How to Create an Inviting Environment

Wayne Dyer, a well known author said, "All blame is a waste of time. No matter how much fault you find with another, and regardless of how much you blame him, it will not change you. The only thing blame does is to keep the focus off you when you are looking for external reasons to explain your unhappiness or frustration. You may succeed in making another feel guilty about something by blaming him, but you won't succeed in changing whatever it is about you that is making you unhappy."

One of the most valuable foundational breakthroughs for me as a Senior Pastor occurred the day I realized that I am responsible for the environment of my church. I couldn't blame the community I was in, the people I inherited, or the money (or lack thereof) in the bank account. I couldn't be frustrated with my people any longer for not inviting the unchurched. I was responsible.

Lou Holtz, the famous Head Football Coach of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, said, "The man who complains about the way the ball bounces is likely the one who dropped it."

I was tired of making excuses as to why my church wasn't growing and why we weren't reaching the unchurched and why our community was "such hard soil." It was time to take responsibility and do something about it.

The first thing I looked at was our services. What was the purpose of our Sunday morning service? I asked our leadership team in my first church in Canmore to study our services. We realized that we were trying too hard to please everyone. So, we decided to give our Sunday service the specific purpose of becoming a "bridge" to the unchurched community. Dr. Thomas Rainer claimed in his article Ten Surprises About the Unchurched, "Most of the unchurched prefer to attend church on Sunday morning if they attend. Perhaps the unchurched responded this way because that is the time they have always heard church should be. But when we asked the formerly unchurched (new Christians attending church) the same question, they gave us the same response."

Our focus, therefore, became to "set the table for guests" Sunday mornings. What did that mean? We all put our best foot forward when we invite guests into our homes. We clean the house, use our best china, and prepare our best meals. We decided to have a similar focus Sunday mornings. We began to evaluate our services through how effectively we were reaching outsiders.

What changed? Almost everything, to be honest.

  • We shortened the length of our service. Not because we liked it better, but because the visitors are more comfortable with a concise format.
  • We changed the type of songs we sang and became cautious of the language we used. We tried to avoid songs that were too "Christianese" in their verbiage.
  • We moved the offering to the end of the service and instructed our visitors not to give.
  • We formed a "creative team" that met weekly to plan our services and add unique elements that enhanced the message.
  • I shortened my messages and went from preaching 3-5 points to a one point sermon with a doable takeaway.

These are just a few examples of methods we messed with in our Sunday services when we gave it a purpose. The result? Not only did we become more effective at reaching outsiders, we noticed an almost immediate change with our own people. They began to attend with a purpose. We saw an increase in volunteers. There was less complaining and our church became friendlier.

What is the purpose of your Sunday services? Who are you trying to reach with them? What ideas have you used that have grown your weekly attendance?