Would the people who worship in your church report that they experience a very real and personal connection with their Lord there? A recent study by George Barna shows that while about 66% would say yes, about a third would say no. What’s more, among those who attend church regularly, fewer than half say this connection happens every week.
Many variables can help or hinder the impact of the Sunday morning experience. We prepare our hearts to hear what our Lord wants to say when we “enter into [God’s] gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise” (Psalm 100:4 KJV). A good night’s sleep, an effective sound system, and a working furnace (or air conditioner) don’t hurt, either!
And, of course, whether we “feel” anything happening or not, each time God’s people encounter God’s Word, the Holy Spirit makes a connection, strengthening faith. He’s promised to do that! (Isaiah 55:11).
All that said, pastors, music leaders, and those who teach on Sunday morning would like worshipers to walk away spiritually refreshed, built up in faith and hope to face life’s opportunities and problems in the week ahead. This is all the more true for those who worship with us at Easter time—particularly our visitors!
Consider helping visitors and infrequent worshipers connect in one or more of these ways:
1. Remember, you have less than five minutes to make a first impression. Use those minutes wisely! Make sure the entrance is obvious, well-lighted, and welcoming. No one should wonder, “Which door is the right door?” Have friendly people in the parking lot and inside, too, people whose only job is to smile, say hello, and direct visitors to the worship area. If possible, greeters should come from a variety of ages and ethnic groups. In other words, they should look like community members who might visit.
2. Make what you’ve already planned to do “visitor friendly.” There’s no need to create new events for newcomers! Instead, look at your current plans and ask where the barriers to understanding and meaning might be. Then look for ways to topple them. For instance, would signs pointing the way to the Easter breakfast (or to the restrooms!) be helpful? Re-read your bulletin and service folder before you duplicate them; look for customs you’ve omitted or need to explain. (E.g., When do we stand up, sit down? What words do we say together? What parts does only the leader say? Are photos allowed or not during the service?) Visitors who follow your service notes should experience no surprises or “most embarrassing moments”!
3. Consider giving a meaningful, tangible take-away to everyone. Remember, don’t single visitors out! (Some infrequent worshipers won’t come to church on Easter, because they fear being labeled a “C&E Christian.”) Instead, give everyone a reminder of the inspiring truth: Christ is risen! At www.ctainc.com, you’ll find CTA’s Christ is Risen! plantable paper cross and bookmark, the Christ is Risen! pullout banner pen, and many children’s gifts for Easter.
4. Make it clear that the offering is voluntary. Better yet, make it clear that you expect only members to participate. We give, not as “the price of admission,” but rather, as a response to the love God has shown us in Christ. The offering is an act of worship, not a “break in the action” while “we pay the bills.” Stress its voluntary nature.
5. Above all, pray that the Holy Spirit will be present and active. You already do this, and every Sunday! But consider involving more people in this effort. No matter how beautiful the music, no matter how lofty the sermon, no matter how friendly the congregation, only God can create and stir faith! And he will! Which shut-ins might treasure being a part of your prayer efforts in this direction? Which choir members? Which Sunday school teachers? Why not phone and get them busy at it today?