Much of the contemporary church has fashioned itself to be “seeker sensitive.” But what if the seekers are no longer seeking?
Seeker-friendly churches have been shaped with good intentions. Making church ministry more accessible to the unchurched is an admirable objective.
The reigning assumption: large masses of unchurched men and women are actively looking for–seeking–a religious opportunity, organization or event. Then, the thinking goes, we just need to create a worship service that incorporates characteristics of other professional spectator events that these unchurched folks find elsewhere. And if we do a professional job on stage, the seekers will find what they’re seeking. At least that’s the hope.
Increasingly, however, the seekers don’t really fit this profile. It’s fair to say church visitors are seeking. But these visitors are typically upset refugees from other churches who are seeking a more perfect church. It’s musical chairs.
A new Pew Research Center study depicts the growing reality of the vanishing seeker. Most Americans do not regularly attend church. And the fastest growing sector is the “nones”–those who say they have no religious affiliation at all. This segment grew from 15 percent to 20 percent in just the last five years. Among those aged 18-29, the unaffiliated encompasses 32 percent of the population.
And get this. Among the “nones,” 88 percent say they are not looking for a religion that would be right for them. They are not seekers.
At Lifetree Cafe and Group Publishing, we spotted this trend some time ago. We decided to drop the term “seekers.” But we noted that 90 percent of the population still acknowledges a belief in God. So, we now refer to the majority as “spiritually open.” They may not be seeking a religious experience, but they’re open to connecting with God.
What does all this mean for the present and future church? A few implications:
- Look for ways to go to the people on their turf and their schedule, rather than expect the people to seek out a typical religious service that runs on a churchy schedule.
- Learn what people are actually seeking, and find ways to meet those human needs. Then form authentic relationships and earn the right to share your faith.
- Move from passive spectator services to settings that allow the “spiritually open” to participate, ask questions, and share their thoughts.
When it comes to Sunday morning churchgoing, the majority is playing hide and seek. Without the seek.
Not usually big on statistics, but this is very true. If a community has 30 “seeker sensitive” churches and only 12% of the “nones” population is seeking… they’re fighting over a few hundred people while the rest go feeling unnoticed, whether they prefer it that way or not.
“1, Look for ways to go to the people on their turf and their schedule, rather than expect the people to seek out a typical religious service that runs on a churchy schedule.
2. Learn what people are actually seeking, and find ways to meet those human needs. Then form authentic relationships and earn the right to share your faith.
3. Move from passive spectator services to settings that allow the “spiritually open” to participate, ask questions, and share their thoughts.
When it comes to Sunday morning churchgoing, the majority is playing hide and seek. Without the seek.”
Very true. Typically, in the Church we have leaned toward creating more and more programs and ministries to address issues or needs versus sitting, listening and responding a little more thoughtfully. It can sometimes amount to putting a band-aid on the problem so that we can move on rather than deal with the issue at its root or worse yet, do something that would require radical change on our part.
Fascinating. I love that someone (Lifetree Cafe) is out there creating solutions to this problem instead of complaining about it. Bravo!
From my own experience as what’s been called a “de-churched” believer, I have always only wanted one thing: a deep, communal, disciplined culture to belong to. In essence, I want real, deep, life-altering faith and belief. I want to change my life for the Gospel. I don’t know how, I’m scared, I’m weak, etc., and I want to find a group of believers I can learn under.
So sort of yes to #3, I want a church that’s not one-way, pulpit to pew. But it’s so much more. I don’t want to be eased in with felt-needs programs or inoffensive bible studies. I want to become a person whose life is defined and shaped by Christ, and I can’t work that out on my own. It takes something that can’t be programmed or formatted for large scales. It takes small, intimate, dedicated groups practically living together, sharing all aspects of life to encourage each other in a full faith.
My two cents.
Jeremy, you hit on something that is of prime importance in the Christian walk – we learn by being involved in community. God has existed in community (Father, Son, Spirit) forever and created us to reflect this aspect of who he is. I believe that is the reason he calls us to participate in communion, a time of intimate sharing. Yes, we need intimate, trusting, sharing fellowship, something our busy schedules leave little time for. Keep looking… God will lead you to a group where you can be nurtured and grow. Yes, it takes more than just a church service once a week. It takes a family of believers that actually interacts like a properly functioning family, sharing the highs and lows of life and experiencing God in every aspect of “being”.
Jeremy, the deep experience and the person that is defined and shaped by Christ does not happen by attending a particular Church but more so by who you are and what you do outside of church. Your reading, your study time of the Word, your service and giving, fasting, prayer, etc. You might have a calling you’ve not identified yet and I encourage you to find that out and don’t be scared at what you find God is calling you to do!