Pretty much every church leader I speak to says they have a longing to reach their church. After all, the Church is one of the few missions on the planet that exists for the benefit of its non-members. But are our churches as outwardly friendly as we would like to believe?
There's a strange tension that executives are often blind to: as much as they say they want to reach outsiders, their services and the entire organization are often geared toward insiders.
So when someone comes along that they're trying to reach, it's easy for them to feel like they don't belong or that the church isn't for them. And most leaders simply overlook the signs. So they scratch their heads and wonder why outsiders don't flock to their church.
The truth is that in almost every church there is an attraction to sacrifice the mission of the church by caring for the members of the church.
And while you cannot ignore the needs of your members, there is a strange paradox that applies to spiritual maturity: The best way to become spiritually mature is to stop focusing on your needs and instead focus on Christ and focus on others. Some church leaders drown trying to satisfy the escalating demands of their insatiable members as they watch the mission itself erupt in flames.
Worse, othersthinkThey are aimed at outsiders when in fact they are not. At least not really. They have succumbed to the subtle but relentless pull of insider needs.
With that in mind, here are five telltale signs that your church is not welcoming of your outsiders, no matter what your best intentions.
There is an attraction to sacrificing the mission of the church by caring for the members of the church.Click here to tweet
1. Long announcements
I know this is a bit strange at first, but really, how long are your announcements?
If they're longer than three minutes, you're probably more insider oriented than you realize.
The purpose of a greeting is to welcome people, not announce 18 things.
Churches often feel the excitement of announcements as their church grows. If you have a church of 30 members, it's probably not busy. But when you're a church of 300 members, you feel the pressure of everyone trying to make a differencehermessage over.
What about really big churches you ask? Well, you'll probably never reach 3,000 if you don't solve this problem first.
Why is this such a trap for small and medium sized churches? Here's why. Leaders feel torn and trying to please everyone, so they give in to "one more announcement" syndrome because they fear the wrath of whoever they left out.
But think about it. When you first come to church, the last thing you want to hear is a long laundry list of things that don't interest you. They want to meet Jesus or at least learn more about Him.
And if the greeting isn't focused on that, you've missed an opportunity to connect your first-time guest to their most important goal: taking the next step in their journey.
And the answer to the next step isn't to do 18 things. It's supposed to do one thing.
If you don't know what that one thing is, you're not targeting outsiders. They probably only fulfill the needs and desires of insiders.
The purpose of a church greeting is to welcome people, not to announce 18 things.Click here to tweet
2. Trying to get everyone to do everything
All of this brings us to the second problem that insider-oriented churches struggle with in their bulletins and announcements: trying to get everyone to do everything.
I remember when our church was at this stage. We had about 400 or 500 participants, and we were a program-based church at the time.
Each group was fighting for new members, so there was a lot of pressure to get people to join. The people leading each group also believed their group was the best thing for the people, so it deserved a prime spot. And if you left them out, they got mad because their program wasn't growing.
It creates this weird dynamic where you try to get everyone who attends your church to do anything.
See, people can't do 20 things. You can probably do one thing, or maybe two.
And if you don't tell new guests what to do, guess what they'll do? Right - nothing.
Ditto for asking regular attendees about many things. If you ask people to do 20 things, most people won't do anything.
So, to be clear, if you want most of the people in your church to do nothing, keep suggesting they do everything.
As we prepared to break the 500 mark, I led the church through a year-long rethink that resulted in us closing most of our ministries and our Wednesday night service so we could focus on an important strategic move that would help the largest number of would lead people to spiritual growth: serving, giving, inviting friends and joining small groups.The goal? Finding some strategic starting points for people to help them find and grow in faith.
When it comes to leading people into transformation, simplicity is your friend.
If you want moreRead Tony Morgan's guest post on Programs vs. PathAndThis piece I wrote about why engagement is the new church attendance.
If you want most of the people in your church to do nothing, keep telling them to do everything.Click here to tweet
3. Saved Places
This is a small thing that is actually a big deal. Last year I was at a church where no one from the guest services team showed my wife and I to our seats. We were just handed a bulletin and made our way down.
When I got a row that looked pretty open, I walked in and asked the elderly lady a few seats down if the empty seats were taken and she said, "Not yet."
I had no idea what she meant.
So I asked if I could sit a few seats away from her. She just looked at me, didn't say a word, and moved two seats back. Welcome to the church I guess.
Nothing says church is for insiders quite like "You can't sit in my seat."
Interestingly, halfway through the service, her friends showed up one by one. None of them smiled at us. They just whizzed by and sat even further away.
I have no idea what it was about but I doubt I would go back if it was my first time.
You should train your guest services team to guide and let people into a spacethemDo the work of pissing off your grumpy members.
Nothing says church is for insiders quite like "You can't sit in my seat."Click here to tweet
Christians often talk strangely - from the pulpit and among themselves.
Too often we use unnecessarily weird language – like this:
"That's good coffee, brother."
"Let's have fellowship together."
Um, none of this is good. Why not just talk in church as you would in the office, at a soccer game, or at the pool on a Saturday? (Actually, if you talk like thatTheusually you probably don't get invited too often).
Here's what's actually at stake: If someone has to learn code to join your church, you probably won't have many people joining your church.
This is our challengeto reducethe human barriers that keep people from Jesus are not erecting new ones.
And no, being weird doesn't mean you're faithful. It just means you're weird.
If someone has to learn code to join your church, you won't have many people joining your church.Click here to tweet
5. Music without courage
Many churches have moved towards a more contemporary style of music. But most churches have not moved far enough. The reason? Fear.
Your church is too contemporary to make insiders happy, and your approach is still too dated, irrelevant, and unappealing to capture the imagination of those without a church. They've made as many changes as you think you can navigate without alienating your existing membership, but haven't made nearly enough changes to engage outsiders.
As a result, you are in no man's land. In trying to please everyone, you have satisfied no one.
Many leaders often compromise what they want to do for fear of backlash from their core members. So we convince ourselves that we are contemporary even when we are not. We're holding back the music war as much as we can.
If you think your church is contemporary,Check out the current top 40. My guess? Your definition of what sounds contemporary and the average 30-year-old unchurched person's understanding of what sounds contemporary are worlds apart.
I'm not saying we have to sound exactly like today's Top 40; I'm just saying don't think you're culturally engaged when you're far from being culturally engaged.
If your congregation still feels the tension because of the music,here's a piece that might help.
In an attempt to please everyone, many church leaders please no one.Click here to tweet