Southview Church in Minneapolis—like most churches­—has struggled in the past to get its members involved. We have a wonderful leadership group who have tried many ways to reach out to our members to encourage involvement. We’ve preached many sermons saying we need to have our church members step up and become more involved.

Some members stand up and volunteer, and we are thankful for those, but we have more needs than people who fill those needs.

As much as we love to see new souls joining our churches, we really love to see everyone get involved. Getting people involved, however, is not easy. The struggle is real, especially when we go through the nominating process. Everyone is busy. Everyone has kids. Everyone has hardships, and some people say they are not ready to serve.

In marketing, one of the most difficult challenges is to encourage potential customers to pull their cash or credit cards out of their wallets. Market researchers see the decision to buy something as a behavioral change, and it is not easy to change someone’s mind.

People don’t like to change unless they absolutely have to. Being informed is easy these days, but getting people to act is extremely hard. Good information and emotional stimulation are not enough. Somehow, in some way, people need a personal connection in order to change and act. This is why volunteers knock on your door during election season. Everyone knows voting is important, but many simply don’t vote unless they are personally asked to.

What about in the church?

In the church, we are all called to preach the gospel and bring souls to Jesus. We believe in teaching and baptizing people, and further, we are excited to see new members joining our churches. But what happens after they join?

After speaking to several board members and young leaders about this, Pastor Sean Lee was enticed by one idea—why not have a ministry fair similar to science or career fairs you attend when in school?

Lee worked with one of the church leaders, Alison Pichel, who turned this idea into a reality. Pichel is a teacher, so she has the skills to make this kind of event successful. The date was set for right after the church’s annual revival, hoping to drive the members from revival mode to
taking-action mode.

Putting member involvement in prime time

Lee was convinced that the fair should happen when everyone was present and could only think of one time when that was the case: during the main service in place of the sermon.

“That’s the prime time for this kind of event,” said Lee. “There were many unknown fears about this event because it was our first ministry fair, but I felt we were going the right direction.”

The church provided flyers and encouraged each ministry leader to plan a unique presentation of their ministry. Members roamed the booths and signed up when they saw something interesting. The church facility Southview is currently renting has a big narthex (antechamber), which was a perfect location for the ministries fair.

“On Oct. 13, 2018, I preached a very short sermon about getting involved in ministry. I simply said, ‘We have had enough sermons about getting involved in ministry. Now it is time to act,’” said Lee. “When I dismissed our congregation to the narthex area, I worried. ‘What if people think they can leave and go home?’ As I dismissed the congregation, I just saw wonderful things happening.”

There were booths set up for many kinds of ministries: A/V, basketball, greeting, elders, deacons, deaconesses, Pathfinders, children’s ministries, Sabbath school, Swahili ministry, cooking class, weekday Bible study groups, life groups, young adults, stewardship, capital campaign, community outreach, Southview Christian School and many more. Members of Southview engaged, talked, asked questions, signed up and interacted.

Genuine member engagement

“I wanted to conclude about the time we usually finish our service, but I was not really successful in getting people’s attention to do closing prayer, because our members were so engaged in searching for ministry opportunities they wanted to be a part of,” shared Lee. “The Southview leaders thought we needed to have a bigger space and more time for our ministry fair in the future. I saw ministry leaders passionately presenting their ministries to those who asked questions. I saw people genuinely engaged and interested.”

Several members shared with Lee that they were unaware of all the ministries taking place at the church. Everyone who spoke to Pastor Lee wanted to know when the next ministries fair would take place.

As they debriefed, the leadership learned many things: where to improve, where to be more detailed and things they did well. “We found out our members do want to get involved,” concluded Lee. “And they will if we provide something they can see.”