I am currently preaching a sermon series on the 5 Practices of a Fruitful Congregation. During my sermon this week (see post) I told the story that Bishop Robert Schnase has in his book about a church with a Middle Door Problem. Middle doors are the doors that open up to the inner circles in your church. They are the doors which lead to Sunday Schools, Small Groups, Mission Teams, Kitchen Committees, etc. The church in the illustration did great on welcoming people in the front doors and into the worship life of the congregation but when they attempted to get involved in the inner circles of the church they found the middle doors closed and the groups cold and shut off.
This happens in many churches where people have gathered together in a Sunday School class since the beginning of time and have no had a new member join their class in 25 years. Or a small group that is a clique and full of the church’s ‘cool people.’ Let’s face it churches can act like middle school at times.
How people are entering our flocks is changing. There are tons of books out there that echo this but middle doors are turning into the front doors of our churches. Non-church goers are more likely to join in on a missions project than attend worship. They may be more aped to join in a home group that come to worship. Churches need to get out of the mindset that what we do for an hour on Sunday is attracting the unchurched. In fact worship can be the huge scary gorilla that is holding many people back from getting active in a faith community.
Put yourself in the shoes of someone who has never participated in church before. What references do they have to what a worship service would look like? The internet and TV. Two places that would not be farther from the truth from what I do on a Sunday and probably your church as well. We don’t have the Gaithers singing every Sunday and nor do we have a sweaty, dressed to the nine, toll-free number dropping TV evangelist either. But if Joel Osteen, Jimmy Swaggart and Joyce Meyer are my only references to what worship is like, that can be a little intimidating. Or if you watch any of the small country churches that have time on Public Access TV Station. There you have Ms, Smith who has been playing piano since it was invented trying to harmonize with man who has to tuck his comb over behind his ears. They sing off tune and off beat (not in the good way). Okay, sorry that may be too close to my worship service but for the unchurched that image can be scary as well.
Mission teams and small groups of normal people talking about God or helping out the least of these in our world. That can be attractive and comfortable way for people to get introduced into a flock of faithful followers of Jesus Christ. The only way they will enter through those doors though is if those groups or people are willing and looking for new people to join. If not the Middle Door may not even have a chance to be opened.
How open are your Middle Doors and are there ways you can change your Middle Doors into Front Doors for the unchurched to come in?