Ask Me If I Care About Your Church
Wayne Elsey recently posted a blog entitled, “5 reasons no one cares about your nonprofit.” Interestingly enough, there are many things churches can learn from this article. Following are Elsey’s reasons with my suggestions for churches.
1. I can’t find you online. It is imperative that every church has a presence on the Internet. And not just a presence, but a regularly updated website with fresh news, sermons, and weekly events. I cannot tell you how many times I have accessed a church website, only to find that the latest pdf newsletter or calendar was at least six months old. If I was looking for a church, old content would encourage me to keep looking. Some of the larger Korean churches employ full-time “digital ministers” that keep the website updated and send out regular announcements via twitter and Facebook. For many, especially those in digital generations, a robust Internet presence may be the first—and last—contact with a church.
2. I don’t understand what you do. Churches need to communicate their mission and vision continually. The mission and vision of the church should be communicated in many ways, such as in brochures, signs, online, and in worship services. Some churches develop a mission statement, and then never revisit it. Joel Osteen has his church recite a kind of missional prayer at the beginning of every service that serves to prepare the members’ minds for worship. An old adage says, “If we don’t stand for something, we will fall for anything.” This is especially true in the church.
3. It’s difficult to get more information. As the captain said in the film, Cool Hand Luke, “What we’ve got here is failure to communicate.” Some churches follow visitors around like lap dogs or vultures; some churches simply ignore visitors altogether. Information about churches should be easily accessible and obvious to visitors. Further, initial contact with a church should feel natural and comfortable. Real Life Ministries in Idaho is a church that handles this well. Contact with visitors begins in the parking lot. If it is raining, you are greeted at your car with an umbrella. Information begins with relationship.
4. It’s impossible for me to get involved beyond giving you money. During the offering I have heard people say, “If you are visiting with us today, do not feel obligated to give; your presence is your gift.” This is a good way to begin turning visitors into members. Once people become members, we can and should ask members for a tithing commitment. However this comes with a caveat: giving is an expression of what God is doing in our lives. People need to know that they have a ministry, and that it contributes to the proper functioning of the body. We can help make this a reality by equipping people for service. Sometimes, equipping people begins before they are members. We should be careful not to quench someone’s desire to serve. Giving is a commandment, but people need to feel that God is using them in vital ministries.
5. I never hear from you except when you want me to give to you. Churches often promote an “us” versus “them” mentality, with the leadership being the “us”, and the membership being “them.” This is unhealthy. We are all part of the royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9), and no one is superior to anyone else. Most people want to feel more significant than being a pew-warmer. We need to not only teach about the gifts God has given us, but provide people opportunities to use their gifts for his glory. Additionally, people will not invest their time and energy simply out of obligation; they will do so when they are asked to serve out of relationship. If we view ourselves as a team, the coaches, or leaders, need to model serving and giving. We need to make sure that we have pure motives in asking people to serve—not merely as an agenda to increase our offerings.
People will not care about our church if we do not communicate care for them. How else can we do that?