What you should know about people who are outside the church and do not attend church services.
Imagine going to a conference and only hearing the best presentations. That’s what we are able to do with great notes. In this case, the notes come from @CherylKneeland. Cheryl took notes at Carey Nieuwhof’s excellent presentation on unchurched people (presented at this year’s Orange Tour). Here are five things we should all know about people in our culture.
5 CRITICALLY IMPORTANT THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT PEOPLE OUTSIDE THE CHURCH
Presented by @cnieuwhof, Orange Tour 2014
A growing number of people are saying “no” to church.
It used to be pretty easy to break down the walls, but it’s more difficult than ever to connect with unchurched people. It’s not just hostility anymore, it’s indifference.
Among 18-34 year olds, 63% said they have no interest in ever having a conversation with anyone involved in church. They are indifferent to us.
Many people have learned to live comfortably without God. They think it’s fine to have no church in the community. There is an entire culture that has learned to be successful by turning its back on God.
5 Characteristics of People Outside the Church Today
1. They feel less guilty than you think. People just don’t feel guilty anymore. The average person will feel as guilty about not attending church on Sundays as you feel about not attending synagogue on Saturdays. They don’t think about it. It’s not on their radar.
There are a lot of people that haven’t left your church, they just don’t attend very often (maybe just once a year) and they don’t feel guilty about it. If you are relying on GUILT as a motivator, good luck. Guilt is a short-term motivator. Guilt is seeing its final days as a motivator to get people to attend church.
2. People can’t come back to something they never knew. We have assumed for years that people will be back to church when they have kids, but it’s not true. Revivals are dead, they have stopped working in many places. Revival means that you’ve had something that was alive, but is now dead. However, many of these people have nothing to revive. They don’t know the Bible. If your curriculum is based on a story that you’re assuming they know, it’s not going to work. Assume that everyone is starting at step one. Create a discipleship path that keeps going. Maturity takes time and you have to be willing to give people time.
3. Most people are spiritual. One of the things unchurched people tell us is that the church believes that people who don’t go to church are not spiritual. But that’s simply not true. If you build your approach around the belief that people who don’t attend your church don’t believe, you’ll offend them. They absolutely believe, they may not know what they believe, but they believe something.
Early Rome was a very religious empire. Athens was religious, they just weren’t Christian. Your starting point with unchurched people is very important. We typically start with theology. And something inside of us sometimes gets upset when they don’t have all the theology figured out.
What if you responded to their questions with, “That’s very interesting, tell me more.”? Listen to them. Lifestyle issues, sexual identity, sex outside of marriage, sexual ethics. If you start there, how do those conversations usually go? They never go well.
Jesus never started with theology, He started with ministry. Look at the Samaritan woman, look at everyone he talked to. Jesus changed people’s lives because he started with ministry NOT theology. He asks people to come alongside Him. Just come on, hang out. Over a number of years, that group of outsiders is transformed. The Pharisees started with theology. The religious people started with what was wrong, Jesus started with people.
4. Unchurched people expect authenticity in leaders. They just want real. They want to know that sometimes when you pray, you think you’re talking to the ceiling. It’s just the number of times that I felt God was present in my prayers far outweighs the times I felt I was talking to the ceiling.
When you’re authentic and transparent, instead of talking at people you walk alongside people. You look at God’s word together. People admire your strengths, but they resonate with your weaknesses. When you speak out of your weaknesses, people feel like they get you. . . that they could hang out with you.
5. Unchurched people are looking for partners. They are:
> Looking for what to experience next.
> Looking for people that don’t know all the answers and who can be an empathetic mentor.
> Looking for people in the same place (peers).
> Looking for family.
> Looking for swim lessons, preschools, peers, partners…
The reality is that they don’t think that the church can help. What if your church was known as the premier place to go to when you have children… the best place to raise kids of faith and character? What if we start convincing them that the church can help?
So What Can We Do?
1. Say YES to friendship. How many unchurched people do you know? We need to be intentional. We need to do some things to get in the lives of unchurched people.
2. Say YES to dialogue. What about real dialogue, what about real faith? Monologues just don’t do that. People need someone to talk to, someone to hear their story.
3. Say YES to change. It’s hard. Even though God doesn’t change, we should. What do we need to do differently today in order to reach the people you want tomorrow? If you experiment you open up the door to more potential.
Take a few minutes today to think about church like an unchurched person would. Based on what you see, give yourself permission to do things differently. This is how we better connect people to God and how we stay relevant.