Start This Stop That: Do the Things that Grow Your Church is a book by Jim and Jennifer Cowart, Pastor and Director of Discipleship and Emerging Ministries at Harvest Church in Warner Robbins, GA. Peggy Hahn on our staff handed this book to me the other day. Pastor David Hansen in our synod handed it to her. It looked interesting so I set down my book on Baptist roots and plowed into this one, as the second book of my continuing education reading.
Start This Stop That has 26 chapters of 5-6 pages each for a total of 159 pages. There are 13 short chapters on things to start and 13 short chapters on things to stop.
Don’t think of this book as a how-to for churches by some expert. Think of it as a window into a Methodist Church that has done a great job of bringing people in. You won’t agree with everything. Not every idea will work in your place, but you will learn some things and get some great ideas to try out in your context. The theology won’t be a fit for many in my tribe. Focus on some of the methodologies that just make sense.
It wouldn’t be right for me to give away all the starts and stops, but here are some highlights to whet your appetite. The authors say there are four things you had better get right if things are going to work: children’s ministry, music, preaching and welcome. Amen.
They encourage you to stop having committees. Frankly, people don’t want them anyway. Make worship engaging. Preach for life application. Evaluate, non-defensively your worship. Listen to what people are telling you. Quit with the churchspeak.
Ask three things of people: worship, join a “community group” (small group) and join a ministry team. Then don’t over program. Don’t bottleneck or top-down ministries. Give ministry away. Pastor is the usual bottleneck. Let people serve according to their gifts.
Expect visitors. Don’t see them as an interruption, but as your mission. Invite. Activate your members as an invitation force. Print up invitation cards for special services. Have a pen day where you ask everyone to take one of the church pens and give it to a friend this week. Host lots of events: Picnics, concerts, speakers. Get to know your community. Do events that pique their interest. Easter egg hunts. Dodgeball. Wow them. Do them well. The authors share examples of invitation cards from their church.
Most people decide if they’re going to come back within the first few minutes. This means parking, greeting and building matter. Figure out how to make sure everyone gets three warm welcomes. Let the grumpiest serve somewhere else. Pay attention to your refreshments, bathrooms, and children’s rooms. Send first-time visitors a thank you letter with a coupon for a free Bible. The authors give examples of these too.
You cannot afford all the staff you need, so it’s critical to learn how to recruit, train and deploy an army of volunteers. The authors coach on that as well. Most of the ministry in your church does will be done through volunteers. Don’t ask people to do a job. Invite them to change the world.
Start using communication cards. Pads don’t allow to share prayer concerns confidentially. Get basic information and prayer concerns. Let them check if they’re a first or second-time visitor. Use the card to register for upcoming events. Invite them to some next steps in responding to the message. Let them indicate a desire to be baptized. There is an example of these cards as well.
Get solid information and track it. Worshippers, small groups, parking spaces, children’s ministries. Is what you are doing working? How do you know?
Confronting gossip. Run to conflict. Choose your staff very carefully. Hire positive, encouraging leaders. Hire team builders who reproduce themselves. Hire people not to do ministry, but to lead teams of people to do ministry.
Music dir not hired to sing. Office staff not hired to make copies but lead teams of laity. Hire admins not pied pipers. The authors offer great advice on hiring strategies. Hire 10 for 10s. Ten hours a week for $10/hour. $5200/year. If it goes well add hours. Hire slowly, fire fast. Think long courtship.
There’s lots more, but these will give you a taste of what you might encounter. This book is more about their congregation’s techniques that have worked in their context. Its a quick and easy read.