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”:
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.
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.
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?