Themed Sunday Worship for Newcomers

Think about the people who live in your community – but who may not attend church regularly. Organise a workshop (see Resources) to plan Sunday worship around a particular theme.

Are there people who naturally fall into a specific ‘group’?  What sort of church experience might be appropriate?  We have to remember that church can be a very challenging, and sometimes uncomfortable, place for someone who is not used to the ritual that surrounds our worship, or the words we use. There will be some who have not been to church for many years – make sure that at least some of the hymns or songs used are familiar as well as introducing more contemporary material. So we must be mindful of these things when planning worship for possible newcomers.  Here are some ideas:

A ‘Friendship Sunday’ works well when everyone in the congregation is invited to bring a friend to the service. The annual ‘Back to Church Sunday’ is increasingly popular.  

Plan a ‘Songs of Praise’ service when people are invited to tell their stories and choose favourite hymns. This will have to be arranged in advance. Teachers and children from local schools can be invited to a ‘Schools Sunday’

and asked to bring artwork to decorate the church and learn songs to sing during the service. Ask each school to produce a information board to display in the church.

‘Celebrate the Community’ Sunday can include local businesses shopkeepers, local industry and organisations where people can bring display boards to set up in church with information about what they do. See Other Festivals/Creative Ideas for celebrating the ‘harvest’ or local communities.

‘Sunday for Helpers in the Community’ could include staff from local GP surgeries and the staff of local hospitals or residential homes.  Special invitations could be sent to known caring organisations and ‘carers’ in the community.

Ask people in the congregation to visit your target ‘group’ well in advance.  Arm them with invitations to give out and requests for pictures or symbols of their work.  Ask for photos of staff members. All these things can be made into a collage to put up in church.  See if there is someone from the group who would be prepared to speak about what they do in the ‘talk’ during the service. 

Of course many people do not come to church these days because so much else is happening on Sundays.  Sunday worship has to compete with sport, shopping and much else. Plan a service on a weekday or on a Saturday evening. 

Make the worship simple and meaningful. Don’t make it too long.  Something done simply and well is much better than something endlessly ‘wordy’ and only significant to those who are familiar with the liturgy. Above all make the service welcoming and enjoyable.  

Hospitality is at the root of Christian faith and needs to be at the heart of our worship so always plan refreshments, or a meal or a party before or after the service.  This is easy to arrange if you ask each member of the congregation to contribute.  Give some guidelines about food and drink so that everyone know what to bring. Or have a simple bread and soup meal if you are not too sure how many people may be there.

Make sure that you have enough welcome leaflets in the church giving information about what is on offer at other times.  This can include the times of services and arrangements for pastoral care, Sunday School groups, Mother and Toddler groups, Mothers Union, Men’s Breakfasts, Alpha courses, Bible Exploration Groups and so on. Make sure there are contact numbers for key people.

Finally, this is not a fundraising exercise!  It is to do with gathering up all God’s people where they are, in the community, and gently sharing the Good News together in an atmosphere of love and acceptance.


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