A funny thing happened while we were socially distanced, worshiping online. When we returned to the church building, the front door was not where we left it, nor was it the same size. Instead, we found multiple doors resembling the former front door, placed randomly along each side of the building. Very strange.
Back in the day, when looking for a church, those of us in this Christian movement knew how to find the front door. There was only one, positioned for funneling us into Sunday morning worship, usually at 11 a.m. This was how one went church shopping — going on the worship tour of churches in one’s community. That’s how we did it way back in the day.
Let’s shift away from back in the day to our current day. One of our young adult children is moving to a new city this month, considering looking for a church in this new community. With curiosity, I asked how she might find a church (knowing she grew up in a church-going family, yet is a young adult immersed in the culture of her age group). Here’s the sequencing in her approach:
- As she meets people with whom she resonates and has affinity, asking them what church they might suggest.
- Then visit the websites of those churches suggested.
- Then take in some worship services online, livestreaming or however they post their worship services online.
- Then see how else to connect, based on opportunities on their website and described during their online worship.
If you have a long history of involvement with the Christian movement like me, you also might be waiting for this sequencing of activities to lead to the ultimate step— in-person worship and a Christian formation small group. My daughter never mentioned these.
Certainly this sample size is not sufficient for generalizing to patterns. On the other hand, this is how some young adults who grew up in church are looking for new churches. They are not necessarily looking for the front door that funnels them into in-person worship.
“Now there are so many legitimate, helpful, effective and emerging on-ramps into church engagement.”
We haven’t even mentioned those with no church background. They have no idea one is “supposed” to visit in-person worship to check out a church. They don’t know the assumed directions for engaging with a church. Instead, they do what comes naturally, exploring a connection opportunity like they would with any other organization in their lives.
Here’s what I’m suggesting. As important as in-person worship is, it’s no longer our primary approach to evangelism (whether it should have been or not). Now there are so many legitimate, helpful, effective and emerging on-ramps into church engagement. So, let’s remember we are a people who value the “renewing of our minds” (Romans 12:2), laying aside self-limiting church practices while updating our perspectives.
Yes, the front door to church engagement moved while we weren’t looking. Now there are multiple front doors placed randomly around this symbolic church building. Let’s recognize their legitimacy and helpfulness to spiritual seekers, thereby positioning ourselves for flinging those doors wide.
Mark Tidsworth is founder and team leader for Pinnacle Leadership Associates. He has served as a pastor, new church developer, interim pastor, renewal pastor, therapist, nonprofit director, business owner, leadership coach, congregational consultant, leadership trainer and author. Ordained in the Baptist tradition, Mark is an ecumenical Christian minister based in Chapin, S.C.
Six church invitations young people reject |Opinion by Mark Tidsworth