Is Your Church Hard to Get In?


The natural tendency of things is to go from simple to complex. It happens in businesses and it certainly happens in churches. Size, resources, both financial as well a people, dictate a lot of what a church can do in its infancy. But growing organizations, by nature of growth, become increasingly sophisticated and, thus more complex. Unwittingly, churches develop their own language and culture and a set of assumptions about their organization. One of the most dangerous of these assumptions is that the church’s internal culture is a mirror of its community, and, therefore, easy for newcomers to understand.

Is Your Church Hard to Get In?

I can think of so many examples, but one that comes to mind is the way churches have creative names for every age-group ministry: Fuse, Stretch, MainStreet, The Loft, to name a few. Familiarity causes staff to drop the most important of denominators, the age descriptor. What started out as Fuse (Middle School Group) ends up being just “Fuse.” Who knows what that is? Well, the people who have been around the longest and are now in charge of the thing. I have seen signs that read “Stretch this way.”  I did stretch  after my run, so I’m OK for now. You know where this is going.

Large churches have multiple ministries with their own identity and communication needs. Left alone, this becomes a multi-layered communication nightmare within other internal ministries that are trying to do their jobs effectively but are led by good-hearted people who see only their piece of the pie, but if you bring all these pieces together, the pie is quite large and not very appetizing. It’s too much. So we complicate a bit more, creating a few more brochures throwing in 10 more cool logos to go along with the 255 already existing ones.

This is a tough battle to win. But in order to be effective and continue to reach out to people outside the faith, churches need to simplify and streamline their organizational and communications structures. My company, The A Group, develops complicated software that is yet very simple to operate. Churches should do the same at the experiential level. A good question to ask from time to time is, “how hard are we making for people to get in?” But don’t answer that question in a staff meeting. Ask someone new who visited for the first time last weekend. They’ll have a entire different perspective than you.

How easy is your church to get in? Is it simple for people to plug in, or do they have to work hard to break their way in?

  • I like the idea of calling things what they are. It occurs to me that people inside the church are bored with the programs … newcomers don’t necessarily think a “young adult group” is a bad idea.

    • You’re on the right track Lawrence. We get too creative and sacrifice basic communication strategy.

  • Marc Stroup

    I have been a member of my church for 7 years now. Sometimes I still have to ask, “what’s our youth ministry called?” That should give you a clue.

    • I know how you feel, Marc. The more churches grow and pile on new names, the more difficult it is to keep it all straight, even for long-term members.

  • Sally Epps

    I visited a new church a couple of weeks ago and I had no idea of what my next move should be. I was not ready to join the church and there was no information about the ministries anywhere near me. I walked away without much information.

    • I always tell my clients: “Make sure people know their next steps when they visit. Make it easy for them to know what to do next.”

  • I love it when brilliance is disguised in simplicity. Thank you for this.

  • I’ve been fighting to keep “small groups” in our program title for awhile now 🙂

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