This is part three in our series on guerrilla church marketing, Power to the Pews.
In Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus gave the great commission we all know well:
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”
Ever since he said these words, Christians have thought about what it means to “make disciples” and teach people to obey all that Christ commanded. The results have been everything from hardcore catechesis and the Sunday School movement to, more recently, mid-week small groups and online Christian communities.
If communication really has changed as much as everybody’s saying it has, it’s time to re-think the great commission again. These days, people don’t just “receive” the good news. Fewer people are in church, Christian radio is on the decline, and Sunday School has become practically extinct in many denominations. Not even an online devotional has the same power and punch that it did five years ago.
Christians want to talk more, maybe even speak with authority, and social media is giving them the chance to do it. Can the church learn something here?
A couple of years ago, my church invited its children and youth to participate in the usually-very-grown-up Advent season. Pastors asked children to draw pictures related to Advent and displayed the pictures in special mid-week services. They also asked teens to write daily devotionals that were put together as church-wide devotional books. Staff members guided students in the selection of Scripture and format for each devotional, advertised the devotionals, made them available outside the sanctuary and posted them online.
The response was overwhelming! It turns out our teens had a ton of meaningful things to say about God and how he had been at work in their lives. And who isn’t moved by a child’s picture of God’s love? After years of being taught in traditional contexts, students were now given the chance to process Scripture and articulate their faith in new and creative ways. The projects and support allowed them not only to share their faith through artistic mediums, but also to play a part in the teaching and inspiring of their church community.
The next year, the Advent project expanded to the Lent season too, and ever since then, children and youth have participated in both. This year, the devotional book project expanded to an online blog of writing, art, and video where people can comment on what’s been posted. There are plans for this blog to continue after Lent and expand to include both children and adult contributors too. The children’s art project also has grown to include adults.
See what’s been happening? It’s no longer only the pastor and Sunday school teacher taking on the great commission. The people in the pews are talking too, and it’s making a difference.