When I initially grasped that the “attractional” way of doing church was going away, I was depressed for two days. Nearly despondent. How could that be? My entire ministry, the way I learned how to do church was not working anymore? Hanging the cross and the flame out on Main Street, and the families were not flocking into the pews anymore? Was it my preaching? My pastoral leadership? I worked for 20 years at two of the fastest growing churches in Methodism. I am well versed in the attractional church model. If it wasn’t going to work anymore, I was ready to throw in the towel and try something completely new. My church needed to become “missional” to survive in the future.
It was a conversation with Dr. Elaine Heath that helped me see the important role my church could play for the future. Instead of “either or”, i.e., either attractional or missional model of church development. Why not try “both and”?
For my Main Street church, we decided to continue to offer the absolute very best worship services, children and youth programming that we could, inviting new people to come and attend our church. While at the same time we pushed people out of the church and into the community to foster relationships with people that would never come inside the church walls. We began to develop new worshipping communities in new places. We sought places where new families were moving, where there was poverty, where there was need and where people would not come to the church. We went to them.
My leadership model has been to slowly shift our resources, attention and energy from the attractional to the missional model of doing church. Ever,ever so slowly. The church has embraced this idea and is beginning to thrive. Our people have discovered the exciting new way of doing church. We are reaching new people. We are beginning one new church start in a suburban neighborhood and simultaneously starting multiple New Day communities in an apartment complex within a 7 mile radius of our church. This endeavor has energized our congregation and continues to open up new possibilities for ministry. If my First Church on Main Street can do this, your church can.