Why is it growing so fast? Their pastor, Bill McClendon, shared some thoughts at the WestPoint of Evangelism December 4-7, 2005 in Simi Valley, CA. Here are some notes taken by Tom Glatts (firstname.lastname@example.org), pastor of the Kalispell, MT (MT Conf) District—
The South Tulsa, OK Seventh-day Adventist Fellowship (STAF) is reaching their community at a rapid pace thought only possible in third world countries. Beginning in the year 2000 with 22 members, they are now approaching 600. The retention rate of their new members is 90%. They are now meeting in their second church building. Below you will find some of their keys to sustainable growth.
1. You create the market by continual advertising. The old school thinking was once you advertise, the market is saturated and you should wait two years. We now realize that advertising creates a market. The average household in Tulsa receives at least three evangelistic meeting flyers in the mail every year. STAF has found people often respond after the second or third mailing.
2. Public evangelism works. More public evangelism works more. If a series of meetings results in 15 baptisms on average, why not hold five meetings and baptize 75. STAF has proven this to be true. Often there are additional people at the end of the meetings who are not ready to make a commitment yet. That’s OK, because we have another series of meetings beginning in just three weeks. Some people have been baptized after attending four series of meetings. Another benefit of doing more evangelism is practice makes perfect. Getting decisions is a science. The more you work at it the more you learn. When STAF began their church it was costing over $2000 per baptism. Now the average is $400. STAF also has found that the new believers will bring their friends to the next meetings.
3. Make evangelism the primary activity of your church. Every ministry of the church is evaluated in it’s effectiveness in reaching people for Christ. Socials, Sabbath School, public events should all in some way be a ministry for Christ and result in additions to His kingdom. One thing STAF does is they make two Saturday evening evangelistic meeting presentations with a social in between. People connect and decisions are made.
4. Provide excellence in the worship service. Ellen White encourages us to provide meetings that are intensely interesting. Everything we do should make people want to come back for more. Does the music uplift and inspire? Is the building kept up and clean? Are people greeted kindly and do we remember their names the next time they come? Have you provided messages that convey truth in a compelling manner? Do our members consider our church a safe place to bring their friends?
5. Expect commitment from members. All new members are required to sign the statement below:
a) I will participate in a public evangelistic meeting series within three months of joining this church
b) Within six months I will attend a Connections class and learn what my spiritual gifts are
c) I will join a hospitality teamd) I will attend business meetingse) I will attend quarterly Friday evening communion services
For more information check out their website at www.stafonline.org. Bill McClendon will be presenting some seminars at our NWALC this September.