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Distraction Can Kill Your Services—How to Fight Back

I had one of those rare Sundays off as a church leader yesterday. I went to our church, Connexus, with my family.

I didn’t serve, I didn’t have any responsibilities, I simply attended.

Just like many people do every Sunday. And like any friend you or I will ever invite will do on their first Sunday. 

Yesterday, I was reminded of the critical importance of how we do what we do when we design a Sunday service.

Increasingly I believe we will completely miss engaging unchurched people unless we’re intentional. 

Why? Because almost everyone shows up to your church on Sunday distracted.

Here’s how I spent my Sunday yesterday:

I got up early and ate breakfast.

I read five chapters of the Bible (my regular devotions) and prayed.

My wife, Toni, and I went on a pretty amazing 44 km (27 mile) bike ride on a perfect morning.

I even prayed again for specific people on the last leg of the bike ride.

Then I hopped in the shower and we drove to church.

My state of mind when I got to church? I was completely distractedjust like most of the people (Christians and non-Christians) who show up at your church every weekend.

Here’s what was going through my head as I walked into the service:

I was wondering how I was going to find my 17-year-old son, who drove there separately (we found him during the first song and sat together).

I was thinking about our bike ride.

I was rehearsing conversations I’d had with people in the foyer on the way in.

Despite being a Christian, having read several chapters of the Bible and praying that morning and wanting to be in church, guess what I was not thinking about?

Engaging in the service.

Fortunately, our team has done a lot of work trying to counter that. Because we’re a North Point strategic partner, we follow the Rules of Engagement Andy Stanley has developed. (To read more about the Rules of Engagement, read Andy’s Deep and Wide. Chris Edmondson also has a helpful summary of the Rules on his blog.)

The basic premise of the Rules of Engagement is that you can’t assume you have the attention of the people who show up Sunday.

And you can’t just begin randomly. Or just unthinkingly use the same template that worked 30 or 300 years ago.

By moving them through a three-part journey, you are far more likely to move them from where they were when they came in to a place of common connection.

We meet for two hours every Tuesday to evaluate last Sunday and plan future services using the Rules of Engagement.

Here’s how we design each service: