todd clark

How To Reach & Keep Families – PART ONE

I am at the Orange Conference in Atlanta this week speaking & soaking up so many great lessons.

This is PART ONE of my session “How To Reach and Keep Families.”

I am breaking this blog article into two parts because the session talked first about “WHO” we are trying to reach and then “HOW” to reach and serve them.

I began the session with this over arching statement.

I believe many churches are still trying to reach families that existed 5, 10, or in some cases even 20 years ago.

These churches are frustrated and they are not growing because they are aiming at the wrong target!

mattemmonsIt’s like Matt Emmons who was just one shot away from claiming the Gold medal in the 50 meter rifle event in the 2004 Olympics. He didn’t even need to get a bulls-eye to win. All he needed to do is hit the target. And he made a great shot that would normally receive a score of 8 or 8.1  But in what was described as “an extremely rare mistake” actually fired at the wrong target! He was standing in lane #2 and he fired at the target in lane #3.  Matt’s score for a great shot at the wrong target? ZERO! Instead of getting the gold medal he got 8th place.

Here is the lesson friends …
[Tweet “It doesn’t matter how accurate you are if you are aiming at the wrong target!”]

So before we consider HOW to reach, serve and keep new families let’s talk about WHO they are.

Here are five things about “who” we are trying to reach.

1. They are “omni-aware.”

What I mean when I say “omni- aware” is they are “constantly connected.” They are aware of all the good and all the bad in the world the moment it occurs. Think about that …

– We see every heroic act immediately thus creating all kinds of unintended hero’s.
– We see every violent act immediately thus creating all kinds of super villains.

It’s like we are living in a comic book.

And this is largely due to the connected world in which we live.

As Leonard Sweet says, “We are living in a T.G.I.F. Culture!”


These mobile technologies have made us instantaneously and omni-aware of all the good & bad moments that happen in real-time all around the globe. And often what happens to people when they get a real-time look at the world is they get depressed and full of anxiety because frankly it often looks like the Church is losing.  Whether people are followers of Jesus or not it can appear that our world is spinning out of control. They feel hope-less.

I believe it’s our job as leaders of God’s Church to remind people about God’s view.

It is our job to understand this loss of perspective and be ready to offer a fresh perspective, dexterity and HOPE!

2. They are lonely.

The families we are seeking to reach today are more connected than any generation before them – but simultaneously more lonely. This is causing them to change how they view the local church.

The families we want to reach, serve and keep today are not just looking for “content” they are looking for “community.”

They are wondering why they need to keep coming to a church campus when they can get the same “content” online?

I believe the main reason people come to our campuses is very quickly becoming community! They want a place to belong.

We must become experts in community not content to reach the families in our communities. I would go so far as to say that churches that only provide good content will eventually be closed. (Think about Blockbuster Video!)  Churches in the future who offer real community and good content will successfully make the cultural shift and grow forward.

[Tweet “People are lonely and they are looking for community not simply content from their church.”]

3. They are stretched and stressed.

This has many implications. Here are just three …

– They attend less.

“The typical rhythm of being a family—even a good Christian family—is becoming less connected to church engagement. Two decades ago a “regular church goer” was a person who attended at least three weekends per month and often several times per week. But today a regular churchgoer shows up for worship once every four to six weeks.”
– Churchless (Barna Group)

– They read less.

Most of the people who you are trying to reach have not read the Bible this week or month which means you have to over explain everything. They do not know all about Moses, Noah, Paul or Jesus.

In addition you cannot expect them to know where to turn in the Bible to find a book or verse. They have no idea where to turn because many of them have never had to turn a page to find a verse!  The people we are trying to reach, serve and keep today don’t “turn pages” they “type” in order to find a verse! This means most people in coming generations will never memorize the books of the Bible in order. But that’s ok because …

David never memorized the books of the Bible!

And it’s not how you locate a verse, it’s what you do with a verse once you locate it!

– They give less.

Generosity towards churches is shrinking for many reasons. Here are just two …

– Old Messages. People don’t fund fizzled out visions. We must cast strong, clear and compelling vision.  Our vision and strategy must be kept red-hot and front burner. People still give but they give towards rock solid, well-defined vision.

– Old Methods. People don’t carry cash or checks anymore.  If you’re still passing buckets and only allowing people one way to give you are simply going to get less.

4. They no longer view the church as the home team.

The people, families, we were reaching a decade ago saw the church as a friend and often a partner or ally. That is not the case today. The Church is the visiting team not the home team. That means we will often not “get the call” or be “applauded.”

We must act more like immigrants and missionaries to our communities.

[Tweet “The Church is no longer the “home team” reaching “traditional” families.”]

5. They are non-traditional.

The traditional family is the minority and almost extinct in our culture.  According to Barna Group, of the un-churched population only 18% fit the “traditional family” model. That means 70% – 80% of the people we are called to reach are non-traditional … let that sink in!!! They are …

– Blended
– Single Parent
– Divorced
– Couples Living Together
– Same Sex Couples

Pew Research says, “single parents are the fastest growing family demographic in our nation.”

The bottom line is our world is going through a massive shift and families have changed.

“Every few hundred years in Western history there occurs a sharp transformation. Within a few short decades, society rearranges itself – its worldview; its basic values; its social and political structure; its arts, its key institutions. Fifty years later, there is a new world. And the people born then cannot even imagine the world in which their grandparents lived and into which their own parents were born. We are currently living through just such a transformation.” – Peter Drucker

And my fear is that many churches and leaders today are aiming at the wrong target!  May we as leaders become very familiar with WHO we are being called to reach and serve before we come up with HOW we are going to do that.

In the next Live Curious article we will consider HOW to reach, serve and keep these families.

Blessings curious friends.

*** My wife Rene is not with me in Atlanta so she did not proof this article. PLEASE give me grace on my use of the English language!

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todd clark


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