How can your church reach unchurched people right now?
That question is mission-critical as a church.
It stands to reason investigating churches already finding success with unchurched people would be a great start. After all, if they have cracked the code, we can just borrow the combination. So most church leaders set off to investigate and learn from the best. We attend services at other churches. We go to conferences. We go to more conferences. We read books. We read more books. We network our way into mentoring relationships with leaders we respect.
An in our investigations, we inevitably see massive production in church services. We experience the GREAT preaching. We take copious notes at each conference. Then we return to our church, under our leadership, with our resources, with our staff… and reality sets in. We think: “If I can’t do what they do, I’ll never reach who they reach.”
And therein lies the issue with our investigation and learning exercises. Of course, learning from other successful churches is helpful and we should all prioritize learning from others, but relatively speaking, the only successful churches reaching the unchurched community we know about are mega-churches. We can study mega-churches all we want, but without the resources, leadership, and staff of a mega-church, replicating their execution is impossible.
I know – I’ve tried!
What we don’t realize is many, many small and medium sized churches are doing an excellent job of reaching the unchurched in their respective community. But they’ll never be profiled in Relevant magazine or Christianity Today. Because they are not visible, we don’t know they exist, and we therefore don’t believe it’s possible.
Before I became the Lead Pastor of a North Point Campus location (and had all the resources that come with such a church), I was leading a church in partnership with North Point. That simply meant we were independent as a church in leadership and finances, but we executed the North Point model of ministry (on a fraction of the budget, mind you). I desperately wanted to reach the unchurched like Andy and North Point, but I knew we lacked the resources of North Point. It was a conundrum.
But here is what I eventually discovered: Reaching the unchurched in our community was not a resource issue; it was a mindset issue. It may be helpful to go back and read that sentence out loud – or just tweet it out loud (I made it easy for you!).
That one thought allowed us as a small, under-resourced, under-staffed, church to reach the unchurched in a powerful way. Because it doesn’t take a dollar to be concerned about the unchurched. It doesn’t take vast resources to preach outsider comprehensible messages. It doesn’t take additional funding to befriend lost people.
Every church CAN be successful at reaching the unchurched. Here are a few mindset shifts I made in those early days of Watermarke to reach the unchurched without the resources I believe were required:
1. Stop allowing lack of resources to be an excuse.
Most likely, you will NEVER have the resources of a North Point. I’m sorry if that burst anyone’s bubble! The problem is we too often allow our lack of resources to become our excuse. Resources are helpful, no doubt. But resources aren’t required to reach the unchurched. That’s a lie we’ve allowed ourselves to believe, and each mega-churches and every conference experience has reinforce this lie.
2. Teach relational evangelism (and don’t call it that publicly).
We’ve termed it “invest and invite.” We encourage every person at our church to invest in real, meaningful relationships with people who don’t attend church and, when the timing is right, invite them to one of our services (which are always designed with their guest in mind). No resources are required for your congregation to be concerned with reaching those far from God. It’s a mindset.
3. Model relational evangelism.
If we (church leaders, pastors, et.al.) are not relationally engaged with unchurched people, then nobody in our church will be either. It’s basic moral authority. And I’ve found it’s the BEST way to make a mental shift to reach those far from God.
This is why I play tennis. I love to compete and I love the sport, but more than anything, I love meeting and developing relationships with people outside the church. As a pastor, I could easily spend every moment of my relational life with Christians. But in doing so, I would miss a personal calling AND my leadership would drift away from the unchurched. It’s about mindset.
4. Be normal. Be authentic. And be likable.
It doesn’t take resources to be a normal guy or girl. I wrote an entire post on this HERE.
5. Acknowledge everyone doesn’t believe the same thing.
Resources are not required to embrace diversity of faith, but a mindset is for sure! Moving lights and great sound systems might help your worship, but it won’t help you embrace the tension diverse faith and belief systems create in the church. Welcoming diversity is a mindset.
6. Embrace private conversations over public statements.
Lastly, it doesn’t take any additional funding to stop making blanket public statements that satisfy church people and alienate the unchurched. I won’t give you the full laundry list of statements now, mostly because we all know what they are. I’m not sure why pastors feel the need to publicly condemn the sins of the world. We should expect worldly people to behave as if they are of the world, because they ARE of the world. I believe Jesus and Paul had something to say about that.
But unchurched people will be SHOCKED by and DRAW to a Christian willing to talk openly about their own struggles, failures, and questions. You guessed it – that’s way more a mindset issue than a resource problem!
Here’s some great news – if you never have the resources of a mega-church, you can still reach the unchurched in your community. And all it will take is a private first, corporate second, mindset shift.
I’d love to know if you are a church leader or church attender hoping to make this shift. What scares you? How do you feel your church would respond? What good reasons keep churches from moving toward the unchurched? What excuses need to be eradicated? Let’s start a deeper conversation in the comments below.