Holidays and special seasons are great opportunities for the church to reach out to the community. Most churches respond by offering special services, often with great creativity. The response by the community is often positive and many non-church people attend the events. However, the results often don’t lead to church membership or even further attendance beyond the event. Following are a few thoughts for consideration as to why we may not be seeing the results we might hope for.
- Events without objectives – Events often make church members feel free to invite people. People are more likely to attend if they feel it is simply an event without any deeper religious motivation. The mission of the church is not simply to present an attractive event. The missional objective must always be communicating the Gospel message. We need to ask about every event, “Is the objective of this event fellowship or missional?”
- Attraction without a strategy – We often are creative in building events like a cantata, drama, or other services. However, we fail to have a strategy leading people to a deeper understanding of the truth or appreciation for the total ministry of the church. If our objective in an event is to be missional, we need to ask, “How will this event not only attract people to the event but to the church?” Remember we are to “Go and make disciples” not simply build attractions.
- Entertainment without explanation – In our culture we can tell the Christmas Story and people will simply see it as legend. We can celebrate Thanksgiving, and forget that it is the “Almighty God” to whom we give thanks. Special events need to not only tell a story but explain the truth in such a way that calls for a decision. The question here is, “How does this event fulfill the Great Commission in ‘teaching them to observe all that I commanded them’?”
- Celebration without congregation – Recently I heard a new description of the three key dimensions of church ministry as The Porch (celebration), Living room (congregation) and Kitchen (cell). The porch or place of celebration is a place in an open area which can include all people (believers and unbelievers). Many of our holiday events can be great celebrations, but often we never bring others into the “living room.” We can celebrate the history like the birth of Christ without seeking to bring new people into the family. The church in Acts clearly had a strategy for bringing people into the church not simply declaring the message. An evidence of this is how they recorded “adding to the church.” A question we might want to ask is, “How does the celebration at an event reflect our celebration in worship?”
The missing ingredients are often a reflection of a fear of being offensive or making people uncomfortable. The result is that we see people join in our celebrations but fail to invite them to present the Gospel without apology. We are inviting them to the “porch” but not to the “living room.” The congregation is a symbol of being part of the family of God. While planning your special events you might want to ask some or all of the questions above.
Remember the mission of the church is, “Go and make disciples . . .” The mission must be at the center of all planning or we will miss opportunities to fulfill our mission.