Where is your church's 'front door'?
August 17 2001 by Jim Royston , BSC Executive Director-treasurer

Where is your church's 'front door'? | Friday, Aug. 17, 2001

Friday, Aug. 17, 2001

Where is your church's 'front door'?

By Jim Royston BSC Executive Director-treasurer How did most of the members who've joined your church in the last five or 10 years first find out about your church and its ministries? What was their first point of contact with your congregation? In other words, where is your church's "front door," the most frequented route taken by non-members who eventually become members? Fifty or so years ago, the Baptist "front door" was definitely Sunday School. First-time visitors were channeled into age-level classes and signed up immediately. Most became full-fledged members. When Baptists went to church, that meant "Sunday School and worship." Thirty-five years ago, there were around 750,000 Sunday School members in our state convention churches. Today, enrollment has dropped about 15 percent to around 640,000. The Sunday School "front door" has definitely gotten smaller.

A couple of decades ago, the "front door" began to shift to the worship service. Many of our churches added second Sunday morning services to accommodate both members' schedules as well as provide an opportunity for a less-formal worship experience. Worship, in some places, became more celebrative and participatory. The worship "front door" pattern, although still dominant in many quarters, may have begun to wane in recent years.

The "front door" today, according to some church growth experts, is shifting to small group programs and activities that match people's on-going needs, everything from divorce counseling to classes on healthy lifestyles. Traditional Sunday School and preaching, in many cases, no longer draw non-Christians to church on a regular basis. Non-Christians may visit a time or two, sample what they see is available and come back if convinced there is something to meet their needs. If not, they'll go elsewhere. There are plenty of choices.

Churches throughout the ages have had to struggle with this issue: separating what matters from what we've always done. For the New Testament church, it was holding on to Jewish traditions. For many of our congregations, it's not wanting to let go of North Carolina Baptist traditions.

The real issue, of course, is not where the "front door" of your church is located. For many churches, perhaps the majority, the traditional, tried-and-true methods are still the best. Changing approaches merely to match the last church growth book you read or conference attended is certainly not recommended. But for a growing number of our congregations, traditional programs and activities simply have little or, at least, limited appeal. We must always remember the gospel is all that matters, everything else is a strategy.

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8/17/2001 12:00:00 AM by Jim Royston , BSC Executive Director-treasurer | with 0 comments
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