Help visitors understand your Order of Service

It's Christmas, and your unchurched visitors don't know what to expect. This makes them anxious. I think a printed order of service says, "There are no surprises here."

When you tell the unchurched in advance what you are going to do it relaxes them and lowers their defenses.

"Pulpit appeals for volunteer help should be minimized in your seeker service."

Here are two suggestions for your bulletin.

1. Describe the service in non-technical terms.
If visitors can't understand your order of service, there is no reason to print it! In a typical bulletin you'll find terms such as "Invocation," "Offertory Anthem," "Invitational Hymn," "Benediction," and "Postlude." To an unbeliever, you might as well be talking pig Latin!

At Saddleback, instead of "Invocation" and "Benediction," our program simply says "Opening Prayer" and "Closing Prayer."

Instead of "Call to Worship," it simply says "Song" Instead of "Offering," it says "Giving Back to God."

You get the idea. In effect, we have the Living Bible version of the order of service. We're more interested in making it clear for the unchurched than impressing the folks who know what those terms mean.

2. Include explanatory notes.
When you go to an opera or play that's difficult to understand, they provide you with program notes. Tell people why you do what you're doing in the service. Our bulletin gives a simple explanation for our Welcome Card, the offering, the time of commitment, and other parts of our service.

In addition, I recommend you minimize internal church announcements.

The larger your church gets, the more announcements you'll have. If you don't establish a policy of what warrants a public announcement and what doesn't, you end up using a significant portion of your service on internal church announcements.

How do you handle this?

1. Train your own members to read the bulletin.
Say something like, "This week, there are special events for men, single adults, and junior high students. Be sure to read your bulletin to find out what's happening for you." That is all you need to say.

2. Announce only events that apply to everyone.
Every time you announce events that only involve one segment of your church, everyone else tunes out. Pretty soon no one listens. Don't waste everyone's time announcing events that appeal to only a small percentage of the congregation.

3. Avoid appeals for help from the pulpit.
Pulpit appeals for volunteer help should be minimized in your seeker service. Personal recruitment works better anyway.

4. Do not conduct internal church business during a weekend service.
I know of one church that asked all the visitors to leave at the end of a service so the members could conduct their business. That's being visitor-unfriendly!

This article is used by permission from From Rick Warren's Ministry ToolBox, a free weekly e-newsletter for those in ministry. www.pastors.com.