Recently, in a conversation in our staff meeting, we were sharing some awesome stories about what God is doing in our church. We’ve seen 97 people receive Christ in their heart for the first time, in a period of less than 18 months and are thanking God for every one. So, the staff at VALLEY Christian Church and I, came up with a list of “5 Signs Your Church Is Reaching The Unchurched” from our experiences. Check out the list below:
1. Use of “Four Letter” Language
This is kind of crazy, but I’ve learned not to get all flustered when someone’s thinks nothing of dropping words in a conversation that “church people” would never say. A couple of weeks ago, someone actually told one of the leaders in our church after the service, “What a &%$#ing great message! It really kicked my @##!” The truth is, this is refreshing on many levels. That’s not to say that we don’t expect to see people grow past this stage, but it’s great to see people truly ‘come as they are’ and be themselves when experiencing Christ for the first time ever or in a very long time.
2. Okay With Change
You hardly ever hear unchurched folks say, “That’s the way we’ve always done it”. This mentality cripples many churches today. The unchurched seem to say, “Why not” a whole lot more than “Why”. It’s really amazing how passionate people are about change in order to reach others, when they were one of those “others” just a few short years or months before.
3. Shorter Services (and Sermons)
That person who came to church looking for a way to connect with God or explore who Jesus really is, wasn’t expecting they would have to give up the better part of Sunday just to find out. A three hour service is fine for Christians, but the unchurched will simply never come back again. When you think about it, it’s rare to find a feature film that is even more than two and a half hours long. We’ve seen the closer we keep our Sunday services to one hour, the more our church has reached the unchurched. A shorter service takes much more leadership, discipline, planning and focus than one that just goes on and on. It’s a challenge, but well worth it. The unchurched also don’t understand the whole “singing for 45 minutes” thing either, but that’s for another post.
4. Kids Dragging Parents to Church (Adult Children too)
So many times we’ve heard parents tell us that they really wanted to stay home, but their children started pitching a fit because they were going to miss out on our Children’s Ministry. This thrills me to no end to hear as a pastor. Also, it’s been wild to see parents of adult children (in their 20s and 30s) begin to attend our church after seeing their adult children’s lives transformed since beginning a relationship with Christ. As a result, not only are we reaching 20 & 30 somethings, but also 50 & 60 somethings who come to check out what has happened to their kids. That is just plain AWESOME, seeing generations growing in their relationship to Christ together!
5. Lots of Men
I never saw this one coming, but unlike most churches in America where the make-up of the church is almost 65/35% women to men, we’re seeing unchurched couples (and single men) coming to explore faith in Jesus Christ. The net result is our church is almost a perfect 50/50 split between women and men. There’s been lots of great books written addressing the strange ratio of women to men in most churches that are well worth the read. If you’re interested, check HERE, HERE and HERE. It’s been said, “If you reach the man, you reach the whole family” and we are definitely experiencing that reaching the unchurched in our community.
Do these 5 signs make you uncomfortable? Perhaps it’s time to rethink what churches are doing with our time and to retool to reach the unreached right outside of our door. It’s a challenge, but I really wouldn’t want it any other way!
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AMERICAN GOTHIC CHURCH: Changing the Way People See the Church, a new book by Jeffery Warren Scott suggests that the unchurched are not likely to be reached unless believers change the mental image of Christians embedded in the minds of the unchurched. Churches which are encouraging, joyful, and compassionate are more likely to reach and retain the unchurched.