Here are a few ideas…
On the surface the numbers can look bleak – the culture we live in in America is slipping further and further away from God. In July 2022, Gallup released survey findings that reveal that belief in God in America is down 6% from 2017 and at 81% is at the lowest level ever. Similarly, a different survey revealed only half of Americans say they know God exists and have no doubts down from 63% in 2006. So how should the Church react and what steps are effective when fewer people in our community express a belief in God? Here are a few ideas…
1) Meet people where they are
As a church leader you want people to come to your church, but in a society that may not believe in God, or was not raised on weekly church attendance, going to church is a foreign concept that may seem like more trouble than it’s worth. So instead of spending resources to get people to come in, you may have more success when you go out – build relationships and demonstrate God’s love before you invite people into your church.
Ideas to get started:
- Find a coffee shop, work space or outdoor area where you can host Q & A sessions about God, the Bible and faith. A recent Lifeway Research study showed that half of Americans say they are curious about why some people are so devoted to their faith, so start a conversation in a non-threatening location.
- Make yourself a regular at a local spot. Study, write and answer emails from a coffee shop or diner. As you build relationships with the staff and other regulars you may just be able to have deeper conversations. Plus you will hear the concerns, stresses and struggles that are key to your community.
- Get involved with local sports teams. This is an easy task If you have kids – and really something that you can encourage every parent in your church to mimic. Attend practices and games, talk to the other parents, make friends, learn about their lives and then invite them (or the kids) to church activities.
Even if your members are past the “soccer mom” stage, supporting the local High School or college football and basketball teams are still great ways to meet people, support the youth in your church and connect with other fans.
- Another sports related option is to put together a team from your church to play in a local sports league – just make sure all your players are good sports and can honor and represent God well even in the heat of competition!
2) Become a Third Space.
Often church buildings are not fully utilized during business hours or during the evenings. By opening your building up to other organizations for meetings, as a location for classes and after-school programs or as a “cool-zone” for Seniors, you are providing a new avenue for people to get more familiar with your facility and staff. Coming to church will seem less of a big deal when people in your community know the staff and the location of the restrooms.
3) Pray for and with Your Community
You probably already do this instinctively but what about intentionally and corporately? We all know that prayer is powerful and we are even commanded to pray for our leaders. But what if you planned and executed a more purposeful prayer plan with your congregation, or even with other churches throughout your area?
Trypraying is an international movement and a seven-day prayer resource designed with non-religious people in mind. Churches are encouraged to give a booklet to each church member, have them follow it for a week and then “lose it” by giving it away to a friend, neighbor, coworkers, or store clerk. The simple to use book encourages the reader to just try praying for seven days, and then walks the reader through the basics of how to pray, what to pray about, how God responds to prayer, and how to be thankful for every answer to prayer. Day 7 includes a prayer of surrender and turning your life over to God.
Other ways to pray for your community include sending out small teams to walk through a neighborhood and systematically praying for each household. While that may sound like a big assignment, “Prayer Walking” can be a great way to not only cover your community with God’s power but also to strengthen the faith of your members.
So what is a Prayer Walk? It is physically walking “onsite” and praying at the places you are trying to reach and change. Take a walk in the neighborhood around your house or church and stop for a moment at each home; ask God to meet that family’s needs, to bring them into relationship with him, and to enable you and your church to be a conduit to show them the love and forgiveness of Jesus.
4) Serve Your Community
The saying “People don’t care what you know until they know you care” is really true; actions do speak louder than words. A good question to ask is what is your church doing to make a difference in the community? And the answer doesn’t have to be a huge, complicated strategy that requires a big budget; it can be as simple as recruiting a team of volunteers to help serve meals for the Salvation Army or local food kitchen, collecting supplies for a women’s shelter, or organizing a backpack give away for a low income area.
One suburban church started delivering hot coffee and donuts to morning commuters at the train station one day a week, and then serving hot cup-of-soup meals in the evenings. They were able to share God’s love to commuters, vacationers and the homeless population. Paired with other service activities, their church became known in the community as a church that cared and was willing to help others. What a great reputation to cultivate!
5) Don’t be Afraid to Invite
This one may seem pretty obvious but being clear that your church wants new people to visit is a key step in evangelism. People who are not familiar with church or Christianity may view church services more like a club “for members only” and may not realize that they are welcome to come in on any Sunday for services.
One way to break down barriers is by planning special events that are target at unchurch people. These events can range from movie nights to Easter egg hunts to National Back to Church Sunday services in September. Or consider inviting in a special guest speaker, hosting a financial planning seminar or a marriage weekend.
Once you have an “inviteable” event, be sure to spread the word using multiple types of invitations. Studies show that it takes up to seven impressions before someone acts on an ‘ad’ – and really, an invitation to church is just that. So take advantage of all the options open to your church including: direct mail, personal invites, social media advertisements and events, doorhangers, and outdoor banners.
All it takes is one encounter with God! It isn’t complex and doesn’t need to be elaborate. A simple word, gentle action, honest story or humble prayer has the ability to lead people to an encounter with God that changes everything.
So make a commitment this ministry season to encourage your members and staff to get out and meet new people, listen to their stories, pray and serve – and ultimately invite people to meet Jesus. It’s time to hit the streets.