5-page paper synthesizing the 3-5 ideas from the readings that made the greatest impact on you, and how those ideas apply to yo



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ASSEMBLIES OF GOD THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY

STIMULATING CHURCH GROWTH THROUGH SCRIPTURALLY-BASED BUSINESS STRATEGIES: TARGETING CHURCHES


PLATEAUED OR DECLINING IN ATTENDANCE

A PROJECT SUBMITTED TO THE

DOCTOR OF MINISTRY COMMITTEE

IN CANDIDACY FOR THE DEGREE OF

DOCTOR OF MINISTRY

DOCTOR OF MINISTRY DEPARTMENT

BY

RICHARD vARNELL



PALM DESERT, CALIFORNIA

MAY 2013



Copyright © 2013 by Richard Varnell
All rights reserved

CONTENTS

CONTENTS 5

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS 8

LIST OF fIGURES 10

Chapter 1: INTRODUCTION 11

Context of the Project 11

The Problem 11

The Purpose 14

Definition of Key Terms 15

Description of the Proposed Project 15

Scope of the Project 15

Phases of the Project 17

Phase 1—Research 17

Phase 2—Planning 19

Phase 3—Implementation 20

Phase 4—Evaluation 21

Phase 5—Writing 22

Chapter 2: BIBLICAL-THEOLOGICAL LITERATURE REVIEW 23

Introduction 23

Imago Dei: Humanity’s Reflection of God 24

Understanding the Biblical Concept of the Image of God 25

Imago Dei as it Relates to Free Will 26

Imago Dei as it Relates to Work 29

Imago Dei as it Relates to Kingship 30

Imago Dei as it Relates to Reproduction 32

Imago Dei as Reflection through People of the Bible 33

Historical Understandings of the Meaning


of the Image of God 34

Community: A Reflection of God’s Triune Nature 36

Empowerment through Community 38

Community in the Life of Christ 39

Growth—God’s Plan 55

Biblical Emphasis on the Importance of


Financial Health in the Church 60

What the Bible Says About Money and Possessions 61

How Christians Should Use Their Money 64

How Christians Should Invest Their Money 66

Stewardship through the Creation of a Will 68

Conclusion 69

Chapter 3: GENERAL LITERATURE REVIEW 70

Introduction 70

Closing the Back Door 71

Identify Barriers to Church Growth 71

Physical Facility 71

Church Leaders 74

False Assumptions 75

Expecting Too Much Too Soon 76

Address Vision Limiters 76

Problem Solving Emphasis 77

I’m Busy Enough Now 77

Lockstep Vision 78

Grow Until You Can Survive 78

Generic Stand-Alone Church 80

“No Vacancy” Sign 80

Fortress Mentality 81

The Restoration of Our Golden Era 81

 John F. Kennedy, “Ten Quotes on Stop Living in the Past and Letting Go Past Mistakes,” Yahoo! Voices, http://voices.yahoo.com/ten-quotes-stop-living-past-letting-2432076.html (accessed September 7, 2012). 81

Closing the Back Door 82

High-Visibility Event 83

Win the War against Reversion 83

Facilitating the Retention of First-Time Guests 86

Intentionality in Plan 86

Identify First-Time Guests 88

The Communication Card 88

Who are the First-time Guests, and What are They Thinking? 90

Develop a Plan for Ministering to First-Time Guests 94

The Role of First Impressions 95

Planning for the Return of First-Time Guests 101

Effective Assimilation of New Attendees


into the Local Church 105

Assimilation through Friendship 107

Assimilation through Tasks/Roles 108

Assimilation through Small Groups 110

Sharing 110

Study 111

Support 112

Service 112

Assimilation through Spiritual Growth 113

Conclusion 114

Chapter 4: DESCRIPTION OF FIELD PROJECT 116

Preparation of the Project 116

Personal Experiences 116

Finding Churches to Participate in the Project 118

Execution of the Project 119

The Basics of the Project 120

Tracking Visitors and Regular Attendees 120

Establishing a Follow-Up Plan 121

Implementing an Answering Service 123

Implementing the Project at Church A 123

Implementing the Project at Church B 126

Implementing Project at Church C 127

Implementing Project at Church D 129

Results of the Project 130

General Observations 130

Results at Church A 132

Results at Church B 134

Results at Church C 137

Results at Church D 139

Summary of Results 140

The Project’s Contribution to Ministry 143

Chapter 5: PROJECT SUMMARY 145

Evaluation of the Project 145

Keys to Project Effectiveness 145

Keys to Project Improvement 149

Implications of the Project 151

Recommendations for the Southern California
District Council of the Assemblies of God 152

Recommendations for Future Study 154

Conclusion 155

APPENDIX A: invitation letter to pastors 157

APPENDIX B: pastor and church profile 158

APPENDIX C: church growth business concepts


church growth proposal for churches under 200 159

APPENDIX d: GETTING TO KNOW YOU ... (A LITTLE BETTER) CARD 163

APPENDIX E: WELCOME CARD—FRONT AND BACK 164

APPENDIX f: SAMPLE “MISSING IN ACTION” (MIA) LETTER 165

APPENDIX G: SAMPLE FIRST-TIME GUEST LETTER
(WITH CONTRIBUTION) 166

APPENDIX H: SAMPLE FIRST-TIME GUEST LETTER 167

APPENDIX I: SAMPLE SECOND-TIME GUEST LETTER 168

APPENDIX J: SAMPLE THIRD-TIME guest LETTER 169

APPENDIX k: SAMPLE second-Time guest LETTER
(with contribution) 170

APPENDIX L: SAMPLE THIRD-TIME guest LETTER


(with contribution) 171

APPENDIX m: SAMPLE thirty-DAY FOLLOW-UP LETTER 172

sources consulted 173


ABSTRACT

Most Assemblies of God (AG) churches in the United States experienced either a plateau or a decline in attendance during 2011. This statistic has caused concern at the local, district, and national levels of the Fellowship. One of the largest denominations in the world, with significant growth overseas, the AG now realizes that the home base needs attention regarding church growth. This project provides hope that the 6,000 AG stagnated churches can grow.

The purpose of this project is to help pastors of plateaued or declining churches experience measureable growth in attendance through the implementation of proper business strategies for accounting and visitor retention. The biblical-theological literature focuses on how the image of God, community, and financial health in the local church can help a church grow. Review of the contemporary literature provides research regarding “closing the back door” ((facilitating the retention of first-time guests and assimilating new attendees into the local church). The project thoroughly tested these concepts in four churches of varying sizes, backgrounds, ethnicity, and settings.

All four participating churches experienced growth ranging from 6 to 86 percent. Evaluation of the project reveals that growth cannot take place without a cultural change in the church that focuses primarily on the church’s attitude toward and treatment of first-time guests. The church must identify first-time guests and express genuine courtesy and hospitality to these people. The churches utilized an intentional and detailed plan for following-up on visitors; growth ensued with the implementation of the project plan.


ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

The opportunity to study at the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary ( AGTS) has been a highlight in my ministerial career. In the early 1970s, I had been waiting for the Seminary to open, and I attended my first class in January 1974. Dr. Melvin Hodges, Dr. Stanley Horton, and Dr. Anthony Palma were some of my first instructors. Their input into my life has been invaluable to me all of these years.

After more than thirty years, I returned to AGTS to work on my doctoral studies. The Seminary has a pattern of choosing great leaders such as Dr. Byron Klaus, President; Dr. Stephen Lim, Academic Dean; and Dr. Cheryl Taylor, Director of the Doctor of Ministry program. As Project Coordinator, Dr. Lois Olena served well beyond the call to duty. In the times that I wondered about continuing in the program, she spoke an encouraging word. I reaped countless benefits from her persistence.

The library and technical staff provided an immense amount of help in the research process. Their patience with me and their instructions on how to use the library resources were invaluable. Keith Jones assisted me many times with technical issues, and his willingness to help was repeatedly evident.

Dr. Deborah Gill encouraged me to take the course, “Following the Footsteps of the Apostle Paul.” The time my wife and I spent in Turkey was a treasured experience. We were privileged to travel to a part of the world we had never visited. The fellowship that Dr. Gill and her husband, Jan, lent to the trip made the experience even more enjoyable.

Dr. David Clark, my biblical adviser, provided insights that assisted me in thinking through important issues. The personal experiences of my project adviser, Dr. Michael Clarensau, brought insight and depth to this paper.

Susan Meamber served as my editor throughout the entire project. She not only provided professional expertise, but inspired me with hope in the midst of the journey.

My wife, Joy, finished her doctorate in education in 2006; therefore, she was very sympathetic to the challenge of writing a project of this magnitude. She lent a helping hand along the way and never complained about the time I spent on the project. She also spent nine months in Springfield, away from our children and grandchildren, so I could work on this degree. In addition, she traveled with me to visit the churches in the project. She provided me with continual support and encouragement. I could never ask for a more supportive wife.


LIST OF fIGURES

Chapter 1: INTRODUCTION




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