The poll on this blog Essentials For a Church Plant has not had any new votes in a while so I am ready to give an analysis of the results. So what did I learn?
1. Sunday School is much more important than I thought. While it was listed as number three results, I did not expect it to rank as high as it did. I have always thought of Sunday School as a specialized small group that meets at a convenient time and place, just before church. Sunday Schools are often run much more like a small group than a class that is evaluates your learning.
2. I would place small groups as high as did the whole group. It is the top item voted for as essential for a church plant. However a vocal minority said in the comments and e-mails that this was not important when the congregation was small. The idea repeated several times was that small group fellowship would be the whole congregation when the whole congregation is the size of a small group or two. I think what this really means is that the theory and/or practice of having small groups have been successful and should be adopted when a group is large enough to merit it.
3. The idea that visitation is essential surprised me. I for one really believe in visitation ministry, however, I did not believe other Christians would agree with me. Visitation is a way to connect with the congregation as individuals. It is my belief that everyone in the congregation needs a little private time with the pastor(s). It is a part of shepherding. I also think that visiting the sick, troubled, and grieving gives opportunity to meet more of the family and friends of the congregation. These are relatively natural times for the unchurched to come in contact with a pastor. So pastors should make best use of it. It gives those in the congregation a chance to show off the love and care of their church. They want to show how they are supported by the covenant community. I'm guessing that most voters voted for visitation not as a means of outreach, but only comfort in times of trouble. Personally I don't see that those two things are able to be pulled apart. Pastoral care (i.e. praying for the sick, offering words of comfort, encouragement or appropriate Bible application) can not be seperated from outreach.