Faith Communities Today
New Fact Information
Outreach Visits by a Pastor
The most widely used method of evangelistic outreach is for the pastor to make personal contact with prospective church members. Nearly nine out of ten Adventist churches have used this method in the past year. Almost as many American religious congregations of all faiths have done likewise.
Less than one in eight Adventist congregations (13%) say no phone calls or personal visits by a pastor have been used in outreach in the last year, and a significant portion of these either do not have a pastor or have only a part-time pastor. Some 17% of all religious groups give the same report.
Reliance on this method is very likely one of the major barriers to church growth, especially for Adventist churches and probably for other congregations as well. It is one thing for a pastor to set an example of personal evangelism which is used for sermon illustrations and other teaching opportunities to encourage all members to be aware of opportunities for friendship evangelism. It is another thing for the congregation to expect that each new member is going to be brought to decision by a professional.
In many small and medium-sized congregations the pastor is the only “closer.” If he or she does not get a decision for baptism, then it doesn’t happen. In order to see significant growth, among other things, these congregations must add more people who can effectively “make the ask.”
This can be done in several ways: (1) Hire one or more professional Bible workers. (2) Get a student assistant from the religion department at an Adventist college or university. (3) Convince the conference to expand the pastoral staff. (4) Raise the money locally to support an additional staff member. (5) Find a retired pastor and convince him or her to work with the church on a volunteer or stipend basis. (6) Recruit and train one or more members to serve as Lay Ministers of Evangelism. No doubt you can identify more options.
Another possibility is to move beyond a model in which each individual who joins the church makes an individual decision through a personal conversation. There are “megachurches” and “tribal movements” around the world where the collective momentum is toward joining a church. This is true for the Adventist Church in parts of the world where the clergy can hardly keep up with the large numbers asking for baptism. But, for the Adventist Church in North America this would necessitate a significant change in organizational attitude and action.
1. How often does our pastor make personal contacts with prospective members?
2. Who else, beside the pastor, visits with prospective members and gets decisions to join the church?
3. Is this a bottleneck in our evangelistic outreach and church growth? If so, which alternatives are best for our congregation and the context in which we engage in mission?
The Adventist Congregations Today book and CD-R contain more research into issues affecting Adventist congregations. Learn more about the Faith Communities Today (FACT) research.
New FACT Information, Center for Creative Ministry