Here’s a simple question “church folk” (meaning the majority of those in worship every Sunday) seldom think to ask: Why is it that someone new might come to worship at our church?
Not surprisingly, people coming through the doors of our church for the first time are most often looking for something much different than those of us who have been around for a while. While we might be checking the cleanliness of the restrooms or the style of the anthem or who is in hospital – people who come to worship for the first time typically have needs they hope a church – any church – might help them address.
Tom Bandy, in an article in Rev! Magazine this month identifies 6 kinds of worship visitors and what they might be seeking: the broken, lost, lonely, anxious, victimized, and trapped. Of course, there are times when any of us average “church folk” might fall into these categories, as well. However, we often forget what drives others to seek us out. Bandy describes the six kinds of people like this:
BROKEN people are retreating to church. These are people with broken health, broken marriages and families, broken loyalties, and broken spirits. They’re looking for healing.
LOST people are stumbling back to worship. They have lost their moral compass, are uncertain about their careers, and generally don’t have a purpose in living. They’re looking for spiritual guidance.
LONELY people are lurking in the narthex. They’re grieving for the death of loved ones, absent from friends, immigrating to a strange culture, or incredibly shy. They are looking for safe, healthy intimacy.
ANXIOUS people are popping prescription drugs in the parking lot. They’re obsessed by economic gloom, global warming, imminent terrorist attacks, and the next pandemic. They are desperate for assurance.
VICTIMIZED people are standing near the exits. They’ve been physically, mentally or sexually abused, or robbed of self-esteem by the meanness of the streets. They yearn for justice, vindication, and self-confidence.
TRAPPED people are searching for support and recovery. They’re addicted to alcohol, drugs, the Internet, or materialism, and ready to experience the transformational power of a Higher Power.
The church holds the answer for so many of those who are seeking healing and wholeness. We forget it isn’t always about worship styles, or the way people dress, or the kind of music in worship. More often than not – people come to church hoping their needs might be met. As Tom Bandy says, “Relevance is not about styles that honor tastes. It’s about blessings that redeem lives.”
Amen and Amen.