Because of our busy schedules, we’re often a little hesitant to add anything new to our lives. We feel that for us to commit to something new, it must be worth our time. For first-time church visitors and non-believers, attending a new church is no exception. They may not know exactly what they’re getting themselves into or how this new experience will ultimately provide value. As Christ-followers, we know that there is nothing more valuable in this world than Jesus. So, how can we demonstrate this to new church visitors? How can we let them know the value of the gospel and our church community? Dr. Mike Clarensau expounds on this topic in the third installment of this series.
Question Three: Will this place add value to my life?
A few decades ago, people faithfully attended church because it was their church. Sunday after Sunday, they demonstrated their worship habit as a real habit. Some were even so attached to their local church that they attended every Sunday morning and nearly every Sunday night and Wednesday night. These “faithful attenders” could always be found in their familiar pew location, ready to support the many activities of the church with their attendance.
Today, people consider themselves active in church if they attend even half of the Sunday morning services each year. Schedules have become overwhelmingly busy, peoples’ lives are crammed with numerous activities, and the thought of attending every single week just isn’t as common as before, much less attending multiple events each week. “Faithful” has a whole new definition in the current culture.
Here’s some things you need to know:
1. People trade time for value.
If you want people to give up precious hours in their overworked schedule, you need to communicate the value of such hours to their lives. When people recognize the value they gain by attending church, they will exchange a few hours for that value. The days of attending simply because it’s my church are fading fast. It’s hard to imagine, but there was once a time when people attended regularly even if the experience was boring and failed to connect with their daily lives. That day is long gone in most places.
2. Our values must be visible.
Think back to last Sunday…if I visited your church, what five things would I say that you care about most? Would those be the things you really do care about most as a church? If you want me to value what you are doing, make sure you value those things too. I’ve been to many churches that are simply following the same script they’ve followed for years and the meaning has faded. When our worship services fail to demonstrate what we value, we aren’t giving an accurate first impression to our guests.
If you want to connect with people today, be sure that the most prominent items on the Sunday menu are the things you really care most about. Let people see what is important in your church so they can recognize what you value and learn to find that same meaning.
3. Explain or lose.
Don’t assume people understand everything you are doing in your worship services. They don’t! Take a moment to explain things–especially those elements that differ from normal daily life. For example, if during prayer many people pray out loud simultaneously, explain why. If your church exercises various gifts of the Spirit, take time to explain what has happened. Remember that what people don’t understand makes people uncomfortable. If church isn’t user-friendly, you won’t gain very many new users.
4. People don’t care what you think, but they care what you do.
Actions speak louder than words, and they also have a way of either proving or disproving our words. People today want to be involved in ministry efforts that matter. They care about social needs. They want to donate to projects that make a difference. They aren’t always interested in programs that are designed solely for those in the church. They will find value in making an impact, so offer them ways to do that.
5. People want to know how.
Sermons that motivate and challenge me without providing clear steps to do what the message suggested will frustrate the modern listener. Don’t assume that the dots between good thoughts and good actions are easy to connect. Help me see exactly how to live what I’m being taught. A good approach to teaching/preaching the Bible is
a) tell me what it says/means
b) tell my why it matters
c) tell me what it looks like.
If I can’t connect the dots, I won’t find the value in your message and will soon decide that such messages aren’t worth my time.
I’m not suggesting that we cater to people’s preferences or try to keep them attached to church with anything less than the truth of God’s Word, but if they aren’t finding value for their lives, they won’t justify the sacrifice of time it takes to be a part of your church. In the church, we have the greatest value one can find for his individual life. Make it visible, make it clear, and they will make the time to receive it.
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