Imagine this scene: You’re talking to someone who has moved into area. In the course of the conversation they say, “We’re looking for a good church. Do you know of any?” There it is! An opportunity dropped right in your lap. You say, “You should come to our church. Our pastor preaches great sermon. Our people are super friendly. We have programs for your kids. Let me give you a card. It lists our service times and our website, so you can check us out.” The other person accepts the card and says, “I’ll be sure to do that.” That’s the kind of conversation we would love to have. But maybe we shouldn’t be so excited.
The problem with this conversation is that it involves matching up an ideal church with an ideal person. What if this person doesn’t have kids? What if the church doesn’t have programs for the kids? What if the pastor doesn’t preach very well? What if the church isn’t very friendly? What if the church doesn’t have a website?
When I was a teenager, I was the music director at a church with a high attendance of 25. 10 was more typical, at the time. Our youth group was me. Our children’s ministry was nonexistent. We had one Sunday school class, but we would order children’s literature, just in case someone showed up. The fact is, there are a lot of churches in that same situation. Some have declined to that point. Some are new churches that are just starting out. In any case, these tiny churches can teach us something.
So, let’s look at the scene again, but this time from the perspective of a tiny church: “We’re looking for a good church. Do you know of any?” You say, “You should come to our church. Our pastor does okay, but he’s working a full-time job and then preaching two sermons and teaching a Sunday school lesson. Our pianist has trouble seeing the music. We’d like to children and teens coming, but our people are all too old to do much with them. We could really use your help.”
This second conversation is not the way we normally think we should persuade people to come to church, but it’s closer to what we should be doing. Yes, there are benefits to church attendance that include youth programs and fellowship meals and training programs, but that only comes when people put in the work. We can’t maintain programs if new members don’t do their part. But if everyone does something, we all benefit even more.
What if we took that tiny church attitude and applied it to larger churches? What if, instead of telling people about the great things we already have, we told them about the things they could help us with? Consider this conversation: “Tell me about your Sunday school classes.” “We have classes for all age groups. We have great teachers, but we could really use is someone to go around and empty the trashcans after church, so there isn’t food left sitting in the classrooms.” It might be that the person decides they’ll visit another church instead. But it might also be that they say, “That’s something I could do.” Just imagine if every time we added a church member it meant we had another person doing stuff. We would get a lot more done.