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Sticky Church Webinar

September 3, 2008

I like to listen to a lot of different pastors to hear their hearts, what God has done in their midst and to learn from them.  One of those guys that challenges me is Larry Osborne of North Coast Church in San Diego.  I am not always on board with everything he is about, but he is about Jesus and so am I.  I participated in the Sticky Church Webinar today (hosted by Leadership Network) and below are my notes.  There are some things that seem to be good advice for his context and specific philosophy, but our context and philosophy are different and how we integrate his teachings will be different than you see here.  But that will be a later post.  Here are my notes from the Sticky Church webinar:

What is stickiness?

  • Stickiness goes beyond assimilation. Assimilation is more about church growth and stickiness is about discipleship.
  • Stickiness is found in significant long-term personal relationships.
  • Stickiness slams the back door shut.

How did our back door problem occur?

  • A front door focus (overemphasis on the front door with entertainment driven focus)
    • As long as the front door is bigger than the back door, a church will think it is growing. The big front door swells attendance and if we don’t know our people closely we just see numbers increasing and think things are great.
    • When the front door can’t be opened any wider, a church stops growing
    • (JV: he didn’t say a broad front door was bad, just that an overemphasis on the front door was a problem)
  • Measuring the wrong things
    • We have forgotten to measure retention rates
      • Growth from 250 to 500 members at 30% retention rate takes 834 new members over 10 years.
      • Growth from 250 to 500 members at 70% retention takes 357 members over 10 years.
  • Mission creep
    • The first half of the mission has trumped the back half. It is not just baptizing, but also making disciples.  (JV: amen to this statement)
      • Him (Jesus) we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.” Colossians 1:28-29
    • The ‘Leave the church > Come back to church cycle
      • People enter through the Children’s Program, move to the Youth Program and leave the church after HS. Then begins the newlywed/college fade, they start a family, and then come back to church, wanting to give their children the experiences they had. This cycle begins anew with their children.
    • Parable of the four soils
      • We celebrate the quick growth of the new believer, but Jesus says to be careful with the quick growth believer and that his roots may not be good. It is the harvest that counts.
      • (JV: I agree with him here that we don’t celebrate many good things worth celebrating)
  • Most of our small group models are broken
    • In recruiting we emphasize relationships and depth of relationships. Not long after we get them in groups, they become a tool for something else, ie: evangelism, church growth, church administration purposes (neighborhood movement)
    • It seems that SGs are re-engineered every 7 years. Perhaps something is wrong with our methodology.
    • Sermon based groups have worked well with over 80% adult participation for over 22 years at Osborne’s church, North Coast Church.
    • (JV: a key emphasis of this section was to not use SGs for evangelism and church growth, thereby causing them to split and multiply at later dates.  This of course is in opposition to many peoples uses of SGs, but they claim they have SGs who have been together for 17 years.  We each need to answer ourselves whether this is necessarily a good thing or not.  It does seem to put the emphasis on the Sunday morning front door and the starting of new SGs (rather than integrating them with old SGs) that new people through the front door can enter into.)
    • (JV: I continue to work through this, but I believe that discipleship takes place in the context of mission, so the fact they they are used for evangelism/church growth is an outworking of their growing faith and a necessary component to their maturity.  If people in SGs are sharing their faith, then those SGs will grow and need to multiply because they are adding people to their SG that they are already relationally connected to.  If they are sharing their church, then I guess those they invite through the front door can go to another SG.)
    • (JV: it seems that a SG that has been together for 17 years and growing as disciples should have outgrown itself just by sharing their faith with people they already know and inviting them into their relational community, the SG.  It would seem odd to share your faith with a friend and then tell them to find another SG.)
    • (JV: the way for us at Soma Austin (until God speaks further) is to keep missional communities as they are at this time, and the way we can minimize the ‘splitting’ factor is to stay consistent with our mission focus and send out new missional community leaders with one or two other people/couples, rather than splitting a whole group.  Let’s raise up missional leaders in our communities and send them out.)

Q&A

Q: Who manages the stickiness process?
A: It starts with the pastor.

Q: Can a church be too sticky (cultish)?
A: Yes, if it uses coercion or conveys that they are the only people of God.

Q: How do you get busy people to see the importance of relationships?
A: You can’t ask people to have too many relationships or too many times of being at church. It is not about lots of relationships but a few deeply spiritual relationships.

What can we do to become genuinely sticky?

  • We get what we measure and celebrate.
    • We tend to celebrate attendance, baptisms and new decisions. Whatever you celebrate and report you will focus on because you can’t allow yourself to go down in the numbers.
  • We need to learn how to celebrate retention
    • Members
    • Visitors
    • Staff
  • People are like LEGOS
    • Whether we have little blocks or big blocks, when all our connectors (relationships) get full, we become friendly but not relational.
    • It is not that we become cliquish but we have full relationships. That is why I regularly recommend starting new groups often for new people to connect with.
  • People need easy on and off ramps
    • If it is hard to get out of a group setting, then people will remove themselves and not give it a try a second time.
    • Stickiness and relationships cannot happen by assignments, they are relationships
    • (JV: agree with this one mostly, assimilate people into SGs through exisiting relationships first, and for those who truly come through the front door unescorted, you can invite them into newly forming groups)
  • People need a Mayberry setting, where they know others and others know them.
    • SGs that try to be evangelistic, or split all the time divide these groups.

How people grow spiritually

  • People grow in non-linear manners. We often design groups in ways different than people grow.
  • Growth happens in a need-to-know, need-to-grow manner (JV: goes to my arguement that discipleship happens best in the context of mission)
  • If people are velcro’ed to other Christians and the bible they have what they need to grow spiritually. (JV: this is a mostly true statement assuming they are in a local church and being led by the Spirit.)

Feel free to drop your own comments or to push back on my commentary.  Tomorrow they are emailing me a link to the powerpoint that was used and the audio.  I will post that link when I get it.

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