Archive for the 'Thoughts' Category

Published by Brian Slezak on 08 Apr 2006

Reaching Young Adults

Jim Hoffman posts on his blog starting a great conversation about how churches more often “do” church, rather than “be” church. This was close to my heart.

Published by Brian Slezak on 04 Apr 2006

Winning Gen-X for Christ, Part I

Last week at staff lunch Clif’s wife Laura joined us, and had a great question. How do you get in front of people of Generation-X? I’d never thought about this in-depth yet, so it immediately intrigued me, and I mulled it over a great deal last week and this weekend.

People of my generation have installed “salesperson filters” within our heads. For the most part we hate spam, direct mail pieces, and tv advertisements, and dismiss them immediately. I’m not sure about the majority, but I won’t even answer an unexpected knock at my door most of the time. If you think about it, we’re a really hard audience to reach! So how does a growing church-start get in front of Gen-X and let them know the church exists?

My wife and I discussed this and decided upon the two most effective ways of reaching us., and word of mouth and outreach.

For those looking for church, most of us will hit the Internet. This is a passive method for the church of course, because we have to be looking for church. Your church should be on the first page of results when searching for a church in the local area. From there, you need a website that reaches us, and has a primary goal to get us to show up. (There are entire books written on effective websites. Don’t Make Me Think) We will not pick up a yellow pages to look for a church. Also, make it easy for people within the church to reach out to others. Electronic invites, monthly newsletters, online conversations, etc., that we can forward on to others.

The active methods are word of mouth and outreach. Direct mail pieces will probably be thrown away as another advertisement. Don’t spam with e-mail, just don’t do it! We like person to person interaction, but beware the salesperson filter. Think of creative ways to tell them you are there and care about them. One thing my wife thought of was leaving a gift outside their door. (If you knock, we probably won’t answer the door.) Perishables are tough in the summer but use some critical thinking. Small baskets with mugs (my wife collects church mugs believe it or not), Kool-Aid or lemonade mix, candy molds / Popsicle molds, etc. This has cost limitations, but it’s that compassionate outreach we will respond to.

It sounds silly, but I’d give a church a chance if they left outside my door some beef jerky and a note of what they’re about and their Web address, because it’s outside the norm and took some creative thought. OK I may be weird, but you get the idea.

These ideas are nothing new, admittedly, but what I’d wager to say is different is the way of approaching us. Don’t go out selling the church or prodding that we should really come visit. Salesperson filter switched to ON. Go out making us aware the church cares about us, hopes we are well, and is a we can come to. Compassionate outreach. Appeal to the challenges we have with faith. It’s that difference that will touch us over missing us. Be prepared to touch us a few times too, because like most people it’s easy for us to dismiss a one time event.

Published by Brian Slezak on 26 Mar 2006

The New Revolution

I recently read a few chapters out of Barna’s new book, Revolution. My initial reaction to reading that most individuals will just leave the church was, “Eh, I’m not so sure I see it that way.” Since then, I’ve learned much more about myself and my church and I’ve moved more too, “Dude, Barna may be all over this.”

I didn’t really agree that Revolutionaries would find spiritual fulfillment outside the church institution. While my wife and I left our church, we didn’t find any suitable replacement and we stopped going for a short while. We felt something missing, and we went back, so worshiping in a church is important to us right?

My wife, which I’ve mentioned I consider a poster-child for the post-modern view, gave a response to my question, “Can you be spiritually fulfilled outside the church?” “Um, yeah!,” in a tone such as, “Well Yeah, duh!” As though that was a stupid question, and why didn’t I realize that? She is not required be in a sanctuary to worship the Lord, or even step inside a church building to feel spiritually fulfilled. Well, Barna 1, Slezak 0. Hmm.

Next I began relating Barna’s statements with my recent struggle with being a part of our church. Unfortunately, I found my view of our church was shared by many other young adults. Most of the young adults of our church have left to find other places to worship. I haven’t talked to any of those that have left, but I wonder where they’re going, or if they’re going at all.

As for me, I feel like I’ve come full circle. The more I give it thought and prayer, the closer I come to giving up on our church and finding a church that reaches those in their early 40s and younger. The average mainline church is too inflexible, too set in its way to go through the trouble of trying to reach us. We have a couple of churches with emergent or ancient / future services which I would like to try out, but we don’t have a good selection in this area of the Midwest I’m in. If I can’t find one, Barna 2 Slezak 0?

Now I think Barna’s got it right. The postmodern world view, along with the current state of the church is a great formula for my age of people leaving the church completely. The church is not fulfilling our needs, and in a world of rapid change and numerous choices, we’ll keep looking until we find it. And if we find that outside the church, why do we need church?

Published by Brian Slezak on 16 Mar 2006

The Great Cop-Out

One of my new goals is to keep up a trend of posting here on the end of the week. Last Friday I really wanted to write, but couldn’t pull it off. Last time I said I’d talk about Revolution, Barna’s recent book, but instead I’m going to stick with writing about my trials in church life.

After my Church is Failing, Part II post, Clif read it, and was quickly compelled to strike up the conversation with me. (We talk of philosophical subjects and church life a lot.) The short version was he felt a significant portion of my perspective was due to stage in life and generation gap. I’m sure those things are a factor, how can they not be, but I was not willing to give up as much as he was driving at. This writing itself could be dismissed as such, as that’s the age old cycle of growth – but doing so is a cop-out, and here is why.

I will not dismiss this as life stage so easily because I’ve heard that excuse used for the past fifteen years, and I’m sure I’ll hear it for the next fifteen. If everything is attributed to just being a stage in my life that I need to somehow grow past and get over, I can be getting away with a lot more than I have been thus far. 🙂 I believe this more to be a difference between post-modern and modern world views. Here’s is a quick example of the difficulty between post-modern to modern communication:

What a post-modern says: “I like this church. The people here are nice, and I like coming here. I don’t feel very connected with God when I worship here though. When I feel filled with worship, it is through high energy music that I connect with.”

What a modern seems to hear: “I like this church. The people here are nice, and I like coming here. You don’t do a good job reaching me during worship. You really need to change the service to have music that I like.”

This seems to me an intrinsic communication gap. So do you read the above and dismiss it as differences between how generations worship, or do you read it and see an opportunity to reach those with a post-modern world view? Dismissing it as generation gap is a cop-out because that answer is essentially, “This is the way we do church, or you could go somewhere else.” That’s … not the church I’ve read about. What young people from the post-modern world view are saying is “What you do works for you, but it just doesn’t work for me.” All the while most churches are struggling to reach post-modern people.

So my question still waits for an answer. Your worship doesn’t work for me, should I just go find someplace that does? In many places in life it’s easy to dismiss differences of opinion citing generation gap, but I do not feel you can do that in the church. One of the things the church should be is a place where people can go to have a closer relationship with God and worship Him. Many would agree that the church should be that place for young and old. Very few would agree to change the church to be able to do just that.

So how do you include both the young and the old and not change the church? What if we didn’t want to change the way your church is done, we just wanted church to include our needs too? How would you do that?

Published by Brian Slezak on 03 Mar 2006

Church IS Failing – Part II

In my previous post I expressed the concern of my wife and I about the worship service we attend. A service that has seen little growth over a year and is not nearly it’s former self. Most of the younger crowd is missing. I’d say we met with just about everyone we should meet with, and expressed our concern for not being fulfilled in the worship service we attend. We’ve talked with the praise band director, the senior pastor, and the director of Foundational Ministries.

Our conclusion is that the church is not changing at the pace it needs to. Each individual we talked to has a different story. I’m not about to point fingers, and there are plenty of other circumstances you could attribute it to, but the cold hard fact is that change was needed more than a year ago – and here we are in the same situation today. It’s no secret that the process of change has a greater lifespan within a church than outside of it, even in churches that are nimble. Our pastor, still newly appointed here nearly a year ago, has been extra careful with change. I understand not wanting to come off as dividing rather than a uniting – then again, how long do we continue to fail in face of not rocking the boat? In the life of a church, that can prove to be a while.

The questions that remain: Will as many people who needed the change still be around by the time change occurs? Will we still be there?

In talking with our pastor, he stated that he has implemented change in other churches quite successfully. He reminded us that change takes time. Sure, no problem. In fact, some of those changes took eight years to achieve. …. !?!?
[Insert another record scratch here]

Wow. In an age when technology allows information to flow at light speed and change to follow quickly behind, me thinks that churches need to learn how to change a bit quicker than that. I’m dumbfounded. I’m not suggesting that a change in worship style will take eight years to implement, but I’m not waiting around another one, all the time being unfulfilled in worshiping the Lord!

I will admit this is a localized problem. They’re only losing the younger folks; attendance is strong among people in their 40s and higher. So even if a church like ours actually understands what is needed to survive into the future – can they do it fast enough? I’m not filled with hope at this point, and reading Barna’s Revolution didn’t help either. I’ll talk about that next.

Brian Slezak

Published by Brian Slezak on 24 Feb 2006

Church IS Failing – Part I

This evening, my wife and I sat in a Chinese restaurant eating dinner and discussing our church. We attended the contemporary worship service last weekend, the first time in a few months to be completely honest. We stopped attending the service a while back.

A few months prior to today, we were driving home for lunch after leaving the worship service that ends just before noon. The both of us were quiet and unenthusiastic. One of asked the other, “How do you feel about the service now-a-days?” Thus began the journey into realization – that after two years of being a part of this worship service, (my wife singing in the praise band, myself running the sound board,) it was no longer filling us up but leaving us empty. The songs were getting slower, the enthusiasm lower. It just wasn’t there any longer. We decided to try out some other local church services.

Here eating dinner out at our favorite Chinese place, we discussed the current condition of the service. It’s pretty sickly, down around half from its peak attendance. What used to be an upbeat and growing service filled with 20’s to 40’s and their children, was now a slow, shrinking collection of 30’s to 60’s. You can see that many of the praise band members have left. We just learned today that the recent reaction to this decline was – changing to a traditional order of worship. …. !?!?!?!
[insert record scratch here]

Hold on folks! Huh!? Now, let’s review that again. A contemporary service that was previously upbeat, enthusiastic, and strong, lost its impact for whatever reason – and a traditional order of worship is the shot in the arm it needs? We’re desperate here! We want to worship but you’re boring us! This is not a rant, but a plea. My wife and I are disappointed and unfulfilled, and we’re quite obviously not the only ones. I can’t say this builds a great deal of hope in my heart, from a church that has persisted over 100 years and is struggling to reach a postmodern group.

Why are they failing?

I’ll make some suggestions in Part II, but if you’re following me here and have any comments, I’m very interested and listening.

Brian Slezak

Published by Brian Slezak on 01 Nov 2005

Typo3 makes #1 on Google with "Content Management"

The creator of the Typo3 CMS posted on this discovery yesterday in the newsgroup at

Searching for “content management” you will find, at least today, Typo3 is the top result above PostNuke and Vignette.

I also noted this on the Web Empowered Church Developer Forum. To read how WEC is utilizing Typo3 in their ministry to the world, check out

Published by Brian Slezak on 28 Sep 2005

Godcasting to Postmoderns

Bringing it all together here. Frank Johnson references my blog post regarding Godcasting on Strategic Digital Outreach, providing his view on how to use this technology. Through his references we also find Mark Batterson who writes about taking your preaching off-road, and just recently Blogging Church posted a new podcast interview where Terry Storch interviewed Mark on his success with podcasting.

Whether you may be ready or not, Godcasting has started some in depth conversations on a new way to bring people to Christ.

Clif and I have occasional conversations on reaching postmoderns, and we, like Mark, see Godcasting as another conduit to bringing people to Christ. As I read and listened to the blog posts I referenced above, I have the strong feeling that this is not only a way to reach everyone, but can be the primary way to reach postmoderns.

Postmoderns church shop with Google, not the local phone book. They want to experience the church before having to walk into the doors, and those church websites that do it most effectively will be the ones winning that walk in. (See my post Personal Thoughts Of A Confessed Postmodern). They want to have theological conversations without feeling the closterphobic pressure of being preached to. They want you to tap the core conflicts they have in their life right now. Best of all, I’d wager they’re willing to listen. Perhaps while they’re working out, or driving to work, or doing whatever A.D.H.D. activities they tend toward. 😉 I think if you can converse with them, they will not be opposed to steping through the doors on Sunday.

Published by Brian Slezak on 01 Sep 2005

Personal Thoughts Of A Confessed Postmodern

I had heard of the term postmodern, but ignored it’s meaning up until a couple weeks ago, the act of which I was informed to be categorically postmodern. :/

It seems that the majority of medium to large successful churches are starting the full swing into finding the answers to post-modern thinking. I find more and more people in the discussion of how to reach them, and how they communicate — the wascally postmodewn.

I am now a confessed postmodern. I am indeed a postmodern, but not so much as my wife. 🙂 She, being a couple years younger than I, exhibits more postmodern traits and I would consider her a tough case. This past Sunday, we attended a different church. After the service, we walked out of the church and she commented, “Scratch that one off the list. Adding it to my black book.” (Yes, she knows instantly whether something meets approval.) I had to dig deeper. Over time I’ve learned that she goes to church to worship God, not be preached to. She worships by singing in the contemporary band, and by singing and praising the Lord every day.

As we walked to the car and drove away, I asked her what a sermon needed for her to enjoy it. I’ll spare the details, but after many minutes of “extraction”, it came down to being entertained. Humor, relating the scripture to occurrences in her life, the use of visuals over written text, etc. If you can find a way to entertain her and at the same time embed the message into “the show” – you’ve got her. I intend to take her to an emergent worship service and see what she thinks, but I am guessing she’ll enjoy it. More on that after it happens.

I suggest that turning the sermon into entertainment isn’t desecrating the service in the eyes of a postmodern. I can hear the modern statement now, “A sermon is not entertainment.” But, if you entertain them, they will listen. If you preach to them, they will most likely squirm in their chairs and pews with ADHD tendencies. In the future, I imagine moderns reeling with what post-moderns will do to their sacred traditions. “You’ve totally ruined it! That is not worship!” you’ll hear them say, if you haven’t already. So I wonder if most moderns can even reach post-moderns, or will they be stopped short by their own worldview, powerless from making the changes necessary to reach postmoderns?

Published by Brian Slezak on 30 Aug 2005

Godcasting, New York Times

Tania Ralli of the New York Times writes on the podcasting of church sermons, otherwise known as Godcasting.

“Podcasting for us has been a resurrection of radio,” Father Vonhögen said. “It’s the connection to a new generation.”

« Prev - Next »