By Dr. Will McRaney, BCM/D Executive Missional Strategist
Sensitivity to cultural issues has become an absolutely essential role in evangelism as it relates to church guests. A lack of guest sensitivity may mean guests feel out of place at a church gathering, don’t understand what is taking place, and therefore may be less likely to return. Welcoming guests without making them feel awkward or embarrassed and explaining insider church language can be sensitive gestures that make people want to return.
A church should want to be sensitive to guests for several reasons.
• We want people to understand our message.
• We want people to experience God and Christian fellowship.
• We want people to return to the church as they seek to find God.
• The Bible speaks of Christians taking care of strangers and not just taking care of themselves.
• The Bible models sensitivity, such as when Paul limited the church’s behaviors.
• Jesus engaged lost people in public settings.
• Jesus modeled teaching from the known to the spiritual.
• It can demonstrate that the church cares, respects, honors, and loves people who are not yet believers.
• It demonstrates that the church planned on lost people being present.
• It makes people feel wanted.
• Lost people do not understand our language and may have no Christian background.
• Areas of guest sensitivity may include greeting persons in the parking lot and upon entering the building, as well as providing directional signs. Elements of worship, musical style, service length, attire, and announcements all have the potential to be inviting or to help people decide they will not return.
Churches and church members should make a decision every time in the interest of the guest. If you consistently fail to do that, you are giving up the mission of the church. Leaders should keep the church on mission, reaching and discipling lost people.
So what are some ways your church can become guest-sensitive? Here are a few suggestions:
• Pay attention to local cultural norms and environment.
• Get feedback from guests in the best possible way for your culture.
• Talk with members about why they are or are not inviting guests to church.
• Avoid insider jokes and most insider announcements.
• Tape your service and have key leaders watch it.
• Enlist guests and outsiders to evaluate your service from their perspective.
• Evaluate the words in the messages.
• Have something in the service that is of value to lost people and new Christians.
• Use the term guest, not visitor.
• Make the easy adjustments first.
• If your pastor, church staff and congregation will take a few simple steps toward making your church guest-sensitive, the rewards can be eternal.