Churches Learn to Irrigate in Droughts

This series of posts is based on the metaphor of a drought, which was introduced previously. I think churches are facing a prolonged drought because of changes in beliefs and values of Generation X, the Millennials and Generation Z. Just as farms adapt to survive in droughts, I’m convinced churches can do the same.

In the season of drought, congregations need to change the primary entry point into the church. This adaptation is not as easy, but will prove worthwhile over time.

Good farmland can have two regular sources of moisture, groundwater and rain.

Groundwater for churches are internal sources of members. Examples include births to member families and members marrying non-members. Rain for congregations is the external sources for new participants. Such sources include members inviting friends and neighbors to church or people shopping for a new church.

The church is facing a drought because those two sources are drying up.

As for internal sources for congregations, it was thought Generation X and the Millennials would return to church once they started families. Those who are choosing to marry are barely trickling back. The loss of institutional loyalty and increasingly secular world views in these two generations rebels against the return to church.

Churches waiting for strangers to attend worship services may spend a good deal of time Tumbleweedwatching tumbleweeds blow through the parking lot. The percentage of Americans claiming no particular religious beliefs continues to rise. The number of Americans who search for churches because it’s socially acceptable is dropping.

Drought is hard on farmers and farm communities. However, it is possible to keep farming in a drought, with a change in farming practices. For example, in a drought farmers considering irrigating crops.

Irrigation is watering the crops, such as pumping ground water to sprinklers or piping water from reservoirs to the fields.

Churches can also adapt to the drought. One way is changing the entry point for new people coming into the church.

Like farmers waiting for rain to fall from the sky, churches have passively waited for new people to show up in worship services. It’s time for churches to start irrigating.

It is time to send our members to invite people to regularly meeting fellowship groups or water-982173_1280long running service projects. We need to send out members in pairs or groups to serve in the local community. These will become the new entry points to congregational life.

These entry points give our members times to form relationships with new people. They provide space for the young people who left congregations to reengage in the church. They create safe spaces for new people to explore the faith through conversation and interaction.

There is a great distance between having no relationships in a church to joining the church. Moving from fellowship or service to Bible study or worship is a relatively short step. Moving the entry point to the church away from worship should actually result in God drawing more people to worship.

What are potential entry points besides worship to your church? Leave your thoughts in the comments or shoot me an email. Additional posts in the series include:

Finding the Right Metaphor for Churches Today

Churches Learn to Irrigate in Droughts

Churches Shift Expectations in Droughts

Churches Focus on Highest Priorities in Droughts


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