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Step 1. IDENTIFY YOUR TARGET GROUP. Churches that effectively add a new-style service have a clear understanding of the people group they want to reach. The difference between the current congregation and this new group may be age, spiritual maturity, music preference, language, ethnic identity, or some other significant definer. Such churches realize that one service cannot be all things to all people.

Step 2. DEFINE THE GOAL O F THE SERVICE. A goal statement for your new service should include who the service is for, why the service is needed, and what change the service will create in the lives of participants. This goal statement will help your congregation understand the reason such a high-visibility (and possibly high-risk) endeavor is being undertaken. If your church has a mission statement, explain how the new service contributes to the pursuit of that mission.

Step 3. IDENTIFY APPROPRIATE THEMES. Learn as much as you can about the “typical” person in your target group. Here are three questions you should ask about them: What do they worry about? What do they wonder about? What do they wish for? Identify these issues and the gospel’s good news answers. Then plan your service around them.

Step 4. DESIGN THE SERVICE. When you begin planning, keep this principle in mind: the sermon is not the message; the service is the message. Form a worship planning team and encourage creative preparation that communicates your message through a variety of media and learning experiences.

Step 5. DETERMINE A PLACE AND TIME TO MEET. Many churches begin in schools, hotels, or restaurants. All of those are less threatening to people who haven’t been in church lately. (And hopefully they are your target audience.) Just because you have a sanctuary/worship center is not a sufficient reason to use it for your new service. Multiple sites and simultaneous services are growing in popularity.

Step 6. INVITE YOUR TARGET AUDIENCE. The best way to get a “critical mass” in your first few services is through the networks of your existing people. Nearly one in three unchurched people say they would attend a church event if asked by a friend, whereas just one in one hundred will respond to the invitation of a stranger (or institution) by phone or mail. Print an attractive flyer about the new service and distribute copies for members to give to friends and relatives.

Step 7. FOLLOW UP WITH VISITORS. A successful new service requires effective visitor flow. Research shows that the visitor return rate is highest when the follow-up contact (ideally a phone call) is made within the first forty-eight hours. After that, return rates drop off progressively. 

GARY L. MCINTOSH is president of the Church Growth Network and professor of Christian ministry and leadership at Talbot School of Theology.

CHARLES ARN is professor of outreach at Wesley Seminary, Indiana Wesleyan University, and president of Church Growth, Inc.

Copyright © 2013, Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group. What Every Pastor Should Know: 101 Indispensable Rules of Thumb for Leading Your Church by Gary L. McIntosh and Charles Arn. Used with permission. May not be reproduced, scanned, copied, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without publisher permission from Baker Publishing Group.

*Charles Arn, How to Start a New Service (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1997).

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