ATTRACTivity, does your ministry have it?
by Al Newell
Most of us want to be attractive. At least we don’t want to be unattractive. We want our ministries to be compelling, to draw more families, singles, members, volunteers, or donors. We want more people to visit our website, Like Us on FB and follow our tweets.
Being one of the top 100 Fastest Growing Churches in America has long been a status symbol. These churches have found the compelling recipe for success in drawing people. Some of these churches are referred to as attractional churches, that is they try to create an experience during weekend services that “wows” the audience making it irresistible in attracting them to return. Having visited lots of churches, having been an executive pastor in an attractional church, and a consultant that has trained leaders at countless large churches and Christian organizations for the last twenty years, I constantly weigh the notion of ATTRACTivity.
What I’ve learned about ATTRACTivity:
I’ve directed planning meetings where we scrutinized each element of each weekend service as producers of a show. We applauded great performance, chastised team members for “poor transitions”, and pushed volunteers too hard for excellence. I did it because I thought it would attract more people and that it would bring more people to Christ. It was somewhat like a drug; we produce this “thing” and it produced more people. I was addicted. Now, I’m recovering. Here’s what else I’m learning.
Grace is more attractive than perfection. I use to freak out, berate my wife and team members when we had a tech problem at our event. We’ve got to do better! Now I’m learning to just roll with it. In the last months, I’ve experienced churches ranging in size from 400-5000. The one thing they all had in common: Tech problems. The speaker’s mic didn’t work; the video wasn’t edited properly; no-one could hear the worship leader; and in each case there is a great temptation to freak out. Some leaders did. Relax. Our audience learns more about what we value by how we react to people as we solve our problems. Valuing people is attractive. One pastor chastised the sound person from the stage covering his own lack of prep. That was unattractive. Volunteer motivation remains at a much higher peak in an environment of grace where volunteers are allowed to learn from mistakes.
Worship is more attractive than performance. Bad singers, unskilled instrumentalists, poor communicators or inept sound people distract from worship. I’m definitely not a fan of that. But why is it that my heart can always distinguish musicians that are performing from those that are worshipping. When I’ve experienced a performance, I think wow they are great. When I experience worship, I worship and am so focused on God I couldn’t tell you what else is happening! I admire good performers, but worship attracts my soul. Practicing your worship is important but practicing so much that you don’t need music stands has far less impact on worship than preparing your heart.
Spiritual preparation is more attractive than show rehearsals. I scoured my notes and had never felt more prepared. However after the first days of the two-day training, I felt empty, like I hadn’t connected. My words hit a firewall. I failed. I sulked. Then I cried out to God. “God if you don’t show up, if you don’t empower this training it will be nothing.” The next day I taught with more humility, grace, and a greater dependence on God. Amazingly the audience embraced the 2nd day. We laughed and learned.
In another situation, a leader spent most of his Saturday working to get this one cool special effect tweaked. The effect was used two times. It wasn’t that cool. Another volunteer spent 100 plus hours producing a video for a special service. Great video, but in three minutes, it was over, never to be used again. Seriously, is that the kind of energy it takes to be “attractive”? Is that what really draws more people to Jesus. In Matthew 23: 15, Jesus blasted the Pharisees, you travel around on sea and land to make one convert; and when he becomes one, you turn him into twice as much a son of hell as yourselves. Time spent rehearsing does not equate with more spiritual attractiveness or impact. Heart preparation does!
Supernatural fruit is more attractive than human outcomes. Human effort in; human outcomes out. If your human effort has attracted them to the show, much more human effort will be spent keeping them.
Prayer, sharing God’s Word, and communicating the gospel, if united by faith and done in the power of the Holy Spirit bring supernatural fruit and powerful results. Cover to cover the Word of God demonstrates that we have a supernatural God that desires to empower our weakness and desires to show us His power so that we might glorify His name. Tightening up the “show” cannot change a life, but God can use prayer, the word of God, the gospel, worship, and grace all separately to transform lives with or without the show.
2 Chronicles 20:12 reports that when Jehoshaphat faced a ginormous army he said these words, “For we are powerless, before this great multitude…nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are on You.” Chatper 21 reports that the singers led Jehoshapat’s army out and supernatural victory was the result. Moses and Gideon demonstrated fear and weakness and God powerfully delivered His people through them. Nothing is more attractive to a volunteer than to be part of the supernatural experience of God. No performance compels a human heart to repentance, but the power of God can transform any life. The supernatural authentic experience of God remains the furnace of retention.