Sometimes I feel that churches miss the most significant chance they have with visiting families. It has to do with the disconnect between where families are and where we in the church want them to be.

This is probably a larger philosophical conversation based on how your church may interface with the community at large. If your church believes that it’s primary focus is to disciple believers and to do so through weekend services, then you probably won’t be seeing tons of unchurched visiting families showing up on Sundays. That’s totally fine, it’s just important that your expectations, philosophy and experiences are aligned… otherwise there will be frustration.

However, I often see churches where philosophy, expectations and experiences are not aligned. It’s a ministry’s desire to see the unchurch show up in droves, but when they arrive, the church isn’t really ready to create a welcoming experience.

I’ve often heard ministry leaders complain about the parents and kids who are showing up. They say things like:

  • They always show up late!
  • They’re totally inconsistent!
  • They take advantage of us! What do they think we are, free childcare?
  • They totally bent the check-in rules, thinking we wouldn’t notice!

Okay, I’ve said this about some of our regular families, but that’s a different issue. But, if you’ve ever said these things about the people showing up at your church, you need to check yourself. You’re words and attitudes aren’t aligning with your strategy/mission. You’re expecting the unchurched community to act like you expect your regular families to act and quite frankly, that’s not fair.

When the unchurched community shows up for church, they’re probably going to show up late. Why? Maybe they don’t like the singing. Maybe they forgot what time to be there. Maybe they just don’t have it together. Don’t roll your eyes, give them a break. They’re not going to come every week because going to the lake, football games, sleeping and and other stuff are things they also like to do. Don’t judge, they’re not where you want them to be yet. Oh, and they probably think you are offering free childcare, and that’s pretty cool to them. They’ll probably try to take advantage of what you offer, why would you expect anything different?

Just think about it. It doesn’t mean you can’t have guidelines, rules and expectations for families… but you have to be prepared for the unchurched who are going to check out your church. Meet them where they are, which is a long way from where you want them to be. Think creatively of how an inconsistent, late and potentially frustrating family can have the experience of a lifetime when they step into your building.