096 – How do we help people choose to come to church on Sunday? [Podcast]

A listener question


Welcome to Season 3 of the Your Church Matters podcast. Starting with this episode (96) I’m going to spend several episodes answering questions from a survey I did a few months back with my subscriber list.


Question: “Church vs. the recliner, how do we get people to feel comfortable coming to our time of Praise, Worship & Bible Teaching?”



Non-judgmental Analysis

First, I want to offer an analysis of the question.  I can’t be unbiased (no one can), but I intend to be non-judgmental.  I’m simply responding to what I see in the question.

Church vs. the Recliner – Is the “recliner” your main competition?  If you were to survey the non-church-attenders within a two-mile radius of your church, what percentage would say that they are spending that time sitting in the recliner instead of going to church?  I know that the question was posed by a male over the age of 60 who is retired from a non-church business (based on survey responses), so the “recliner” may be more of an issue within that demographic.  However, I suspect that it would still be a small percentage.

How do we get people to feel comfortable coming – Is your church really uncomfortable? If that is the case, what makes it so?  If the “recliner” is truly the main competition, then “comfort” may really be a big issue.  I wonder how many of those non-church-attenders would say, “I just don’t feel comfortable there,” because they know from having been there.  I also wonder how many would say, “I wouldn’t feel comfortable there,” out of speculation based on their perception or what they have heard?  Again, I suspect that “comfort” is not the primary issue.

Our time of Praise, Worship, and Bible Teaching – This may provide us with a good transition point.  “Our time” suggests to me that we are trying to get them to join us in what we are doing.  We may be getting somewhere with this one.  The tension between what we are doing on Sunday morning and what they are doing on Sunday morning is real.  How to most effectively deal with it is key.

Possible Diagnostic Questions

  1. What are people in our area doing on Sunday morning instead of going to church somewhere? Let’s not just think about our church, but let’s broaden it to any church. Are most of them really sitting home in the recliner?  Are they doing yard work?  Are they participating in youth sports leagues?  Are they on the lake or the golf course?  What options are there in our community?  Knowing those things will help us figure out how best to connect.  Assuming that the “recliner” is the only other attraction will limit our thinking and perhaps create ineffective outreach methods.
  2. Is our church really uncomfortable? If it were physically uncomfortable (seating, temperature, schedule) or had a spiritually/emotionally uncomfortable atmosphere, the regular attenders would be mentioning it. If that is the case, then start thinking about what adjustments or modifications can be made.
  3. Is our church comfortable to insiders but we are not communicating it well to guests or potential guests?  Could it be that our atmosphere and facilities are comfortable, but not guest-friendly?  I’ll refer you to two previous podcasts on the subject of guest-friendliness: Episode 41 – Make your church more guest-friendly in 7 days and Episode 42 – So, you think you’re guest-friendly.
  4. If our church closed, how long would it take for the non-church-attenders in our community to notice? I mentioned earlier that I suspect “comfort” is not the main issue. Is it possible that they don’t think church really matters?  Is it possible they don’t think attending church would have any impact on their lives?  Is it possible they don’t think we have a clue about what is going on in the real world and are not really doing anything to make an impact on the world?  It is not our job to make the gospel or Jesus relevant.  It is our job to demonstrate real world relevance.  Personal Bias Alert: It is my contention that trying to make people comfortable with the concept of “Bible teaching” is not far from trying to get them comfortable with the concept of a colonoscopy.  If I don’t believe the Bible really has anything to say to my circumstances, why would I want to come and listen to someone teach it? I believe we have done a disservice to the Bible by studying it for knowledge gaining rather than for life transformation.  That’s why I wrote my latest book, Why “Bible Study” Doesn’t Work: The epic failure of evangelicalism’s favorite discipleship method – and how Your Church can do something about it.
  5. Does our church communicate that we are interested in the lives of the people who live around us?  Here is an inconvenient truth: We have been sent to them; they have not been sent to us.  We are the ones with the missionary commission from God.  By asking them to join us in what we are doing, we are asking them to be the missionaries.  Rather, we are called to bring the presence of Jesus and the influence of the gospel into their world.  One of the greatest hindrances to people coming to church is our failure to BE the church.


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*Special thanks to Keith Cooper (Guitar Music)

*Special thanks to Nathan Woodward (Saxophone Music)

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