Category Archives: Church health

Mourning the loss of another pastor

igNobleMy stomach sank on Friday night when I first read that Perry Noble might be fired by NewSpring Church. I hoped this was the worst PR stunt of all time, that Perry would scold all of us on Sunday morning to not believe rumors propagated through social media, and we’d all be slightly chagrined and a little angry at being sucked into such an awful practical joke. But it wasn’t a stunt or a joke. Sunday morning Shane Duffey, an Executive Pastor at NewSpring, announced that Perry had been fired. He then read a letter from Perry explaining that an unhealthy reliance on alcohol had let to this day, and that he will now focus on healing and health for he and his family.

After pouring his heart and soul into ministry, Perry has been disqualified to lead a church he started in his living room. Perry’s influence with leaders around the world has been permanently diminished. NewSpring staff face an uncertain future, and attenders are angry, confused and disillusioned with their pastor and their church. There is no bright side.

This isn’t a post about the lessons we can learn about Perry’s fall from grace. I don’t have warnings for the future, I don’t have advice for church leaders. I don’t know why Perry failed. I don’t know why NewSpring fired him. I don’t know how we can prevent things like this in the future, and I don’t know what is wrong with the American church that things like this keep happening.

All I feel is sadness. So many people in South Carolina found hope and freedom under Perry’s preaching. So many church leaders were encouraged and challenged by Perry’s teaching. At a conference in Atlanta this past April I was convicted again as I listened to Perry teach practical ministry lessons from the 23rd Psalm. I didn’t always agree with Perry’s method or tone, as I’m sure he wouldn’t always agree with mine, but Perry was an amazing voice for the Kingdom. Now, at least for a time and maybe forever, that voice has been silenced. Perry’s family is humiliated and Perry’s church is wounded. This is a time to mourn.

When a soldier is mortally wounded his comrades don’t analyze his mistakes or castigate his commander. They reach out to his family and mourn his loss. Perry has lost his ministry and NewSpring has lost their pastor. Rather than assigning blame and drawing conclusions what if we simply spend some time grieving with and for our brothers and sisters.

What am I supposed to do?

Teach-Girls-End-World-PovertyI recently had a fascinating conversation with a sharp young leader. They had just returned from an amazing vacation in the Caribbean. The food, the scenery, the weather, the company; everything was perfect. They were incredibly grateful for the opportunity to enjoy this vacation of a lifetime, but one they were overwhelmed by the economic gulf between them and the people who served at the resort. The shacks, the broken down roads, and the abject poverty were heart breaking. They could not shake the disconnect of experiencing opulent luxury surrounded by crippling need. They stopped in the middle of sharing their experience, looked at me with deep sincerity and asked, “What am I supposed to do?”

Their perspective is refreshing. They aren’t mired in the guilt of having more. They aren’t caught in the misguided trap of feeling better than or worse than the people they met. They see a need and know they must act. Rather than ignoring the pain or reacting to the cause they are simply asking, “What am I supposed to do?”

I saw this look on my wife’s face when she returned from her first visit to a school for AIDS orphans in a tiny village in Kenya. Everyone on her team was moved by what they saw, but my wife knew she had to act. She could not simply send money, or make return visits, she had to make a difference. She had to answer the question, “What am I supposed to do?” She formed a board for the school, revamped their sponsorship program, revitalized the fund raising and changed the future trajectory of the school.

Every day we are inundated with need. Children in Africa, refugees in Europe, immigrants in America. It is easy to become deaf to the cry of human desperation all around us; we can’t help everyone. But we can help some. Jesus didn’t heal all blindness, but he gave sight to the blind man on the road to Jericho. He didn’t restore every crippled limb, but he healed the lame man by the pool of Bethesda. He didn’t raise everyone from the dead, but he brought the widow’s son back to life. Rather than being callous or overwhelmed Jesus always cared for the one in front of him.

Imagine the impact, as we see needs both overwhelming and insignificant, if we asked that simple question, “What am I suppose to do?” You may decide to sponsor a child, or start a ministry, or volunteer at food bank. You may decide to raise money, or start a prayer chain, or tutor a middle schooler. The reality is that we can all do something in Jesus’ name, and together our force for good is overwhelming.

What AM I supposed to do?

10 Hidden Secrets of Multisite Churches

if-youre-afraid-of-multi-site-church-this-is-the-book-for-you0When we started down the multisite road at Seacoast Church 15 years ago we had no idea what we were doing. There were no books on multisite and very few models to learn from. Today there are over 8000 multisite churches across the country, dozens of multisite consultants and several books specifically written for churches considering becoming one church in multiple locations. Even with all of the available information, however, there are some hidden multisite secrets almost no on talks about. Here are my top ten:

  1. Boring in-person preaching is lethally boring on video

    I have been told video teaching won’t work in the the Northeast, the Northwest, the West Coast, in England, in Europe and in India. Although I’ve seen successful video teaching examples in each of these contexts what I’ve come to realize is that bad video teaching doesn’t work anywhere. When a church tells me video teaching won’t work in their context I often suspect the problem isn’t the video.

  2. Multisite won’t make a stagnant church grow

    Many years ago Larry Osborne said, “Multisite isn’t an engine for growth, it is a response to growth.” A church that isn’t experiencing numerical growth almost never  begins growing by launching a second campus. After the excitement settles down the church will be the same size it was before, but its expenses will be much higher.

  3. Great preaching and great worship grow a campus

    No matter what model you pick nothing grows a campus like great preaching and great music. Most campuses that struggle to grow are lacking in one or both of these areas. I’m not saying this is a good thing or a bad thing, its just a thing.

  4. IMAG and video teaching are two completely different things

    Sometimes church will add IMAG (Big screens in the auditorium to project video of what is going on on the stage) to “prepare the congregation for video teaching.” This is similar to buying a puppy to get ready to have a baby. Its just not the same.

  5. Convincing people to leave a comfortable building to attend at a rundown middle school is really hard

    People don’t want to go to church in a school, theater or community center. They like a permanent building they don’t have to set up and tear down. It is a mistake to underestimate how hard it will be to convince people to switch from a worship center to a cafetorium.

  6. Ministries on a large campus are different than ministries on a small campus

    It is very different to do children’s ministry for 500 kids than for 50 or 5. Not everything that a larger church does scales well to a smaller context, so many ministries have to rethink their “non-negotiables”.

  7. A campus pastor has two jobs; develop leaders and energize volunteers

    A campus pastor who can develop leaders and energize volunteers will grow a healthy campus; anything else a campus pastor focuses on is a distraction. If he can’t develop  leaders and energize volunteers morale at his campus will suffer and he’ll constantly look to the mothership to bail him out.

  8. Half of the people who help start a new campus eventually go back

    People who are fired up about starting something new, reaching a new part of a city or following a new leader get tired of setting up and tearing down. They miss their friends at the original campus. Their kids miss the shiny classrooms and great teachers. Campus pastors need to know that many of these pioneers will eventually migrate back, and that’s ok. The goal is to have enough new people from the community to more than make up the difference.

  9. Adding new campuses is hardest on children’s ministry

    The most volunteer intensive ministry is always children’s ministry, and adding a new campus always means losing some of their best leaders. The children’s minister at the new campus has to instantly replicate what took years, even decades, to develop at the original site. Children’s ministry needs lots of TLC when new campuses are launched.

  10. Multisite impacts everything

    Unlike other ministries multisite impacts everything a church does. Every budget decision and every ministry initiative is now viewed through the lens of how it impacts every campus. Multisite is always complicated.

I still am a strong believer in multisite as a means of multiplication in the Kingdom. I have seen the incredible synergy of one church in many locations, and in the right circumstances I have seen the explosive growth that follows. It is important, however, to go in with your eyes wide-open to the hidden challenges.

 

 

Three keys to a healthy volunteer culture

iStock_000017831326Large-1024x768As I shared yesterday, the number one question my wife and I hear from  church leaders all over the world is, “How can we find enough volunteers?” The primary reason most church struggle attracting enough volunteers is they recruit to need. A good appeal to need will impact 20% of the people, a great appeal will impact 25%. The key to having an abundance of volunteers isn’t better appeals, the key is creating a healthy volunteer culture.

Today we’ll look at the three elements present in any healthy volunteer culture.

Vision

My wife tells a story Sue Miller shared several years ago that continues to impact her view of working with volunteers. Sue told of attending a mandatory meeting for parents of players on a youth baseball team. When the coach began talking about this year’s fund raising drive you could feel the air go out of the room. The coach, however, surprised the parents. He didn’t talk about the amount of money they needed to raise, nor did he show them samples of wrapping paper or candy catalogues and explain the fundraiser. He talked instead about baseball changing the trajectory of his life as a young man, and what an impact he believed this team would have on their son’s lives. By the time he finished painting a picture of the potential future Sue said she, along with most of the families in the room, we’re eager to participate in the fundraiser. The coach began with vision rather than need.

Its interesting when Jesus looked for volunteers at the beginning of his ministry he issued a challenge rather than an appeal. One day while he was on a walk beside the Sea of Galilee Jesus came across Peter and Andrew casting a fishing net. After watching them work for a few minutes he walked over and said, “Come, follow me, and I’ll show you how to fish for people.” He didn’t mention the needs of the ministry, describe the tasks that had to be accomplished or assure them the volunteer position wouldn’t take up too much time. Jesus invited them into something that would change their lives.

What would happen if, rather than focusing on how many volunteers you need, you focused instead on the potential life change that will happen through the ministry you lead? Ministry leaders who lead healthy volunteer cultures effectively connect the dots between the task at hand and a transformed future. 

Tribe

As part of a small group campaign at our church in South Carolina every group was challenged to take an outreach project in our community. After much discussion our group decided to adopt a nursing home in the poorest part of the city. We began visiting the nursing home regular doing things like yard maintenance, giving Christmas presents and repeatedly cleaning urine off an outside wall (Don’t ask). This was not my idea of a good time. I prefer spending my Saturday mornings, well, doing anything but visiting a nursing home in the ‘hood. I went, however, because my tribe was going. Relationship, much more than need, was the driving factor.

We consistently miss the power of tribe in church. We focus on the ministry that needs to be accomplished rather than the relationships on the team. Volunteers who feel like a part of a tribe that is changing the world rather than an unpaid employee accomplishing a task will do almost anything the team needs done. Rather than recruiting to need we need to recruit to relationship, and then follow through on that promise.

Purpose

If people never find a place of selfless service they will never find their true purpose in life. Every reputable mental health expert understands this fundamental law of the universe; the only path to wholeness is through serving. As long as we focus on ourselves and our needs we will never truly be happy; materialism, greed and selfishness rot the soul. We were created with a deep seated need to serve each other.

As ministry leaders we  have to remind people often that Jesus’ example of service is the path to peace and wholeness we are all looking for. We demonstrate it in our own lives and share stories of others who find purpose through serving.

What about your church?

A ministry that connects the dots to a preferred future, connects team members in deep relationships and helps people find their true purpose through serving will discover an abundance of volunteers. As you evaluate the ministry you lead how are you doing at casting vision? Are you creating an environment for healthy team relationships? Are you demonstrating a life of purpose through service?

The reason you can’t find volunteers

appeal_deniedRecently on a beautiful drive Sherry and I were comparing notes on what makes a healthy ministry volunteer culture. (Some couples talk about vacations, some about retirement, we brainstorm ministry ideas; that’s just how we roll.) Working with ministries around the world the one question we hear more than any other is, “How do you find good volunteers?” Almost every church is desperate to find more children’s workers, parking lot attendants, ushers, small group leaders and dozens of other volunteer positions. As we drove through the beauty of the Rocky Mountains in early spring we agreed on two basics:

Most churches can’t find enough volunteers because they recruit to the wrong thing

Having an abundance of volunteers is driven by a healthy volunteer culture.

Let’s look first at recruiting. Whether they intend to or not almost every church appeals to need. The church NEEDS volunteers. We need people to watch children, to hand out bulletins, to count the offering, to lead small groups, to play in the band. We can’t do what we do without volunteers. Imagine what church would be if we didn’t have volunteers; we’d have to shut down programs and change how we do church. We appeal to people’s sense of duty, or to their guilt. We parade the needs of others in front of members hoping they will feel the need to step up to the plate. We remind the congregation that only 20% of the people do 80% of the work of the church.

As it turns out recruiting to need is effective with about 20% of the people who attend your church. If you are really effective, you may get to 25%. The challenge is we are inundated with needs every day. We drive past people with cardboard signs describing their needs. We are challenged at the grocery checkout line to donate to needy children. On TV Sarah McLachlan shows us pictures of sad animals, pleads with us to meet their needs as she sings “In the Arms of the Angels” (I’m not sure who’s in the angels’ arms, but it seems very sad). There are only so many needs we can care about, much less meet, so we draw the line somewhere. For most people the needs at church are low on the list of things they care about enough to help fill, so the appeal to need falls on deaf ears.

If your church or ministry is struggling to find enough volunteers are you trying to recruit by appealing to need? In the word of the great theologian Dr. Phil, “How’s that working out for you?” The alternative to recruit to need is to build a healthy volunteer culture. Its is slower and harder, but is really the only path to accomplishing God’s mission through your ministry. Tomorrow we’ll look at the three crucial building blocks of a healthy volunteer culture.

 

Another fallen pastor

faceI hate to admit that when I see a headline like the one above I always want to click through to find out who failed. Is it someone I know? Is it someone I dislike? Is it someone I feel in competition with? Every time I click on a headline about a fallen pastor I’m the one that falls. Why do we secretly rejoice when someone else fails?

The other day our oldest granddaughter slipped and fell, busting her lip on our kitchen floor. Thankfully, though there was a little blood and a lot of tears, she wasn’t seriously hurt. By the time I got home she was snuggled up with her mom holding a bag of ice against her swollen lip. Her younger sister, three year old Mollie, was sitting on the kitchen floor blowing soap bubbles with my wife, Sherry. As Sherry told me about Maggie’s accident Mollie’s smile disappeared, she looked up, tears brimming in her eyes, and said, “Me too”. She felt so much empathy for what her sister experienced it was as though she had fallen as well.

I want to have that kind of empathy for other pastors. I hope my heart to break when I hear of a pastor failing morally. I hope I can be excited when a new church succeeds and crushed when a church plant fails. I want to pray every day for other pastor’s kids, and I want to be more interested in the health of their marriage than the size of their budget.

The next time I see a story outlining the details of a pastor who’s fallen I pray my response isn’t self-righteous smugness, I pray my response will simply be, “Me too, I’m another fallen pastor”.

Measuring  Success

SuccessAs a church planter or a pastor when will you know you have succeeded? What is the goal? Where is the finish line? In the business world you fight for market share and profit. When you are in the top three in your market and you are dropping loads of cash to the bottom line you know that you are running a successful business. There are certainly other measures, but those two ring the bell almost every time. Why don’t we have similar measures in church?

The default measure of success for a lot of us as leaders, whether we admit it or not, is butts in seats. If attendance this week is bigger than last week or last month or last year then we are winning; if the arrow points down then we are losing. So the goal is to get more butts in more seats whatever it takes. We put up billboards, we send out flyers, we hype every weekend as the BEST WEEKEND EVER!!!; anything to draw a crowd. We don’t worry too much about whose seats those butts were in last weekend, as long as we can get them back in our seats next week.

Some of us are a little less crass and a little more self-righteous in measuring success. All we care about are souls in the Kingdom, so we measure salvations. But how do we measure salvation? The most common standards are baptisms and hands raised in response to an appeal. The focus then becomes how to get hands up and hair wet no matter what it takes. Now we’re on the same train as the butts in seaters.

Which brings us to the most pious crowd of all. We are not concerned about attendance or emotional response; we count disciples. And how do we count disciples? By activity of course. How many people lead groups? How many people complete classes? How many people participate in outreach projects? Unfortunately, as the WCA Reveal study showed, activity does not always equal discipleship. We are measuring, but are we successful?

When Jesus was asked in Matthew 22 for his definition of success (“What is most important?”) he didn’t mention weekend attendance, salvations or even discipleship. He gave two very clear criteria by which all success should be measured:

  1. Do you love God with all your heart, all your mind and all your strength?
  2. Do you love your neighbor as yourself?

This doesn’t preclude measuring attendance, salvation and discipleship; we measure what is important. But when we sit down at the end of the day only our love for God and our love for our neighbor should be considered. What is success as a church planter or a pastor? It is measured in how we love. So, are you successful?

 

Five Simple Ways to Make Your Church Stickier (Part 3 Connection)

Here is something that I’ve realized in my recent church shopping experience: most of us who are visiting your church aren’t coming because your pastor is a stunning communicator, we’re not coming because your worship leader looks like Keith Urban and leads like Matt Redman, we’re not even here because Disney takes cues from your children’s ministry. Most of us are here because we want relationships. We want to know and be known. We are walking through a lonely, difficult time in life and we “want to go where everyone knows your name.” And churches (not yours of course) can make that really hard.

After visiting several churches and not really cracking the code on how to connect (other than attending the pancake breakfast), my wife decided she was going to solve the riddle. After service on a recent weekend she waited in line at the table designated  “Connect” to ask how we could get into a small group. When she reached the front of the line the volunteer explained that we were at the wrong table and walked her over to the correct line. When her turn finally came she asked again how we might join a small group. The very sweet volunteer was very well versed in the process:

“Our small groups don’t start until the middle of next month, so if you come back in two or three weeks you can fill out an interest form. The form will go to the Small Groups Coordinator, who will give it to several group leaders based on your interests. Those group leaders will then contact you and you will then be invited to attend their small group.”

This was a well thought out system, which was explained by well-trained volunteers who were warm, friendly and helpful. The challenge is that we left knowing that we were at least a month from actually connecting with someone. In the meantime if something comes up in our lives where we really need a friend to lean into we can always drop by the pancake breakfast.

Churches should be more like car lots. I could never walk away from a car lot wondering how to buy a car, or be told to come back in a few days, or have to give my phone number so someone can call later and talk about car ownership. I’m not suggesting churches should be pushy or over-bearing, but we should adopt the motto of car salesmen, “How can I put you in this car today?” If the main reason people are showing up at church is to find relationships there has to be a way to help them connect today. Not next month, not at the pancake breakfast on Saturday, but today.

How can you create an obvious and easy opportunity for people who want to meet people every weekend at your church? If it’s a reception with the pastor then make sure you have friendly connectors there as well. If it’s a box lunch in the basement make sure it isn’t awkward for people who don’t know where the basement is, when it starts or what they are supposed to do when they first get there. And for the love of all that is good don’t let the members clump up in little circles laughing and talking to one another at your connection opportunity. Newcomers don’t need yet another chance to feel left out.

This isn’t about consumer Christianity or church growth; this is about people going through life alone desperate for a friend. This is the central theme of discipleship, that we love one another. People want to connect, you want people to connect, let’s put significant time and energy into making this happen.

 

Five Simple Ways to Make Your Church Stickier (Pt 2 Navigating the Maze)

This week we are talking about simple ways to make your church stickier. The idea for this series came from attending nine different churches recently and running into the same challenges (except at your church). Yesterday we covered one of the biggies which is helping your people be friendly and hospitable to new attenders. Today we’ll look at an area that is so obvious that many churches overlook it.

Make your church easier to navigate

 One way to solve the personal debt crisis in America is to make stores as difficult to navigate as many churches. Just figuring how to park is often an irritating early morning brainteaser. At a church we recently attended the main entrance to the parking lot was blocked by orange cones. There was no sign, no parking attendant, just orange cones screaming, “No room in the inn”.  Because we were determined to attend we found a secondary entrance and parked in the lot with the blocked entrance.  We often see signs at large churches that say “Lot full” with no indication of where we might be allowed to park. At one church we kept following signs and lot full signs until we were eventually dumped back out on the main street. Again, we eventually found ample parking on site, but we had to be determined. I have seen Do Not Enter signs on auditorium doors with no explanation or alternative. Can you imagine a sign on the entrance to Target “Store full, do not enter”?

Once we park it is often difficult to figure out where we should go. Which building is the auditorium? Where are the children’s rooms? Should I bring a pee cup, or does this church have onsite restrooms? These are the questions that many churches do not provide obvious answers to. On more than one occasion I have stood in the lobby and waited to see where the majority of the people seemed to moving toward to find the auditorium. Imagine standing with the fam at the front gate of Disney World with no indication how to enter the Magic Kingdom. That’s how new attenders feel when they arrive at your church.

Once inside church the challenges continue. Can I bring my soda (or coffee if you are one of THOSE people) into the auditorium? Do I find my own seat (like a movie) or will someone find a seat for me (like a play)? When do I stand, sit, hand over my wallet? Will I be forced to sing a solo? Approximately how long will this service last? Am I supposed to wash down the stale bread with a big swig from the cup of wine? These are the kinds of questions that normally I have to figure out on my own. Printed program guides are helpful, but I’m not sure if I should really sit and read while everyone else is standing and singing.

The challenge is what the Heath brothers in Made to Stick call The Curse of Knowledge. All of the regular attenders know how to navigate the church experience and they’ve forgotten what its like not to know. So how do you make your church easier to navigate? Here are a couple of ideas:

Get fresh eyes

As often as possible ask new attenders what obstacles they faced when they first attended. Get someone who doesn’t attend to try to navigate a weekend and give you feedback. Hire one of those “Secret shopper” services and see what they say. You can’t know what its like because you have the curse of knowledge, you need an outside opinion.

Retrain your host team

Make sure your host team is thinking constantly about the new attender. What message does this sign send? If we have to close an entrance how can we best explain the alternatives? Are we always scanning for that bewildered look and are we proactive about helping? What can we do each weekend to make the experience for the first time attender easire to navigate?

Start Here

StartHereA very simple but powerful idea of I’ve seen is a Start Here sign for new attenders. Most churches have welcome centers, connect tables, get acquainted tables, but a very prominent place that clearly instructs new attenders to Start Here would be awesome. (Even awesomer would be a cookie crumb trail from the parking lot to the Start Here center) The center needs to always be manned with friendly volunteers who can help navigate the experience. A simple one-page guide would be great. Not every small group and upcoming event, but a Disney type map and explanation of everything you need to know to expertly navigate the weekend experience. And a clearly defined Next Step. But we’ll get more into that tomorrow.

The bottom line is we should do everything we can to make our church at least as easy to navigate as the local Target. How has your church tackled this challenge?

 

Five Simple Ways to Make Your Church Stickier (Pt 1 The Friendly Factor)

For the first time in our lives Sherry and I have the freedom to choose what church we attend. When we lived at home our parents chose for us, and after we got married we always attended the church I (and sometimes she) worked at. But now we are free to visit any church we want, so over the past couple of months we have visited nine different churches. In most cases we have gone as anonymous visitors and it has been an eye-opening experience. We have been surprised how difficult it is to fit in and connect at a new church. (If you know we attended your church recently I’m obviously talking about one of the other eight.) So this week I thought I’d share some tips on how to attract, connect and retain new attenders: Five Simple Ways to Make Your Church Stickier. None of these ideas are new or revolutionary, but I bet you think you’re church is a LOT better at each one than you really are. Trust me on this, they’re not.

Let’s dive in with Simple Way One:

Make your church friendlier

I’m sure you assume your church gets a pass on this one; your church is one of the friendliest churches on the planet. When you walk in everyone says hi, you have a built in greeting time in your service when all the new people feel welcomed, and after church people hang around forever laughing and connecting. You’ve got the friendly thing down.

Let me give you an outsider’s perspective on the friendliness of your church. When I arrive one or two assigned people with big nametags smile and say hi. (At some churches the assigned greeters are either engaged in conversation with someone else, grunt hello, or just frown and hand me a bulletin.) Once I navigate past people in the lobby talking to people they already know I am placed in an isolation bubble called the auditorium. I sit with people who don’t acknowledge my presence in any way until the forced greeting time. “Turn and greet your neighbor before you sit down.” At most someone might crack a half smile, give their name and shake my hand. Normally I get a grimaced look, a quick handshake and a short, “Hi”. I don’t realize it at the time, but that is the last time anyone will make any contact with me at your church. After service I again have to navigate the lobby where people who already know each other have exclusive parties with other people who already know each other. Sometimes I stand in the lobby looking bewildered and feeling as out of place as a bikini in aDenver snowstorm, but no sees me.  Finally I find my way back to the car feeling more alone than I did when I arrived. And in case you think its because I’m an introvert, my extroverted wife feels the same. Feeling alone and disconnected is the one experience we’ve had at almost every church we’ve attended.

So how do you make your church friendlier? Here are a couple of ideas (most of these I stole from others):

Teach on hospitality
Take a weekend (or a month) and teach your congregation how to be hospitable at church, in the workplace and at home. Hospitality has always been a hallmark of Christianity, so we need to teach on it.

Create a “gorilla greeter” team
Get as many people as possible to be gorilla greeters. Their job is to make sure they talk only to people they don’t know for the first ten minutes after they arrive and for the first ten minutes after the service is over. They don’t need lanyards or nametags (in fact that would defeat the purpose.) Their job is to find people who seem disconnected and figure how to connect them.

Adopt a “neighborhood”
Divide your auditorium into sections and get leaders to adopt a section as their neighborhood. They commit to attend the same service each week, sit in their neighborhood and watch for new people who sit in the section. They become the small group leader of that section.

Give the greeting time a purpose of kill it
Find a way to make the greeting time in your service purposeful. Why are you doing this? How can you make it more effective? Is it accomplishing the purpose you designed it for?

How has your church worked on friendliness? What has worked and not worked?