The Church exists to reach the unchurched. But all too often the culture of our parishes belies or even betrays our mission.
There are things you do, that you don’t even know you do, that tell outsiders that your church is for insiders, same for us at Nativity. It’s like dandelions in your lawn, however diligent you are with your lawn care, they’ll show up. You’ve got to be on the look out for them and they must be uprooted at first sighting. Here are 3:
- “Churchy” Church Announcements
Announcements that are all about church stuff and church events for church people remind the unchurched that they’re outsiders. Craig Groeschel at Life.Church doesn’t even have announcements, he just drives everyone to the web site. We have 5 each week, never more. No magic to 5, it’s just a number that seems to work for us and keeps it tight. Announcements must be church-wide announcements, of potential interest to anyone (so, we would announce “We’re hosting a ministry launch next weekend” we would not announce “There’s an ushers meeting next weekend.” ). But the real point of the announcements is to announce that there’s a lot going on here, and its all good stuff. That’s it.
- “Churchy” Church Chat
In my preaching especially, but also in all remarks and banter during the service I have to be very careful not to reference events not everyone knows about (“Great party on Friday night.” ) or people not everyone knows, in a way that suggests they do (“Thanks Joe for a job well done” ). I should also be all about removing from my vocabulary churchy words that presume a theological or liturgical background. Also, and this is a big one, the parish must not be self-referential (“We’re a parish that serves” ) or self-congratulatory (“You guys are great!” ).
- “Churchy” Church Rules
Catholic Liturgy sort of presumes an understanding of how to participate. This can be especially intimidating to the unchurched who might know, or have long forgotten, when to sit and stand, not to mention what to say. Meanwhile, church people can sometimes take a little too much glee in knowing the rules and procedure better than everyone else, especially if they are idiosyncratic to the particular parish. We were visiting a church where they had a weird communion procedure that we didn’t quite get, that made us feel very uncomfortable. Every opportunity should be taken to explain everything, to everyone, every time.
Keep consideration of the unchurched front and center in all the details of your weekend experience.
For a more complete take on this check out careynieuwhof.com