For most assemblies the level of commitment to the local church is evidenced by 3 groups: The essential core, the casual helpers and the pew warmers. At times, people might move from one to the other but often these groups are set. What do these three groups mean?
The essential core
This group is pretty easy to recognize. They attend all the meetings, they lead activities, they are the support base for the movement of the local fellowship. When they are not around it’s obvious. Without this group the local church just wouldn’t be as healthy or strong.
The essential core account for most of the work that goes on in the assembly. They take initiative, they look for opportunities to grow and they are at the forefront of positive change and action.
The casual helpers
When asked to do a task the casual helpers usually say yes. They are regular attenders, are involved in some of the activities of the assembly and are generally around as part of the church family. They don’t do as much as the essential core but overall make a good contribution.
They tend to be more passive in terms of commitment and effort only getting involved in areas they “want” to or feel comfortable with.
The pew warmers
This group might consider the assembly their local church but they are not willing to get too committed. They attend meetings, at least some of the time, and they might help out at the odd event but generally are not committed to making the local church a priority. They will often choose family activities or other social events over attending meetings and they account for very little in terms of the overall effort of the church.
When it comes to how to address the last group, the pew warmers, there are some options. Any one of these might be the best approach depending on the local church and the individuals involved.
3 main options
- Leave them alone. This is often the stance taken by many assemblies. Little or nothing is done to spur these pew warmers on. A typical suggestion might be to “pray for them that the Lord lights a fire in them”. Fear of them leaving often motivates leaders to keep from challenging their commitment level.
- Encourage them to grow. Subtle reminders of what the Lord expects, words of encouragement to commit their lives more to the Lord and the church are often given in the hopes that something will trigger greater commitment. General challenges from the platform are done more than personal challenges one on one.
- Kick them out. Yesterday I heard of a church that holds a service once or twice a year where the pastor tells the congregation (around 2000 people) to either get in or get out. This is a blunt directive that if the people don’t want to commit to being involved (through small group studies and church programs) then they can find another church.
If you are a pew warmer (or even a casual helper) my suggestion would be to evaluate whether or not church for you is just a hobby or a real passion. If the church isn’t the top priority in your life then maybe it’s time to either get in or get out.
If you are part of the essential core, how would you suggest the church handle the pew warmers? How would you help them grow in their dedication to the Lord and to the church?