Barna shows how churches reach the unchurched
November 30 2001 by David Winfrey , Associated Baptist Press

Barna shows how churches reach the unchurched | Friday, Nov 30, 2001
  • The senior pastor is a genuine advocate of reaching the unreached. Leadership for this begins with the senior pastor, Barna said.
  • Ministry is culturally relevant. From the worship style to the language being used, churches that reach unchurched people find ways to connect with people who don't know traditional church language and practices, Barna said.

    Ironically, surveys have found that unchurched people's view of the ideal church includes a music program that has traditional hymns with contemporary instruments and arrangements. The reason, he said, is that most unchurched people have a church background and are comfortable with the hymns, even more so than praise hymns or other unfamiliar music.

  • Efforts to ensure that the church is serious but that everyone enjoys the experience. Barna recalls a church that had programs in place to reach the unchurched but wasn't being successful.

    In a conversation with the pastor an older woman said bluntly, "I don't even enjoy coming here. Why would I bring my friends?"

  • The church facilitates and emphasizes relationships. Barna said relationships don't attract the unchurched, but relationships are an important factor after they arrive.
  • Members are prepared to explain their faith. Too often, churches assume they can get visitors to confine their questions about Christianity to a class or conversations with a staff member, Barna said. But most people's deep, meaningful questions arise during casual times with Christians they know or meet at church, he said.
  • Multiple points of entry. From sports leagues to conferences, effective churches find a variety of ways to interact with their community. "Each is targeted to a particular niche of the community," he added.
  • Name awareness. Research has shown that the average unchurched person today can't name one church within a 15-minute drive from his or her house.

    "If I invite them to a place that they've heard of and they have a generally positive impression, the chance is much higher that they will visit," Barna said.

  • Minimizing the loss of visitors by having a spiritually healthy congregation. An unchurched person who visits a congregation wants to know that it makes a difference in the lives of those who regularly attend or a visitor would conclude that church attendance is a poor use of time.
  • Adapting effective outreach methods from other churches. They also consistently track their success to see how effective their methods are working, Barna said.
  • When people come to worship, they experience the presence of God. "The unchurched tend to come when they are struggling with something and they need an answer," he said. "They're not coming for an intellectual service. They're coming for an emotional service."

    Unchurched people likely won't know how to explain what happens when they are in a church experiencing the presence of God, but it likely will attract them to come back, he said.

    Barna said people who had encountered such an experience will say, "I wanted to go back and see if they could do it again."

  • Friday, Nov 30, 2001

    Barna shows how churches reach the unchurched

    By David Winfrey Associated Baptist Press MIDDLETOWN, Ky.-"Unchurched" people who visit a house of worship aren't looking for Jesus, but "value," says researcher George Barna. Churches that are effective at reaching unchurched people recognize and respond to what visitors are seeking, Barna told about 200 church leaders during a recent workshop in Louisville, Ky.

    Barna said unchurched visitors value anonymity, the care shown to guests, ministries that are culturally relevant and multiple ways to get involved.

    Based on thousands of interviews, Barna said he found unchurched Americans have a higher demand for control than most people who attend church. "These are high-control people," he said. "They're concerned about their image."

    Unchurched people usually come to a church because they are struggling with an important, life-impacting issue, not because they want to worship, he added.

    They bring that need for control with them and react negatively when they visit an institution that often exerts a high level of control in its members' lives, Barna said.

    Research has shown that churches effective at reaching unchurched people allow visitors to be anonymous, Barna said. Visitors don't want to have to wear a nametag or stand up and identify themselves.

    Still, they do want some personal treatment, Barna said. Visitors hope someone will give them an authentic greeting.

    Visitors who share their name and address would like a thank you from the senior pastor, but they don't want a home visit or a gift, he added.

    A greeting from the senior pastor is important, Barna said, because of the "big-kahuna principle." That stems from his premise that most unchurched people have a high demand for control and are accustomed to being the center of attention, he said.

    While some churches pride themselves on gestures such as delivering bread or cookies to visitors' homes, Barna said, "My own analysis is that it's irresponsible to do that."

    Most unchurched people view home visits as an invasion of privacy and gifts as manipulation, he said.

    Barna said he has consistently found that at least two-thirds of unchurched people respond negatively to gifts.

    Barna recommended a strategy similar to that of any personal encounter: be genuine, relevant and real, and let the relationship take its course.

    He listed characteristics of churches that effectively reach the unchurched. They include:

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    11/30/2001 12:00:00 AM by David Winfrey , Associated Baptist Press | with 0 comments
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