Whiteboard: How Your Church Can Improvise Like MacGyver

church teaching tips

In this whiteboard session, Rodney explains how churches can use technology and the resources they already have to grow deep and wide.

Elexio Whiteboard: Magnets, Velcro, Gravity & MacGyver from Elexio on Vimeo.

Video Transcription:

Hi and welcome to an Elexio whiteboard. If I gave you a magnet, some Velcro, and an apple, what could you do? Could you make something? Well, I would say if you are MacGyver from the hit show from the late ’80s and early ’90s, you might be able to take a magnet, some Velcro, and an apple and make a fully articulated robot or a boat or a car or maybe a key to unlock some terrible trap that you are in. I’m having a bit of fun, but the name MacGyver has almost become synonymous with taking what you have and making something great out of it. If you’re not familiar with the show, almost always, MacGyver got into some situation and he would take whatever he had and make a difference in his situation.

Last week we started talking about this triangle and this book and the idea is an optimized church. And when I think about MacGyver, he’s an optimizer. He takes what he has and affects an outcome. And I love this part of the book where it doesn’t make the suggestion that your church needs to be perfect. It does not suggest that only churches that have unbelievable speakers that happen on Sunday mornings or great music, that those are going to be the reasons why you’re going to grow. It’s not that. It’s taking what you have, taking a hard look at it, and then optimizing it. And the book talks about identifying purpose which will lead to a purpose statement. And then we left off last time looking at the fact that those things will lead to a process, specifically acquisition and maturation processes when we talk about the congregation.

So we want to look today a little more specific at three, one, two, three, types of process specifically for acquisition. But before we do that we need to talk a little bit about space slugs. Now, if you are someone who loves Star Wars, like I do, you know that Jabba the Hutt is space slug. And that’s probably a little bit harsh. He’s a much more complex character than that. But for our purposes, a slug moves slowly, they’re a little bit annoying and in Jabba’s case, he’s huge. So if he came right now and was with us he would take over the space. And it would really be hard for me to accomplish what I want to do today because he’s in the way. Well, Allen calls out some things in the book that he calls purpose killers. It sounds harsh, but the point is there are things that may be a part of your church like departments. You have the youth department, the missions department, the children’s department. If everybody is in their own very compartmentalized areas, not thinking about the big purpose, that can be something that really messes this up.

He also mentions programs. Those are things that could mess up the church’s purposes, also events. I won’t get into a lot of detail but it’s certainly one of the parts of the book, that when I read it, It was like, “Hmm, maybe I need to really think about that in relation to the church that I’m a part.” So watch out for the space slugs. But let’s get to what we were talking about. What is a process? Well, this part I need to read from the book because it’s really great. Allen gets very clear. He doesn’t just leave that, “Oh, processes” and assume that you know what that means. Here is what Allen describes as a process: “A process is a formalized and systemized collection of defined practices integrated into a strategic and repetitive plan of action,” and I have to take a breath because this is long, “that can be measured and improved.”

Now, if you’d love to know more, again, get a copy of the book. It’s a great book. I’m going to focus in on some of the words that he mentions in that great definition. One of them is formalized, the other is systemized, repetitive, and measured. Processes need those attributes to really be effective. So what are these three microprocesses that help the church with the acquisition efforts that you may be having? Well, they’re actually connected to our little MacGyver things here. Some of your processes will be magnetic. Some of your processes will be like Velcro, and some will be gravitational. Now, we won’t get into all of these. I hope that maybe it makes you think, “Oh, maybe I should read that book.” Let’s talk a little bit about magnetic processes. These are the things that are pre-evangelism. They are things that attract people to your church.

You may be thinking in your head, “I’ve got those.” or “I don’t have those.” Some degree of figuring out do you have them is important. That is one of the processes. Velcro…once you have attracted them, how can you connect them. You know how Velcro works, it’s fascinating. You have the scratchy side and the soft side and somehow they grab together and they’re hard to pull apart. Allen suggests that your church needs those. Now, when I was reading the book and looking at the details of what he talks about in terms of Velcro processes, I thought back to last week when we talked about Cracker Barrel. The idea there is that we said you may go to all this work to come up with a great purpose, a great purpose statement, but then people look at your church and you seem irrelevant to them like the things you see on the wall at Cracker Barrel.

You see a tool…must have a process, but I have no idea what its relevance is to me. Well, when we look at getting specific in this area Allen calls out some things that all churches have, or almost all. Greeters, announcements, good old bulletins, the follow-up call, and notice ‘the’, and the letter. You may be sitting there thinking as you’re watching, “Well, my church tries to get people involved, and our Velcro tries to be somebody at the door that gives them a firm handshake.” Oh, that’s great. We make announcements about things, programs, or events that people will want to come to. Announcements, we also put those in the bulletin in case people want to take it home. We call people. We make one follow-up call to folks after they come. We may even send them a letter.

These aren’t bad things, but Allen wants to flip the script here, and he talks about the fact that everybody who comes through your door has a story or their story and that churches that are really being effective in their Velcro related processes are connecting to people’s stories in some very specific ways. He calls out purposeful people connections, needs identification, linking, and finally sustained follow up. He’s not saying don’t have these things, but he’s saying if you’re trusting these to be your Velcro you’re probably going to not have great success. You’ve got to make purposeful people connections. That is probably more than just somebody greeting them at the door. It’s probably more than just one phone call. In that process, identify their needs. Connect their needs to resources that your church might have or even community resources. And then finally, some sustained follow-up process.

Notice the connections over here. Formalize, systemize, sustained and repetitive, and certainly measureable. Let’s close with some thoughts about what could you do better. I would suggest that technology is certainly a thing that could help you be better. If MacGyver can take a magnet, Velcro, and an apple and as I jokingly said, turn it into a fully articulated robot, imagine what MacGyver could do with real tools. And I would say the same thing about you and your church. You have wonderful people that are a part of your church right now. Imagine what they could do with real tools and real data.

Let me leave you with three data points that Allen says is really what you’re measuring and trying to improve upon. Your visitor volume rate…how many people are coming through your door? Your visitor retention rate. That’s a percentage. Allen suggests that you should be retaining at least 25% of the visitors who come through your door. It’s unrealistic to think you’ll retain more but if you’re happy with 8% or 10%, well, you’re probably not going to be growing at the rates that you want. And finally, your back door rate. After people have been attending for a while do you know how many people are sticking around? There are ways to make an improvement. Some of it might be in getting rid of some space slugs. Some of it might be in adding some technology to support this process, but like we always say in our whiteboard sessions, the key is first identifying where you are and then seeking some help. Thanks for watching an Elexio whiteboard.

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