Do You Know Your “Why”?

Without a doubt, our what and how has changed and will continue to change. How we greet guests, what we do about communion, and how we move large groups of people into and out of worship are all necessary topics of discussion. But those what and how conversations will be easier as long as our why is clear.

Here is why we care for our guests: we want to remove every barrier that would keep them from clearly hearing the gospel. Does fear of the unknown make it difficult for a guest to come to your church? Then think through their experience before they arrive: clear signage, close parking, and friendly greeters let them know you expected them to come and you’re glad they did. Does the guest’s apprehension over organized religion keep them from hearing the gospel? Then design your service with the outsider in mind: don’t make them interpret insider language or detangle archaic traditions. Drop some bread crumbs throughout the service so that it’s easy for them to catch up and feel in the know. 

Besides the obvious benefits to our guests, having a clear why benefits three other groups of people:

  1. Church staff and leadership.

Not long ago I was in an hour-long meeting to craft a sentence. One sentence. The reason it took so long is because that sentence would become the “pitch” for our staff to realize the importance of a new ministry. If our team doesn’t understand why an initiative exists, if they don’t understand the win, they’ll never become a champion of it. Budgets, allocation of resources, and alignment of values all depend on a strong why.

  1. Volunteers.

Pity the poor church greeter who knows exactly what to do but doesn’t know why they do it. They may hand out bulletins with military precision, but if they don’t know that they are a stop in the guest’s journey to hear the gospel, they may not do it with the right heart. If the weather gets too hot or too cold, they may throw in the towel because they forget that a guest’s comfort is more important than their discomfort.

  1. Our congregation.

If you get serious about serving guests well, it will ruffle the feathers of those who have been around a while. If our why is removing all barriers to the gospel, then that means beloved traditions may be dismantled and sacred cows are thrown on the grill. Helping your congregation know the why will help them lay aside their preference so that others may hear the gospel. 

As we begin to meet corporately again, I can’t tell you how to interpret your what or your how. That will be based on your local and state regulations, the size and age of your congregation, and the wisdom of your church leadership. But I can tell you that a clear why is a great filter and foundation. Know your why, and the other details will be clear. 

Posted on June 24, 2020

Danny Franks is the Pastor of Guest Services at The Summit Church in Durham, North Carolina, and the author of People Are the Mission: How Churches Can Welcome Guests Without Compromising the Gospel. Read more from Danny at
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  • Lynn Greear says on

    Danny, thank you for your wisdom and using the gifts God has given you to grow and advance His Kingdom. You are a blessing.

  • David Caron says on

    Danny, it is so true. Many churches, including my own want to run to the what and the how of reopening and sometimes in the midst of that we forget our why…Why we exist in the first place. In all fairness, for parishioners who are elderly, sick, and/or part of a vulnerable population…they want to make sure that the what and the how are in place before they come back. This is often fear-based as you mentioned. To help relieve their fear and anxiety I sometimes take photos or videos of the sanitizing crew…or even videotape them cleaning….whipping down door knobs and pews in between services…interviewing a member of the cleaning team on a post. A picture speaks a thousand words.
    But the focus on the why moves us out of fear based thinking and into mission. Teach about it, preach about it…keep it before members all of the time. I totally agree, know your why and everything else follows.

    • dannyfranks says on

      David, this is a great idea! Showing the sanitizing crew in action is a perfect example of thinking through your guests’ experience before they arrive.