Pretty ChurchAre you just starting out at a new church and don’t know how to get plugged in? Have you been at your church for years and still haven’t found your place? Are you feeling disconnected, unhappy, or bored with your local congregation? Let me suggest you enter the “Plus One” program of church involvement.

I don’t mean to sound like a bad infomercial. Here’s what I mean: In addition to the Sunday morning worship service, pick one thing in the life of your congregation and be very committed to it.

This is far from everything a church member should do. We are talking about minimum requirements and baby steps. This is about how to get plugged in at a new church or how to get back on track after drifting away. This is for people who feel overwhelmed and don’t know where to start. This is for the folks who should make a little more effort before slipping out the back door.

The idea is simple. First, be faithful in attending the Sunday morning worship service. Don’t miss a Sunday. Sure, you may miss a couple Sundays during the year because of illness. Vacation and business travel may take you away from your local congregation several other Sundays too. But keep these to a minimum. Don’t plan all your cottage getaways over the weekend so that you miss out on your own church (and perhaps church altogether) for most of the summer. Don’t let the kids’ activities crowd out Sunday services. (What did Joshua say? “If soccer be god then serve soccer, but as for me and my household we will serve the Lord.” Something like that.) Don’t let homework or football or too much rain or too much sun keep you from the gathering of God’s people for worship. Commit right now that Sunday morning is immovable. You go to church. Period.

Now, add one more thing.

When you meet people who feel disconnected from church, start with this question: Are you committed to worshiping with us every Sunday unless you are providentially hindered? If they say yes, then move on to “Plus One.” Is there at least one other activity in the life of the church in which you are consistently and wholeheartedly participating? Usually the answer is no. Most people who feel disconnected from church feel that way because they have not made the effort to connect consistently. This doesn’t mean churches don’t have to do more to care for senior saints, singles, those with special needs, or any number of other folks in the church. This doesn’t mean pastors can say (or think), “It’s all your fault.” Sometimes it precisely the pastor’s fault. But I find that most often–not always, but normally–people who want to get involved, find a way to get involved through the existing structures of the church.

That’s why I say, be faithful on Sunday morning, plus one more thing. Personally, I’m partial to the Sunday evening service. I think it’s the easiest, most historic, and one of the most biblical ways to really get to know your church. In most churches, the evening service (if they have one) is smaller, more informal, and contains elements of prayer and sharing that may not be as present on Sunday morning. Plus, the time after the service is usually less rushed and allows for more genuine fellowship.

If Sunday evening is not an option, join a small group. (I reiterate: these are baby steps. I hope people in our church will participate in Sunday evenings and small groups.) If your church doesn’t have formal small groups, you could still invite a group of friends over every other week for prayer and fellowship. If that’s too much right off the bat, find a good Sunday school class and go every week. Or join the choir. Or get involved with the youth group. Or sign up to be a greeter. Or go on the men’s retreat. Or join the outreach committee. Or take the leadership training course. Or come to the prayer meeting each week. Or teach a kids class. Or volunteer with a local ministry your church supports. Or do Meals onWheels. Or join the softball team. Or do the mid-week Bible study. You get the idea.

Large churches have hundreds of Plus One opportunities. Even small church will have plenty to choose from. Make Sunday morning your first priority. Then try one more thing and stick with it for at least six months. Maybe you’ll realize the church is not for you. Maybe you’ll still need help getting plugged in. Maybe you’ll find it’s time to sit down in person with a pastor or elder. But I suspect you will find that you feel more invested, you’ve made new friends, and you’re eager to see Plus One become Plus Two or Three.

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24 thoughts on “The “Plus One” Approach to Church”

  1. Chris Vieira says:

    Yes! Excellent post.

  2. Dan Phillips says:

    Really good. I’ll be sharing.

    You are understandably coming from a larger-church perspective. May I add a point? You may be in a smaller church that has fewer activities, and you can hit your “plus-one” a lot sooner. Don’t assume this is set in stone. Odds are fair to excellent that the pastor has tried other meetings in the past, but found insufficient growth to warrant them — that they would simply end up with five lightly-attended meetings instead of one lightly-attended meeting, and labor/time-investment would be multiplied unwisely.

    So commit to what-is, then let the leadership know of your interest in what-isn’t-yet. It may well be that they’d love to do it, have plans in pencil to do it, but know of no committed interest in doing it.

  3. JR says:

    “But I suspect you will find that you feel more invested, you’ve made new friends, and you’re eager to see Plus One become Plus Two or Three.”

    Amen!! Plus One is truly a baby step when it comes to being a full participating member of the body of Christ!! For some, the cares of this world (jobs, families, etc) will keep us from doing much more than Plus One, but I have been incredibly blessed with being at about Plus 3 or Plus 4 though most of my Christian life and have been incredibly blessed because of it.

    Among some of the YRR style pastors, there is a movement to get their people to cap out at Plus 1, as if Sunday worship and maybe one small group meeting for an hour each week is enough for people. Perhaps that is all their church is capable of supporting (like Mars Hill did), but it’s not enough. Anyone who thinks it is, either is not experiencing the full measure of blessing of being in community with the church or out of fear cloaked in caution is inadvertently denying grace to others. Of course, there is a time to re-assess how much is wise for each person or family. But the best idea is to steer away from prescriptions. Thanks!


  4. JR says:

    Dan, very wise points!! Especially loved this: “commit to what-is” !

  5. Scott says:

    My first church after I came to faith 25+ years ago was an independent, fundamental, premillennial dispensational, missionary baptist church.

    I have moved on both theologically and geographically, but one thing I really miss is the traditional Sunday night service. I’m not aware of a local reformed church that has one.

    On a related note, my first pastor at the aforementioned church prepared sermons for Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night, and delivered five weekday “devotionals” on local radio, each of which were new material. He would then use the devotionals in local nursing homes and civic meetings throughout the week. This kind of labor in the word also seems to have become passe’, though it is sorely missed.

  6. anaquaduck says:

    A.Amos Love…are you presuming to be a teacher? Does the NT really teach that we shouldnt have teachers & shouldnt live in community & worship God({{{{{Father, Son & Holy Spirit}}}}}) with all our being ? I think you would have to redact a whopping amount of text to come to such a conclusion. Rom 3:23-31

  7. Sandy Grant says:

    Great stuff, though I think I’d swap “most” for “many” and “more” in the two times it occurs in para. 6.

    I just think it overstates this as the ‘vast majority of time’ explanation for ‘feeling out of it’ and understates prevalence of other reasons.

    A minor quibble, but significant if you’re in that minority.

  8. The institutional church has often been trapped by middy evil political interference and tradition which has now been lost in time leaving todays believers thinking there is a biblical mandate for them to unquestioningly follow and obey a leader, fund their employment and also the institutional church’s programs/ mortgages.
    Unfortunately, in western society life has become materialistic in nature, and the spiritual aspects to our faith get diluted. Our eyes are often turned inwards to …..four walls and a roof of the church along with its structured programs, which all costs time and money to run. What time, money and energy that’s left goes to work, family and friends.
    So let me ask you….If the Holy Spirit was removed from our highly organised Church service or program, would we notice the difference? What percentage of our services, meetings and programs actually rely on the Holy Spirit being in our midst to function?
    So we may lament this managed program and we read about rival in the Bible and hear about it in eastern countries but rarely do we see it for ourselves. We may get disillusioned, we want to experience it but it is illusive.
    So what is the real issue? The following quote was authored by Billy Graham in the year 1965.
    ‘Multitudes of Christians within the church are moving toward the point where they may reject the institution that we call the church. They are beginning to turn to more simplified forms of worship. They are hungry for a personal and vital experience with Jesus Christ. They want a heart-warming personal faith. Unless the church quickly recovers its authoritative Biblical message, we may witness the spectacle of millions of Christians going outside the institutional church to find spiritual food.’ Profound isn’t!

  9. Daniel says:

    Those who focus on the legalism of attendance and rule mongering forget the reason why we gather – its Christ!, to function in His Body in spirit and in truth (that is functioning ‘24/7 days a week’ , not just for 2hrs a weekend)
    If attendance to a physical building with others who profess to belong to a strand of the Christian hairpiece is the key to a successful and obedient walk in Christ, then you have really missed the point. The NT followers of Christ “labelled by religious leaders of the day as – followers of the way ”didn’t ever say you should go to Church, they said by following Christ you became a part of his church, adopted into his sonship. This article contains wisdom, but shifts it focus away from key truths – ‘Church has little to do about Attending, its more about Being the Church ‘

    Going to church as this response suggests does contain some truth but grossly misleads the reader into a feeling of guilt and condemnation for not responsibly and periodically attending a structured service. The author reminds us to gather in a ‘small group’, even where its inspiring to commit to ‘prayer and fellowship.. and sharing’. Funny thing is, if you are attending small groups and are committed to weekly expression, prayer, fasting, worship and sharing outside the four walls of a church.. the article makes you feel out of place and not truly ‘faithful’ – to use his words.

    To the 17 million people who walked away from ‘attending churches’ last year, you need to listen… this article is not true, it contains some truth but is misleading… If you have a relationship In Christ, Love your Father in heaven and embody the holy spirit in your daily walk don’t feel guilted in doing any form of attendance. A passionate love for Christ will draw you to gather will others, in whatever form that takes, and as often as you are prompted to, respond to that calling! We are meant to function as a unique part of Christs body but sitting in a non-participatory service being served the latest meal by a paid professional of the religious tradition called ‘Christianity’, may not be the best way to serve your Lord. Whatever the method and expression, align yourself to Gods personal calling for your life and seek him alone, there is no mediator between man and God and we have been set free from guilt and condemnation by the very saviour (Jesus) many forget to commune with when attending their religious services! God Bless!

  10. Keith G. Balser says:

    This article seems to read a lot of legalistic demands and requirements into Hebrews 10:25. And the parenthetical paraphrase of Joshua 24:15 strikes me as both misapplied and shockingly flippant (ironic in an article advocating regularly attending church, where faithful and reverent exposition and application of Scripture is supposed to be central). A Christian family missing a Sunday church service because of a child’s soccer game, however ill-advised that might get argued to be, is NOT the same as an Old Testament Israelite forsaking God in order to serve pagan idols.

  11. anaquaduck says:

    Formal worship is 100 percent participation, whether its sitting, standing, listening, speaking, singing, bringing offerings, prayer, thinking etc.

    There is also opportunity to disagree with a minister or a leadership & others within a congregation. God often binds up the wounds & brings healing to a broken people through a structured church service but sadly satan is also roaming around seeking to undo in wolf like fashion.

    We cant all be teachers can we…one body many parts & all that, some are called to teach as the NT boldly proclaims, its part of Gods eternal plan, a visible reality here on earth for a time.

  12. todd says:

    Thanks Kevin this is an excellent post. One quick observation Kevin, if you read this about comments: I don’t know why its so hard for people to comment on the point of the post alone. Usually this results in the moderator shutting down the comments. Kevin, please consider deleting comments that Mission Drift from the point of the post before just shutting down comments. Thanks

    Does your Church employ the Plus One? If so how does it work out practically? Thanks

  13. Attending church is a wide topic and involves much to think about, including doing more than one thing outside of church hence the diverse comments. Diversity is the spice of life

  14. Neville Briggs says:

    What seems to be left out of Mr de Young’s article is ; the preparation of the saints for the work of the ministry. Does not the scripture say that this preparation is the work of the pastors. In fact the only mention of pastors in the New Testament is the declaration of that role. Does the New Testament require the saints to find their own way or try and ” fit in ” by their own volition. Surely the very purpose of pastors and elders roles was to see new comers welcomed and adjusted into the family. I suspect that if so-called pastors spent less time lecturing and haranguing from a pulpit and more time getting to know their people and encouraging the spiritual gifts their people had, the Spirit would not be quenched like He seems to be these days. People won’t leave by the back door if they find that they have a purpose and role to play, if the preaching pastor is such an expert then he should be able to facilitate those roles not just pass the buck to some inexperienced DIY Christians.

  15. Thank you Neville for highlighting the role confusion that can exist into days church.

  16. Jack Rose says:

    I like the post. I really do. My one concern is that the idea of plus 1, 2, 3 means that you likely have folks volunteering for existing programs within the Church instead of training them to be ministers in the workplace or in the streets. Many folks I know volunteer quite a bit, and are actually overcommitted (in terms of time) to the Church. Their pastoral staff never trains them to be ministers for Christ in the 40-60 hours of week that they spend with the lost. I think we should talk less about participating in ministries and more about becoming and living as ministers. Thoughts?

  17. Neville Briggs says:

    Well said Jack, I would interpret your comment as ” we should talk less about participating in” programs ” and more about becoming and living as ministers” Amen to that.
    Doesn’t the scripture specifically enjoin Christians to serve one another , minister to one another as a priority. ( Gal. Ch 5 ) As far as ministering to the lost, Jesus commanded us to love our neighbour as ourselves.

  18. Hi anaquaduck thank you for that insight

    The Apostle Paul told the Corinthians Church what they were doing wrong and how a gathering of Christians should conduct themselves.Great insight really. However today structured church service is very different to what was on the menu in the first century church. Written word was in the form of letters and persecution often drove them into unusual places like caves to worship God. In the end the ecclesia is really 2 more gathered in His name and not bound by any building or numbers. What is critical is the need to avoid the gathering ministry from blinding peoples eyes to the Kingdom call on all our lives ie be Christ to others…Minister of Reconciliation and Ambassador of Christ. I don’t disagree with you it all except God doesn’t need any structure at all to minister to hurting people. Blessings

  19. Norq says:

    Someone please give A. Amos a Bible that has the whole book of Acts in it…and the epistles, and revelation…
    The answer to your questions are as follows:

    6.yes…they were making the Church/Disciples…no need to “look”
    10.if by “Apply for Membership” you mean “God saved them”…then yes
    11.yes(when they delegated men to serve the widows so they could teach)…but Christ delegated them first……they used existing buildings(no structures existed called “churches” yet…too busy being persecuted to build)
    13.if you mean- by distributing the offerings and money given to widows and others in need-then yes.…they were Apostles…but Timothy was a Pastor, and Paul served as both an Apostle and Pastor…his needs were provided for by the Philippians)

    Acts 2-6: breaking of bread, fellowship, and prayer
    …believers met in Solomons Portico
    …sold their posessions and laid at the apostles’ feet

    Epistles to the believers in Corinth, Ephesus, Galatia, Philippi…

    Revelation 1-3: to the seven Churches….

    Local Church, and Global Church…both are referenced in the NT.

    Read the WHOLE Bible, please, Mr./Ms. “Love” Seems like money is an idol for you. You may want to repent of that as well. Blessings.

  20. Jonathan says:

    Thanks Kevin, thought provoking as usual. Skimming through the comments before posting (to avoid duplicate comments), I found agreement with Jack and Neville on the point that seems to missed with each of these very helpful articles that have the goal to increase church attendance and involvement: what about making disciples?

    At some point, we’ve taken the clear command of Christ that our primary activity, as a local body, to make disciples and distilled it into “attend Sunday AM worship service”. I’m all for attending this service (and I do nearly every week) but I’m also aware that what takes place during this service is not a replacement for the work of making disciples.

    My many missionary friends in dangerous places understand this. Why is it so hard for us?

  21. If you need to have plus one then think about choosing one that is out in the market place where you can build a relationship with a non Christian who you already know and reflect Christ to them. This will encourage you to increase it to plus 2.

  22. Rev.pas.M.Zechariah says:

    praise the lord.pastor;please contact us;

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Kevin DeYoung

Kevin DeYoung is senior pastor of University Reformed Church (PCA) in East Lansing, Michigan, near Michigan State University. He and his wife Trisha have six young children. You can follow him on Twitter.

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