We used to say, “Dress slightly more dressed-up than the average person in your church.” One of the main reasons was because we didn’t want people to think, “hmmm, this is too casual to be ‘church’ – it’s meant to be formal and reflective – but he’s dressed like a slob.”
But really – who’s gonna’ think that? Probably the type of person who’s going to find fault with EVERYTHING!
But what happened to your visitor when they come in for the first time and see the person up the from looking more dressy than they are? Chances are it’s another thing for them to (wrongly) feel judged about.
Why try to appease the 5% by dressing up when the same action could be off-putting to the 50%?!?
Dress just below the average “dress level” and see how it makes people feel comfortable to see Jesus as part of their whole life – trakidacks and all.
Whatever the group, big or small, whole church or growth group, it has a culture.
There’s a commonly agreed way things are. A commonly held idea about how things happen; evangelism, bible reading, singing, everything. You only notice it when someone does something different and all of a sudden it seems weird to everyone else.
So its worth getting a few observant people together and get them to answer that hard question… what’s become normal for “us” and are we happy with that as our normal?
If you’re going to run an evangelistic course, don’t wait until you have enough participants. Why would you? If you’ve got two people who are willing to hear the gospel, do it as planned. Just smaller to suit the numbers.
There’s an important principle here; interested people are more valuable* than uninterested people. Basically, if person A signs-up, but then you decide not to run the event, you’re telling person A that person X (who didn’t sign-up) is more important. It’s like you’re saying, “Yeah, thanks for signing up, but people who we REALY wanted can’t come, so we’re going to wait for them.”
Schedule the event, tell people that it’s going to be on, and run it for whoever comes.
Sometimes, setting rules is really helpful. Call them guidelines or self-imposed limits if you don’t like the idea of rules. But the fact is we do it all the time anyway. For example, we have a staff rule that male staff members or not to be in a house alone with a member of the opposite sex (apart from their spouse, etc).
But if you only ever discuss the rule and never discuss the reason behind it, two things are likely to happen.
1) Your rule will become a boasting point. It will become a rule in the bad anti-gospel sense. It will become something you are tempted to boast in before God and say, “Look! I never did that thing (that I self-imposed on myself!)”
2) It will become a tradition rather than a culture. That is, people will break the spirit of the law, and think nothing of it (e.g. going for a half-day walk in the bush with no-one else around – really isn’t much different to being alone in a house together).
So, have rules (because they help people understand the reasons and they do stop stupid decisions), but always talk about the reasons that make up the rule.
“Jesus said to them, ‘Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things’” Matt 21:27
We have a very peculiar cultural rule; that if someone asks you a question, you have to answer that question. We seem to think we’re somehow obliged to answer, as though we’re permanently standing in some courtroom with a lawyer saying, “Answer the question please… and do remember, you’re under oath”.
But you’re not.
A valid answer to some questions is simply, “I don’t feel comfortable telling you that.”
In fact, I believe that many times, that is the best and most loving answer to give. It protects people, both the hearer and the speaker. It may even be protecting other people.
What’s the big theological principle behind this? Simply this… “everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken.” Matt 12:36
You don’t have to answer every question you get asked, because you only have to answer to God.
I heard this line recently and its so true.
No matter what strategy you put in place; lets take welcoming as an example… if there’s not a culture of loving the new people, getting to know them and engage them in conversation, your strategy will fail.
So if culture eats strategy for breakfast, it really focuses the goal of your strategy… how are you going to change your culture?