Bringing people to Christ is the Church’s ultimate goal. But for many churches, it can honestly be a struggle to keep new visitors around long enough to get to know them and help further their relationship with Christ.
Growing up in a busy household, going to church every Sunday wasn’t in my family’s weekly routine. I remember times when friends would invite me to their Wednesday youth groups, and sometimes I would tag along. But other than that, I didn’t know much of anything about the Church, God, or the Bible.
I came to Christ during my junior year of high school. And as a curious new believer, I quickly became discouraged because I didn’t understand how to learn more about God. Around this same time, I was invited to attend a local church. This is when it all started to make sense for me. Not only was the pastor excellent at sharing God’s word with us, he explained it in a way that someone like me, who didn’t even know where to begin when it came to the Bible, could understand.
Thinking back on my experience, I realized how easy it can be for our churches to miss opportunities with newcomers. It’s crucial for each of us to take a look at everything we do from the perspective of someone who is new to church. Will they understand what we’re talking about? Will they feel out of place? And, of course, will they come back?
So I did some thinking and came up with 4 things I didn’t understand when I first started attending church. This list is just a start, but I’m sure many people who are new to church experience some of these same things:
1) I didn’t understand how to take a next step.
Quite honestly, I didn’t even know you could take a next step…
We talk a lot about discipleship paths around here. As a church leader, you might underestimate the importance of having clear next steps for someone who is new to your church to take. But most new visitors probably don’t realize there is more to becoming a part of a church than just showing up every Sunday.
So what’s the simple first step someone can take to get more connected in the life of your church? Is it a free lunch with the pastor? A small step towards membership? Finding an area to serve? Once that’s defined, ask yourself, “how can I clearly communicate this next step to new people at my church?”
2) I didn’t understand why I should give.
Growing up, I never understood why people gave to the church. And being part of the millennial generation, who are generally cautious about who we give our money to, I wondered where the money would be going. Additionally, I didn’t understand the biblical basis for giving until my pastor took the time to explain it to our church.
If you’re going to ask people to give, take the time to share a little bit of the why behind it. Tell stories of the difference your church’s ministry is making in the community. And speak to your whole audience, from the new believers to the committed churchgoers.
3) I didn’t understand the meaning of baptism.
We can never be too certain whether new visitors understand the more “religious” things we do, such as baptism. New believers, like me, may not understand that, just because their parents didn’t have them baptized as a newborn baby, doesn’t mean they’ve missed out on their chance to be. Or some may not have built up the courage to ask about it.
So consider this question: how can you communicate the meaning and importance of baptism to people without waiting for someone to come and ask you about it? Stories are a great way to do this. Utilize members who have been baptized, creatively sharing their stories and the why behind their decision to be baptized. Don’t forget: Stories inspire. Announcements inform.
4) I didn’t understand the churchy language.
Every person in your congregation is at a different place in their walk with God. Some, like I was, might be coming to your church without a clue of where to even start.
When preaching, it can be easy to rely on churchy language or talk about difficult topics without any explanation. To avoid this, try to keep new visitors in mind when planning your sermons. Make Jesus compelling. And preach in a way new visitors can understand and apply what you’re teaching to their lives.
In the first greeting at the door, the language we use, and our follow-through with new volunteers, we must keep the mission in mind as we minister to our community. Let’s take a look at what we’re doing from the eyes of a newcomer — the results will definitely be worth it.