There’s a common pattern in churches that are more effective in making disciples. The attendance rate of members of those churches is higher, and the dropout rate is lower. Here are the common traits:
1. The church has an entry point class that all new members attend.
Though these classes have different names, they have similar purposes. The classes provide information, but they aren’t limited to dispensing facts about the church. The classes also establish expectations of members.
2. Members are expected to attend an open group Bible study.
An open group is an ongoing class that allows entry at any point. Historically, they have been called Sunday School classes, but today they have a variety of names. The point is to get members connected to a common group of people in regular Bible study.
3. Members are expected to be involved in one or more deeper studies throughout the year.
These classes are set for a predetermined number of weeks, a 12-week study for example. They tend to dive deeper into Bible study, doctrinal study or studies of critical issues for the Christian. They also tend to be closed groups, because attendance every week is important to grasp the material.
4. Members are expected to attend a corporate worship service each week.
This is the time for the people to gather for the preaching of the Word and to worship the one true God together.
5. Members are expected to be involved in at least one ministry or mission activity a year.
The church has clear expectations that members are to be involved in those activities that cause them to look beyond themselves and to care for the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of others.
6. Members are expected to read and study the Bible daily.
Research has shown that daily personal Bible study is the clearest indicator that a Christian is growing spiritually. Disciple-making churches exhort, encourage and provide resources for the members to be involved in daily Bible study.
It is not unusual to hear objections to these traits—“If I led my church to have these high expectations of members, we would have a mass exodus.” But research shows just the opposite. Higher expectations get more positive behavioral patterns. People want to be a part of something that makes a difference. If you expect little, you will get little. If you raise the bar of expectations, most members will respond positively. And as more church members get involved in open groups, deeper studies, corporate worship, ministry, missions and daily Bible study, they will become more effective disciples for Christ. And thus churches will grow stronger and become healthier.