What is it like to visit a Church for the first time in your life?
What is it like to visit a Church if you have not been since you were a child?
What is it like to visit our Church for the first time?
These are vital questions all of us need to ask ourselves if we are serious about reaching people with the gospel through our Church.
I have an extremely difficult time answering any of these questions because I have attended Church my entire life. Now, I do have some insights because I have walked into 6 congregations in my life as a new minister. I have set in the crowd feeling the awkward moments of being unsure what is going to happen next. I have felt what it is like to not know where to go, when to sit or stand and should I participate or not?
As a result of my experiences and my desire to reach out to new people I have come up with three questions I need to be constantly asking myself.
1. What am I assuming the other person knows? I was talking to a visitor to our Church and I told them our nursery is attached to the fellowship areas. Sounds simple right? Then they asked, “What is a fellowship area and where is it?” Take time to explain everything in as much detail as possible. Many people have no idea what we do in Church on Sunday morning and I need to remember their unfamiliarity.
2. Am I using Churchy language? Inside the doors of a Church our vocabulary can become oriented for insiders while forgetting we are not all insiders. A “fellowship time” being done after the “invocation” that is followed by the “Doxology” can be confusing for the people who just walked through the “narthex.” Why can’t we just shake hands after we pray and before we sing a song of praise to God? It can be far less confusing to the new family who just walked through our lobby.
3. Will I choose clear or clever? Churches love to use clever names. Once in Iowa our new Church was given an old Church building. We tried to call it by all kinds of clever names only to discover people liked it most when we just called it “our building.” Calling the nursery, children’s ministry or teen group something clever is popular to Christians but it is not very clear to non-Churched people. Calling a part of your physical campus by a religious name sounds Godly but it can simply be confusing. Always choose clear over clever.
I believe one of the simplest things a Church can do to help reach new people is to continually try to think like a non-Churched person. This will help us eliminate boundaries and open up our faith to new people. The questions are not easy, but helpful.