Friday, May 04, 2007

Why People Come to Church

Somewhere in last week's cursory reading of blogs, I came across a statement about church growth which stated flatly that people don't come to church for community, they come for transformation.

Now, there's a statement to warm the cockles of a minister's heart, but it's way too simple. "People" come into the mansion that has many different rooms for many different reasons. Some do come for transformation. Some do come for community. Some come to join with others in good works. Some come because they've always come. Some come because they want to think of themselves as worthy members of a worthy group. More than some come because they want a religious education for their children and, at least initially, it does not occur to them that their own religious life could use some development, too.

A growing church welcomes all these folks and attempts to help them find a comfortable place. A deep church helps them then move around and explore some of the other rooms in the mansion. The person who came for community then finds that community is built when people work together on common projects. The one who came for transformation discovers the pleasures of community. The one who came for his kids and thought to daydream through the service while waiting for their program to finish hears and feels something that changes his own life.

It's a challenge for a church staff or program committee to keep an eye on whether people are moving around through the contributing to committees, now leading covenant groups, now doing Social Justice, now accepting the care of the church's people and growing in spirit as they do. Some people will never move and never want to move. Most will need to be invited. But it is when people tell me, "I came for my kids, and stayed for myself," or "I was lonely and new in town and found myself weeping through the service," or "I did social justice for years and then I discovered the children,"...that's when I know that the church has been both wide and deep, and done it's job.


Lizard Eater said...

Beautiful, beautiful post that I will be forwarding to several people.

Anonymous said...

I've seen some research that says women come to church out of a seeker-oriented spirituality and men come to church out of a dwelling-oriented spirituality. That could be another way of saying transformation or community. I think the big point is that no matter why people come, they stay because of the community. A congregation that emphasizes seeking and transformation may not be retaining its members as well as a congregation that emphasizes community.