Most churches are looking to add to the numbers. So, how do we set-up our services to make them comfortable for those who want to explore and test the waters?
I believe there is an important balance between being introvert and extrovert that is key to making people feel welcome, safe and free to investigate and enabling them to gradually settle in and become part of the family.
What do I mean by introvert and extrovert?
The introvert aspect is often the first stage. There is a desire for a level of anonymity employed whenever people visit a new place. One wants to discover the etiquette, the culture, the way things are done so as to avoid any embarrassing faux pas. Sitting, watching, learning – these are all natural behaviours and we should not only allow it, but make room for it and encourage it. By all means warmly welcome your guest, but it’s probably not helpful to sign them up to each and every committee, group and project you offer straight away.
For people with different faiths, no faith or fledgling faith, this introverted approach gives time and space to acclimatise to a new ‘spiritual’ environment. Service leaders, worship leaders and speakers can all have a vital role to play in encouraging this acclimatisation and can play the role well by using a few simple tools.
A simple explanation goes a long way. We generally try to take nothing for granted. People will visit churches with a vast array of backgrounds, experiences and preconceptions. A simple explanation, in plain English, can make people feel welcome, comfortable, safe and part of the proceedings. For example (an example I will no doubt unpack more in posts to come!), why do we say “now we’re going to move into a time of worship”?* Don’t we actually mean “we’re going to sing some songs together, to God. We’re going to pray together and then read from the Bible”? Say it in plain English and everyone’s on board. Say things in cryptic churchy jargon and nobody has a real clue what’s going on.
Another simple trick to include everyone is to put everything that we say or sing together on the screen or in the service sheet. A lot of churches do this already but it’s still amazing how much we take for granted. Some people don’t know the Lord’s Prayer off by heart, some people don’t know the grace at all. Chuck the words up for every to see and say together and everyone feels included.
After a while, that introverted anonymity fades as people feel part of what’s going on. They begin to own the experience. The church moves from being a church to my church. The defenses come down and the extroverted aspect takes over. To encourage this extrovert dynamic why not build into the services opportunities to interact. It’s a concept being explored and described as Church 2.0 (Vicky Beeching explains this brilliantly). It’s a move away from front led, front directed services where leaders and preachers talk at the congregation to a place where everybody has the opportunity to add their piece to the puzzle. That can be through times of sharing news, asking questions during the sermon or teaching, playing games, discussion points etc.
The balancing act lies in the need for an element of both in our services. A healthy tension between anonymous observation and investigation and connected ownership and interaction.
Next up: Education and Expression*If we genuinely believe that worship is a way of life that declaration makes no sense! I’ll pick up on that point in posts to come.