How to Master the Art of Engaging Unchurched People

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"If you’re going to reach unchurched people, you need to be intentional about what you do with your hour on Sunday."

I had one of those rare Sundays off as a church leader recently. I went to our church, Connexus, with my family.

I didn’t serve, I didn’t have any responsibilities, I simply attended. Just like many people do every Sunday. And like any friend you or I will ever invite will do on their first Sunday. 

I was reminded about the critical importance of how we do what we do when we design a Sunday service.

Increasingly, I believe we will completely miss engaging unchurched people unless we’re intentional. 

Why? Because almost everyone shows up to your church on Sunday distracted.

Here’s how I spent my Sunday recently:

I got up early and ate breakfast.

I read five chapters of the Bible (my regular devotions) and prayed.

My wife, Toni, and I went on a pretty amazing 44 km (27 mile) bike ride on a perfect morning.

I even prayed again for specific people on the last leg of the bike ride.

Then I hopped in the shower, and we drove to church.

My state of mind when I got to church? I was completely distractedjust like most of the people (Christians and non-Christians) who show up at your church every weekend.

Here’s what was going through my head as I walked into the service:

I was wondering how I was going to find my 17-year-old son who drove there separately (we found him during the first song and sat together).

I was thinking about our bike ride.

I was rehearsing conversations I’d had with people in the foyer on the way in.

Despite being a Christian, having read several chapters of the Bible, and praying that morning and wanting to be in church, guess what I was not thinking about? 

Engaging in the service. 

Fortunately, our team has done a lot of work trying to counter that. Because we’re a North Point strategic partner, we follow the Rules of Engagement Andy Stanley has developed. 

The basic premise of the Rules of Engagement is that you can’t assume you have the attention of the people who show up Sunday. And you can’t just begin randomly. Or just unthinkingly use the same template that worked 30 or 300 years ago.

By moving them through a three-part journey, you are far more likely to move them from where they were when they came in to a place of common connection. We meet for two hours every Tuesday to evaluate last Sunday and plan future services using the Rules of Engagement.

Carey Nieuwhof Carey Nieuwhof is Lead Pastor of Connexus Church north of Toronto, Canada, blogs at www.careynieuwhof.com and is host of The Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast available for free on iTunes.

More from Carey Nieuwhof or visit Carey at http://careynieuwhof.com

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  • Brian

    The process idea is good. But assuming the message is the most important thing on Sunday mornings is not. There simply isn’t anything Biblical about using the entire service (Fellowship, worship, prayer) to “prepare the way” for the teaching. They are all vitally important, like the spokes on a wheel. If you lose one, they wheel falls apart.