How do you thaw the “frozen chosen”? How do you engage the disinterested members of your flock?

In my last post I described these people as PIBOs—Present in Body Only. Though they may show up, their hearts and minds are elsewhere. I suggested we need to discover how to better reach them. Some readers wondered what that might look like.

I’ll provide some discoveries. And you’ll want to do your own research—with your own PIBOs. Sit down with them. Interview them. Ask what stirs them—and doesn’t stir them—about their church experiences. Just ask and listen. Don’t defend or scold or cajole. Just listen.

As I’ve interacted with PIBOs, I’ve found they exhibit many similarities to the vast unchurched population. I’ve spent a lot of time with these people through my work with Lifetree Café, which really focuses on them, their needs, and the avenues to their hearts.

These people are not disinterested in God. They’re just not too interested in how the church typically packages faith pursuits.

A New York Times piece on Sunday described the growing population that’s “running from organized religion.” But the writer, Eric Weiner, said he and others without a particular religious affiliation are not running from God. In fact, 93 percent of these non-affiliated people say they believe in God or a higher power.

But they’re looking for a way to connect to God that looks different from church-as-we-know-it. Here are some of the characteristics Weiner and his friends would like to see:

  • Highly interactive
  • Celebrates doubt
  • Encourages experimentation

The people we may be tempted to write off as disinterested don’t want to be passive spectators. They want to be an active part of the faith conversation. They crave a place that acknowledges and embraces that even faithful people experience doubt and questions. And they long for a faith expression that isn’t so predictable and regimented.

Our work with Lifetree is one form of experimentation to connect with these folks. We’re learning as we go. The Times writer said he’s not looking for someone to “invent a new religion, but rather a new way of being religious.” He’s in tune with countless others we’ve surveyed in our work to more effectively reach today’s people (the unchurched and the PIBOs) with the message and love of Jesus.

A Virginia newspaper this week described a  woman who said her local Lifetree Cafe’s relaxed atmosphere “makes her comfortable about asking questions or voicing her opinions.”

A sign inside that (and every) Lifetree Cafe reads:

You’re welcome just as you are.

Your thoughts are welcome. Your doubts are welcome.

We’re all in this together.

God is here, ready to connect with you in a fresh way.