Most of the folk in our churches grew up in congregations. In fact, most had parents and grandparents who went to church and passed on a religious heritage, of some sort. So when those children and grandchildren became adults, they naturally sought out a church. The church waited for us to arrive and we showed up! That was the old “attraction” model and it worked well when the church and culture matched and everybody had a church background.
But of course, it is hardly a lightning-bolt revelation to say that the culture has changed and is changing ever more rapidly. Today, we have a couple of generations of people whose parents and grandparents didn’t go to church and didn’t pass on any religious heritage. How likely do you think it is that these folk are going to just show up at our front door?
And yet while we all know things have changed, most churches still sit and wait in the attraction mode. What we have to realize is that most of our community has not had the experience we have had. And we need to make our best efforts to stop falling back into the default position of waiting for people to come to us. It is so deeply embedded in most of our churches, that we have to really be on guard or we will fall back into default mode again and again.
How do we avoid this pitfall? Here are several strategies:
- Avoid any general advertising for your ministries and missions. Flyers, new front signs, mass mailings, and brochures are sure signs that you are creeping back to 1955.
- Get out of the building and start to meet people. Nothing good comes out of sitting and meeting in the church parlor. Hang out in restaurants, coffee shops, town activities, wherever people gather and begin to see the reality of the world we live in today.
- Have focus groups: get your members to invite a group of friends and neighbors to their house and then go interview them. Don’t’ promote any church agenda, just listen to what makes their lives tick; what they need; what they dream of.
- Let go of some “sacred cows”. Often we spend enormous amounts of time on “in house” activities that we enjoy but are totally irrelevant to anyone beyond the church. Spend less time on such activities and more time focusing on people not yet in your church.
The old attraction model will insidiously rear its head, but with intentional leadership we can learn how to minister and connect with people today.
Blessings as you reach out to others.
Nickerson Coaching/Sr. Associate with Griffith Coaching