Almost every leader I know says they want their church to grow.
And almost all of them say they want much of that growth to come from people who don’t go to church.
But precious few churches see real traction in this area.
Most churches aren’t growing, and even the ones that are sometimes experiencing a majority of their spike from transfer growth rather than from previously unchurched people.
So why don’t churches who say they want to reach unchurched people actually reach unchurched people?
Here are 7 frequent reasons:
1. Your desire to reach unchurched people is an intention, not a strategy
You’re basically doing what you’ve always been doing and hoping for different results.
Wanting people to attend and creating a church unchurched people love to attend are two very different things.
If you haven’t made radical changes to how you do church, don’t expect radically different results.
2. You’ve ended up in No-Man’s Land by trying to please everyone
Your church is too contemporary to make insiders happy and your approach is still too dated, irrelevant and unengaging to capture the imagination of unchurched people. You’ve made as many changes as you think you can navigate without alienating your existing membership, but not brought about nearly enough change to really engage outsiders. You are in no-man’s land. In an attempt to please everyone, you have pleased no one.
You’ve made as many changes as you think you can navigate without alienating your existing membership, but not brought about nearly enough change to really engage outsiders.
You are in no man’s land. In an attempt to please everyone, you have pleased no one.
3. Your real vision is about you
On the wall, your vision is about Jesus, the Kingdom and the world, but down the hall your reality about how to keep Mr X from writing yet another angry letter and how to appease Ms X who says your church just isn’t deep enough.
You say it’s about others, but you spend all your time on insiders.
Keep that up, and no matter what your mission and vision say, your church will have a vision no bigger than its (contentious) members.
4. Your people don’t know any unchurched people
This can be a real problem. How can people who attend your church invite unchurched people if they don’t know any?
One of the ways we combat that where I serve at Connexus (where 60% of our growth is from unchurched people) is to offer very little mid week programming—mostly just community groups for people to gather in at most one night a week. We want people to be at home and be a family, invite friends over, get to know their neighbours, play on community sports teams and love the cities and communities they live in.
It’s a lot easier to invite unchurched friends to church when you have some.
5. You speak insider
If unchurched people show up, you confuse them by the way you speak. If they have to learn code to understand what people in the hall way are saying (We were blessed by great fellowship the other day) or what’s being said from the front (sanctification is a process of regeneration led by the Holy Spirit), they’ll leave.
Talk like normal people. Be clear. Remember, being unclear does not make you deep. It just makes you unclear.
6. You judge them
If you start reaching unchurched people they’re going to look like, well, unchurched people.
Their lifestyle will be different. Sex won’t just be for married people. You’ll deal with addictions, family break down, competing ideas about who God is and much more.
Stop judging. Start loving. Very few people get judged into life change; many of us get loved into life change.
Start with judgment and they’re gone. And apparently, Jesus will be upset too.
7. You’re not sure what to do with them when they get there
You have no clear steps. No environments designed with new people in mind. You don’t know how to engage their questions, to journey with them.
Even if unchurched people come, they won’t stick around if you can’t lead them into a relationship with Jesus Christ.
That’s what I’ve seen as I’ve talked with many churches and church leaders. And those are things we constantly guard against at Connexus.
How about you? Would you add anything to the list?