Tyler Hawk is the Lead Visionary Imagineer at Saddlevation Summit Church. He is the best-selling author of The 42 Indispensable, Undeniable, 360 Degree, Risky Laws Of Leadership and Crazy Wild: Doing Ministry On The Bleeding Edge. He has 4.5 million followers on Twitter and regularly speaks at conferences such as Catalyst, fUEl, and ReLiveinate. Tyler has kindly agreed to answer your questions about leadership.
I just became the pastor of an old church that has been dying for years. Attendance is way down, with only a few original members still coming on a regular basis.
I’m trying to figure out ways to get more people to come. To bring the church back to life.
What do you recommend?
Dazed and Confused
My friend, I truly understand what you are experiencing. 15 years ago, I was asked to revitalize a small church called “First Church of God”. The church was seriously dead. The only attendees were old people who smelled like fermented prunes mixed with stale American cheese, and our weekly offerings were barely enough to cover my hair product budget.
So I implemented a few key steps to rescue the church from the Pit of Despair.
STEP #1: Change The Name Of The Church
Is there any name more boring than “First Church of God”? I would rather have a hot soy latte poured down my leather pants than attend that church. It sounds like the name of an upscale funeral parlor run by a guy named “Edwin”. Thanks, but no thanks.
So I went on a three-day lemon cleanse/retreat to brainstorm a new name. After some deep soul searching, I settled upon: Emerge 950 Fire Upon The Mosaic Church.
In a single, profound turn of phrase, I managed to capture the very essence of what the church would become.
As you can imagine, the entire city was electrified. Who was this new guy? What was this new, trendy, urban, relatable, relevant, insanely awesome church? Was this a sick new club or was it a church? I could feel the buzz in the very roots of my frosted tips.
The very next Sunday, we had a line out the church that was LITERALLY a half mile long. That was the start of our climb to greatness.
STEP #2: Preach Sermons That Set People On Fire (Sometimes Literally)
The previous pastor, whom I will call Thomas Freeman (which was his actual name), preached through books of the Bible one verse at a time. I call that method of preaching, “Please jam this screwdriver in my eye because I’m so bored.”
From the moment I arrived, I began preaching through relevant movies and albums. My first sermon was entitled, “Becoming Neo: Taking the Red Pill In A Blue Pill World.”
In the sermon, I taught powerful lessons about how to swim upstream and stand out from the crowd. The people were so captivated they asked for FOUR encores that first Sunday.
My second sermon was, “Are You Turnt? Finding What You’re Looking For When The Streets Have No Name.” As you can imagine, the audience was spellbound. We actually had to use cattle prods to get people to leave. It was amazing.
STEP #3: Implement Revival Tactics
Finally, I began to implement the revival tactics that have been used for decades by the greatest pastors. I ordered 200 high-powered t-shirt cannons and spent the first 15 minutes of every Sunday launching loot into the crowd.
We installed a retractable dance floor on the stage and I hired background dancers who would keep the energy up during my sermons.
I purchased a pet tiger (whom I named “Tito”) and began riding amidst the people so that they would know that I was just like them.
I befriended celebrity impersonators and would regularly have them come forward during the altar calls (during which we played “Come As You Are” by Nirvana). I had tears in my eyes when Charlie Sheen knelt at the altar.
Through the strategic use of magicians, I created a sense of wonder every Sunday.
I understood one very important principle: when in doubt, stand on the shoulders of the great preachers who have come before you.
Within two months, we had a regular attendance of 450 people. Within a year, we were up to 2,000. When I left, the church was at 9,000 people spread across 7 satellite campuses/dance clubs.
I’m confident that if you implement these tactics, you too will see immediate, explosive, dramatic, completely lit growth.
If you don’t implement these tactics, you may want to ask whether you were called to the ministry in the first place.