You see those ice machines everywhere, big white freezers sitting in front of gas stations, convenience stores, sometimes it’s just them, plugged into an outlet on a utility pole. But there’s a funny thing about this industry.
No one needs ice.
Think about it, you may think you need to add ice to your cooler on vacation or your Grape Nehi on a hot day, but you don’t really need ice. What you need is some cold. But until someone decides how to manufacture, package, store, ship and most importantly charge for cold, you’re left buying ice.
I think the same about church.
Other than pew salesmen, who really needs church? We come there for a variety of things, a relationship with God, a sense of community, the ability to do good in our community, a place to express ourselves musically, a free hour of day care for our kids, an ability to learn more about the Bible. You have probably thought about a dozen more as you read that last sentence.
In just under two weeks, the Sunday after Labor Day, church shopping season starts. Many of our churches will start to see an influx of visitors, perhaps as a result of school starting, summer golf leagues ending or that lack of air conditioning in the sanctuary. But we know that September is a top time for folks to test drive a new church.
When visitors come to your church, will they find what they are looking for? Some of what they’re looking for is very difficult to control, such as the need to see people who are like themselves demographically. Others are long-term challenges like physical facilities or a particular style of worship. But there are others, like a sense of welcoming, clean facilities, and smiling faces that are easier to control and give a good first impression.
But what about the following week?
Signs and reserved visitor parking places are great, but do you have the missional approach that young people today are looking for? Do you have an authentic sense of community? Once people join your church are they done or do you have an ongoing approach to intentional faith development?
Being aware of what your visitors need, and helping your congregation move beyond just welcoming and into mission-oriented faith development may be the key to helping your church grow.