Friday, December 31, 2004

Things that matter to the unchurched:Thom Rainer's surprising insights

Thom S. Rainer, a Christian researcher and professor of evangelism and church growth, writes a very practical book called Surprising Insights from the Unchurched on what things seemed to matter to the unchurched. Rainer is unique in his research method: he chose as his data set only those that were formerly unchurched but who actually became Christians and remained an active part of a church for more than one year.

Here are a few of the most important takeaways from this book:

Factors Leading to the Decision to Choose a Particular Church (top 5)

  • Pastor and/or his preaching (90%)
  • Doctrines of the church clearly spelled out, believed with conviction (88%)
  • Friendliness of members (49%)
  • Someone from church witnessed to me (41%)
  • Family member attends or invited me (38%)

Factors Specific to the Pastor (top 5)

  • Preaching that teaches/is biblically-based
  • Preaching that applies to my life
  • Authenticity of pastor
  • Pastor's conviction
  • Personal contact by the pastor

A few other key takeaways:

  • Relationships played a huge role in the unchurched staying and becoming involved. Specifically, family relationships, and even more specifically, the wife bringing a reluctant husband, were by far the most important relationships present.
  • First impressions are very important, if only to limit "bad" impressions. 90% of respondents said friendliness or facilities were a major factor for their returning to a particular church. Specifically, items mentioned in order of importance: friendliness/reponsiveness to newcomers, adequate space/parking, impressive children's facilities, and a perception of organization.
  • Reasons the unchurched returned after their first visit (in order of importance): the church clarified its beliefs and practices as soon as possible, usually with a new members class; the church had high expectations for involvement of its members; the church provided a small group context where relationships could flourish; the church had a strong sense of mission and purpose well-known by the leaders and membership; and the church provided ways for its members to participate in ministry.

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