One of the most intimidating things that a person faces as they progress in their new Christian faith is when it comes to the point where they have to actually go to a church building on a Sunday. There are many different reasons that people have a hangup on going that I’m aware of.
- They are used to having the day off.
- Giving up a day is a big commitment.
- They used to attend a different denomination and the fact that they are going to a different church building is a big thing with their family/friends.
- Fear of the unknown.
If we’ve taken the time (as suggested in the previous post on this series) to bring them in on non-Sundays via a Vacation Bible School, they should not have as much problem coming on Sunday. However, I believe that one thing that we could do to provide a smooth transition is to integrate VBS into the Sunday School hour for a defined period with the goal of providing a welcoming, external facing, atmosphere for which to get people at ease to the transition.
What I am not suggesting is becoming seeker friendly, or anything of that sort. I am suggesting that we can take the opportunity to provide an atmosphere for new people (particularly those that are un-churched) to get a feeling for the time period, the people of all different age ranges, and how the church operates.
I am not recommending that the church worship service be changed in this way. The worship service is accessible by all believers, but what I have found throughout my time as a believer is that we expect new converts to go from the “baby food” of the Word to “Meat and Potatoes” in a day– by plunging someone head first into a doctrinal analysis of the book of Philippians.
What to Do
- Divide up the entire church into teams– pair older ones with younger ones.
- Set apart sections of the auditorium or sanctuary for the teams to have their stations.
- For each day, have a theme– something that people can bring, something that they should wear… something fun.
- Have contests.
- Have a point system that gets awarded and linked to a church fair if you want.
- Recognize new visitors and those that brought them– where they are from, etc.
- Don’t take the whole Sunday School time, but consider this a long opening.
What you are trying to do
By placing people in all age groups together, you’ll be able to participate and meet new people. You’ll also give newcomers the feeling that they can join in, because there shouldn’t be any possibilities for cliques. Each member will have to work together with all the age groups. So you’re strengthening the membership as well as the visitors.
Having a group opening allows for a theme song or verse. Something that is accessible for all that are there. Also, you can be emphasizing core truths in the accompanied Sunday School regular time.
The atmosphere will be like the people remember from Vacation Bible School. It could start on as the closing program of VBS. It could keep the same offering or other themes to help bridge the gap.
The point is, if we’re going to make a good effort to reach out to those that have never heard about Christ, we will be aiding the cause if we can create a nurturing environment that shows that Christians are able to fellowship with each other and we don’t want to bury you with what we all know and assume you know it.