Many churches will consider ‘the unchurched’ as hard to reach. These are people who have little or no contact with going to church. Maybe they attend at Christmas or for Christenings. Maybe they will attend for a few month while trying to get their kids into a local faith school. The ‘unchurched’ are hard to reach because they have no reason to go to church and no idea of what goes on in churches. Their expectations will be based on news reports and TV shows featuring churches.
Churches will have to create some reason for these people to attend a church and then, some other reason for people to continue going to church. This is difficult. And then once they are in church you have to make sure that they understand what is going on. The ‘unchurched’ don’t have any experience of traditions and so you don’t want to do something which makes them feel uncomfortable. It’s for this reason that many churches either don’t say the Lord’s Prayer, or display it. As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, most people don’t know the Lord’s Prayer. Often, churches will explain any ‘unusual’ things that are about to happen and explain any beliefs which seem obvious to the churched but may have become lost in translation for those who are ‘unchurched’.
I am not ‘unchurched’. No, I am even more difficult than the ‘unchurched’. I am very, extremely ‘churched’. The ‘unchurched’ have no expectations, all a church has to do is explain what is going on and the ‘unchurched’ are made to feel comfortable, even if they aren’t sure they believe it.
However, I am ‘churched’. I have expectations. I have expectations about how a service should be run, how the songs should be linked together, when and how a prayer should be said, when and how the sermon should be preached.
Last year I went to a church who decided it would be a good idea to have a fire drill during a Sunday Morning service. In my mind, this is a bit like a cinema deciding to have a fire drill half way through a film, a hotel having a drill in the middle of the night, a restaurant holding a drill in the middle of your meal. It would never happen. And during that church fire drill, I exited the building through the correct exit and I never went back inside.
I have walked out of Sunday morning services that included the dress rehearsal of their drama groups production of some nonsense. I have criticised the use of a song called ‘I’m a K.I.D not a monkey’ during a service (I actually criticised the fact that that song existed). I have been annoyed by churches who speak about the homeless like animal rights protesters talk about guinea pigs. I have been overwhelmed by churches who, as part of their greeting, place you in a pew between a married couple who have been attending the church for years, so even if they sing ‘I’m a K.I.D not a monkey’ an easy escape is not possible. I have been underwhelmed by churches where they welcome you by completely ignoring you.
And so, while the ‘unchurched’ have no expectations about church and, although they’d probably also be offended by the song ‘I’m a K.I.D. not a monkey’, they probably wouldn’t have too many problems with how you set out a sermon. I am hard to reach because I expect certain things to happen in a church service.
The thing is, most of the things that I will have issues with aren’t theologically based. While there are some things that a church could believe that would cause me to leave that church and never return, most of the time I’m pretty liberal and I’m totally cool with people believing different things to me. For example, if people are pro-creation and anti-evolution, I don’t actually mind that. I do mind when they put it into a totally awful song aimed at children.
I think churches should be welcoming but not overwhelming. I think churches should have a preacher who is able to clearly explain what they believe in an interesting way, even if I don’t agree with them, I’d at least be able to respect the craft. In the same way that I don’t like Jessie J’s music but I respect that she is talented. I think churches should use words, in both songs and prayers, that reflect the language used outside the church.
So, hi, I’m Mim, I know all the songs, I know all the traditions, you probably won’t scare or confuse me but it’s unlikely that you’ll reach me.
I suppose that could make a church depressed but at least they don’t have to live with being unreachable.