I’ve had a persistent feeling that I needed to attend a church in my local community instead of commuting to a neighboring city. I fought this idea for over a year, but when that quiet voice keeps nudging you to do something it is best to obey. For the first time in almost 15 years I assumed the role of church guest.
Over the past few months I have attended four churches. Church A is a vibrant, growing church with a very contemporary feel and millennial led women’s program. Church B is a large established church with both traditional and contemporary services and a newly formed women’s program. Church C is an established church that has struggled for many years and has a narrowly focused women’s program. Church D is an established church, but they have been without a senior pastor for a couple of years. They have an active women’s program that I would describe as traditional.
Now, remember that I am part of the boomer generation and view the world through that lens. With that in mind, this is what I have learned:
- Preaching Matters. Churches A, B, and D have Scripture driven teaching every Sunday morning. The churches have different teaching styles, but I always came away with something new and applicable to my life that was directly from the Bible. It made a difference in how I viewed the church at large.
- Quick Connections Count: Church A was a great fit for me and I enjoyed the women’s ministry, but I had a difficult time finding a way to connect to the church. I emailed the church asking about small groups and got no reply. I also did not receive any follow-up emails or other contact following my visits. I eventually did not go back.
- Follow Through Is Everything: Church C did everything right. I was greeted when I was a guest and the first week I received two thank you emails, a personal visit (with homemade cookies), and a hand written note from the pastor. I asked for information on the women’s ministry and the director emailed later the second week. I was struck by the effort these wonderful people put into making me feel welcome. I was told about small groups, but my choices were married, multi-gen but mostly married or widowed, or a young singles class. There were no women’s or mature singles classes. Even though they made a great effort for connection they made no provision for a single, mature (aka older) woman. You can welcome your guest all you want, but if you have not taken the time to prepare a place for them they probably will not stick.
- Keep the Main Thing the Main Thing: I have decided to join Church D. They are without a pastor and the women’s program is very traditional. Not exactly a resounding recommendation! However, the first week I was a guest they connected me with a women’s small group that immediately provided solid teaching, missions opportunities, and community. The women’s ministry director reached out to me and shared her heart for life transformation in the women she led. It is a church hungry to be a New Testament body of believers dedicated to the equipping and sending of their members. The many things “wrong” about the church did not matter, because they have the most important things right.
I hope to use this experience to help me when I work with women’s ministry leaders. We have all read the many reports on how to reach millennials and to develop Titus 2 ministries. However, I think it really comes down to the basics. Preach the Word, create community, and embrace the Great Commission. How do you think that would look in a women’s program? How can we take what we know about generational differences and apply it to reaching church guests? Let me hear your thoughts and ideas!