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Setting the Atmosphere for the Day of Worship

“Finding a way to reach your audience and knowing your audience is imperative to growing a he…
Setting the Atmosphere For the Day of Worship

By Joseph Girdler

Joseph S. GirdlerI love rural churches and the calling of rural pastors. The redemptive communities they lead often set standards of faith and provide numerous elements of encouragement and hope for the community. The rural and smaller churches often times face challenges of available resources, trained leadership, or even the availability for attending various training opportunities in light of the necessity of bi-vocational career requirements, family necessities, and church budgets.

For fifteen years, I have preached weekly in different ministry settings ranging from small rural churches, to multicultural urban churches, to services abroad with multiple translations. Over the course of the journey I gained a few insights into how churches function—both in flourishing settings and overlooked aspects of ministry. These experiences and perspectives reveal a few key points that may benefit local churches and fill voids. This motivated me to write a book to address these and other areas dealing with the first impressions a first-time guest receives when visiting your church. This book, Setting the Atmosphere for the Day of Worship, encourages excellence in everything, so all who are open to the Lord’s work in their lives can sense His magnificent, tangible presence. Few resources address practical matters for rural ministry, especially pertaining to the practical elements so the following paragraphs will highlight a sampling of areas where churches should work for effective engagement.

Making Guests Feel Welcome

Welcoming and convenient facilities should mark the guest’s first impression of the outside and inside atmosphere. Searching for a spiritually fitting home, potential members consider details such as parking, signage, physical accommodations, and the flow of services. After serving in multiple churches, I noticed churches seem to struggle with key details. Remember, a church is always communicating a message, thought, or idea with or without the church’s knowledge. When the church communicates a message founded in love and excellence, guests see the love and care of Christ more than the accommodations and great signage; visitors notice practical things.

“Finding a way to reach your audience and knowing your audience is imperative to growing a healthy church, mentoring, and discipling God’s people.”

– Girdler, Setting the Atmosphere for the Day of Worship 

First time guests interpret church differently than the local church family. Usually, the church guest, the first-time attender, or the well-meaning searcher looking for a church home finds the weaknesses and observes “the little things” that are not so little. These areas become deciding factors for guests return visits or further consider of the church as a viable and spiritually fitting home for their family. Guests determine within the first 2 to 8 minutes whether they will return. That indicates that the church has less than 10 minutes to show them warm hospitality.  If guests arrive 15 minutes prior to the service, they likely decided about returning prior to the first song and prior to the first word of the message.

Communicate Clearly

Be prepared to explain everything you do and the reason(s) you do it (the what and the why) each week. Expect guests and prepare for them, which includes preparing the regular congregation for the weekly explanations that many find redundant or unnecessary. Keep in mind what the first-time guests need to hear this explained. Have the congregation become accustomed to repeated explanations so guest have the privilege of comfortable assimilation.

“I made a conscious effort that anytime one of our services included anything [anyone] would be curious about I comfortably went to the pulpit and read God’s Word on the subject matter.”

– Girdler, Setting the Atmosphere for the Day of Worship

Guest often having questions about the accepted forms in the practice of communion. Some guests grew up in denominational settings that served “closed communion,” which required membership in that particular understanding of church to participate in their communion service. (Closed communion is not my theological stance nor my personal preference. I want to welcome all of Christ’s family.) However, leaders need to keep in mind that guests come from varying ecclesiastical backgrounds and they need to know and understand your process: “Am I allowed to participate?” “When should I eat the bread and drink the juice?” “How will communion be served?” “What are acceptable standards?” As respectful guest, they do not want to do anything out of order or embarrassing. So, help them know acceptable practices.

Love the Whole Community

The church can use many ways to demonstrate Christ’s love to the community. Special needs ministries often remain one of the least developed and yet most remarkable ministry opportunities churches that desire to make a difference in their community. Many within traveling distance of your church face the unique challenges of special needs, and few churches offer any ministry, welcome, or lend a hand for their needs. It may take training and a high level of commitment, but recognize what you can and should provide care for this beautiful segment of society who cannot attend church, do not attend church, or do not feel welcomed in church. Adjust the width of the church hallways, doorways, bathrooms, and sidewalks for handicap accessibility, which makes a difference and says, “We care.”

Jesus came to earth for three reasons. One reason, Jesus demonstrated the nature of the Father and debunked misconceptions of God. A second reason, Jesus taught how to love people. A third reason, Jesus became our substitute for sin, so that all who come to Him can receive His gift of salvation. His ministry showed truth and grace and met people in their circumstances. He challenged them to change from the inside out, to draw closer to Him, while learning how to love people! Is your church atmosphere sending that message? Remember, the local church lives to glorify God and to touch the community. So, every church must evaluate their vision, mission, cultural intelligence, demographic, and community love language. Your church can begin to set the tone on Sundays, which leads the church to correct the atmosphere for the desired message you send to guests.

“Too many churches and leaders depend on talent and forget the power of prayer.”

– Girdler, Setting the Atmosphere for the Day of Worship

Nothing can work up, sing up, and shout up, or raise up the presence of God. Scripture teaches He is powerful, sovereign, and, genuinely interested in the eternal and the everyday aspects of every individual on earth. The Bible says He inhabits the praises of His people (Ps. 22:3). This essential matter, His presence, becomes evident to all who worship, seek, or even casually observe as first-time guests. The importance of the Church is not derived from what we do as leaders, our projects, or our strategies. We discover the importance of the Church in God doing His work in our lives and in the lives and hearts of all who attend for worship. Understanding that primary principle should cause leaders to offer our best for the Lord. The goal of excellence should glorify the Lord and His magnificent presence tangibly sensed and received by all open to His work.

I encourage every pastor to set the atmosphere for day of worship. You, the church family, and all the guests will be glad you did.

Purchase Joseph Girdler’s full book here, “Setting the Atmosphere for the Day of Worship” on Amazon.

Joseph S. Girdler Bio

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