The death of evangelicalism?

Today I went into a meeting to design our January series. To prep for the meeting I sketched out a breakdown of who attends our church. I thought I’d share it with you:

At our church, there are 3.5 distinct groups: The Core, Seekers, Shoppers & a strangely Nashville phenomenon: The Cloud. In an effort to be intentionally thorough in our design process, I outlined each group and what they should encounter. On the far left is each label; in the middle is the “product” they need from weekend service, and on the right is the action we should be setting them up to take.

The Core are your regular attenders or members. These are the folks who come regularly, give regularly, go to the all-church meetings, lead classes, host small groups, etc. In my opinion this is who you’re really doing church with; most other folks are just spectators. In this chart, they need a Worldview & to be Commissioned (teach so they can share with others), the action we’re preparing them for is to Disciple Others. As this group goes, so goes the church and we need to keep them moving!

The seekers are those foks with questions who came to you for answers. These are folks interested in examining Christianity for one reason or another. They may come all the time, but they are early in their spiritual growth. They come with questions: Who is Jesus? How should we then live? They need to be given the Claims of the bible. The action we are preparing them for is to Be Discipled.

The third group is the Shoppers, they come only to observe and to kick the tires. The question on their mind is “Do people like me go here?” And what they need is a Brand Experience, we need to give them our authentic culture. The action we’re preparing them for is to Come Back.

The third-and-a-half group is “The Cloud.” I’m sure every church has this, but MAN does ours! I wasn’t aware of it when I served in Louisville. They say their Christians, and they say that we’re their church home, they just never come. Not exactly Christmas and Easter, many of these folks are jet-setters: one weekend in vegas, the next at a kids sports thing in Chicago, and then for the sake of their family they take a 4 week cruise. We see them once every ten or twelve weeks. They ask questions like “no one asked me” and “what happened to…?” they need to know what’s changed and why and the action we’re preparing them for is to Come Back. They really are just “preferred shoppers.”

I’ll continue to develop these “taxonomies” as I work through our series design for the church. I still need to do one on flavors of church culture.

Essay in light of this chart:

Based on the ideas of “new business,” I really believe that our job as ministry staff is to change the lives and lifestyles of the Core. Make “raving fans” and create evangelists. Keep your eye on them. Program for them. Know their culture. Craft their culture.

Within the last year, we’ve tried some new programming, but the service formats were only attended by seekers & shoppers, so I advocated that we kill them. Why? because they weren’t sustainable. Why was I so sure we were barking up the wrong tree? The core wasn’t behind us. We learned valuable lessons from those formats, and I do hope we return to them as we grow.

What’s growth look like? More people in the Core. What’s evangelism look like? People joining the Core. What’s discipleship look like? People in the Core discipling others. That’s it. So it goes, so goes the church. When everyone in the Core is in a thriving small group that’s making disciples, our church will grow healthily. What should we do as leaders? Nurture the core and ensure its growth. Topload the best groups so the DNA permeates the church. Cheat your own system. “breed” your groups.

Am I leaving the Seekers and Shoppers to die in the street while we only minister to the Saved? Um.. sortof. The best way to get to them is to have a thriving church. Perhaps if the church was a tree, the core would be the roots and trunk. To grow a taller tree, the roots have to go deeper and wider to balance it. Their strength is what protects a tree in storms, their network is what supplies much of the trees’ water. If I want my tree to grow taller, I need to pay attention to how the roots are doing.

As an experience designer, we want to reach and develop all three groups each week. At least that’s our plan going forward. What do you think?