What’s the biblical response to shrinking numbers? “Go out into the highways and hedges and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.” Luke 14:23 is quite a command! It’s saying “Connect to the Community!”
Church is like throwing a ministry banquet and, of course, we’re expecting our congregation to attend. But like the parable, many have (poor) excuses for non-attendance and our pews aren’t full. Yet, right outside our doors we have thousands of people who have no interest in what we’re doing.
Sure, there are lots of reasons why. But don’t let it be because you haven’t invited them properly.
How can you tell if you’re not connected well with your community? Here are 3 scary key indicators:
- They ignore you. Often the church feels like they’re communicating things well. Church leadership has discussed and planned events and services so well that they believe “everyone” knows about them. It’s possible that some in your church will know, but to reach outside your campus, you have to intentionally compel people to come in. How? You serve their interests and not yours. Don’t dumb down the Gospel message. Instead, you must deliver it in a thread that corresponds to their needs. Many people believe the church is self serving. They believe you want them to attend to make you feel good and then to collect an offering. Make it about them. Connect to your community.
- You become a separate group. Over time your services don’t represent the community around you. You realize the community is growing and your church is not. “They” are looking different from the congregation. “They” are younger, more vibrant, and diverse. “You” have a separate group from the community. A subset that looks, acts, and feels differently. Do you even know the demographic makeup of the area around your church? Once you do, you’ll be surprised at how young they’ve become and how diverse people look. How to fix this? Concentrate on doing things for the younger generation. Ensure your stage reflects the age and diversity of the community. Depict your community in your communications. Connect to your community.
- You eventually fade away. When decline starts, it’s a sure indicator of disconnecting with a community. The only exception? If your community is dying too. Most aren’t though. Once decline starts, it’s difficult to stop the slide. You must do something drastic! This isn’t simply deciding that more will attend if you serve coffee, add a praise team, get better microphones, or install a cool new backdrop. Drastic measures involve scouring the highways and hedges by turning over rocks to find where the people are and then ministering to them. Delivering exactly what they need. Do you know what concerns and problems the people in your community are experiencing? Are you known as a solution to their needs? Few will want to hear about Jesus until you minister temporal solutions to their nagging problems. That’s peaking true ministry. Connect to your community.