How Are you Going to Keep Your Congregation Engaged and Relevant?

We’re now in a culture that has lost its trust in institutions, including churches. The fastest growing religious segment is those who identify as “none” – they no longer self-identify as religiously inclined.1 They are seeing church as irrelevant and dogma as oversimplified platitudes or outdated beliefs. They’re finding community outside of the church.

Even among believers, church attendance is dropping. “53% of church members say ‘I’m never asked to contribute my strengths in the life of this church.”2 As a result, many simply participate rarely or not at all.

The challenge is staying relevant. How can churches engage their congregations and rebuild credibility in the community and beyond?

Church leaders need to take a stand. The truth is, it takes reinvented leaders to create reinvented congregations. What made the leader successful in the past will no longer work in today’s world. For church culture to change, the leaders must change first.

I Started as a Pastor and Fresh-Faced Idealist Who Thought He Could Change the World

After all, I was born into the family business – I’ve been steeped in the world of the church. I was a 5th-generation church member and a 4th-generation pastor. Though I don’t work primarily in that world anymore, I still have the capacity to go back into that world and understand it completely.

In college, I contemplated being a concert pianist, but what brought me to pastoring was the conviction that I could actually use my music in my pastoral ministry. It became my professional signature – preach a sermon and then end by singing a song I wrote about the theme. My creativity and dedication to the art of expression shines through in whatever I do.

In my thirty years as a pastor, I focused on preaching inspiring sermons, empowering my church members, shepherding with compassion at important moments of people’s lives, and casting a vision for how my congregations could help transform the world.

As happens to every leader in this kind of role, I was confronted by some intense challenges. Not everyone liked me (difficult for us people-pleasers), and some congregations didn’t want to change (even more difficult for us Maximizers). Every church has "sacred" traditions they don’t want messed with, or a desire to keep the status quo instead of innovating.

So after thirty years of experience in the trenches of the local church, as well as now fifteen years working as a full-time consultant, coach, and professional speaker, I’ve honed my strategy and ideas about what can be changed, what can’t, and what to do about it. My idealism still drives me toward the most effective preferred future that can change my corner of the world. But it’s combined with a grounded, thoughtful, creative, evidence-based perspective that allows churches to excel in what they do in ways unique to their authentic design.

How I Help Churches Excel


I coach pastoral staffs, leadership teams, board of elders, ministry leaders, and entire congregations to find the most effective way toward fulfilling their organization’s mission. Tailoring my approach to work for you, here are two concrete tools I use:

  • Natural Church Development survey takes the current pulse in a congregation of the eight necessary attributes of a healthy and well-balanced church.3 The results indicate which areas need the most attention. As a certified NCD trainer, I help you focus your strategies on increasing effectiveness in that area. The congregation can develop a continuous cycle of evaluation, transformation and growth by conducting this survey frequently. 85% of the congregations who do more than one survey process experience transformational growth.
  • StrengthsFinder assessment (Gallup) identifies a person’s top natural preferences (which are called strengths), so each person can maximize their effectiveness. We unpack the results of each individual who takes the assessment, and also identify the strengths of the congregation as a whole. We use these results to help chart the most strategic and strong path toward member engagement and missional transformation. Combining these two powerful tools is an approach rarely taken – and I’ve seen time and again how it leads to an alignment around each church’s unique mission, their community, and their leaders.

Learn more about how to bring my teamwork and leadership development process into your Church by downloading my Coaching One Sheet for Churches and then request my coaching services.

Keynote Speaking

When I was a kid, I used to stand on top of the piano bench and preach sermons that I heard my dad preach. Often, I’d add my own lessons like, “Thou shalt not eat between meals!” This passion has stayed with me, and I’ve matured my speaking style after decades of work and thousands of audiences. 

I’ve been sought out as a speaker for churches, camp meetings, conferences, and retreats both nationally and internationally. From venues as small as a single church sermon to speaking to 15,000 leaders at a World Ministerial Council, I know how to motivate, empathize, and energize in every presentation I deliver. 

Some of my most requested topics include:

  • The Hardest Battle You’ll Ever Fight: why God values authenticity above all else, how you can make that choice, and how to overcome the obstacles to it.
  • Which Commandment is the Most Important? You might be surprised to see Jesus’ answer to that question--and you’ll definitely be challenged by the implications.
  • The Three Requirements for a Church to Be Relevant to Its Members and Community. These three conditions are based upon both biblical and scientific research. The outcome can re-energize your leaders and congregation.

Learn more about how to bring my inspiration and insight as a speaker to your congregation or conference by downloading my Speaker One Sheet for Churches and then request me as a speaker.


"Greg Nelson spent a week with my leadership team and 3,000 member university church sharing a highly moving and motivating series of lectures. We were so inspired that we incorporated those lectures into our corporate website and continue to reap the benefits of his time with us. A truly professional and dynamic communicator."

– Dwight Nelson
Lead Pastor, Pioneer Memorial Church

"Powerful! Compelling! Uplifting! Truly music for your soul! Greg’s words will touch your heart . . . And I would add visioning to his list of many talents. I think one of the keys to great leadership is the ability to get everyone on the same page - and he has such a knack for that!"

 – Cindee Gratias
small business owner

"Greg Nelson's sermons have empowered my heart and spoken to my spirit many times over the years. Simply the best I've ever heard."

– Terry Bock
Associate Pastor, College View Church

“Greg’s coaching with us set the perfect tone of interaction and cooperation. The desires we felt were shaped by him in concrete terms, descriptors, and patterns so we could plan, organize and dream as a team! What a huge strategic impact he has had on our staff and congregation!”

– Keith Jacobson
Lead Pastor, Carmichael SDA Church

Apply for a Complimentary Consultation

Let’s talk about how I can support you and your congregation!


1 Pew Research Center, 2016, The Factors Driving the Growth of Religious Nones in the U.S.

2 “Living Your Strengths,” Winseman, Clifton, Liesveld (Gallup Press, New York, New York, 2008), p. 1.

3 The eight quality characteristics: empowering leadership, gift-based ministry, passionate spirituality, effective structures, inspiring worship service, holistic small groups, need-oriented evangelism, loving relationships. From Color Your World with Natural Church Development, Christian Schwartz (Church Smart Resources, St. Charles, IL, 2005). Check out the NCD America web site.