Overcoming Invisible Growth Barriers

Overcoming Invisible Growth Barriers
David Bowman

Several years ago I heard Bill Hybels say that we will never lock eyes with anyone who is not going to spend eternity either in heaven or hell.  That brought home to me in a fresh way the importance of evangelism. Many churches say “God loves everyone and so do we.”  That’s good stuff.  However, churches often place unnecessary and unintended barriers between God and the people he loves.

Let’s say a man has children who attend Vacation Bible School at your church.  He likes what they say about the church and what they are learning.  He remembers attending church as a child and how, in retrospect, it wasn’t all that bad.  He can’t remember all the reasons his family stopped attending.  He decides the whole family will go to church together this Sunday.

Dad visits the church website and knows what time Bible study and worship begin.  The family climbs into the car together and arrives at church in time for Sunday school.  They walk into the main entrance and find the welcome desk.  No one is around except for some other visitors.  They all wait for several minutes and no one shows up at the welcome desk. Dad is, in turn, embarrassed and then angry.  He gathers his family and leaves the building never to return.

I saw this play out a few months ago during one of our Church Service Investigations (CSI) visits.  Obviously, this could have been avoided.  So, too, what happened next. The CSI team sat in that entry area next to the welcome desk for fifteen minutes.  A few minutes after that young family left, a man returned to the welcome desk and greeted us as he passed by.  He began arranging papers on the desk but did not offer any assistance to us.  The pastor and his wife, friends of ours for many years, happened to walk by and directed us to our Bible study classes.

Every church erects invisible barriers that even they cannot see.  The fresh eyes of outsiders recognize these barriers clearly and each outsider has to determine for himself or herself if it is worth the effort to climb over those barriers.What invisible barriers are there at your church? Think about your website.  Is it simple enough that guests can find the information they need about where your church is located and what time it meets?  Is it content-rich enough that guests can understand why the church exists, why you do things the way you do, and where they can enter into the life and ministry of the church?  Can they determine where the church is headed?

What do your facilities communicate? How well are the grounds kept? Is the grass mowed? Are shrubs and flowers well-maintained? Is grass growing in your parking lot?  Is guest parking convenient to the main entrance with clear signs? Are the buildings warm and inviting? How do you welcome guests? Do you have people with friendly smiles and good breath who greet newcomers?  Are your greeters knowledgeable about who meets where and when?

Have you trained your members how to talk to people they don’t know?  Do you make it easy for guests to find the connection information they need in your worship folder?  How do you gather information from guests?  How and when do you follow up with your guests?

Guest worshipers can help open your eyes to things you don’t even think about any more.  Consider hiring a consultant to help you overcome your own barriers and find the best solutions for your unique situation.

This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”

This article “Overcoming Invisible Growth Barriers” by David Bowman was excerpted from: www.churchcentral.com web site. May 2010. It may be used for study & research purposes only.