Todd at The Todd Blog asks about “seeker-sensitive” churches. Here’s my answer.
My church has a guitar group. Over the last couple years or so, its focus has changed.
Beginner focused. When we started the group, most of us were beginning guitar players. We spent a lot of time learning guitar basics: how to strum different rhythms, how to finger a B-minor, how to play a barre chord, how to use a capo, etc. We had some more experienced guitarists show up. They never came back. I think we bored or embarrassed them (or both).
Growth focused. As we progressed, we entered a phase where we knew all the “cowboy chords”, needing help only with the more unusual chords or strumming patterns. We’d experiment with more complex songs to keep learning. As the word got out, some beginners wanted to join the group. Initially, it was a frustrating experience for those of us who had advanced beyond beginner status. Instead of learning our new songs and expanding our skills, we’d sit around while the one or two beginners learned how to play a G chord. In response, we started a beginners group that met at the same time. A couple of the more advanced among us would teach the beginners and then we’d come together at the end to play a song that all, even the beginners, could play. We led praise sing at church every two or three months and sang at a retirement home a couple of times. We had twin goals of improving our skills and increasing the size of the group.
Service focused. Now, we’re “better.” The guitar group leads praise sing every month so we’re more focused on learning songs for the next time. Some more experienced players have joined the group and stuck. We spend some time learning more difficult songs. We’re growing in different ways. We have a couple of bass players and we have people who sing. We do a much better job leading praise sing. We’re scheduling a couple more visits to retirement homes.
Unfortunately, not all changes have been positive. None of us seem to have the time or inclination to teach the kids anymore. They don’t show up much anymore. And that might be okay. After all, only so many guitarist fit on the platform.
I Thought This Was Going to be About Church…
The phases of the guitar group could be compared with many churches. The beginner-focused phase describes churches that have only seeker services. This is not a sustaining model unless the goal is to funnel maturing Christians to other churches in the area. “Mature” Christians will find another church unless they are quickly tasked with leadership roles.
Our second, learning and growth-focused, phase describes churches that have services for both the long-time member and seekers. While continuing to disciple maturing members, they also work to attract those with questions. I think those could be fun churches to attend.
Our group’s third phase could describe many churches, too. Rather than focusing on growing the church, they focus on serving. Is this a healthy church model? I believe so, as long as the focus is on serving those outside. One danger is that the focuses turns inward, on “doing church.” Rather than trying to grow the church, its focus become improving the “professionalism” of the church. “Sorry, can’t lead you to Jesus, I have to practice for church next week.”
An good book on this topic is Building a Contagious Church by Mark Mittelberg and Bill Hybels.
What do you think? Does your church have a seeker service? Are you a seeker?