4 Ways to be a Church for Dummies

Several years ago, while pastoring a church we planted, I received email feedback from someone who attended our church. The lady had not grown up attending church very often, but wanted to learn the Bible and about “the things of God” (her words). The part of her email which caught my attention most was when she thanked us for being a “church for dummies“. (And, again, that was her term — not mine.)

I laughed at first but then I wondered how I should receive the remark. I decided to contact her and ask for a better explanation. She was gracious and explained she used to leave church more confused than when she arrived. After attending our church for a year, she was starting to understand the Bible and wanted to continue learning more. In the past, she could never seem to understand what it took to “fit in” at the church or become involved. With us she was already in a Bible study and serving as a greeter.

She concluded by saying she was thankful for a church which challenged her to grow in her faith, made her feel welcome — regardless of her background — and helped her easily get involved in the life of the church.

Wow! I took it as a high compliment!

As I processed the meanings behind her statement, I thought of a few reasons she may have felt as she did about our church.

Here are 4 reasons she might call our church a “church for dummies”:

Instruction

We taught truth everyone needs to know, but we tried to use language people who grew up outside the church could also understand. If there were Biblical terms not common to everyday language we tried to explain the word rather than assume they knew it or leave them guessing. We shied away from an insider language.

Our goal was to first engage the heart, create a passion for knowing Christ more fully and being like Him, then provide them with resources, environments and service opportunities which help them grow as a believer. We knew engaging their heart first was a key to helping them take ownership in their individual spiritual growth process.

Application

We tried to help people apply the timeless truth of God’s Word to their life today. We wanted them to take next steps in life according to the truths of an unchanging God. The Bible is not only historical, but also practical and applicable to everyday life, so we tried to help people understand how to adapt their life to the truth of Scripture.

We used illustrations to relate truth to people, much as Jesus used parables. The illustrations we used were mostly from current, modern day and very transparent examples of how God works in a person’s life. Whether a personal story from our life, someone whose life was changing in the church or a video element we purchased, examples of real life help people better understand the Bible and how it should impact their life.

Simple strategy

Our strategy was simple. And repeated constantly. Gather. Connect. Serve. (In the church where I serve now we adopted a similar strategy: Gather, Grow, Serve). We wanted people to quickly know how we functioned as a church. We consistently shared this strategy. There were banners for each one. It was shared weekly from stage. It was in all our publications. You would have had a hard time being in our church and not know these three words.

Easy entry points

We tried to make fun try points into our strategy easily accessible.

Gather: We used good sign and lots of people to make sure when you arrived on campus you knew where to go and what to do. Our campuses were in school buildings so it was a necessity, but it proved to be a blessing to new people. We consistently heard good things about our first impressions for visitors because of how welcome they were made to feel.

Connect: To promote Bible studies, we had Bible study fairs where leaders of different groups set up a booth and people walked through all the options. These were highly promoted “big” days in the church. We even fed people lunch at times as an incentive to attend the Bible study fairs. Groups were mentioned from stage every week. As pastor, my job was to weave groups into messages frequently to highlight their importance.

Serve: To get people to serve we set up a booth which allowed you to sign you up to serve immediately. It was positioned in a premium place in the school where we met. You couldn’t get to the service without seeing it. We wanted people to know they could find their place among us. We had open positions available every week which needed to be filled. We also posted “job openings” in our publications for various positions. We created “test serve” days where people could try out a job before they committed. We allowed people to shadow a seasoned volunteer for a while before they launched on their own.

I’m in an established church now, but we are attempting to be a “church for dummies”. And, people who aren’t. If we’re doing our job, then people who are mature in their faith or people who are new to faith or still exploring faith can discover truth and be challenged to adjust their lives to that truth. Everyone should be able to find their place to grow and serve.

I now don’t mind being labeled a church for dummies. In fact — the term has since grown on me a little.

How does your church help people outside the faith or new to faith learn and grow in faith?

Related Posts

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have you Subscribed via RSS yet? Don't miss a post!

20 thoughts on “4 Ways to be a Church for Dummies

  1. Great post Ron. Like the Apostle Paul said in 1Cor. 9:22-23: "I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. 23 I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings." I think Paul followed the same type of concept, to be an "apostle for dummies." I have had to learn this the hard way as well. I was raised around older folks all my life, and was trained by scholars. When I started my pastoral position, it was crazy – my message was going over people's heads. Then one day – the light bulb went on, and simple became the agenda of the day. Amazingly enough, the simpler I made the message, the more profound, deeper and life changing it became to my audience. It was a surprise to me. Thanks again Ron for another great post.

  2. This is a wonderful post, but I would encourage you to correct the typo in the second paragraph in the third line of the "application" section.

  3. Ron, great read, and I agree, what a compliment!

    Michael, I also would like to learn more about that dictionary resource!

  4. Church can bring great revival in the lives of new believers when it is true to its calling and acts in the Holy Spirit for His glory alone. As 1 Corinthians 12:28 puts, "in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues." It is upto us to remain true to our calling and serve a great God in truth and Spirit.

  5. Great post Ron… what are your thoughts on the term 'Seeker Sensitive'? I'm not a big fan but I do appreciate trying to serve and teach the 'unchurched'?

    • Thanks Rob. Honestly, I'm not much of a label guy…I just like reaching people, but knowing the terms I would say we are not a "seeker sensitive" church. We certainly don't water down or shy away from truth to reach people. We just try to present it in an understandable and applicable way.
      Twitter: Ronedmondson

  6. Hey Ron, thanks for the post. My church–Gateway Church in Austin (www.gatewaychurch.com) does this better than any church I've ever seen. On any given Sunday about half or more of the people coming are just checking out faith, and have had little or no connection with church in their past. And as you point out, language is a huge deal. We even provide a "normalspeak" translation dictionary for our leaders to help them drop the churchy lingo in favor of the "common tongue." It's amazing what a positive impact this has in our ability to build authentic relationships with people who are far from God.

    • I'm very familiar with your church. What a great church! I've actually met your pastor at least once. We've learned from you guys!
      Twitter: Ronedmondson

    • Michael…would love to see your "normalspeak" resource. We've talked about one, but never taken the time to make it. Would you be willing to share?