I’ve been blessed with such a great job that allows me to travel to and work with churches all over the United States.
Almost every church I see, whether a client or not, has a vision to reach those who don’t attend church. We’ve labeled them with some pretty interesting monikers, some of which aren’t very encouraging: seekers, NON-Christians, the LOST, unsaved, NON-believers, etc… I’ll save my comments on that for another time.
So, we acknowledge our desire to reach these folks, yet I believe our approach may not best support this. What do I mean? Often we talk “church” – in other words, we use words in our sermons or communications or marketing or signage that people who don’t frequent a church wouldn’t understand. For example: I recently attended a church that had a strong emphasis on reaching young people who didn’t attend church. Their music was modern, their dress was very casual… yet, as I got out of my car to try to find the morning event, all I saw was a sign with an arrow on it that had the word “SANCTUARY” in big letters. There are many people out there who have never used the word sanctuary much less knowing what it means.
Another example: we’ll often post times that we have services on our websites and signs outside the church with the word “WORSHIP” next to the start time. This is something those of us who have been to church understand, but it doesn’t make any sense to those who are unfamiliar.
Another area that may need attention is how we communicate from the stage. I think we should really try to consider how the newcomer feels when we make references to scripture or history in a way that could come across as condescending. Instead of saying “we all know the story in the bible where_______” simply say “there’s a story in the bible that speaks to this, it is_________”
I understand we don’t intentionally try to exclude newcomers. I do believe that we need to be very intentional to make them feel welcome and a part of what’s going on. We can do this by always trying to look at things from the first timer’s perspective.
At some time in our life, whether age 8 or 80, we were all newcomers.