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Attractional Church Planting
- Attractional church shouldn’t be contrasted with missional church, because it is a different form of being missional. A better distinction is between attractional church and everyday church.
- Features of attractional church:
- Sunday Meeting Focussed– ‘Sunday is match day’.
- Based on attractive events– Drawing people into the events as a first point of contact.
- Targetted Programming– People move through from attending a service to going to Alpha, Alpha+, Marriage Course, etc.
- This approach was developed by churches like Saddleback and Willow Creek and has become increasingly influential in Newfrontiers – many church leaders speak of the building large churches, impacting city centres and being culturally upstream.
- Attractional churches are measured by three metrics (ABC) – attendance, buildings and cash.
- The model of church growth is often to get finances, hire staff and then work towards acquiring a building.
- This model of church can carry through into church planting – a lot of teaching can focus on getting to the point of the ‘Sunday launch’.
Some Negatives of Attractional Church
- It can devalue everyday Christian living – everybody’s energy can become absorbed into ‘making Sundays happen’.
- Discipleship can become thought of as primarily referring to church attendance.
- Evangelism can become invitational only.
- It can focus gospel preaching only into church meetings, as opposed to everyday life.
- Vision casting can become shaped by this attractional model – we focus on SMART goals in terms of attendances, conversions and financial giving, but give less attention to qualitative aspects of discipleship that are harder to measure. ‘What you measure is what you value’.
- Despite being called attractional, there is a large proportion of the population that will not be attracted by our church meetings.
“70% of the population in the UK have no intention of ever attending a service. That means that new styles of worship will not reach them, fresh expressions of church will not reach them, Alpha and Christianity Explored will not reach them, guest services will not reach them, churches meeting in pubs will not reach them, toddlers churches meeting at the end of the school day will not reach them. The vast majority of unchurched and dechurched people would not turn to church even if faced with difficult personal circumstances, even in the event of national tragedies. It’s not a question of improving the product of church meetings and evangelistic events, it means reaching people apart from public meetings and events.” (Tim Chester & Steve Timmis – Everyday Church)
Questions to Ask About Your Church Plant
- “What shape will it take?” (More than will it be big or small? – What will the culture and ethos be?)
- “What will be the theological emphasis?”
- “What has God put in me that will help to shape it?”
- “What things will you do the same as, and what things will you do different from, the church you were in before?”
Things that Shape Howard’s Current Approach to Church Planting
- “The gospel community is the hermeneutic of the Gospel.” (Leslie Newbigin)
- “Church programs exist to do what Christians should be doing in everyday life.” (Tim Chester)
- “If you make disciples, you will always get the church – if you try to build the church, you will rarely get disciples.” (Mike Breen)
- “If you aim for community, you won’t get mission, but if you disciple people well, you’ll always get mission.” (Mike Breen)
- “The shape of the church is not corporate, but family.” (Mike Breen)
It is possible to incorporate the best of both approaches into our churches, but if our model is exclusively attractional church then it is possible to end up building a kind of church that feels corporate and that you don’t really want to be part of.
1. How can you transform a church that is currently attractional to be more ‘everyday’?
- You can start talking to the church about the issue.
- Even if you start a church with an everyday focus, you need to work hard to keep this.
“It takes a long time to learn to do first-century community in a twenty-first century world .” (John Ortberg)
2. Why do you say that if you start with community you won’t get mission, but you start with mission you will get community?
- The key issue is discipleship.
- We need to learn to live ‘cruciform’ lives.
- Community feels comfortable, whereas mission can feel risky.
- When your model of church only gives you short blocks of time together (e.g. Wednesday nights) you are sometimes forced to choose between mission and community. When you share your lives together this is much less of an issue.
3. How do you mobilise a group of people to be on mission but not exclude non-Christian guests who are with you on a Sunday?
- Visitors are often actually more interested in who we are than what we say.
- The community life of our church is key – and taking time in our meetings for chat, coffee and cakes is very important. Preachers (often wrongly) think that what we are saying is the most important feature of our church meeting.
- Make an effort to keep your preaching accessible to everyone – keep your points short and punchy.
- But don’t view your meeting as primarily a guest service with your main teaching time elsewhere.
- Because we are trying to get people engaged with our church community, our Sunday meeting will often be the last place that people find us – not the first.
4. As we emphasise the need to people to be on mission in their everyday lives, how do we ensure that we are also looking after people (especially vulnerable people)?
- The leader shouldn’t be the only discipler in the church – we should all be discipling each other.
5. How have you found reaching into different parts of society? The people we engage with everyday are often people who are very like us.
- As you form a gospel community in an area, different members of that community are able to engage with different sections of society.