Page 1


UNCHURCHED AMERICA Who are they and how do we reach them?


Journey with Your Church through the Bible’s 40 Biggest Ideas Are you looking to increase Bible engagement at your church? This 8-week church-wide program opens up the whole Bible to those who read Scripture regularly, as well as those who are just beginning. The Good Book Church Campaign Kit explores 40 key Bible chapters that lay the foundation for understanding the entirety of Scripture. As your church learns more about the Bible’s biggest ideas, you will be prepared to step out into the world to offer joy, peace, and hope to your community. Deron Spoo is the pastor of First Baptist Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Over the past 16 years, Spoo has guided the church as it transitions from being simply a downtown church to a regional church committed to urban ministry. Church members describe him as “down to earth” and “authentic.” His television devotionals, First Things First, reach 100,000 people each week. Spoo is a graduate of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He and his wife, Paula, have three children.

“This guide to the Bible’s 40 biggest ideas is not only informative, but it’s also transformative for both longtime followers and new believers. Before I even finished reading it I had already made a list of people I wanted to give it to.” —Kyle Idleman, teaching pastor at Southeast Christian Church, Louisville, Kentucky

ReadtheGoodBook.com LifeWay.com David C Cook 800.323.7543

Contents 34 12

Read more about the unchurched in our cover section.

COVER SECTION 12 H  ow to share Jesus without freaking out Guide people to hope in Christ through everyday conversations. By Alvin Reid

18 Who are the unchurched? How to reach nominal Christians, nones, and followers of other faiths. By Scott McConnell

22 Creating a culture of invitation Make your congregation into a magnet for the unchurched. By Jim Burnett

25 Why I sleep in on Sundays Personal stories from the unchurched about what keeps them away. By Bob Smietana

FEATURES 30 Domestic violence in the church Despite good intentions, research shows many pastors lack plans for helping victims. By Bob Smietana

34 The pursuit of truth How curiosity can help churches thrive. By Barnabas Piper



38 1 5 ways to beat the summer slump Change pace to re-energize every age group. By Lisa Cannon Green

45 F our ways to fail at expository teaching A Spirit-filled message is more than a rich lecture—and it may not fit your agenda. By Jesse Campbell

46 F orgiveness: The language of heaven How one pastor’s child forgave the unforgivable. By Aaron Earls

IN EVERY ISSUE 4 Inside F&T The power of story to reach the unchurched. By Carol Pipes

5 From My Perspective Setting a goal, reaping a harvest By Thom S. Rainer

46 37 Technology 8 essential elements of a church website. By Aaron Wilson

42 Calibrate 10 best practices for a safe children’s ministry.

49 On Our Radar Relevant and practical resources for you and your church.

JOIN US ONLINE FactsAndTrends.net Can’t wait until the next issue? Make sure to visit FactsAndTrends.net for exclusive online content. Read additional pieces from our writers and editors, as well as contributions from other Christian leaders.

FactsAndTrends @FactsAndTrends

7 Insights Beliefs, issues, and trends impacting the church and our world.


Facts & Trends • 3

FactsAndTrends.net Exclusive content available on our website Study: Churches Are Becoming More Conservative Churches have made a slight movement to the right in the last five years, according to the American Congregations Study.

10 Key Trends in Global Christianity for 2017 Gordon-Conwell’s annual Status of Global Christianity highlights changes in Christianity heading into next year and beyond. This research gives a glimpse at the future of Christianity.

Tim Tebow: My Identity is Not in Sports Being cut hurt. No doubt, being told I couldn’t do something that I loved doing and was so passionate about—playing quarterback— left me shaken.

More Devout Means More Giving A survey from Pew Research found a correlation between religiosity and giving of time and money to others.




4 • Facts & Trends

FactsAndTrends SPRING 2017

INSIDE F&T Volume 63 • Number 2 • Spring 2017 Facts & Trends is designed to help pastors, church staff, and denominational leaders navigate the issues and trends impacting the church by providing information, insights, and resources for effective ministry. Production Team Editor | Carol Pipes Managing Editor | Lisa Cannon Green Senior Writer | Bob Smietana Online Editor | Aaron Earls Graphic Designer | Katie Shull

The Power of Story to Reach the Unchurched


hen the spring rains begin to fall in Middle Tennessee, I enjoy retreating to the sofa with a cup of coffee and a good book. There’s nothing like being drawn in by a good story and escaping from the

real world if only for a moment. I have always loved stories. They have

LifeWay Leadership

the power to transplant us to another time and place, to inform us, and

President and Publisher | Thom S. Rainer Executive Vice President | Brad Waggoner

to inspire. But nothing compares to the story of our Creator.

Contributors Jim Burnett, Jesse Campbell, Charles Long, Scott McConnell, Barnabas Piper, Alvin Reid, and Aaron Wilson

Advertising Send advertising questions/comments to: Facts & Trends Advertising One LifeWay Plaza, MSN 192 Nashville, TN 37234 Email: Carol.Pipes@LifeWay.com Media kits: FactsAndTrends.net/Advertise This magazine includes paid advertisements for some products and services not affiliated with LifeWay. The inclusion of the paid advertisements does not constitute an endorsement by LifeWay Christian Resources of the products or services.

Subscriptions For a free print subscription to Facts & Trends, send your name, address, and phone number to FactsAndTrends@LifeWay.com.

Permissions Facts & Trends grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be photocopied for use in a local church or classroom, provided copies are distributed free and indicate Facts & Trends as the source. Contact Us: Email - FactsAndTrends@LifeWay.com Mail - F  acts & Trends, One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN 37234-0192 Facts & Trends is published quarterly by LifeWay Christian Resources. Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Christian Standard Bible®, copyright 2017 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission.

From the moment God spoke the universe into being, He has been weaving together an incredible story of justice, love, hope, and redemption. It’s the unfolding drama of how God brings salvation to His creation, and it has the power to transform lives. Since the beginning, God has invited men and women to take part in His story—Abraham, Israel, Jesus’ disciples, the early church—and He is inviting each one of us as well. When we become His children, He writes His story on our hearts and calls us to tell it to others. In this issue of Facts & Trends, we take a deep dive into the beliefs of the unchurched and how to reach them with the gospel. In “How to Share Jesus without Freaking Out,” Alvin Reid reminds us that one of the best ways to share the gospel with our unchurched friends and neighbors is to connect them with the grand narrative of Scripture through our everyday conversations. Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research, offers some extra insight into the three subgroups that make up the unchurched— nominal Christians, followers of other religions, and nones. LifeWay Research’s study of the unchurched found more than half are open to personal invitations from friends and family members to visit a church. Pastor Jim Burnett shares how his church created a culture of invitation among its members. And finally, in “Why I Sleep in on Sundays,” Bob Smietana reports on the personal stories of five unchurched Americans about what keeps them away from church. As you read this issue of Facts & Trends, we hope you’ll find tools to help church members take part in the mission of telling God’s story. There has never been a season as ripe as today for an awakening among the unchurched in North America. But this potential rests on every one of us to take our part in telling His story to family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, and acquaintances. We need always to be ready to deliver the transformational story of Jesus Christ.


Carol Pipes, Editor @CarolPipes | Carol.Pipes@LifeWay.com

Facts & Trends • 5


Setting a goal, reaping a harvest


od’s mission for the church is to make disciples and engage the world with the gospel. However, a look at recent studies gives a clear picture that evangelism and discipleship are waning. A study by LifeWay Research found 80 percent of churchgoers say they

have a personal responsibility to share their faith, but 61 percent hadn’t shared the gospel with anyone in the past six months. While a majority believes it’s their duty to share their faith, most never do. The problem with decreasing evangelism isn’t a lack of opportunities. The problem is a lack of workers. Jesus told His disciples in Matthew 9:37-38, “The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few. Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest.” The opportunities are there, but the workers are few. Those missing workers are in our pews, but they aren’t engaging those on the outside. So how do you motivate them to go and share? One way church leaders today can address the challenge of reaching the unchurched is by setting obedience goals for outreach. These include goals for sharing the gospel; writing letters or emails to unchurched people; sharing a meal or having coffee with people without Christ or a church home; or leaving flyers about the church at people’s homes. This is certainly not an exhaustive list, but rather a few examples of evangelistic and pre-evangelistic efforts. The most evangelistically fruitful and effective churches are those that set obedience goals. Here are five reasons. 1. Goal setting helps churches become intentional about the Great Commission. Churches by their institutional nature become inwardly focused. Regularly focusing on reaching out will help churches resist that natural inclination. The Great Commission commands us to go beyond ourselves.

2. Goal setting makes a statement about priorities. For example, setting a goal to have one date night a week with your spouse makes a statement about the importance of your marriage relationship. Likewise, setting goals for evangelism says your church is serious about the Great Commission. 3. Goal setting is working in many churches. I know of a church with 130 in attendance that had been plateaued for five years. That church set a faith goal of “1,000 in One Year.” The church counted gospel presentations, visits with unchurched people, and the delivery of hanging invitation brochures (an invitation to the church that can be hung on the door handle or knob of a home) toward the total. The goal was the church’s way of using a metric to encourage behavior. At the end of the year, the church had exceeded the goal of 1,000 with 1,700 contacts! Attendance increased by nearly 50 percent to 190, and the church saw 24 people become believers in Christ through these efforts—the highest number in two decades! 4. Goal setting is a constant reminder for church members. The church noted above kept a running total of the evangelism contacts and reported the increasing number every week to the congregation. Each week, there was positive peer pressure to be involved in outreach.

6 • Facts & Trends

5. Goal setting leads to church unity. The greatest reason for church conflict is inwardly focused church members. When they don’t get their way, they become frustrated and even combative. Evangelism goal setting keeps the focus on the “other” instead of “me.” Goal setting, when used in a gospel-centric effort, can truly be an evangelistic instrument for the church. Setting obedience goals is a good practice not only for churches but also for individual believers. I know the more obedient I am, the more I have a prayerful commitment to share the gospel with others. One obedience goal I set for myself years ago is to be intentional in developing relationships with unchurched individuals. One way I’ve done this is to find a barber or hairstylist who is not a Christian and focus on building a relationship with that person. When I lived in Louisville, I began to see a barber named Roy. With each visit, our relationship grew. After a couple of years, he began going to church and asking me questions about my faith. I had the privilege of leading Roy to Christ. Five years later, he died of cancer, and I was asked to preach his funeral. Roy became a dear friend and brother in Christ, and it began simply through conversations while he cut my hair. Evangelism doesn’t just happen. Most of the time, it happens as a result of intentionality—people who know Christ intentionally connecting with people who don’t. As you lead your church to become more evangelistic, think about how you can model obedience goals for them. THOM S. RAINER (@ThomRainer) is president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. read more at ThomRainer.com.



Beliefs, issues, and trends impacting our world




he number of international students at U.S. colleges and universities has nearly doubled over the last 12 years, according to the Institute of International Education. More than a million college students from overseas studied in the United States in the 2015-2016 academic year. That’s up from 565,039 in 2004-2005. Almost a third of international students come from China (328,547), followed by India (165,918), Saudi Arabia (61,287), South Korea (61,007), and Canada (26,973). Ministering to these students is as easy as inviting them to your home, say Ross and Jane Burton, members of First Baptist Church in Jonesboro, Arkansas. The church isn’t far from the University of Arkansas. So for the past 17 years, the Burtons have taken part in their church’s adopta-college-student ministry. At first the Burtons befriended college students from the United States. Four years ago, they began working with college students from overseas. They have no special training but are kindhearted and friendly. They also offer lessons in American culture, take students to church, and offer practical help—driving lessons and rides to Sam’s Club.

The home of Ross and Jane Burton, members of First Baptist Church in Jonesboro, Arkansas. The couple have used American culture to share Christ through the ministry of the church adopting university students.

“The church is in a position to reach the nations with the gospel right here in Arkansas, right now,” Teresa “Bit” Stephens, a college minister at Metro Baptist in Little Rock, told Baptist Press. “Students come from very close-knit families. For Americans to have internationals in their homes is a prime opportunity for the hearts of internationals to be softened to the love of God they see and experience in the home.” Source: BPNews.net and IIE.org

International students in the U.S.




690,923 2009-10


671,616 2008-09

564,766 2005-06















Source: Institute of International Education








Facts & Trends • 7


Beliefs, issues, and trends impacting our world



ver the past year, Americans have become increasingly worried about “fake news”—made-up stories mistaken for real events. Sometimes the stories are satire; other times they’re intentionally false. In either case, many Americans feel fake news leaves confusion in its wake, according to Pew Research.

How much confusion has fake news caused? Not much


How much confusion has fake news caused?

recognize fake news?

39% are



very confident



How confident are you that you can

A great deal


How often do you see made-up news?


say hardly ever or never Source: Pew Research Center



ur church has grown simply by inviting one person at a time, friends from work, from school and from the neighborhood, and from social networks. Our members are constantly on mission to bring their friends and neighbors to our weekend services, where we reach out to nonbelievers—particularly those who have no real church background—by singing songs they can embrace, by voicing prayers that help them relate and by preaching messages they understand. We make Christianity available on an introductory level to any visitor to Saddleback. —Rick Warren, Saddleback Church



ore Americans stayed put in 2016, as the number who Moving rates moved fell to historic lows. 2015-2016................ 11.2% According to the U.S. 2005-2006...............13.7% Census Bureau, which has tracked moving rates since the 1940s, 11.2 1995-1996................16.3% percent of Americans moved last year. 1985-1986................18.6% By contrast, 13.7 percent of Americans moved in 2006, while 21.1 percent 1975-1976................ 17.7% moved in 1956. 1965-1966................ 19.8% “People in the United States are still moving, just not to the same extent as 1955-1956................ 21.1% they did in the past,” David Ihrke of the Census Bureau said in a release. The change in moving rates could affect churches. Moving is the most likely reason Americans look for a new church, according to Pew Research. Fewer movers may mean fewer visitors. Source: Census.gov

8 • Facts & Trends




rowing up in 1970s Canada, David Haskell often went to church with his grandmother. Back then, going to church was the thing to do on Sundays. “Grandma’s church was packed with young and old alike,” he writes in a column for the Calgary Sun. And evangelical congregations like his grandmother’s weren’t the only ones drawing crowds, argues Haskell. Churches of all kinds in her town— Lutheran, Anglican, Presbyterian—were full, he writes. But times changed. Many churches in Canada, especially mainline congregations, have faltered. Haskell, a journalist turned college professor, wanted to know what went wrong. So he and two colleagues spent five years studying 22 churches in Ontario, Canada—some growing and others failing. Along the way, they surveyed more than 2,000 churchgoers in those congregations. They found that what people believe really matters. Churches that adhere to conservative theology are more likely to grow than those that do not. “For example, because of their conservative outlook, the growing church clergy members in our study took Jesus’ command to ‘Go make disciples’ literally,” Haskell writes in the Washington Post. “Our research suggests that churches don’t have to abandon or water down their core beliefs to remain ‘relevant’ or attract people to their services,” says co-researcher Kevin Flatt. “On the contrary, churches that stick to quite conservative beliefs that emphasize the truth of the Bible, the importance of sharing the gospel, and God’s continuing action in the world are actually more likely to grow.” Growing churches and declining churches had very different approaches and beliefs, according to the study. Source: Review of Religious Research

People who attend

People who attend





29% Several times a week 28% Once a week 18% Several times a month 7% Once a month 6% Less than once a month 8%


Several times a week 23% Once a week 16% Several times a month 3% Once a month 5% Less than once a month 6%



10% Several times a week 8% Once a week 7.5% Several times a month 7.5% Once a month 5% Less than once a month

18% Several times a week 18% Once a week 10% Several times a month 9% Once a month 6% Less than once a month 35%


BELIEF: Through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, God provided a way for the forgiveness of my sin. Strongly agree


Moderately agree 15% Moderately disagree 2% Strongly disagree 2%

Strongly agree


Moderately agree

29% Moderately disagree 5% Strongly disagree 4%

BELIEF: Only those who believe in and follow Jesus Christ will receive eternal life. Strongly agree Moderately agree 20% Moderately disagree 19% Strongly disagree 16%



May not equal 100 percent due to rounding.

Strongly agree 13% Moderately agree 2% Moderately disagree 25% Strongly disagree 32% Facts & Trends • 9


Beliefs, issues, and trends impacting our world




••••••• 7% 9-12 months before •••••• 6% 6-8 months before ••••••••• 9% 2-5 months before •••••••••••••••••••••• 22% 1 month before ••••••••••••••••• 17% 2-3 weeks before ••••••••••••• 13% The week before •••••••••••••••••••••• 22% Not sure ••••• 5% More than a year before

Source: LifeWayResearch.com



sk Protestant pastors about the topic for next week’s sermon and they might not have any idea. Or they might have known for months. Pastors are split over how far in advance they plan sermons, according to LifeWay Research. About one-quarter of pastors (22 percent) say they pick their sermon topic or passage about a week in advance. Similar numbers pick their topic between two and five months ahead of time (22 percent) or at least six months in advance (22 percent). Overall, pastors seem to plan on short notice. More than half (57 percent) choose their topics a month or less ahead of time. Pastors at small churches—those with fewer than 100 attenders—are more likely to plan a week ahead (28 percent) than young pastors. Also likely to plan a week ahead are pastors older than 65 (29 percent), African-American pastors (38 percent), and those with no college degree (37 percent). Methodists are the least likely to wait that long (8 percent). Lutheran (16 percent) and Presbyterian/Reformed pastors (10 percent) are more likely to plan a year ahead than pastors who are Baptist (3 percent), Methodist (2 percent), Pentecostal (less than 1 percent), or Holiness (less than 1 percent). Overall, mainline pastors (13 percent) are more likely to plan a year ahead than evangelicals (4 percent).


ost Americans do not believe America is a Christian nation today, even if many say it was in the past. About one-third (35 percent) of the American public believes the U.S. was a Christian nation in the past and is still a Christian nation today; close to half (45 percent) say the U.S. was once a Christian nation but no longer remains so; and 14 percent say the U.S. has never been a Christian nation. The number of Americans who believe the U.S. is a Christian nation has declined steadily over the past five Only about years. In 2010, 42 percent of Americans said the U.S. has always been and is currently a Christian nation. Only 35 white evangelical percent say the same today. Like Americans overall, Protestants believe most Christians don’t beAmerica is a lieve America is a Christian nation today. Only about Christian nation. 4 in 10 white evangelical Protestants (42 percent), non-white Protestants (39 percent), and Catholics (39 percent) believe the U.S. is a Christian nation today. And only one-third of white mainline Protestants say the same. A majority (56 percent) of white evangelical Protestants and nearly half (48 percent) of white mainline Protestants say the U.S. was a Christian nation at one time but is no longer. About 4 in 10 non-white Protestants, Catholics, and religiously unaffiliated Americans say America was a Christian nation in the past but is not today. Most Americans who believe the U.S. is no longer a Christian nation view this change negatively. Among Americans who believe the U.S. was once a Christian nation but is not anymore, roughly 6 in 10 (61 percent) say this is a bad thing, while about 3 in 10 (29 percent) say it’s a good thing.

4 in 10

Source: PRRI.org 10 • Facts & Trends




ot long after the presidential election, Dean Baquet, executive editor of The New York Times, admitted his paper has had a blind spot when it comes to faith. “We don’t get religion,” he told NPR’s Terri Gross. “We don’t get the role of religion in people’s lives.” One reason it’s difficult to get religion in America: The religious landscape changes dramatically, depending on where you live, according to the Public Religion Research Institute. In New York, members of non-Christian faiths—including Jews, Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists—outnumber white evangelicals by a 6-to-1 margin. And Protestants of color outnumber white Protestants 3-to-1. Catholics are the largest religious group by far.


By contrast, in Nashville, white evangelicals are the largest faith group. And white Protestants outnumber non-Christians by a 12-to-1 margin. They also outnumber Protestants of color 3-to-1. Yet Nashville has a larger share of nones (24 percent) than New York (22 percent). In Portland, the nones rule. One in 3 people has no religious affiliation (34 percent). And there are almost as many followers of other faiths (5 percent) as Protestants of color (6 percent). In Chicago, meanwhile, more than half of residents are Catholics (29 percent) or nones (22 percent), and there are equal numbers of Protestants of color and white Protestants.

White evangelical White mainline Protestant Black Protestant Other non-white Protestant

Catholic Non-Christian faiths Unaffiliated

34% 31%

24% 22%







4% 2%

9% 6%




22% 16%

18% 12% 10%

11% 8% 5%








Facts & Trends • 11

s u s e J e r a t h s u o o t g w n i Ho ut freak o h t wi 1st 2 e th n i ism l e g n a v e e v i t c e f Ef

12 • Facts & Trends

ry u t c en LVIN By A





hat freaks you out? What might happen to you that would create immediate panic? According to Gallup, a snake will do it for most folks. Among a list of common phobias, snakes ranked first for Americans at 51 percent, with public speaking (40 percent) and heights (36 percent) close behind.

Fear comes in many forms. For lives oblivious to the good news that many, the word evangelism conjures means everything to us. up all kinds of negative images. Just the It’s easy to freak out in a culture that mention of the E-word can make many is increasingly antagonistic toward the Christians cringe. church and indifferent to the gospel. Unfortunately, many believers freak What if I gave you a different perspecout about sharing their faith. I know tive? What if I told you the fact that you Christians who would rather wrap their are alive and know Jesus today is neither hands around a accidental nor snake than talk incidental, but that to their neighbor God has placed you about Jesus. and me in this time Some of the and place for such a most common time as this? anxieties about As I talk with evangelism are unchurched people fear of rejection, regularly, I’m fear of losing a convinced Chrisfriendship, and tians today live in feelings of an incredible time — Alvin Reid, Southeastern Baptist inadequacy. Some to talk with people. Theological Seminary people worry they Most people are won’t be prepared interested in spirito answer sometual conversations, one’s questions about God or salvation. but they understand the gospel less than Others fear offending the person they’re at any time in American history. What a talking to. great time to be alive! There are many reasons a lot of us get Did you know 47 percent of unfreaked out about witnessing, especially churched people say they would discuss in today’s postmodern and politically matters of religion freely with someone? correct climate. Another 31 percent say they would We live in a society teeming with listen to spiritual information. people who live outside our churched I have good news. The unchurched can world. People don’t seem to know or be reached. I see it regularly. It’s true. care about the good news found in Jesus. But we won’t reach the unchurched with They don’t know the great redemptive a nice church sign inviting them to come story of the Bible. And they live their on Sunday. How can we share Christ

How can we share Christ with the world today? It’s simple: one conversation at a time.


Facts & Trends • 13

Lost people are more amazed at our silence than offended by our message! — Alvin Reid, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary

with the unchurched today? It’s simple: one conversation at a time. Here are some reminders for Christians to help alleviate their fears.

Among unchurched Americans:

If a friend of mine really values their faith, I don’t mind them talking about it.

Source: LifeWay Research/Billy Graham Center for Evangelism at Wheaton College

1. Think less of giving a presentation and more of having a conversation. In the LifeWay Research study, 47 percent of the unchurched said they would freely discuss religious beliefs with someone who wants to talk about them. And 79 percent said if a friend truly valued faith personally, they wouldn’t mind the friend talking about it. I see this all time. Lost people are more amazed at our silence than offended by our message! You may feel insecure giving a presentation to someone, but all of us—extroverts and introverts—have conversations every day. Learning to talk about Jesus in everyday conversations not only communicates the gospel more effectively to the unchurched but also helps us to share Jesus without being self-conscious about it. 2. T ell them the great story of the gospel more than listing propositions. Only 10 percent of the unchurched surveyed say they think daily about heaven

14 • Facts & Trends

and life after death. And 43 percent say they never do. I’m so grateful God gives us eternal life through Jesus. But He also gives us joy in our daily lives. When asked if there is an ultimate purpose in life, 70 percent of the unchurched agree. You and I know the only way to find that purpose is through Jesus. Most of us think of the gospel in its essence: the announcement of good news found in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. But in a world that doesn’t know the biblical story, it’s vital we also share the good news as the epic story it is. When I witness, I like to share Christ by connecting our conversation to the great story of Scripture—from creation to the fall, from our rescue in Christ to our hope of restoration. This allows me to connect the story of God’s redemption to everyday life. One way I do this is by showing how movie plotlines relate to the gospel with young adults. Look for ways to have conversations with the unchurched about their ultimate purpose in life and God’s plan for all of us. 3. Connect the story to their everyday life experiences. In everyday conversations, people talk about their pain or their passion1. When we talk about these things, it allows me to relate their story (and mine) to the gospel story. If we talk about pain, I talk about the obvious brokenness in SPRING 2017


Among unchurched Americans:

I would be more interested in listening to what Christians have to say if I saw Christians... Treating others better because of faith. 32% Caring for people’s needs because of faith. 31% Happier because of faith. 26% Standing up against injustice because of faith. 24% Using faith to solve community problems. 22% Using faith to solve personal problems. 22% Working together with multiple races or ethnicities in a church. 21% Source: LifeWay Research/Billy Graham Center for Evangelism at Wheaton College


of American adults claim no religious affiliation. They are “nones” religiously. 



of unchurched people say they are unlikely to attend church in the future. For them, spirituality and church do not naturally go together. When millennials were asked where they go for spiritual help, church did not make the top 10.



of unchurched people think about life after death only once a year or never. But they do think a lot about how to live well each day.

Facts & Trends • 15

Among unchurched Americans:

If someone you knew invited you to the following activities sponsored by a local church, how likely would you be to attend? Extremely likely to attend

Likely to attend

Unlikely to attend

Extremely unlikely to attend

Event to help make your neighborhood safer

14% 14% 14% 14%

47% 47% 47% 47%

24% 24% 24% 24%

14% 14% 14% 14%

Community service project

8% 8% 8% 8%

43% 43% 43% 43%

33% 33% 33% 33%

16% 16% 16% 16%

Sports or exercise program

10% 10% 10% 10%

36% 36% 36% 36%

32% 32% 32% 32%

22% 22% 22% 22%

Worship service

5% 5% 5% 5%

29% 29% 29% 29%

37% 37% 37% 37%

29% 29% 29% 29%

Small group for people curious about God

6% 6% 6% 6%

20% 20% 20% 20%

41% 41% 41% 41%

Source: LifeWay Research/Billy Graham Center for Evangelism at Wheaton College

33% 33% 33% 33% Note: May not add to 100% due to rounding



say a Christian has ever shared with them one-on-one how to become a Christian.


don’t think their Christian friends talk about their faith too much.


went to church as children but walked away as adults.

16 • Facts & Trends



our world through sin, and I point them to the hope we have in Christ’s work on the cross and the resurrection. If we talk about their passion—their hopes, dreams, or plans—I point them to God’s great design in creation and how He put those desires in our hearts when He made us in His image. 4. S  tart in their worldview, not yours. I don’t find people are any less interested in talking about spiritual things today than 25 years ago. I do find that people know the Bible less now than then. We can’t assume the people we meet know what we know about the Bible. Like Jesus in John 4 with the woman at the well (starting with water at the well), or Peter in Acts 2 with a Jewish audience (starting with Messianic hope), or Paul at Mars Hill in Acts 17 with philosophers (starting with a common belief in creation), we would do well to start with people’s own beliefs when sharing Christ. Every person has been created in the image of God and—though lost—can see truth. In conversations we can start with what they see and talk them to the gospel. This includes thinking less of trying to prove Christianity intellectually and more of showing the change Christ makes. Most unchurched people I meet aren’t asking whether you can prove Christianity—they are asking whether you can live it. 5. Don’t just invite them to church— invite them into your lives and your community. We live in a world connected like never before yet lacking in real community. I also unpack this idea using the 3 Circles approach to sharing Christ in a book I wrote with my son Josh called Get Out: Student Ministry in the Real World (Nashville: Rainer Publishing, 2015). 1

The young professionals ministry at my church has seen authentic community as a huge part of our effectiveness. Unchurched people were asked whether they’d be likely to attend if someone they knew invited them to activities sponsored by a local Christian church. They were most likely to attend events that had a strong connection to their communitites. The findings, shown on the facing page, confirm what I see as I interact with unchurched people personally. When we show them how our faith in Jesus makes a difference in our communities and our everyday lives, they are more interested. The unchurched today are less concerned about the afterlife and more focused on dealing with an overloaded, too-busy society. When we show and share how our relationship with Jesus brings joy in our everyday lives, the people we know who aren’t in our churches will take notice. Don’t buy the negative rhetoric: Our society has not suddenly plunged into an abyss of secularism and atheism, leaving a culture of spiritually walking dead with no interest in the claims of Christ. You and I live in a mission field. Life is a mission trip—take it, and start today! Alvin Reid is senior professor of Evangelism and Student Ministry at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina, and author of Sharing Jesus Without Freaking Out.

DIG DEEPER Sharing Jesus Without Freaking Out takes you on a journey from freaking out to faith, helping you to understand the glory of the gospel story and offering practical ways to communicate the story in everyday conversations. Sharing Jesus is available in print or digitally through B&H Academic. Accompanying videos allow you to teach the book to your church or small group over an eight-week period. You can also take an eight-week evangelism challenge where you grow in your own witness over time.


Facts & Trends • 17

WHO ARE THE UNCHURCHED? …and how to reach them. By Scott McConnell


ttending church is one of the most visible expressions of a person’s faith. This one routine expresses a certain level of belief, devotion, and identity not found in any other activity.

For around 45 percent of Americans, regardless of religious affiliation, church attendance is anything but routine. They haven’t attended religious services in the last six months except possibly for a holiday, wedding, or funeral. In a study conducted for the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism at Wheaton College, LifeWay Research learned much about this group, which many researchers and church leaders refer to as the “unchurched.”


18 • Facts & Trends



But using a single label for such a large group can be misleading. Several subgroups exist within this one group. One particularly helpful breakout is to look at them by their self-identified religious preference: nominal Christians, followers of other religions, and nones. Each has different levels of uneasiness, expectations, and experiences with Christian churches.

them they’re missing a relationship with Christ.


2. Have compassion. Jesus often had crowds who followed Him. Many heard truth taught, but some likely just wanted to be identified with the movement. Jesus saw these crowds, had compassion on them, and asked His disciples to feed them. The expression of His love was meeting a physical need.

More than half of the unchurched are Christians—at least in name. Twenty-five percent of unchurched Christians say their religious preference is Catholic, 20 percent Protestant, and 11 percent Christian nondenominational. When nominal, unchurched Christians are asked to describe their Christian faith, 6 percent acknowledge they are questioning their Christian faith, 31 percent say they are not currently practicing it, and 32 percent say they aren’t particularly devout. Only 24 percent say they are Christians with strong faith. One indication of whether someone is a Christ-follower is who or what he or she is depending on after death. Twenty-eight percent of the nominally Christian unchurched believe they will go to heaven because they have received Jesus Christ as their Savior. It should be safe to say the majority of nominal, unchurched Christians have not experienced redemption through Jesus Christ. Among the three unchurched subgroups, the nominal Christian is the group churches are most equipped to reach. Many traditional methods for outreach may still work with nominal, unchurched Christians. But keep in mind their Christian affiliation may actually be the biggest barrier to reaching them. When people think they’re already Christian, it’s harder to convince

Ways to reach nominal Christians: 1. Look at your own church lists. You likely have names of many people who haven’t attended your church in the last year. Touch base and see if they are attending elsewhere. If not, you’ve found some nominal Christians.

RELIGIOUS PREFERENCE OF UNCHURCHED AMERICANS Nonreligious 32% Catholic 25% Protestant 20% Other religions 12% Nondenominational 11% Source: LifeWay Research

3. Invite them to worship and to Bible studies for the curious. Almost half indicate they would be likely to attend worship if invited by someone they know, and more than a third would attend a small group for people curious about God. While most of the unchurched don’t see church in their future, 48 percent of nominal Christians do. (Note that this group is the most open to these direct invitations, but they are much more open to invitations to events that affect their communities such as neighborhood safety events and community service projects.) 4. Talk about your faith when you’re with them. Identifying as a Christian is not the only indicator that this group is open to spiritual things. Nominal Christians are more likely to agree there is an “ultimate purpose and plan for every person’s life” and that “a major priority in my life is finding my deeper purpose.” They are more likely to “admire” the faith of their Christian friends, and more than 5 out of 6 would not mind their Christian friends talking


Facts & Trends • 19

We found that half of Americans with evangelical beliefs were “not concerned at all” about people in their neighborhood who have different spiritual beliefs from them. — Scott McConnell

about their faith if they really value it.

OTHER RELIGIONS About 9 percent of adult Americans identify with a non-Christian religion or a cult. Among the unchurched, this is 12 percent. According to the Pew Research Center, between 1992 and 2012 an estimated 1.7 million Muslims, 1 million Hindus, and 1 million Buddhists have immigrated legally to the United States. Those who attend religious services would not be counted in the unchurched research we conducted, but the rapid growth of these other religions has also included many who do not regularly gather at their religion’s place of worship. Ways to reach people of other religions: 1. Ask God to give you a heart for these people. In another survey LifeWay Research conducted in 2016, we found half of Americans with evangelical beliefs were “not concerned at all” about people in their neighborhood who have different spiritual beliefs from them. 2. Listen. The same survey indicated that when those with evangelical beliefs have a spiritual conversation with someone, they are almost twice as likely to say they have “more to share than to find out” (32 percent) than they have “more to find out than to share” (17 percent). 20 • Facts & Trends

Yes, you have the truth to share, but we must listen to people’s stories to know where and how the truth connects to their lives. 3. Talk about your religious beliefs. Half of unchurched people of other religions would freely discuss your religious beliefs if you want to talk about them— the exact same percentage as among unchurched, nominal Christians. 4. Explain the good news. It doesn’t have to come out perfectly, but we need to make sure we are sharing the essentials. Seventy-one percent of unchurched people with other religious faiths say their Christian friends have never shared with them how to become a Christian.

NONES The fastest-growing religious preference in America is “No, thanks.” While almost 1 in 4 Americans has no religious preference, 32 percent of the unchurched are “nones.” As we consider the message of good news we have to share, we must realize that nones are in a different place in terms of their worldview. They have a different frame of reference in the same way Hindus, Buddhists, and Muslims have a different frame of reference from Christians. Most are not antagonistic toward Christianity. They just don’t think it is for them. SPRING 2017


When describing their feelings about the faith of their Christian friends, 31 percent of nones say they “put up with it,” 29 percent “ignore it,” and only 1 percent say they “give them a hard time about it.” Ways to reach the nones: 1. Think about people with no religious preference as a separate religion. People who have concluded Christianity is not for them cannot be approached with methods used for inviting Christians “back” to church. They have real beliefs about life that need to be understood. 2. Build relationships with them. Only 13 percent of unchurched nones say a visit from a member of a church would be effective in getting them to visit. However, if that invitation comes from a friend, the response triples to 43 percent. If this group thinks the church as an institution has nothing for them, our message needs to be delivered through people they know and respect. 3. You be the one to bring up faith. Many people think if they live out their Christian faith with actions, people will ask them about their faith. The truth is only 18 percent of nones “admire” the faith of their Christian friends. But they are willing to discuss matters of faith. 4. Start your conversation with now, not eternity. The majority of nonreligious, unchurched people never think about whether they will go to heaven. It never crosses their mind. 5. Invite them to help make the community better. The activities sponsored by a local Christian church that unchurched nones are most likely to attend are an event to help make their neighborhood safer (52 percent) and a

community service project (42 percent). Wanting to reach the unchurched should be a goal of every church and every Christian, but the practical truth is “the unchurched” will rarely walk through the doors of your church. Yet, every day Christians come in contact with an unchurched person, who may respond positively to an invitation to church or the gospel. Find out more about who they are and develop a genuine relationship with them. Gospel opportunities will present themselves as you get to know them as individuals. That’s the way the church will reach the unchurched: one Christian working to reach one unchurched person. SCOTT McCONNELL is executive director of LifeWay Research.

HOW NONES FEEL ABOUT THE FAITH OF THEIR CHRISTIAN FRIENDS “Put up with it” 31% “Ignore it” 29% “Give them a hard time about it” 1%

Source: LifeWay Research

DIG DEEPER • S  urprising Insights from the Unchurched and Proven Ways to Reach Them by Thom S. Rainer • The Rise of the Nones by James Emery White


Facts & Trends • 21


invitation By JIM Burnett


magine such a thing as a magnet with the ability to draw large numbers of unchurched and dechurched people onto your campus, into your congregation, and ultimately to Christ. Would you be interested in having one? You’re

probably thinking, “Are you kidding me? How do I order?

Here’s the exciting reality: Every congregation can be a magnet, one person at a time, drawing the disconnected to Christ—because the magnetism of God lives within each believer. But many churches need a radical paradigm shift to activate the magnet. We need to create and maintain a culture of invitation. How did we ever stray so far from the biblical mandate to personally go and invite? The Great Commission is really the Great Invitation, extended by God through those who belong to Him. Sadly, many Christians outsource this calling to church leaders and a few other church members. We are not only mandated to invite but also outfitted with the power of the Holy Spirit to do so (Acts 1:8). Inviting should not be a burdensome duty or a frightening one-time act to be performed. It must become a lifestyle. Here are four ways to create a culture of invitation in your church. 1. Pray for a spiritual movement in your church. Many pastors and church leaders are worn to a frazzle by the endless supply of plug-and-play modules, must-attend con22 • Facts & Trends


Can I get it overnighted?”




Facts & Trends • 23

God actively seeks the lost and disconnected, and many people are waiting for a simple but personal invitation to your church. — Jim Burnett, pastor of Willow Pointe Church

ferences, and promising programs that often fail to deliver. In reality, modules, methods, and ministries will always fizzle and fail unless they have the breath of God on them. To create an invitation culture that becomes a movement rather than an emphasis, prayer must precede and pervade the endeavor. Pentecost was preceded by a prayer meeting. The church of Jerusalem grew leaps and bounds because of its magnetic invitation culture—which happened organically, partly through the believers’ devotion to daily prayer (Acts 2:42). Their magnetism was a result of their dependence on God. Others in the community wanted what those disciples had. Providential conviction will motivate members to invite others to church and to Christ. And through prayer, a sense of urgency could replace the malady of apathy, fear, and lethargy plaguing so many congregations in America today. 2. Create momentum by continually preaching and teaching on inviting. Highlight the importance of personal outreach with a series of sermons. Have every small group or Sunday school class in your church, from students to adults, focus on this topic for at least four weeks. If we consistently talk about the need to invite, our people will find the opportunity to do so. Many different stories in the Bible serve as great examples of those who aggressively invited others to God. Jesus was the ultimate inviter. Throughout His public ministry, everywhere He went He invited people to give God not only their problems but also their lives. The Samaritan woman is another wonderful example of inviting. Listen to what she did immediately after her encounter with Jesus: “Then the woman left her water jar, went into town, and told the people, ‘Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this

24 • Facts & Trends

be the Messiah?’ They left the town and made their way to him” (John 4:28-30). 3. Celebrate the faithfulness of those who invite. As someone has said, what gets rewarded gets repeated. Make sure to encourage those who invite others. Remind them God actively seeks the lost and disconnected, and many people are waiting for a simple but personal invitation to your church. LifeWay Research did a study recently on the unchurched. Interestingly, 55 percent of them say an invitation from a family member would be effective in getting them to visit a local congregation, and 51 percent say an invitation from a friend or family member would be effective. 4. Set the tone from the top. Leaders, beginning with the pastor, church staff, elders, and deacons, must model invitation. It must be more than a sermon series or a desperate attempt to spike baptisms or fill empty chairs or pews. It must be a movement started and sustained by none other than the Spirit of God and faithfully practiced by the church leadership. Jim Burnett is pastor of Willow Pointe Church in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.

DIG DEEPER •T  ell Someone Bible Study Book by Greg Laurie



Why I sleep in on

Sundays By BOB SMietana



n Sunday mornings, Jill Taylor drinks coffee and listens to the blues or Johnny Cash. Allen Glendenning reads or calls his kids. Andrew Jacobsohn sleeps late and then studies for school.

For them, Sunday is a day of rest. But it’s not a day for church. All are among the millions of Americans who rarely if ever go to church. Their reasons for skipping church are complicated. For some, it’s a loss of faith. For others, a move or conflict within the church kept them away. Some simply lost the habit of churchgoing. Going to church, it turns out, is harder than it looks. And even for those who miss church, going back would be difficult. By listening to the unchurched talk about what keeps them from the faith and going to church, we can identify some of the barriers that we and our churches can strive to dismantle.


Facts & Trends • 25

4 in 10

Losing faith

unchurched Americans never wonder if they’ll go to heaven when they die. — LifeWay Research

“T hat’s just not a question I think about.”

For Allen Glendenning, leaving church came after a crisis of faith. He’d grown up in the Church of the Nazarene, graduated from a Nazarene college, and joined the choir at a local Nazarene church. He’d even served a term on the church council. Yet over the years, doubt crept in, especially as his kids decided Christianity was not for them. About 10 years ago, he walked out of church and never came back. He doesn’t believe in God. And, like many Americans, he doesn’t worry about life after death. LifeWay Research found that about 4 in 10 unchurched Americans never wonder if they’ll go to heaven when they die. “That’s just not a question I think about,” he says. Glendenning misses some parts of church. He loved singing in the choir and being part of a larger community. His dad and brother are Nazarene pastors and most of his family belongs to that denomination. Leaving church meant leaving a community as well as faith. “I miss that I could walk into a Nazarene church anywhere and chances are I’d know someone,” he says. Now 58, Glendenning spends his Sundays reading, thinking, or binge-watching television. Once in a while he visits the Kansas City Oasis, a gathering place for nonbelievers that’s part TED talk and part house concert, as the Kansas City Star put it. There are doughnuts, coffee, singing, and conversation but no faith. Glendenning says he could go back to church, sit in the choir and keep his lack of faith to himself. But that seems dishonest, he says.

26 • Facts & Trends

Finding a new church can be difficult Jill Taylor is trying to sort out her relationship with the church. Her dad was a pastor, and she was married to a pastor for about 15 years. Their marriage started to fall apart about 10 years ago, right around the time he left the ministry. For a while she went to a nondenominational church as she tried to adjust to her new life. But she could never get connected. Taylor later attended a church plant and then a congregation near Aurora University in Illinois, not far from where she lived. But her daughter had a hard time fitting in and so Taylor ended up not staying. As a single parent in church, she often felt out of place. At the time, she was grieving the end of her marriage as well as the loss of her place in ministry. As a pastor’s wife, she had been seen as valuable. As the ex-wife of a former pastor, she was not. She felt people often wanted to set her up with someone, as if marriage would solve her problems. Now in her early 50s, Taylor is reconsidering church. She’s found a congregation she likes and has visited a few times. But she’s not ready to dive in yet. One reason is her personality. She’s an introvert by nature and it takes time for her to connect with new people. She’d rather observe for a while first. “I keep everyone at an arm’s length,” she says.

God is not for her For Megan Barrett, Sunday is a day to hang out with friends. She gets up early, makes a big breakfast, then takes the kids out to the park or hosts a get-together with friends—especially friends who don’t go to church, SPRING 2017


since they’re always free on Sunday mornings. Barrett’s explanation for staying home is straightforward. “I don’t believe in any specific god,” she says. Barrett, a physical therapist in rural Kentucky, enjoyed going to church as kid. Her parents believed in God but didn’t attend, so she went with friends instead. The activities were always fun, she says, and she wanted to fit in. Almost everyone she knew went to church. Looking back, she says, she went to church because she felt she was supposed to, not because she believed in Jesus. Once she read the Bible for herself, she started to have doubts. She loved science and math in school but felt her church looked down on education. And while people at church loved to wear WWJD merchandise, Barrett says, they didn’t seem to do what Jesus would do. She eventually stopped going to church. Barrett, who describes herself as a humanist, says she’s careful about sharing her disbelief. In her part of the world, people who believe in God are good, and those who don’t aren’t. “I like to let people get to know me and figure out who I am and that I am a kind-hearted person prior to discussing my beliefs,” she says. “People are usually pretty surprised to find out this intelligent and kind person they have come to know doesn’t believe in God.” She’s hasn’t completely ruled out going back to church in the future. But she says her return is highly unlikely. “I always say if there is ever credible scientific evidence that proves the existence of a higher power, then I will quickly jump on the bandwagon,” she

“I don’t believe in any specific god.””

1 in 4 Americans have no religious preference — LifeWay Research

says. “But until that happens, I will not likely ever go to church.”

Good with God, just not the church Most Sundays, Vicki Watson is either out for a run or drinking a cup of tea rather than sitting in a pew. However, not long ago, she was very involved in church. Watson’s doubts about going to church began during a debate over a church building campaign several years ago. Some members of her church wanted to spend money to expand their facilities. Others thought the money would be better spent on community outreach. Watson was in the latter group. She felt the church had become too focused on its own needs and wanted to reach out. The response to the idea of doing more outreach, says Watson, was, “We really don’t want outside people coming here.” That didn’t work for Watson. She believed serving the community was part of the church’s mission. Why are so many people missing it? she wondered. Then she looked at her own life. A Biola grad and manager at a California tech company, she’s a Type A personality and a hard driver. She didn’t see much evidence of the fruit of the Spirit—like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, self-control—in her own life.


Facts & Trends • 27

“I thought, ‘I’ve spent all of this time in church trying to be a transformed person, and I don’t feel like I am making very much progress,’” she says. So she began to look outside the church for ways to serve. She wanted to spend less time talking about Jesus in church and more time trying to live out His teachings. “I can’t sit in the pews anymore and listen to people talk about being a servant of Christ who aren’t willing to be servants to people,” she says. “I thought, ‘I have to get out of here before I strangle somebody.’” Along with some friends, she helped start a local nonprofit that works with the homeless. Watson and other volunteers support people as they transition from the street into a permanent home. They focus on the small things: helping folks move into their new home, providing basic household supplies, and driving them to medical appointments. “That became church for me,” says Watson. “Being the community, trying to help the most vulnerable in my community, was more transformative for me than sitting in church.” Watson still believes in Jesus. But she’s come to believe that going to church is bad for her soul. “I am not opposed to church or opposed to people going to church,” she says, “but my new view is that church

“I thought, ‘I ’ve spent all of this time in church trying to be a transformed person, and I don’t feel like I am making very much progress.’”

28 • Facts & Trends

is there to help us feel good about ourselves. That is what the church has become, and I don’t think that’s what the church is supposed to be.”

Just not that into God For Andrew Jacobsohn, a college student in Nashville, Sundays are for sleeping in, hanging out with friends, catching up on homework, and putting the busyness of life on pause. “It’s a chance to breathe from all the craziness,” he says. Growing up, the only time Jacobsohn ever went to church was when he had to. His parents attended services a few times a year, mostly at Christmas or Easter, and the Catholic school he attended held mandatory Mass about once a month. Jacobsohn didn’t mind going to church. But it was never his thing. So he’s given it up completely since leaving for college three years ago. It’s not for lack of options. When people at school find out he skips church, they ask him to go with them. He politely declines. “I’m just not interested,” he says. Skipping church doesn’t mean he ignores matters of faith. He’s read the Bible and studied theology in school and gets annoyed when his churchgoing friends think he doesn’t know anything about Christianity. He’s heard the Christian message and isn’t buying it. Jacobsohn says he’s thought about the meaning of life and what happens after death. So far he hasn’t figured it out. That doesn’t bother him. “I am OK with not having a clear answer,” he says. BOB SMIETANA is senior writer for Facts & Trends.




FIVE THINGS TO REMEMBER ABOUT THE UNCHURCHED Going to church is harder than it looks Joining a new church can be like going on a date or finding someone to marry. It’s not easy to find the right match. Finding a church home may take months, and the search can be time-consuming, frustrating, and lonely.

getting involved. Those who have never been to church in their lives may feel the whole experience is awkward. It may take some time for unchurched guests to feel comfortable.

Make it easy for new people to connect

Unchurched visitors want to be acknowledged but not overwhelmed. Feel free to smile or say hello. But be careful when pressing for details or asking for more information. That can be a big turnoff.

Think about having low-key, easy entry points for newcomers, especially those who have been away from church for a while. Invite new people or unchurched neighbors to take part in a community service event, sports or exercise program, neighborhood get-together, or social gathering.

It’s not about you

Unchurched folks often believe in Jesus

When people come to a church for the first time, they bring their whole life history with them. Perhaps they’ve moved and are grieving their old church or missing friends. Or they feel out of place because the songs and style of services are different. They may have had bad experiences with church in the past and are skittish about

Don’t assume folks who skip church are unbelievers. They may be disciples who needed a break from church due to life circumstances. Or they could be so-called “Dones”—those who believe in Jesus but have left the church because of past frustrations.

Be friendly but not pushy


Facts & Trends • 29

Good intentions, lack of plans mark church response to domestic violence By BOB SMietana

30 • Facts & Trends



hen it comes to domestic violence, Protestant pastors want to be helpful but often don’t know where to start.

Most say their church would be a safe haven for victims of domestic violence. But many don’t know if anyone in their church has been a victim of domestic violence. And only half say they have a plan in place to help if a victim comes forward. Those are among the findings of a new report on churches and domestic abuse from Nashville-based LifeWay Research, based on a phone survey of 1,000 Protestant senior pastors. Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research, says churches want to help victims of domestic violence but aren’t always effective at doing so. “Many pastors aren’t aware if domestic violence is happening in their congregation,” McConnell says. “And even if they are aware, they often don’t know how to help.” Churches see themselves as safe haven LifeWay Research found most pastors (87 percent) strongly agree that “a person experiencing domestic violence would find our church to be a safe haven.” Eleven percent somewhat agree. One percent are not sure. Most pastors (89 percent) also agree their church regularly communicates that domestic violence is not OK—with more than half (56 percent) who strongly agree. Yet almost half of pastors (47 percent) say they don’t know if anyone in their church has been a victim of domestic violence in the last three years. A third (37 percent) say a church member has

been a victim of domestic violence. Fifteen percent say no one has experienced domestic violence. Church size plays a role in whether pastors know of a domestic violence victim. Pastors at bigger churches, those with more than 250 attenders, are most likely (65 percent) to know of a victim of domestic violence in their church. Pastors at smaller churches, those with fewer than 50 attenders, are least likely to know of a victim (20 percent). Pastors in the West (45 percent) and Midwest (42 percent) are more likely to know of a victim than those in the South (33 percent). McConnell suspects there are more victims of domestic violence in churches than pastors realize. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, almost a quarter of American women (24.3 percent) and 1 in 7 men (13.8 percent) have “experienced severe physical violence by an intimate partner.” Given those numbers, there are likely victims of violence even in a small church, McConnell says. “Statistics on sinful activities consistently show that church attendees act better but are not without sin,” he says. “It is naïve to assume a church could remain immune to domestic violence.” This lack of experience or awareness


24% of women and 14% of men in America have experienced severe physical violence by an intimate partner. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Facts & Trends • 31


might explain why many churches don’t have a plan to assist victims of domestic violence, McConnell says. Only about half of churches (52 percent) have a plan to assist victims of domestic abuse. Forty-five percent have no plan. Two percent of pastors aren’t aware of a plan. Most churches with 250 or more people have a plan (73 percent). So do many Methodist (63 percent) and Pentecostal (66 percent) churches. Fewer Baptist (52 percent), Presbyterian/ Reformed (45 percent), Holiness (45 percent), Lutheran (44 percent) or Church of Christ (41 percent) churches have one. Among the resources churches offer to victims:

of churches have

a plan to assist victims

45% of churches have no plan to assist victims LifeWay Research

• Three-quarters (76 percent) have a referral list for professional counselors. • Two-thirds (64 percent) have finances to assist victims. • Sixty-one percent can provide victims a safe place to stay. • About half (53 percent) have a referral list for legal help. • Half (49 percent) have someone victims can talk to in the church who has experienced domestic violence. Churches also offer other assistance like referrals to shelters or state agencies, pastoral care and support groups. The kind of help offered to domestic violence victims can vary by denomination. Baptists (66 percent) and churches with more than 250 attenders (68 percent) are more likely to offer victims a safe place to stay. Lutherans (55 percent) 32 • Facts & Trends

and Methodists (54 percent), as well as churches with fewer than 50 attenders (55 percent), are less likely. Baptist (71 percent), Presbyterian/ Reformed (67 percent) and Church of Christ (67 percent) churches are more likely to have financial resources to help victims of domestic violence than Methodist (53 percent) or Lutheran (49 percent) churches. Bigger churches are most likely to be able to connect a victim with someone who has experienced abuse (65 percent). Pentecostals (61 percent) are more likely than Presbyterian/Reformed (43 percent), Methodist (42 percent) and Lutheran (35 percent) pastors to be able to connect a victim with someone else who has been through a similar experience. Divorce leads to skepticism The issue of divorce is one roadblock for churches that want to help victims of domestic abuse. If a church member files for divorce and cites domestic violence as a cause, pastors often respond with skepticism. Fifty-nine percent believe divorce may be the best option. Few say couples should not divorce (3 percent) in cases of domestic violence. About half (56 percent) say they’d believe domestic violence was really present. Sixty percent say they’d investigate the claims of domestic violence. Only 1 percent of pastors would doubt such violence took place. The study showed 43 percent of pastors are unwilling to say whether or not they believe abuse took place. Lutheran (70 percent), Methodist (63 percent) and Presbyterian/Reformed pastors (62 percent) are most likely to believe domestic violence took place if a church member files for divorce and cites domestic violence as a cause. Baptist (49 percent) and Pentecostal (40 SPRING 2017

percent) pastors are less likely. Baptist (70 percent), Pentecostal (70 percent) and Holiness (76 percent) pastors are more likely to investigate claims of domestic violence. Lutheran (52 percent), Presbyterian/Reformed (47 percent) and Methodist pastors (39 percent) are less likely. Domestic violence still complicated for churches A previous LifeWay study found domestic violence is rarely discussed in Protestant church settings. In that study, 4 in 10 pastors say they rarely or never address the issue. Another 22 percent discuss the issue once a year. Julie Owens, a North Carolina-based consultant who has designed domestic violence prevention programs for churches and the Department of Justice,

says churches want to be safe havens for victims. But there’s no way for a victim to know a church is a safe place if the pastor never discusses the issues. She also fears churches often do more harm than good in cases of domestic abuse. Launching an investigation into claims of abuse, for example, can put a victim at risk, she says. If a pastor talks to an alleged abuser, the abuser will often deny the claims and then retaliate against the victim of domestic violence. And abusers often know how to manipulate pastors, she says. Abusers will ask for forgiveness and say they want to reconcile with their spouses—and that’s what pastors want to hear, Owens says. “It can be a lot easier to believe the abuser than to help a victim,” she says. “Helping a victim is a lot harder.” Ensuring a victim’s safety has to come first, she says. That often means con-

necting victims to outside resources like counselors, shelters and law enforcement. Pastors and churches, she says, aren’t always equipped to deal with the complicated needs of domestic violence victims. “Churches underestimate the spiritual, psychological, and emotional damage done by domestic abuse,” she says. Ignoring the issue in public settings can undermine a church’s efforts to help domestic violence victims, says McConnell. “You can have great resources in place to help victims—but if no one knows they exist, those resources won’t do any good,” he says. Bob Smietana is senior writer for Facts & Trends.


Churches need to treat domestic abuse with care


nvestigating claims of domestic violence can backfire for churches, says radio host and speaker Autumn Miles, who partnered with LifeWay Research on a study about churches and domestic violence. Miles, a past victim of domestic abuse, says it’s difficult for victims to come forward and ask a church for help. And when they do, they often need immediate assistance. They can’t wait for a church to do an investigation before deciding to help. Miles says churches sometimes confuse ministry with church discipline when it — Autumn Miles comes to domestic violence. Their first response should be to help, she says. “If a woman comes forward and says, ‘I need help—I am being abused,’ a church needs to respond,” she says. “There’s a lot to lose if churches get this wrong.” One of the best ways to help, Miles says, is for churches to have a plan in place. That way they don’t have to scramble to figure out a response. When Miles first came to leaders at her church about the domestic violence she experienced, she says they were caught off guard. Church leaders had a hard time believing her claims were true, she says—in part because they didn’t think domestic violence could happen in the church. But domestic violence can happen anywhere, she says. “If you have more than three people in your church—this is a possibility for you,” she says.


There’s a lot to lose if churches get this wrong.

Facts & Trends • 33

The pursuit of


How curiosity can help churches thrive By Barnabas Piper


34 • Facts & Trends



e don’t usually think of churches as “curious.” To be fair, we rarely think of anything as curious outside of children and the little

monkey named George, who hangs out with the man in the yellow hat. It’s just not a category we have for anything meaningful. But it should be. We usually think of curiosity—if we think of it at all—as something trite. It’s a pursuit of hobbies or a brief dalliance with new information, nothing substantive or formative. But at its best, curiosity is the pursuit of truth. It’s the search for reality as God intends it to be. It’s a lifestyle and a discipline leading us toward those things. This discipline and these habits lead us deeper into a pursuit of God and into connection with other people. Curiosity multiplies itself because as we seek truth we find it, and when we find it we want more of it, so we seek further. We seek in God’s Word and God’s world. We find it in both places, sometimes loudly and sometimes subtly. With this definition in mind, can you begin to see how curiosity might be significant for churches? Not just significant—vital. Think about your church or the church you grew up in. Now imagine if that church were full of truly curious people. What might be different? Likely the church would be a more caring place, deeply aware of people’s needs and challenges. It would be a safe place for those struggling because people would take the time and ask the questions to understand their difficulties. Tension and infighting would diminish because people would be curious enough to learn what others really said and really meant instead of construing meaning and creating drama or conflict. It would move toward being more diverse racially, socioeconomically, and educationally because people would be deeply interested in those different from themselves instead of frightened of them or intimidated by them. And more than anything it would be a church full of people in rich relationship with God because they would be searching and asking and looking for what more there is to know about His character, person, work, and Word. They would be seeking truth, reality as God intends it to be. FACTSANDTRENDS.NET

Facts & Trends • 35

We have settled for traditions and old patterns of ministry, relationship, outreach, and worship. Curiosity unsettles that. — Barnabas Piper

Curiosity will inspire those in Bible studies and Sunday school classes to dig deeper, ask more pointed questions, and apply truth more intentionally. A curious counseling ministry will dig deep into the pains and struggles of hurting people. It will not find the simplest solution but rather search for the best one. Small group ministries will not just pattern groups the way they’ve always been done but rather seek to learn what style works best for this church’s culture and demographics. And curious churches will seek out the best leaders, not just the available ones. A curious outreach ministry will determine its efforts and priorities by the cultures and needs in and around the church, not just calendar and tradition. It will find new ways to partner with community institutions—schools, police, Boys & Girls Clubs, other churches (yes, even other churches). And a curious church will constantly evaluate its own efforts to see whether they are making a difference. What kind of difference? The kind that reflects reality as God intends it to be: hearts renewed, lives changed, physical and financial needs met, and people meeting Jesus and growing in their relationship with Him. A church like this one could transform a neighborhood. Each Sunday its attendees would gather, worship together, and connect with one another before flooding into the surrounding city or town to their homes and jobs and lives where they would carry the impact of that curiosity with them. People would want to visit a church like this because it has shown itself to care about people and it shows them something of God’s love and nature they have never seen. Church members will connect with neighbors and co-workers by being genuinely curious about their lives, so those people will have a chance to see

36 • Facts & Trends

something of Jesus in their lives because of how they ask questions and learn and care. People in that community might begin to see Christianity as a belief system that changes lives and loves deeply—not just old-time religion or bigoted conservatism—because it clings to and reflects a God who changes lives and loves deeply. Throughout its community, a curious church will meet needs because people in the church know about them (since they’ve connected with people and organizations) and know they are part of a body of people who can help. A curious church is aware of who in its midst has needs and who can meet which needs. Church members will be able to tell people of Jesus and His gospel in a manner that connects because they will know the mental state, the circumstances, and the background story of the person with whom they are conversing. Over time a church full of curious people can root itself deeply in a community as a need-meeting, people-loving, Jesus-representing entity that effectively reflects and serves the community it loves so much. If all this sounds grandiose, that’s because it is. It’s grandiose because curiosity pursues something grandiose—a better reality as defined by God in His Word. We have settled for traditions and old patterns of ministry, relationship, outreach, and worship. Curiosity unsettles that. It isn’t always comfortable. But it always pursues truth, that better reality. And isn’t that what we want our churches to reflect and to bring to our communities? Barnabas Piper (@BarnabasPiper) is brand manager of LifeWay Leadership and author of The Curious Christian (B&H), available at LifeWay Stores and LifeWay.com.


TECHNOLOGY Technical tools for your ministry

8 essential elements of a church website By Aaron Wilson


f the technology had existed at the time, I’m confident Paul would’ve had a website for his ministry. I gather this from his words in 1 Corinthians

9:22-23: “I have become all things to all people, so that I may by every possible means save some. Now I do all this because of the gospel.” In context, Paul was referring to Jews and Gentiles. However, for a 21st-century culture, the application of these verses certainly extends to the digital world. Here are eight website essentials to consider as churches steward online resources for the sake of the gospel. THE BASICS Church buildings typically require fundamental elements such as ceilings, doors, and parking. Church websites also call for basics, some of which are:


• Self-hosting. If a church’s web address ends with something like .wordpress. com or .blogspot.com, it’s a clear sign to internet-savvy guests the website is lackluster. Owning a domain through a self-hosted site (such as www. yourchurchname.org) allows for professionalism and greater creative freedom. • Church address and contact information on every page. At its most rudimentary level, the internet is a tool for quickly gathering information. Placing contact information on every page serves those who just want to know how to get to church. • Mobile-view compatibility. More often than not, visitors will use smartphones to visit a church’s website. Churches should cater to this by making their sites mobile-friendly.

• Contemporary visual layout. This is always a moving target, but that’s the point. Digital styles change often. Every couple of years, it’s wise for churches to evaluate their digital aesthetics to see what message they’re sending. Once a church has made a commitment to maintain these basic web requirements, it’s time to understand the digital audience. Church website users fall into two categories: those already connected (members and regulars) and those asking whether they want to be (potential guests). It’s important to serve both categories by creating clear lanes for each to travel. Here are some website essentials for reaching each group. SERVING GUESTS • “I’m New Here” button. This should be the most prominent link on the site. It should send users to information such as church beliefs, frequently asked questions, information about your children’s and youth ministries, and introductions to the staff. • Online sermons. Many people will sample an online sermon before ever visiting a church. Posting sermons online serves not only visitors but also members who might be out of town or sick on a Sunday.


SERVING MEMBERS AND REGULARS • Discipleship content. A church blog can offer value to members as well as guests. Blog entries aren’t dissertations. They’re short reflections that provide discipleship guidance throughout the week. They can be easily posted on social media outlets, giving church members a culturally relevant way to share what they’re learning. • Online giving. Failing to offer this service handicaps a generation that doesn’t use checkbooks or ATM machines. Traditional offering methods such as plates, boxes, and baskets can be used in conjunction with online giving to allow members the opportunity to give in a practical manner. Hundreds of other elements might be of strategic benefit for a church website. As communicators weigh decisions that affect a church’s digital presence, it can be helpful to revisit Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 9:22-23 and ask how each line of web coding helps to advance the gospel in a digital world. Aaron Wilson is a retail church representative for LifeWay Christian Stores and a writer and editor for LifeWay Resources. He lives in the Charlotte, North Carolina, area with his wife and 5-year-old twins.

Facts & Trends • 37

38 • Facts & Trends




amily trips, kids’ camps, and a penchant for relaxation can wreak havoc on summer church attendance—but leaders who simply hang on until September are missing an opportunity, says Kris Dolberry, a pastor, Bible teacher, and leader of LifeWay Men.

“Pastors and leaders say, ‘We can’t do what we would normally do, so let’s batten down the hatches and do only the essentials,’” he says. “Creativity and new strategies to reach people are put on hold.” Instead, summer can be a time to shift focus and extend the church’s ministry into new areas. “Ride the wave of momentum culture gives you,” Dolberry says. In every age group, churches can use summer as a time to re-energize. Here are some ideas to try.

whether it’s a curriculum you haven’t used before or writing your own.”

1. Create summer traditions. Schedule special events such as Vacation Bible School at the same time each year, says Jana Magruder, director of LifeWay Kids. Whether you choose the beginning or end of summer, keep it consistent. “Families will start planning around that week and will be there to participate and help.”

3. Have fun. While school’s out, kids are looking for ways to get together. Check out the parks and recreation opportunities in your community, and schedule some fun outings, Magruder recommends. “Target the different age groups, from preschool to preteen, and offer times for them to get to know each other better.” On Sunday mornings, get kids’ attention with fun T-shirts, prizes, games, and activities that feel different from the rest of the year. “The kids enjoy it so much, they wake up on Sunday mornings and say, ‘Mom and Dad, we have to go.’”

2. Experiment. Trying new curriculum can be disruptive in the middle of a school year, Magruder says, and developing new study materials can be a time-consuming burden if tackled yearround. Instead, she says, “use off-peak times like summer to try new things,

4. Provide resources for families to use at home. Parents and kids who study the Bible together in the summer can create a habit that lasts all year. “Although families may not be coming to church as regularly, they might be spending more



sic mu hip s r o V BS w

Facts & Trends • 39

time together,” Magruder says. “It’s a great opportunity to encourage them to get into the Word together.” 5. Recruit new volunteers. Volunteers go on vacation too—and without them, many kids’ ministries can’t even open their doors. To fill the summertime gap, leaders can attract new people with a short-term commitment: “Hey, I really need help for just six weeks. Will you be around?” Some may discover they love children’s ministry and stick around for the long term.


P2 Miss

n pa tici par ions


o rk

si nC

le v

elan d, O

h io

1. Be creative with the calendar. Teens’ summer schedules are packed with camps, sports, summer jobs, and other commitments. To reach them, churches need to offer Bible studies and activities outside typical hours, says Paul Turner, student ministry expert. Churches may even need to offer the same event multiple times in a single week. “It requires more work of leaders, but if we’re called to equip the saints, we need to do it at times when students can actually be equipped.” 2. Get out of town. Summer camps and mission trips can immerse students in ministry and open their eyes in ways that are difficult to duplicate during the rest of the year, Turner says. Teens in search of activities to list on their résumés often discover something deeper. “They begin to understand the opportunity and really the responsibility we have to be involved in ministry.”

40 • Facts & Trends

3. Get into the community. While mission trips are great, students may not realize people in their hometown have the same needs, Turner says. Perspectives change when teens encounter nearby soup kitchens and homeless shelters. “Kids begin to realize these are real people, created in the very image of God,” Turner says. “We help them see how Christ is at work right here where we live.” 4. Build deeper relationships with smaller numbers. Summer attendance may be lower, but numbers don’t define success, Turner says. Less hampered by the demands of crowd control, leaders can focus on strengthening relationships and guiding students deeper into ministry, nurturing a faith that will ripple into kids’ adult lives. 5. Equip parents to be spiritual developers. Parents may try to outsource their students’ spiritual growth, Turner says: “I’ll send my kids to church, and the church is going to develop them spiritually.” But Deuteronomy 6 shows spiritual development is a parent’s responsibility. Youth ministers can support parents by saying, “I realize your role is the primary spiritual developer. What do you need from me? How can I best serve you? How can I resource you to be all that God wants you to become?”

ADULTS 1. Give people permission to be away. Instead of fighting the cultural trend, plan to be “the church scattered” during the summer, Dolberry advises. Your people will be traveling; show them how to be an extension of the church as they go. “It’s almost as if you’re mobilizing missionaries for the summer.” For those who remain at home, let summer be a time to relax and enjoy. SPRING 2017

3. Stream your services. With technology such as video streaming, people can engage in worship gatherings while they’re out of town. “If church leaders aren’t streaming their services, they should figure out a way to, especially in the summertime,” says Dolberry. “It’s easier now than ever before.” 4. Keep in touch. A weekly devotional— delivered by email or even via Facebook Live—can keep vacationers engaged in what’s happening back at church, says Dolberry. 5. Dive deep in a book of the Bible. Summer can be a great time for an in-depth study of a single book of the Bible, Dolberry says. “In the fall, when everybody re-engages, you’ve got a better picture of the Bible than you had when the summer began.” Kelly King, women’s ministry specialist for LifeWay, agrees. “Summer is a really good time to offer Bible studies for women, especially schoolteachers who may not have time during the school year,” says King. She suggests choosing Bible studies light on homework and easy to follow even when someone misses a week. Summertime brings new rhythms to

great way to connect. onli ne is a


2. Plan outreach opportunities. Where do people in your congregation tend to vacation? Contact ministries there and find out how visitors can help. Share the needs with your people and suggest they devote a day of their vacation to serving. “Pastors or Sunday school teachers can be proactive before the summer to offer those kinds of opportunities,” Dolberry says.

everyday life, and although church attendance may dip, the different pace can be a source of spiritual growth, Dolberry says. “God worked for six days creating, and then on the seventh day He rested—not because He was tired but because He changed his focus,” Dolberry says. “So, picture summer as a Sabbath time for a local church. Change your focus to something different from your normal rhythm throughout the year. “After the summer, we’ll celebrate—‘Look what the Lord did, not just in us while we gathered here but through us as we scattered from here.’”

c in gt

“Give your groups permission to get together, talk about life, laugh together and play corn hole in the backyard,” he says. The enhanced relationships will enrich the entire year.

es rvic g se n i m Strea

pla or

LISA CANNON GREEN (@LisaCCGreen) is managing editor of Facts & Trends.




•V  acation Bible School and Backyard Kids Club. Great summer traditions for kids.

• Authentic Love by D.A. Horton and Amy-Jo Girardier. The latest resource from the True Love Waits brand, it’s designed to help students develop a Christian ethic for personal holiness.

•U  nfolded: The Story of God by Eric Geiger. Covers the grand narrative of Scripture in a summer-friendly span of eight weeks.

•Z  IP for Kids. Create custom programming without starting from scratch. •F  oundations for Kids. A Bible reading program for families. LifeWay.com/kidsministry


•W  orld Changers, Infusion, P2Missions, Access International, Fuge Camps, and Student Life offer opportunities to disciple your students and help them live on mission. LifeWay.com/students

•K  nowing Jesus by Robby Gallaty. Videos are available for individual download. • Seamless by Angie Smith. Covers the people, places, and promises of the Bible, tying them together into the greater story of Scripture. LifeWay.com/Men LifeWay.com/Women Facts & Trends • 41


our church members and visitors feel comfortable leaving their children in the hands of your children’s ministry staff and volunteers, and why wouldn’t they? Church is supposed to be a safe place full of good people, right?

Ideally, yes. But even in environments filled with people you love and trust, there’s the possibility of unwanted accidents and incidents that could harm the children entrusted to you in your kids’ ministry. Whether the senior pastor of a church, a children’s ministry director, a volunteer, or a parent of young children, we all have a role to play in keeping our children safe. To protect the kids at your church and to build healthy family ministries at your church, here are 10 essential child safety practices.

BACKGROUND CHECK EVERYONE Your church should run official criminal checks on every man, woman, and teenager who works on staff, volunteers, or interacts with the kids in your children’s ministry. Keep the background checks on file and update them routinely. Have a protocol ready in case a background check comes back with information that may disqualify someone from helping with the children’s ministry. This will rarely happen, but having policies in place beforehand will protect you from legal action.

42 • Facts & Trends


10 best practices for a safe children’s ministry In this protocol, write out a script template for those hard conversations. Include your church’s written children’s ministry policies and a list of non-negotiable disqualifiers for volunteers. EQUIP YOUR TEAM Establish a process for vetting and training new children’s ministry hires and volunteers. Your staff members and volunteers need training in basic first aid, child protection practices, emergency preparedness, your church’s check-in/ checkout protocols, any age-specific or ability-specific care, and the materials and methods for instruction being used. RECRUIT PLENTY OF VOLUNTEERS You need more than one or two adult volunteers for each Sunday school class



Practical ministry ideas for your church

and nursery room. Make sure you have an adequate ratio of adults to children in each age group. We all know things happen: Trusted volunteers may get sick or decide to take a spontaneous vacation on Friday night, leaving classrooms unattended for the weekend. If you have plenty of properly trained and vetted volunteers, you will have people to call on when they’re needed unexpectedly instead of wrangling the first willing (and untrained) person you find. ESTABLISH “POTTY-TIME” RULES Clear bathroom protocol and rules are a must. They help volunteers avoid confusion and potentially uncomfortable situations—especially if your volunteers have never been parents themselves. Encourage the children to do as much for themselves as they are capable of (undressing, wiping, flushing, etc.). It’s not only good form—it also teaches the kids good habits and boundaries. When taking potty-trained children to the restroom, at least two volunteers should go with them. Ideally, each room of kids should have at least two workers with the rest of the kids as well, which leads to the next best practice. ASSIGN FLOATERS Have at least two designated volunteers whose only assignment is to go roomto-room and check on volunteers. These people can relieve adults who need to tend to emergencies, take a child to the restroom, find a parent, or assist with a messy cleanup or replenishing resources. INSTALL DUTCH DOORS Dutch doors—which are cut in half and unlatch separately—are a huge help with both check-in and checkout time. Keep the bottom door latched and pass small children (walkers up to first grade) over the door to their guardians.

This can prevent anarchy as children trample one another to get out the door and to their parents. It also keeps young children from running out the door before it’s time for them to go. PRACTICE EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS Every child care room should be equipped with a first-aid kit, disinfectant, and children’s antihistamine (for emergency allergic reactions when no epinephrine injector is available). Volunteers need to know where fire extinguishers and exit plans are, have access to first aid, and have immediate access to a phone and water source. Also, keep a list of children with food allergies posted somewhere and send routine reminders to staff and volunteers of any medical conditions to be aware of. Have lists of parents’ and emergency phone numbers easily accessible. In addition to having all of these resources handy at every moment, make sure your volunteers are regularly trained on what to do in case of any type of emergency—where the exit plans are, how to handle a medical emergency, who knows CPR, whom to call in each situation (and in what order to call them), etc. CHECK-IN/CHECKOUT SECURITY Check-in and checkout security and organization are vital for any children’s ministry. You can easily print matching identification tags using sticky label sheets and a computer spreadsheet. Print them in pairs; put one on the child’s shirt back and give one to the parent. You can also include phone numbers and names on the stickers in case a parent needs to be contacted to come get a child during the worship service or event. This is an especially important practice for churches with large children’s ministries. We never think people would try to take a child, but if someone wants to kidnap a child, where would that person


Facts & Trends • 43

go? To where kids are accessible and parents are unsuspecting. This system also protects children who may have strict custody regulations. The matching sticker system requires adults to prove the child in question belongs with them. The rule is you can’t claim your kiddo if you don’t have the matching sticker. It is best to enforce this rule universally, even when you are very familiar with families. This way no one feels singled out and everyone is equally protected. TRAIN VOLUNTEERS AND STAFF TO SPOT ABUSE Sexual abuse is easy to overlook and presents itself through peculiar behaviors. Require a training seminar for all staff (even non-children’s ministry staff) and regular volunteers about how to spot physical and sexual abuse. Also, make sure your staff and volunteers know whom to go to if they suspect any child is suffering from physical or sexual abuse. Many private agencies—Darkness to Light is particularly noteworthy— offer resources, training seminars, and awareness certifications to prevent child sexual abuse. No matter the cost, if it spares one child from the pain of enduring abuse, the worth is invaluable. There may be no better way to show children the character of God than to see them and shelter them when no one else can or will. We can do that only if we know the signs of physical and sexual abuse.

DIG DEEPER • LifeWay.com/BackgroundChecks •T  he Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline: 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453) • LifeWay.com/kidsministry

Failure to report suspected abuse, if substantiated, is considered illegal for mandated reporters and can result in legal action. Every church should have an established channel for reporting suspected child abuse to the appropriate authorities. If you are a children’s minister or pastor and you do not know how to report abuse, please schedule a time in the next two weeks to do research or enroll in training. It is vital to know what to look for and how to respond when a child is being hurt. What a difference it makes when a church community is on the lookout for the welfare of its children. The Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with professional crisis counselors who have access to a database of 55,000 emergency, social service, and support resources. All calls are anonymous. Contact the hotline at 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453). Children’s ministry staff and volunteers are an essential part of a healthy congregation. Having happy and safe children in kids’ ministry keeps parents engaged in the church. Use these best practices to help ensure your children’s ministry keeps all kids safe and is set up for long-term health and growth. This article first appeared at Vanderbloemen. com/blog. Vanderbloemen Search Group is a retained executive search firm that helps churches and ministries build great teams by finding their key staff. To subscribe to Vanderbloemen’s free church leadership blog, visit Vanderbloemen.com/blog.

REPORT ABUSE TO THE PROPER AUTHORITIES Many states classify anyone who works with children, including church volunteers and clergy, as a mandatory reporter. That means they’re legally required to report any suspected child abuse to law enforcement or family services.

44 • Facts & Trends


4 ways to fail at expository teaching By Jesse Campbell


ome Bible study lessons and sermons begin with an idea and then proceed to show what the Bible has to say about that topic. This approach is often called topical teaching and can be useful when trying to help people see biblical truths about a relevant issue.

Other sermons and lessons, however, begin with the Bible and let the Scripture dictate the subject matter. This is called expository preaching and teaching. In expository teaching, topics and practical applications flow directly from what the Bible teaches and from the inspired earthly author’s original intent. Pastors or teachers exposit the biblical text when they explain the meaning of the passage and help the audience understand how to apply those truths today. Done well, an expository approach to preaching and teaching can increase listeners’ understanding of a text and devotion to Christ. But, like any other method of teaching, it can be done poorly. Here are four ways to fail at expository teaching. 1. Make the Scripture fit your agenda.

If you must contort the message of Scripture or take intellectual leaps to make it flow with your preconceived thesis, then you’re constructing something other than an expository message. The strength of an expository message is in the Scripture itself. You are merely delivering what the Bible says, not trying to make the Bible say what you had in mind before preparing your message. You are the messenger, not the Author. There is comfort in this, because difficult and convicting aspects of your message come straight from the Holy Spirit and not from you. This takes pressure off you. But there can be wariness as well, because you must teach difficult passages. Don’t feel you must heavily massage every difficult passage in your teaching to avoid making unchurched visitors uncomfortable. In my experience, skeptical

guests often appreciate having tough questions on tough passages answered or at least addressed in the sermon. 2. S  how no regard for the original intent of the Scripture. If you provide an insight with which the Spirit-inspired original earthly author would disagree, then you have failed not only at expository teaching in that moment but also at Bible teaching in general.

A message that pays no mind to literary, historical, cultural, or theological context is not an expository message. — Jesse Campbell

There are multiple forms of context that can help a modern-day audience better understand a biblical text, and an expository message uses them in various proportions depending on the passage. A message that pays no mind to literary, historical, cultural, or theological context is not an expository message. 3. Instead of giving a Spirit-filled call to obey the Scripture, just give a rich lecture. If you do the work of exegesis (digging into the original context) but don’t do the work of hermeneutics (showing people how the original context relates to


them today), then you have merely given an historical lecture or textual analysis. By all means, research the lives of the original recipients. Understand the political climate of the biblical day and know its cultural idiosyncrasies. Research the context deeply, but understand that much of your work won’t be a part of your message. Share what’s necessary in the message and leave the rest on your messy desk, knowing it has ensured theological accuracy in your teaching. Remember, we aren’t called merely to educate. We must be filled with the Spirit. We do not explore a dead document. The Word is living and active. 4. F ail to call people to action in light of what Scripture teaches. Too often, pastors and Bible study teachers share fascinating insights into the biblical world but run out of time and never say what Scripture has to do with today. Think on the question “Now what?” throughout your session or message. Prioritize time for showing how the Scripture applies today. Because you’ve done the work of exegesis and because you’ve shared pertinent aspects of that research in your teaching, you can call people to live out Scripture in a way that is consistent with Scripture’s original intent. Then watch the Holy Spirit take the Word and radically change lives. JESSE CAMPBELL is the brand manager of LifeWay’s Explore the Bible and the author of I’m a Christian—Now What? and What it Means to Be A Christian by B&H.

DIG DEEPER Explore the Bible is a book-by-book Bible study for small groups of all ages. Try Explore the Bible for free at LifeWay.com/ExploretheBible.

Facts & Trends • 45


The language of heaven By AAron EARLS



n Matthew 18:22, Jesus tells us we are to forgive someone who sins against us “70 times 7” times. But does that include forgiving death threats, explosions, and murder? Rebecca Nichols Alonzo says yes. “Forgiveness is the language of heaven,” says Rebecca, author of The Devil in Pew Number Seven. In her memoir, Rebecca describes witnessing a six-year terror campaign against her parents by Horry Watts, a powerful county commissioner. Watts held a deadly grudge over the influence he’d lost when Rebecca’s father, Robert Nichols, became pastor of Free Welcome Church. During Rebecca’s childhood, her mother recited the classic children’s prayer with her: “If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.” But in the parsonage in Sellerstown, North Carolina, in the 1970s, dying in the night was a real possibility for 46 • Facts & Trends


Rebecca and her younger brother, Daniel. Someone was trying to kill their father. That person happened to live right across the street. And on most Sundays he was glaring and threatening from his normal seat in the church. Rebecca recalls the horrors her family experienced—like 10 separate bombings, one of which sent shrapnel through Daniel’s room where he was sleeping in his crib. After the blast that almost killed Daniel, Watts stood outside his home, laughing and yelling across the street: “If that one didn’t get you, the next one will.” Through it all—the threatening letters, anonymous phone calls, shotgun blasts through the home—Watts was still a leader in good standing at Free Welcome Church. But everything changed on the Thursday before Easter Sunday, 1978. The pastor and his family were at the dinner table about to say the blessing. As 7-year-old Rebecca and 3-yearold Daniel looked on, Harris Williams walked into their home and shot Robert twice, then turned his gun on Ramona, their mother. Ramona died before help arrived, and Robert was severely injured. Investigators believe Watts and his associates convinced a drunken Williams that his wife was having an affair with the church’s pastor. In reality, Williams’ wife had fled because of his drinking and had sought shelter with the pastor’s family. Williams was later convicted of second-degree murder and assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill. He was sentenced to life in prison. Rebecca’s and Daniel’s lives changed forever. But their parents’ legacies have stayed with them. “As a child, I watched my parents love, pray, forgive, and stand on the Word of

God,” Rebecca says. “Our parents never spoke ill of anyone around us, even the man who was trying to kill our family.” Though it took time, she chose to follow the example of her parents. “If they had not forgiven and not taught me as a little girl to pray for our enemies, it would have destroyed me with anger and bitterness,” she says. After going through depression as a teenager and wrestling with why God would allow such pain and devastation in their lives, Rebecca says she “had a profound realization I needed God more than I needed to be mad at Him.” That forgiveness was put to the test when she received a call from Horry Watts. Ten years after the murder of her mother, 17-year-old Rebecca listened as the man behind her nightmare of a childhood asked for forgiveness. “I can’t live the rest of my life without knowing you’ve forgiven me,” he told her. Then he asked an impossible question: “Can you?” He said he’d found Christ during the one year he spent in prison after pleading no contest to conspiring to bomb the church and the Nichols home. “Mr. Watts,” Rebecca said, “we forgave you a long time ago.” She points to the cross and how Jesus forgave those who were crucifying Him. “Jesus was speaking the language of heaven,” she says, “a language humans don’t understand because when we’re hurt, we want revenge. But Jesus wanted to forgive no matter the cost, because the relationship that would come from it was worth it.” When asked how she moved beyond the pain into forgiveness, Rebecca speaks of God’s faithfulness and the blessings that continued throughout her life. She also mentions three practical steps.


Facts & Trends • 47

“Forgiveness is a daily choice I have to make.” —Rebecca Nichols Alonzo

Free Welcome Church in ’70s

DIG DEEPER •T  he Devil in Pew Number Seven by Rebecca Nichols Alonzo

AARON EARLS (Aaron.Earls@lifeway.com) is online editor of FactsAndTrends.net.


48 • Facts & Trends

Part of it, she says, is realizing the real enemy is not the person you see. “The enemy loves to use people, who are created in God’s image, to hurt others,” she says. Understanding this helped her shift the blame and anger away from individuals onto Satan. “Another part of forgiving was learning our Heavenly Father redeems every drop of pain,” she says. “I don’t have to get revenge. I don’t even have to wait for an apology. I can give it to God, let Him handle that person, and redeem it, restore it, and use it to help others.” Finally, Rebecca says, “Forgiveness is a daily choice I have to make.” As she thinks through what she has lost and continues to miss her parents, she asks herself, “Will I continue to walk in forgiveness or will I slide back down into the mud of misery, grudges, and loss?” And her answer always comes back, “I choose forgiveness.” Though she now lives in Tennessee, she went back to Sellerstown a few years ago. Old friends still live there. Rebecca says they will always be a part of her life, regardless of the time or distance separating them. Driving down Sellerstown Road, one can still see Free Welcome Church. Nestled between modest homes and sprawling farmland, the church stands, defying the pain of the past and building on the legacy of its former pastor. Much like Rebecca, the church has continued, wounded, but infused with grace by a pastor and his wife who taught what it means to follow Christ, what it means to persevere, and what it means to forgive. “We are not victims,” Rebecca says. “We are victorious.”



These and other resources are available at LifeWay stores and LifeWay.com.

Practical resources for you and your church

Books and Bible Studies This Is Our Time: Everyday Myths In Light of the Gospel By Trevin Wax

How can we resist being conformed to the pattern of this world? What will faithfulness to Christ look like in these tumultuous times? How can we be true to the gospel? In This is Our Time, Trevin Wax provides snapshots of 21st-century American life. By analyzing common beliefs and practices (smartphone habits, entertainment intake, and our views of shopping, sex, marriage, politics, and life’s purpose), Wax helps us see through the myths of society to the hope of the gospel. As faithful witnesses to Christ, Wax writes, we must identify the longing behind society’s most cherished myths (what is good, true, beautiful), expose the lie at the heart of these myths (what is false and damaging), and show how the gospel tells a better story – one that exposes the lie but satisfies the deeper longing.

Never Enough? 3 Keys to Financial Contentment By Ron Blue with Karen Guess

Have you ever worried that doubling down on your debt repayment is robbing your family of memories and fun? Or had a major appliance fail, right after splurging on an expensive purchase or vacation? The tension between giving to church or charity and paying for your kids’ tuition or sports equipment is real. Money and life are inextricably linked. Both of them need to be handled with steady applications of wisdom and biblical integrity, even when they seem

in direct competition. Veteran financial counselor and trusted author Ron Blue helps you navigate the seeming incompatibilities of money management. His liberating, simplifying analysis breaks down all your financial options to a basic four, then shows you how to adeptly keep them spinning alongside one another without leaving you consumed by confusion or regret—in fact, with all your dreams, plans, and principles still intact.

Technicolor: Inspiring Your Church to Embrace Multicultural Ministry By Mark Hearn

By 2050, Pew Research projects, the United States will no longer have a majority ethnic group. The nation’s population will be majority-minority. This future nationwide reality has already been a present reality in several cities, including many in the urban South, for nearly a decade. In a 2011 State of the City address, the mayor of Duluth, Georgia, said 57 languages were spoken at the local high school. Pastor Mark Hearn left asking himself, “How should our church respond?” In the years that have followed, a phenomenal transformation has taken place. Now, Hearn shares the life-changing story of First Baptist Duluth through his own lens. By reading his firsthand experience of this transition as a pastor, you too can be equipped to make the shift to church in technicolor.


Facts & Trends • 49

ON OUR RADAR Practical resources for you and your church

The Money Challenge: 30 Days of Discovering God’s Design for You and Your Money (June 2017 release)

You were meant for more. Your money was meant for more. You and your money are meant for an exciting, adventurous, and satisfying purpose. God designed you to be a conduit through which His generosity flows. In The Money Challenge, Art Rainer takes you on a journey to financial health. But it is not simply for the sake of financial health. The Money Challenge was written to help experience God’s design for you and your finances.

churches of those times and for churches today. Despite our best appearances, modern churches have shortcomings. Yet there is still time to awake from spiritual lethargy and deadness and embrace the mission God has for His church today.

The Gospel Goes to Work: God’s Big Canvas of Calling and Renewal By Stephen R. Graves

Work is core to our lives. And the gospel is core to our faith. In this Bible study, author and executive coach Stephen Graves introduces a framework that explores not only how the gospel should shape our work but also how it could. Too often taking our faith into the workplace amounts to evangelism or moral responsibility. This study takes us further into our faith in such a way that we embody the gospel as a part of our work, office, home, or anywhere work may take us.

Letters of the Revelation: To Those Who Conquer By D.A. Horton

Revelation is perhaps the most studied and discussed book in the Bible. This study explores the challenges, failures, expectations, and victories of those churches. It gives believers a better context for end-times theology and reveals the cultural implications for the 50 • Facts & Trends

Among Wolves: Disciple-Making in the City by Dhati Lewis

Our world is changing. Our cities and neighborhoods are brimming with vibrant diversity. And while communities may have embraced this change, many churches have not. In Matthew 10, Jesus challenged His disciples by telling them, “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep among wolves.” And He is calling us to do the same—to make disciples wherever we live, work, and play. Among Wolves is available as a Bible study and a book. The Bible study explores eight movements in the Book of Matthew that will help you create cultures of disciple-making in your changing city. SPRING 2017

These and other resources are available at LifeWay stores and LifeWay.com.


TelePastor TelePastor is a new video conferencing program churches can use for secure, HIPAA-approved counseling from a distance. By using the e-Psychiatry platform, TelePastor allows pastors or church leaders to have confidential video communication over the internet. The program grants flexibility for pastors and counselors, as well as church members. While traffic, work schedules, child care, and travel often prevent meetings, TelePastor enables connections from the convenience of the home or office. It also enables pastors to quickly check on a parishioner when a longer appointment may not be needed. TelePastor can also be used for numerous other applications: helping small groups stay connected, visiting with shut-ins, keeping new moms connected to their community, or welcoming new individuals. TelePastor.com

Conferences Send Conference The Send Conference 2017 offers encouragement and practical takeaways for all Christians to know why and how to join God’s global mission in their everyday lives. Students, families, business professionals, and church leaders will experience two powerful days of main sessions, breakouts, and worship. The Send Conference is driven to provide practical ways and next steps for attendees to allow God to weave the rhythms of their lives, jobs, schooling, and relationships into His global mission. The diversity of main stage speakers shows the range of possibilities, from IMB President David Platt to rapper Trip Lee to Los Angeles County urban church planter D.A. Horton and Hope Church Las Vegas Pastor Vance Pitman. Breakouts by leading practitioners will provide perspective-changing ideas and practical resources for everyone—student, business leader, or mom—to join God’s global mission. Send Conference Dallas May 19-20, Dr Pepper Arena

Send Conference Orlando July 25-26, First Baptist Church Orlando



Facts & Trends • 51

Non profit Organization U.S. Postage


Nashville, TN Permit No. 2

Facts & Trends is published by LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention® One LifeWay Plaza, MSN 192, Nashville, TN 37234



Canadian Report Also Available!

DON’T GUESS WHAT WORKS. KNOW IT. Planting and multiplying churches requires prayer and planning. NewChurches.com wants to help you by sharing exclusive research on what works and what doesn’t at churches across North America. Based on the largest research study ever conducted on church planting, this information will prove an invaluable resource as you take your next steps.

Download these free eBook reports at NewChurches.com

Profile for Facts & Trends

Facts & Trends - Spring 2017 - Unchurched America  

Facts & Trends is designed to help pastors, church staff, and denominational leaders navigate the issues and trends impacting the church by...

Facts & Trends - Spring 2017 - Unchurched America  

Facts & Trends is designed to help pastors, church staff, and denominational leaders navigate the issues and trends impacting the church by...