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Engaging the Unengaged in Your Pews

Many of the books, lectures, workshops, and consultations regarding church growth seem to focus on reaching the “unchurched” in our communities. I agree, this is an important part of following Jesus’ Great Commission growth strategy. However, the second part of Jesus’ command instructs us to teach these new disciples. But, there is another audience that we don’t necessarily think of as new disciples that sometimes gets overlooked and for many of them, that is exactly what they want from church.
I call this audience of church folk “Pew Fillers.” These are people that are coming to your church, probably irregularly but maybe every weekend, that sit quietly and reverently, placing an offering in the plate as it passes. They may have been baptized as a child or a youth, but they have never really engaged as a follower of Jesus. If your church is committed to discipleship and growth, then these folks are what we call in the marketing world low hanging fruit. But, just like it is difficult to attract new guests to your church, it is also challenging to engage the unengaged. Here are three tips to help you reach your “Pew Fillers.”
Give Pew Fillers permission to have questions and doubts. There are as many different reasons that folks come to church and don’t engage as there are Pew Fillers. No matter the reason, give them permission to have questions and doubts, at least temporarily. Psychologically, you have affirmed their issues are real and you have also let them know that the church cares.
You can affirm them a couple of ways: one is during the welcoming portion of worship, make sure you not only greet the guests but anybody who came today with questions or uncertainty about why they are there.  Another way to affirm the Pew Fillers is when you are teaching/preaching, invite people to listen and think about the idea or scripture you are about to present, even if they are not sure where they stand on it.
Make following Jesus an attainable objective. Once you have gotten their attention by affirming that they are out there, let the Pew Fillers know that they can be a follower of Jesus too. Motivate and encourage these people to take a closer look at what it means to follow Jesus. Do this by sharing stories of the people around them who are living differently and making a difference in their community because they decided the Gospel was real. Also, as you preach and teach, speak to these people directly with scriptures and ideas that highlight how following Jesus earnestly can make a difference not only in their lives, but in their family, community, and even world! As the Pew Fillers start to emerge from hiding, introduce them to people that are further along their journey that can demonstrate what a Gospel-led life can look like for them.
Invite them to take an actionable next step. Now that you have outed them, and given them a chance to buy in to the Gospel, then the third tip is to give the Pew Filler an opportunity to respond by taking the next step in their journey. Whether it is to join a bible study group, a service/mission team, or get baptized, make sure there is a clear path for them to take action, maybe for the first time. You don’t have to create a new or different on-boarding process for the Pew Fillers, just make sure that they know where to get started and who will help them.
All the churches that I have had the pleasure of visiting and working with over the years have many different cultures, mission statements, and value propositions. But the one thing they all have in common is they have people that attend every Sunday that are at least committed to coming to church but haven’t quite given themselves over to Jesus yet. If you can make an effort to engage them directly, then that might crack the door open just enough for the Holy Spirit to change the course of their lives! I think it’s worth the effort, don’t you?

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