4 Hidden Benefits of a Church-Wide Challenge Pastors Don’t Think About

Zach Zehnder

4 Hidden Benefits of a Church-Wide Challenge Pastors Don’t Think About

Zach Zehnder

Over the course of the last 3 years, our team has led hundreds of church-wide challenges and seen God do incredible things!  When we market our church-wide challenges, we typically focus on these 3 reasons on why a church should consider a challenge:

  • Growth
  • Unity
  • Turnkey

We believe that all churches and pastors are looking for resources that will:

  • Help them grow (our resources have grown small groups by 40%+ on average)
  • Bring them unity (especially in a distanced and divided time like we are living in now)
  • Provide a turnkey resource (that blesses not just the church, but especially overworked staffs.


While these may be the most mentioned, we’ve found 4 other hidden benefits of a church-wide challenge that pastors likely aren’t thinking about.


  1. Challenges Activate New People


An athlete knows this truth: We miss every shot we don’t take.  I often wonder how many things don’t get done in the Christian church simply because people have not been asked or challenged.


Preachers are typically very skilled at proclaiming the justification of Jesus, but fewer are skilled at the challenge of sanctification. It’s a fine call to ask someone to believe in Jesus; it’s a deeper call to challenge someone to follow Jesus.


The perennial call that Jesus gave to His disciples is “Come, follow me.”  Jesus was inviting all of us to enter His kingdom right here and now.  To participate with Him in bringing heaven to earth.  Until we preach the Kingdom of God and challenge our people to step into that calling, we will always be scratching our heads wondering why our people are not stepping up to the commands of Jesus.  I’m not saying we need to abandon the invitation to believe in Jesus, but we certainly should always be challenging our people to take their next step of faith towards Jesus.


What I have found over and over and over again is that when you challenge your church, there are people that come out of the cracks that you would have never thought.


Simply by challenging people to lead a small group you will find new small group leaders.  By challenging people to join a small group for 40 days you will have more people join a small group.  By challenging people to open up their Bible, some will.  When you challenge people to fast for a day, some will.  When you challenge people to tithe, some will.  If you challenge everyone to invite a friend to next Sunday’s service, some will.  Let’s not be afraid to challenge people and call them to something deeper.  Watch and see who God works through.  It just may surprise you!


  1. Challenges Bring Energy and Excitement Back into the Room


I remember in Seminary there were some classes that I looked forward to and some that I dreaded going to.  The difference in how I approached the class typically was a direct correlation to how prepared I was for the class.  In Seminary, as in most graduate programs, there is a good bit of reading.  I will confess to you that there were many reading assignments that I did not do.  Those that know me aren’t shocked by that statement!  But, on the days when I had previously read and understood the reading, I was excited to go to class and join the conversation!


When it comes to church, I have found that how deeply I connected with God during the week still has a direct impact on my attitude in coming to church that Sunday.  The weeks where I had been more lackluster or apathetic in my devotion for God were weeks that were oftentimes harder to connect to God and to others. The weeks where I felt stronger in my devotions towards God would typically produce more excitement, passion, and energy in my worship and response on the following Sunday.


How do you get an entire church to not just attend Sundays but to come with energy and excitement?  It will happen as they read and take steps towards Jesus Monday-Saturday.


Attendance in most churches is a shadow of what it was just over a year ago.  But the expression is still true: “Nothing draws a crowd like a crowd.”  Having an energetic an excited room, spiritually speaking, a room that is Spirit-filled, is a key ingredient that will help draw others back into your church building.


I believe that we have much to learn still as we navigate leading disciples online.  We should do as much as we can using the amazing online resources we have, but I also deeply believe in real relationship face-to-face.  I believe that the in-person gathering still has and will forever have great merit and we should do everything we can to provide a great worship experience in our churches.


  1. Challenges are “Invite-a Friend” Friendly


Rich Birch says the number one key to church growth is “invitability.”  Even though he made up the word, I’m in complete agreement.  Giving the people in your church as many opportunities as possible to invite their friends is the number one thing you should pursue if you are wanting to grow your church.


Starting and launching a 40-day church-wide challenge is an “invitable” opportunity on many levels!


We’ve seen many churches give away our workbooks for FREE with an invite card to attend on the opening Sunday.  In every case that this has been done, the church has been overwhelmed with the response they’ve seen.  In addition, by offering a turnkey resource complete with small groups, we challenge our small group leaders and facilitators to invite not just people in the church already, but their neighbors, co-workers, and friends who are not a part of the church to attend as well.  One of the other aspects of our 40-day challenges that we provide is the opportunity for a church to host a larger event or serving challenge that could benefit the community.  This represents yet another opportunity to invite.


Many churches consider a 40-day church-wide series or challenge once a year.  By doing this, it gives yet another built-in time in the church calendar for your church to get out there and invite others to join!


  1. Challenges Help Clarify Vision Moving Forward


When your entire church is unified towards a common goal, you begin to see things more clearly.  Strengths and weaknesses come to light in greater detail.  By analyzing and understanding your church’s strengths and weaknesses, this will help you as a pastor know how best to steward your church in the future.


Let me give you an example.  Our first 40-day challenge is called Red Letter Challenge and invites people to follow Jesus by shooting at these five targets: Being, Forgiving, Serving, Giving, and Going.  As the people in the church are being challenged around each of these ideas, typically a church will have a target or two that is strongest and a target or two that is weakest.  Usually, the pastor and church can “feel” this, but also, some have used surveys to help them identify those points.  If, for instance, the targets of forgiving and giving were weak, then this will inform future vision.  Perhaps a sermon series on the importance of “forgiveness” could follow or a financial workshop like Ramsey’s Financial Peace University would be wise steps.


When you understand the areas of growth in your church and further present sermons, small groups, Bible studies, ministries, or events that will help them in their areas of weakness it shows them that you are a church that is relevant.  A church that is authentic.  And a church that will ultimately push them towards Jesus.  True followers of Jesus want to become greater followers.  Being able to identify what strengths and weaknesses are in your church is such a vital piece of growing into a greater, fuller representation of Jesus.


Those are the 4 hidden benefits of a church-wide challenge.  What other benefits have you seen?


Wanting to participate in a 40-day challenge?  Here’s a blog on the strategic times to launch.  Send us an email at and we’d love to serve you!


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