What’s more challenging (and annoying) to Christians than outright hostility? Indifference. And that’s exactly the attitude of most of the unchurched people in your community (the hostile one’s are just louder).
The truth is, most unchurched people you encounter do not feel morally or even spiritually bankrupt. Actually, they’re spiritually quite “comfortable.” Reaching this group will be increasingly important if we want to see our churches succeed for the next generation. So how do we do it?
Reality- The unchurched of the mega-church movement were called “seekers.” They were cultural Christians seeking something beyond their own religious traditions. The rising generation of unchurched are no longer seeking anything.
Response– Think outside the Church.
Although Catholic parents and grandparents still influence their families to receive the sacraments, the truth is, even that is a dying culture. Kids are now being born into families that are already two generations of the unchurched. How can they find their way “back” to a place they’ve never been?
Church members must increasingly invest in the community outside the parish. And that means, hosting too many church programs actually draws parishioners away from the local community they are called to serve and engage. Encourage parishioners to balance life in and outside the church.
Reality- Most in our culture believe everything for a fulfilling life can be found outside the Church.
Response– Speak to your successes.
Most people are really pursuing what they think is best for themselves and their families, and often it’s positive (like kids sports programs). Assume the best about the unchurched. Don’t demean or demonize their choices. Instead, affirm the good, but question whether there might be more to life. Don’t harp on what they don’t have, but what you do have. It’s more important to speak to your church’s successes than assume their personal failures. What added value does your church offer? Speak to that. Beginning with common ground and empathy opens people to an invitation.
Reality- People don’t believe the church understands their modern lifestyle.
Response– Make the message relevant and down to earth.
In the Internet age, when any answer is “google-able,” many people are pretty savvy about finding answers to anything they care about. What they don’t necessarily get is how it is relevant to their lives. Most aren’t necessarily looking for a theological argument or profound spirituality, just something practical and useful. Often people don’t think they need God because they don’t realize how they’re life and faith are interconnected. Put your theology to work by making those connections for them.
For another take on the subject, check out www.CareyNeuwhof.com