Did you know that medical textbooks need constant updating? It’s not because the human body changes- it’s because constantly new methods and information about the body become available that compel doctors to evaluate and revise their practice of medicine.
Perhaps there’s an important lesson here for the Church and our practice of ministry. Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today, and tomorrow, but everything else in constantly changing: communication, culture, current events, circumstances, everything.
As church leaders, it’s important we engage in vigilant and constant evaluation and about our methods and strategies for reaching the unchurched and awakening the faithful in our pews. Here are five important ones:
Get Their Attention
In today’s unchurched culture “church” has become irrelevant. People don’t so much reject it as never even consider it. In our community families are absorbed in a culture that doesn’t need church, at least that’s the attitude. They don’t see themselves as “lost” anyway, they’re just busy. Evangelization is first of all just getting people’s attention. That’s why we do Christmas Eve at the Maryland State Fair.
Make An Invitation
There was a time when churches could count on the individual and cultural expectation that going to church was an important duty. Not anymore. At this point it almost goes without saying, but it bears repeating- unchurched people attend church because they are invited, not because they’re obliged.
But I’ll be honest- I don’t see the problem. In fact, it’s more of a relief. It’s more authentic and exciting to invite, not guilt, family and friends back to church (which, incidentally, Jesus never did, and neither should the Church).
It is important to understand that the thought process of most unchurched people in the “church shopping” culture is not in terms of “this church” or “that church,” but “your church” or “no church.” In this situation, “better” isn’t really the operative word. “Different” is. The church is not here to be “better” than the world, but to transform it by being different.
People can go anywhere for entertainment, and lets face it, that’s just not a battle the Church will ever win if we wanted to anyways. But neither should churches bore their congregations with boring and bad liturgy and music.
There is a middle ground here. A truly excellent experience is one that is engaging, not simply entertaining or just insipid. To this end, churches can actually learn a lot from the most successful, enduring companies and organizations when it comes to hospitality, operations, and communications. And often times, the key is simplicity- less may be more.
If your church is blessed to be growing, one issue always comes up. More people bring more needs and demands that require more programs, right? But programs can become entitlements for insiders, shrines to the past, silos for volunteers and staff and, in the process slow your growth down.
Strategic ministries, on the other hand, have a clearly defined vision and purpose, but always leave room for healthy growth and adaptability, ministries that are outwardly focused and easy to change. People today embrace values like spontaneity and authenticity. These values are best reflected in ministries that are simple and strategic, not overly programmed.
For another take on the topic, check out careynieuwhof.com