Barna Research Group did an interesting study of people who self-identify themselves as Christians AND who also say that their religious faith is very important to them. But here is the other interesting aspect of these folks…they are dechurched and haven’t been to church in 6-months or more. In the study Barna says that this group makes up 10% of the population in America and that number is growing. This group consists mostly (80%) of Gen-Xers and Boomers which means they are currently between the ages of 33 and 70. Millennials only make up 14% of this group mainly because they are, as Barna describes, “the least churched generation”. What really stood out to me is that of those that made up this group 61% are women.
I think this report presents an interesting and somewhat unknown group that the church absolutely needs to be aware of. Here are people who love Jesus and, according to Barna, 89% have given their life to Christ…but they don’t go to church because of the church itself. Roxanne Stone, editor in chief of Barna Group, says this,
“This group represents an important and growing avenue of ministry for churches…if you live in a more churched area of the country, it’s more than likely you have a significant number of these disaffected Christians in your neighborhoods. They still love Jesus, still believe in Scripture and most of the tenets of their Christian faith. But they have lost faith in the church. While many people in this group may be suffering from church wounds, we also know from past research that Christians who do not attend church say it’s primarily not out of wounding, but because they can find God elsewhere or that church is not personally relevant to them. The critical message that churches need to offer this group is a reason for churches to exist at all. What is it that the church can offer their faith that they can’t get on their own? Churches need to be able to say to these people—and to answer for themselves—that there is a unique way you can find God only in church. And that faith does not survive or thrive in solitude.”
This week’s blog lays out three ideas of how your church can start connecting with this group and eventually get these people in your church.
1. Support their genuine needs, show them the difference a community of believers can make in their lives.
One of the key characteristics of this group is that they feel they don’t need a church to have a relationship with God. We know from 1 Corinthians 12 as well as many other passages that Jesus intended for believers to be a part of a church body. A body through which we grow in Christ together, serve together, provide love and care as well as receive love and care. In other words, Jesus never intended the church to be optional.
So how do you convince people who feel the church is optional that it isn’t? Just as Jesus told us and showed us, meeting needs selflessly and without conditions is the most authentic representation of Him. Let’s find ways to help them see they need the church by meeting them at the point of their need.
I’m sure you and your staff can come up with some amazing ideas that are ideal for your community. Here are a few to spark your “think tank” session:
Single Parent issues
Mom’s Morning Out
Tutoring/Mentoring in a partnership with your school(s)
Strategically helping with local sports associations
Volunteering at local community events
2. Invite them into ministry before you invite them to church.
The Barna Study states that the tenets of Christianity are something that most of these folks align with. In that same thinking, serving others would probably be something they would embrace strongly. Some of the greatest relationships I have in my life were developed while we were serving together.
Consider starting a strategic effort that could possibly be called something like “Serve Along”…I’m sure you could come up with a better name. But the essence of this ministry would be for people in your church to find people that fit in this demographic. Once they find them, look for an opportunity(s) to ask these folks to serve someone/something else along with them. What a great way to involve someone to see first-hand the difference making work the church can do by inviting someone to help others, comfort those who are hurting or just making a difference in your community. Imagine a tandem bicycle. It can be pedaled by one, but with two pedaling there is a synergy and relationship gained. I would stress that I believe this is a “micro” efforted ministry and not a “macro” efforted ministry. For instance, if you have one large targeted event for something like this it wouldn’t take long for a pretty sharp person to realize they were the object of the exercise. Something like this would probably push them further away from the church. This is a one-on-one ministry that has to be deeply personal and authentic.
3. Adjust your vernacular to address their resistance
One particular aspect of this group really stood out to me. Only 18% of the people of this group say that they speak to others about spiritual things. In other words, they keep spiritual matters and conversations to themselves. Barna says
that only 28% of these folks agree strongly that they have a responsibility to tell others about Jesus.
What does that mean? Why is this important? I believe that when you speak about evangelism and reaching others for Christ consideration for those who love Jesus but not the church must be made. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying don’t talk about evangelism and inviting others to church. I am saying that when you are talking about these things acknowledge the hesitancy these folks might have prior to developing their spiritual maturity past this hesitancy. For instance, let’s say you’re asking everyone to invite people in their sphere of influence to your Easter services…add to that vernacular, “We understand that some of you are uncomfortable with talking to your friends about spiritual things. In your case, we just ask that you continue to live your faith as strongly and authentically as you can and let that speak to them about your Savior and your church.”
Always remember, you have to “grow them” before you can “go them”. If you don’t get that leadership phrase, then call me and I’ll explain. If you like that phrase feel free to use it.
Let me know if you put any of these things in place. Just email me or give me a call. I always love to hear success stories of what is going on in your church. If you are interested Click Here to subscribe to Barna’s reports like this. They come out about every 2-3 weeks and they are awesome.
Click Here to check out this article for yourself. I submit these articles and ideas to you in order to add value to the work you’re doing in your local church. If you would like to talk about this or other ideas to grow you culture of generosity please email me. Keep me in mind if you’re looking for coaching or a consultant in the area of giving and/or a generosity campaign/initiative. If you don’t already I would also really appreciate if you would follow me on Twitter at @cstovall16 or on my Generis Facebook page.