Practical Pointers

A five-star church

S. Joseph Kidder, DMin, is a professor of pastoral theology and discipleship, Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary, Andrews University, Berrien Springs, Michigan, United States.

What makes a desirable church? Is it the new carpet, perfect location, or great potlucks? People are searching for something. They do not always know how to articulate their quest but are nonetheless attempting to find something worth being part of. I have often brought “outsiders” in to evaluate churches. Usually, the leadership of the church has a higher rating of their church than the visitors. Is your church a five-star church?

When an individual goes to church, what do you think he or she is looking for? If you answered “God,” you are correct. When an individual walks into a church, they know within minutes whether or not God is present there.

What is the focus of your church? Is it self-centered or loving others? How does your congregation react to new faces? Do they even notice? Have you thought about asking friends to come to your church and test the waters for you? What would they say to you about the focus and mindset of your congregation and leadership?

How often do people stand up front and use denominational terminologies that bewilder new people? What do people hear when you speak? Churched vocabulary may mean something different outside of your denominational walls and may confuse guests.

One day I decided to take a friend to church with me. We chose a church I had never attended since I was visiting in his area. The entire service my friend was asking me questions “What does ‘investment’ mean?” “Why would I want to fall on ‘the Rock’?” “How does the blood of a lamb cleanse me?” He had never been to a church, and it was eye-opening for me to realize the church’s disconnect from church visitors.

Inclusive congregation

I was talking to a seminary student one day about her experiences with church. Her parents are known in the denomination, and her appearance is not that of a typical pastor. She was sharing how people silently judged her when she first walks into churches. As soon as they find out what she is studying or what her last name is, everything suddenly changes and she has lunch invitations from now friendly people. How do we treat people that look different? How intentional are you about reaching out to all ages, races, and lifestyles of people?

Harmonious community

Harmony does not mean everyone agrees with everything. Rather, it is about the feel of your church. When someone walks into your building, is there tension in the air, or is it a healthy and safe place to be? How does your church handle problems? Are questions and answers asked and given with defensiveness or love? A healthy church is not problem-free; rather, it knows how to handle its problems.

A man came to me one day, telling me that he and his family wanted to join my church because he felt “loved” and “safe” in the church. He said that he was so glad to finally find a church where he was able to communicate with people on an honest level, without being condemned. How loving and safe is your church?

Accessible church

How accessible are you physically and emotionally to your community? How often do you as a leader simply listen to people without a defensive nature? Walking through the community and listening to people is important to know what they are looking for. Is your church steeped consistently in prayer? How well do they listen to God’s will? Restaurants are rated on presentation, servers, taste, aesthetics, and location. Why should your spiritual meal be any different? How many stars does your church have?

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S. Joseph Kidder, DMin, is a professor of pastoral theology and discipleship, Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary, Andrews University, Berrien Springs, Michigan, United States.

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