One of the treasured books I have on my shelf is called, “10 of Today’s Most Innovative Churches” by Elmer L. Towns. This is an old book, but some of its content is still applicable today.
Bill Hybels, pastor of Willow Creek Community Church made the list of the top 10 most innovative churches. In the 70’s Hybels had the second largest church in America with 14,000 members.
Hybel recalls before starting his church how he and several volunteers canvassed the neighborhood to find out why people were not interested in attending church and why OVERALL attendance across the mainline denominations were plummeting.
It is interesting to note that their findings in the 70’s are very similar to today’s findings. The top four reasons include the following:
- Always asking for money
- Services are boring
- Church irrelevant to ‘real’ life
- Pastors make them feel ignorant and guilty
So what did Hybel and his team do with this information?
Ask for money. At first Hybels did not even collect an offering, people would just place donations in a basket in back of the church. As his church grew it became necessary logistically to officially collect an offering. Although regular attendees were encouraged to tithe, visitors were not expected to contribute and were encouraged to just sit back and enjoy.
Services are boring. Hybels structured his services to accommodate the fast paced, multimedia generation. He did this by creative programming using music, video or dramatization and biblical message in a language that people could relate to.
Church irrelevant to ‘real’ life. People often believe that the Bible is out of date. Hybel set out to make sure that everyone of his sermons touches ‘everyday life’ proving that God’s Word is relevant.
Pastors make them feel ignorant and guilty. After hearing several people admit this, Hybels made a point to never talk down to people or to make them feel guilty in order to get them to take action.
As I recall reading about Hybels start in ministry, I must admit that we have the same issues today almost 40 years later. We live in a faster paced society which is dominated by visual technology whether it is television, cell phones, iPads, netbooks, Facebook or Twitter. We have lots of distractions and lots of choices.
It’s really baffling that the average church is offering the same audio programming to a culture that is so visual. It’s like trying to fit a square peg into a round whole.
I believe if we took the time to invest in creative programming, we would attract more people to our churches. Doing this would reduce the time we would have to stand in church asking for money. Nothing’s worse than always asking for money when the services and programming are predictable and where people can’t ‘see’ where there donations are making a difference.
And yet we continue to ask why we can’t keep the seats filled.
Do you believe these reasons are still the top reasons why people still aren’t coming out to our churches?