I like Lifeway’s new emphasis on research. Hopefully this will help them to provide resources that really connect with churches that are making a difference. Lifeway’s biggest sellers have always been their dated material, the Sunday School curriculums that so many Baptist churches use. However, with so many churches foregoing Sunday School in favor of small groups, they are struggling to catch up. Here are results on a new study they have just completed.
LifeWay Research and Dr. Thom Rainer were fortunate enough to be able to study 19 of the 22 churches and discovered four common elements.
- Pastors Set the Bar: Interviews indicate the churches have taken on the vision, priorities, and values of the senior pastor. Staff and lay leaders find it easy to follow the pastor. There are high levels of trust in these pastors.
- Church Atmosphere: These churches are consistently described as “exciting,” “dynamic,” “energetic,” “upbeat,” “friendly,” “welcoming,” “warm,” and “positive.”
- Evangelistic Appeal: Pastors indicate they seek to include the gospel in most, if not all, of their sermons. They stress the importance of preaching the gospel and providing opportunities for lost people to respond. More than two-thirds indicate they offer a public invitation at the end of every service. The others invite inquirers to fill out a decision card.
- Intentional Outreach: The pastors are focused on reaching people for Christ. Whether it’s through focusing the content of sermons, planning the worship services, or simply the nature of church programming, it is clear that everything is designed with outreach in mind.
Although similar in the above qualities, these churches did use different methods regarding preaching, styles of worship, evangelism training, and small group strategies.