Those of us who are involved in church are well trained to invite people to worship. We find ways to bring up in conversation how great our music is, how compelling the sermons are, and how children are involved in our ministry.
Part of this is driven by the desire to grow the church, but there’s also the very human tendency to want to share something that is exciting or meaningful to us.
But when we invite people to participate in worship as their first experience as part of the faith community, we have things all out of order.
Sure, some people will come through the doors because of an ad in the paper, the sign outside or word-of-mouth buzz, and we don’t want to turn them away, obviously. But for those who seem curious about what this whole church thing is about, worship as a first step may be overwhelming, alien or even alienating. We may never have another chance to introduce them to anything else we’re about.
Although we’ve generally looked at worship as a point of entry into our faith communities, it actually should be the final destination in a journey of discipleship.
This is particularly the case regarding young adults, many of whom have had negative experiences with organized religion or who have not had any contact with a church in years, if ever.
One thing my wife, Amy, and I noticed when starting a new church eight years ago in Pueblo, Colorado, was that the younger adults were the last age group to buy into the community we were building. We came in under the mistaken impression that we would naturally attract people more like us: young, educated, middle-class families.
The ones who came, and stayed, at first were largely over 65 years old though. We were shocked. After all, what did we have to offer this age group?