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What to do with Pew Warmers

What to do with Pew Warmers
Jul 17 Tags: commitment | 9 Responses Print Save as PDF

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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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?

9 Responses to What to do with Pew Warmers

  1. I’ve seen a lot of growth in believers when those in the essential core reached out to those with the casual or pew warmer mentality. The biggest change usually comes through investing time in relationships with these believers. Sometimes they are discouraged and sometimes they think they are doing more than they actually are. Either way, being close friends with a committed believer is the major motivation that pulls them out of spiritual apathy and into the battle. I know that has been true for me, I have had a lot of good friends that are committed to the Lord and His church and they have encouraged me through the tough times and kept me off the bench and in the game!

  2. Travis DeVries

    Telling someone to get in or get out isn’t helpful if by “getting out” you mean finding a church that makes you happy and comfortable, and by “getting in” you fail to give direction as to what practically speaking you mean. All discipleships in the bible from Moses and Joshua to Elijah and Elisha, to Jesus and the 12 and Paul and Rimothy all began with the mentor having an established ministry and purpose given by God into which they called the disciple. The disciples ministry was always different in some way but it was the responsibility of the spiritually mature to direct their disciple’s ministry. There are probably 3 reasons we have pew warmers in the first place. One reason is certainly spiritual apathy but another may be that there isn’t much going on for them to really sink their teeth into. Consequently there are few people calling the “pew warmers” into any ministry at all!
    What to do with “pew warmers”? Identify your ministry and those with spiritual gifts to help you and call them to get off the pew and serve with you.
    Calling people into your ministry does things. First it shows them that you are real. They will see that you have real problems, real sin and real relationships. As a result you can show them how to relate to a real, living Saviour who real helps. Calling people into your ministry helps you to identify what your ministry actually is. Calling people into your ministry will force them to make decisions about Christ and get them into the Word to know Christ for themselves.

  3. Don Goetze

    Perhaps there is an older member who for many years, (say, seven or eight)was a Deacon, and due to age he,allowed a younger member to take his place.The older member then,becomes a PEW WARMER.This member will continue to take part in smaller duties,he will also NOT be able to attend all of the activities,due to some reason or other.Should this member be of less value?

    • Crawford Paul

      Of course not. The article isn’t about people who can’t be more active but won’t. Big difference. As a friend of mind mentioned “Paul exhorted the Christians in Corinth in 1 Cor. 3:1-4 and called them carnal, Hebrews 5:12-14 calls the believers babies who are unskilled in the word.”

  4. David Boisvert

    First thing we need to do is build real, genuine relationships with these so called “pew warmers”. You can’t start calling people out and pushing them to do more without getting to know the real them and letting them get to know the real you. There have been a couple of really good articles about building relationships and discipleship on Assembly Hub that are worth referencing. This is a lost art and one that I’ve never really experienced personally (giving or receiving). It takes a lot of effort and time but if we were all doing it I believe there would be a lot less people sitting on the bench. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with this idea, but if we each took the time to ask the Lord to point us to one person he’d like for us to “mentor” it would make a big difference.

    • Crawford Paul

      Great thoughts David and yes I agree 100%. Discipleship is one of the key areas that will ignite our assemblies to grow. It’s vital to a local church. Preaching at people rarely works, coming alongside has a far greater impact.

  5. Jill

    Agree with Travis. They (pew warmers/casuals) need to feel needed and important! Give them jobs, assigned them tasks. This would involve the essential core stepping back and not doing it themselves ( which comes naturally to them- and sometimes they tend to do too much) but asking others others to come along side them to serve the Lord!

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