are there ways it can be improved?
I know this can be sticky for some. Frankly, it’s hard to evaluate the preaching element of church because if you’re the communicator, you have to ask people to give their honest feedback, which you may or may not want to hear… or others are unwilling or afraid to give you.
… and if you’re not the primary communicator, how can you kindly provide feedback for the preaching without stepping on someone else’s toes, namely the pastor’s?
Here’s the drill. If a pastor wants to improve in their preaching, they have to gain continual feedback on how to get better
For most churches, the topic simply goes unaddressed. But it shouldn’t be that way. It is too important. If all other areas of ministry are on the table, the preaching should be, too.
The first step to improve in preaching is to create a way for evaluation to take place. I recommend that can be done in these ways (not an exhaustive list):
Set time aside weekly for those closest to the pastor to critique the message. Doing so with the mechanical parts of the message is safe. Doing so with the content of the message must be done with clear parameters of what is acceptable critique and what is not. The debriefing is not designed to play God with “what” is preached. It is designed to help the communicator (the preacher) communicate in the clearest manor possible that which God has placed on their heart.
Watch yourself on video
Having someone videotape every message can help the pastor get better at preaching. Don’t get paranoid with this but use today’s technology to help you see what everyone in the church sees, week-in and week-out.
Study other preachers
The best athletes learn from the best athletes. The same with actors and educators. I encourage the pastor to seek out preachers they can study to become proficient in the art and craft of preaching.
Refine study/preparation habits
Too many pastors, particularly ones who have some longevity in preaching, get in ruts of preaching that is a result of getting into study and preparation ruts. Give a critical eye to the amount of time given to study and prayer as well as to the process that is used to construct sermons.
The better a pastor can get at preaching, the greater the capacity of the church to see ministries within the church grow and flourish.
Here’s a related note on preachers and preaching. Time is always a big deal to the preacher and to the hearer.Careful attention and evaluation of every ministry is a must – ALWAYS! Click To Tweet
5. Church Website
Lest you think the new young couple moving to town is driving around looking for which church they’re going to try out on their first Sunday after the move… better think again.
It almost seems crazy to point out that the front door to your church is the church’s website.
Your website is the very first impression people have of your church before they even come to your facility. In fact, many people will base their decision as to whether or not they’ll come visit your church simply by going to your website.
So, having your best foot forward online is huge.
You need to check out the website tips we’ve written or have some other way to evaluate your website, the key is someone needs to be looking at it.
One of the tips we recommend is for someone in the church to really get Google-knowledgeable, to study what they’re up to and get well-versed in how to rank for Google. Certainly take full advantage of your Google Business Listing.
Certainly, make sure your website is mobile friendly.
(NOTE: Is your church positioned for growth? Take the 3-Minute Church Growth Audit to find out! Click here)
You also need to continually create and post fresh content for search engines and be sure you’ve invested in a website platform with those search engines in mind.
Here’s another thing. Something that amazes me is how many churches don’t take advantage of the ability for people in the church to write positive reviews on the churches and get a 5-star Google ranking. What a missed opportunity.
Your church website should be full of reviews that communicate to people who have never been to the church what a great place it is for them and their family. Periodically ask people to write reviews. They’ll be glad to do so.
Your website is not something that, once created, sits on the shelf and is never updated. It’s your digital location and must receive care and attention just like the “hands-on” ministries receive.
Before the ministries in the church can show themselves to having improved, the best website your money can buy needs to be in place, directing people to that microcosm of the Church called “Your Church” has to be in place.
If you’ll give attention to improving the church’s website, the stage will be set for improving all areas of ministry.
6. Assimilation / Connections / Guest Follow-Up
People want to feel like they can belong. They want to connect.
Here’s what happens every Sunday of life. A guest comes to visit a church. They get in the building and look around. Consciously or unconsciously they are asking themselves, “Could I fit here?”
If they say “yes” you know what happens. If they say “no” you also know what happens.
Are you making it easy for them to say “yes?” Regardless of the church’s age demographic, do you help people see that they could fit at your church?
Is it difficult to connect at your church?
If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a thousand times. “We’ve got all sorts of people coming in the front door and just as many or more going out the backdoor.”
So many people walk right out the back door of churches because someone (somewhere along the process) dropped the ball. It’s so unfortunate when that happens.
Pastors ask me all the time for the magic wand system that growing churches use to do guest follow-up. There isn’t one.
What I tell pastors is simply this, “Just get a plan and work the plan… and don’t quit.” If they will follow this advice, guests will begin to stick. But only as the church continues on its search to improve their ministries.
If you’d like, you can check out The Perfect Follow-Up Plan we created for Easter follow-up. Frankly, it has application for all events of the church year-round, not just for Easter.
That’s why careful attention to your processes and systems for follow-up, ministry participation, and volunteerism has to happen all the time.
Why Other Ministries Must Be In Alignment
A further note to connecting people is for the church to evaluate how well their small group or discipleship ministries allow for new people to come into the mix.
A guest may really like the church, but if all the small groups are closed or the discipleship classes don’t really facilitate starting new friendship, your guest follow-up system will break before it starts.
Improving the ministries within the church including assimilation, connections and guest follow-up work well when all the other ministries are striking on all cylinders.
Are there ways to make the on-ramp easier for people? Are you doing things that are not essential and as a result hindering your participation?
If the church is going to grow, you need to improve the ways new people can connect to others in the church and the church needs to streamline the systems and processes for guests to fully matriculate into the life and body of the church.
7. Church Photography
Churches underestimate the value of photography. Your photography should represent who you are, which means it needs to be actual pictures of YOUR people (not stock photos).
This is true for all places where you use photography (online, print pieces, etc.).
If you currently use stock photography, I recommend you begin working toward removing that stock footage and start getting real photos of people inside your church.
You will need to jump through the hoops of getting waivers signed by people of whom you are shooting the pics. Most people at church are thrilled to have their pics taken to help their church online or in print.
A question to ask yourself relative to church photography is, “Do the photos of your people represent who you are (or who you want to be)? Is it an appropriate cross-section of age, ethnicity, and gender?”
For example, if you show only old people, you’ll resonate with older folks, but not with younger folks.
A second question to ask, particularly if the church is mid-aged to older, is, “How do I get pics of our younger folks and display those pics in a way that truly represents who we want to me and doesn’t say, ‘This is who we are?'”
That is a very delicate balance to navigate.
In short, in looking at how to improve your church, making the most of church photography will move you miles down the road in communicating visually to the regulars and guests of the church.
8. Facility Appearance
Here’s the deal. Some churches are elegant and beautiful. Others are old and worn out.
But this I can say. EVERY church has the capacity to look good to the guests who darken those churches’ doors
The appearance of your facility influences people’s thoughts about your church. When it’s neat and tidy, people feel like you have your act together. If it’s sloppy or cluttered, people view the church less positively.
Every church can be clean. I’m amazed at some of the churches I’ve been in that are just flat-out dirty. What happened to the vacuum cleaner and window cleaner?
Here’s the challenge: This one can have as many opinions as zebras have stripes. The standard of clean differs from person to person.
This regularly gets me in trouble, but if you ask one person about their kitchen, “Is it clean or dirty.” The overwhelming number of people will say, “My kitchen is generally very clean.” And yet we all know, those kitchens are not at the same level of clean.
So, what does a pastor do with the church facility they’ve been dealt? I recommend two things.
First, you need to identify the person in your church that has perfectionist traits, maybe a neat-freak. Have that person do an assessment, a complete inventory of your entire facility, inside and out.
By this, I am recommending they give the pastor a comprehensive review of how everything looks to the guest who might be coming to the building for the first time.
The regular folks are willing to accept of level of cleanliness less than how we want the guest to feel. The church has to think of the guest
CAUTION: Do not put restrictions on the things your assessor observes. Things like, “Don’t bother with the crumbling parking lot because we don’t have money to fix it.” That approach will shoot you in the foot. Everything is on the table.
Second, after that assessment has been done, I recommend the pastor meet with all the key leaders and communicate what the new expectations are to be for the church facilities moving forward. And then stick with it!
It is critically important for everyone to understand that for the ministries in the church to move forward the building needs to look good, even if it is old. It is everyone’s job to be clean and orderly.
Truly many hands will make light work in keeping the building in tip-top shape for the regulars and the guests who come week-in and week-out.
Further, I encourage pastors and leaders to see the building as the staging ground for what the Lord could be preparing to do in anyone’s heart that might respond to the message preached that Sunday. The stakes are very, very high.
So, if you want the ministries within the church to work and get better, the physical frame where the ministries are done – the church building – needs to be in a continual state of improvement.
The following areas of ministry to improve will help you create the best experience possible for your church members and guests.
Now… You may read this and say, “Where do I begin?”
Remember what we noted above. One-at-a-time!
Certainly it can feel overwhelming if you feel like you need massive improvement in several areas.
The key is simply to start somewhere. You can’t knock it all out in one shot. It will take time, lots of it.
There are all sorts of different types of ministries in the church. And when the pastor takes the time necessary to come up with the right church improvement ideas, picking the ones that work best for their church, the church wins, becoming the most effective to mission.
Starting with the lowest hanging fruit possibly will help you get a win or two under your belt. One step at a time, and you’ll eventually be a well-oiled ministry expanding your reach and influence.
It will be unbelievably well-worth the journey.
Go back to Part 1: How to Create a Culture of Church Improvement
Next up… Part 3: 7 Questions to Ask When Striving to Improve a Ministry
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