Small Communities Encourage Connections
The Church: Cornerstone Christian Fellowship, Chandler, Ariz.
The Challenge: Help people connect with the mission of the church.
One Key Idea: Modify a traditional Sunday school setting to focus more on building relationships. This provides a different, smaller environment where people can connect.
Outreach spoke with Lead Pastor Linn Winters, who says relationships form in different environments.
What draws people to Cornerstone Christian Fellowship?
If you walked in on any given Sunday, our band is edgy; what we do is geared for a 34-year-old. Every single message has a “how does my life change?” type of question attached to it—something that is going to help me live tomorrow better.
What does the church do from a practical standpoint to reach new people?
Two times a year, we rally everybody to go get their friends to bring them in to be part of what’s going on at Cornerstone: Once is fall, and the other is right around spring. Part of that will be 100,000 to 140,000 mailers sent to the community. We bring in a guest, a celebrity or sports star. They are going to get a chance to meet a Kurt Warner or a Candice Cameron … who share their faith story. Our hope is we have hundreds of people come to Christ that day.
How do you keep those new Christians coming back for more?
I take all my teams and tell them, “I am going to bring you 200 to 300 brand-new Christians in one day, and out of that you have got to begin to integrate them into new believers classes, small groups—weave them into the life of the church.” We also always have a series after [the high-profile service] that is going to treat a secular mind: marriage, raising great kids, how to navigate a tough world.
How do you make sure newcomers don’t fall through the cracks?
Anytime we give a Gospel presentation like that, we ask people to fill out cards. Decision cards are also available every Sunday. I have a guy on my staff who calls every single decision card personally. If they can give a real clear faith story, then he is immediately directing them into new believers classes, and if they are fuzzy at all, he asks, “Would you meet me for coffee on a Sunday?” He leads four to six people to Jesus every Sunday because he is following up on our cards.
In addition to small groups, which meet in homes for Bible study, Cornerstone offers “small churches.” What is that and how has that helped retain new churchgoers?
What we believe is people grow in different environments at different times in their lives, and sometimes small group is exactly the right thing for people. But there are certain people, either based on what’s going on in their life or maybe their marriage, small group doesn’t make sense to them. So we have taken what most people call traditional Sunday school and turned it into small churches. We are trying to build small communities within this huge church. Traditional Sunday school is 90 percent information delivery and maybe 10 percent relational building. We have that at 50-50. We want this to be creating a community and a relationship with the larger church. People have a venue to connect and form relationships. Brand-new couples and couples who just had children are flocking to our small churches.
What other retention strategies does the church undertake?
We ask everybody who is part of our church to do three things. We call it “three to be.” One is you worship an hour, be in the main service for an hour. The second is spend one hour a week going after maturity, whether that’s small church, small group, expository Bible study. The third is serve an hour every week.
MORE ABOUT CORNERSTONE CHRISTIAN FELLOWSHIP
Weekend Attendance: 6,148
Key Connection Points: Four worship services, small groups, small churches, The Mine verse-by-verse Bible study, community service projects
Cornerstone Christian Fellowship is a 2011 Outreach 100 church (No. 87 Fastest-Growing and No. 94 Largest).
This article originally appeared in the May/June 2012 issue of Outreach.
Each issue of Outreach is designed to bring you the ideas, innovations and resources that will help you reach your community and change the world. Check out our current subscription offer »