“We worry about the quality of the church’s childcare at church. What will be done with our baby and our children? We’re not sure we can trust strangers with the care of our kids.”
Our area is filled with young couples, so it was not surprising when I discovered this fear. Every church must earn the trust of parents. At Saddleback, we have adopted a set of very stringent guidelines for our children’s ministry, including FBI checks, fingerprinting and personal interviews of all children’s workers to insure safety and quality. We have a very secure check-in and check-out system. We’d rather go overboard on safety than be thrown overboard with a lawsuit. If you want to reach young couples, you must spend the effort to create a safe and attractive children’s program.
Jesus told the disciples to be strategic in their evangelism. “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16). When it comes to reaching unbelievers, I think this means identifying and understanding their perceived hang-ups and real problems that they have with the church—and then doing whatever it takes to defuse those issues so the message of Christ can be heard.
In football, successful teams know how to “read the defense.” That means when the offensive team lines up for each play, the quarterback looks out at the opposing team to see how they are lined up. He tries to figure out in advance how the defense will respond and what barriers might prevent the execution of the play. Sometimes that means calling an “audible”—announcing a change in plans. If the quarterback doesn’t do this, he usually gets creamed!
In evangelism, “reading the defense” means understanding and anticipating the objections unbelievers will have before they voice them. It’s learning to think like an unbeliever. That, by the way, becomes increasingly more difficult the longer you are a Christian.
What is most interesting to me about these four common complaints is that none of them are theological issues. I rarely meet people who say, “I don’t go to church because I don’t believe in God.” The truth is, many people are very open to learning about God and spiritual issues, they just don’t feel welcome at church or feel that it has anything to offer them. That is OUR problem. We must take the initiative, like Jesus did, to meet people where they are and then move them to where they need to be.