How to Reach Unchurched People

Last Saturday, four of us from Centre Grove went to a leadership seminar called, How to Reach Unchurched People in Your Community, presented by Dr. Charles Arn, held at Krislund Camp. The presentation, as well as the content and research behind it, were very good!

Some notes I jotted down …

The church is in the business of relationships (with God, each other, and the community).

Keep the congregational focus outward!

Even though Arn is Presbyterian and the event was sponsored by the Northumberland Presbytery, there was a strong Wesleyan influence. Arn quoted Wesley as well as contemporary evangelism expert, Dr. George Hunter, including his seminal book, Church for the Unchurched. One of the highlights of our time at Asbury Theological Seminary was taking Hunter’s class, Church for the Unchurched.

Arn talked about the New Testament focus on one’s “household” (oikos), or social network, as we might call it today. When someone became a follower of Jesus in the first century, they influenced their entire social network for Christ.

The same is true today. The overwhelming reason why people first come to church is because of a friend or relative (75-90% while no other factor surpasses 5 or 6%). Research also shows that people who leave churches do so because they don’t feel needed/wanted (81%).

Interestingly, only 1-6% of people attend church because of the pastor. I’ve always known that that number is low, but what I didn’t know is that it’s even low at a place like the Crystal Cathedral, founded by Dr. Robert H. Schuller, where researchers discovered that about 7.5% of the people attend because of the (extremely high profile) pastor. Of course, pastors play an important role in shaping church culture which has an impact on how invitational people are.

Some other statistics that were especially interesting …

In the average church, 9% of first-time visitors become active members or regular attenders within a year. But in growing churches, 21% of first-time visitors become active attenders/participants — (only) 2 out of 10, instead of 1 out of 10.

About 1% of people attend a church event after receiving a well-written notice in the mail (yikes!). But 28% attend when invited by a friend! That’s an astronomical difference!

Arn suggested focusing on people who are receptive at any given time (people can fluctuate between receptivity and resistance). Based on the research above, often the people who are most receptive are friends, relatives, and neighbors of present members.

Arn presented an approach called Ministry-based Outreach, which he defined as …

an intentional commitment to build meaningful relationships between members and non-members based around shared interests.

Churches can form ministry-based outreach groups for people who share common concerns or common interests.

In fact, on the hour-plus drive home, we developed an idea for our first ministry-based outreach ministry. The details will need to be worked out, but we anticipate putting our first group (made up of people from Centre Grove AND people who are not connected to the church) together sometime this summer.

Well, there was lots of other practical stuff, more than I can include here. But the event was well worth attending!

1 thought on “How to Reach Unchurched People”

  1. Outreach ministry begins with intentional planning and leadership, thanks for the reminder!! Will be anxious to see what develops from your team who attended the training.


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