Maximizing Outreach Efforts By Examining The Church’s Three Doors

Every church has three doors. A front door, a side door, and a back door. And every week, people travel through these doors. Typically, they enter through the front door, or through a side door, and they leave through the back door. Simply put, pastors want, and expect, lots of people to come in through the front door. They’re happy, and maybe a bit surprised, when folks come through the side door. And they’re sad to see them leave through the back door.

001 Three-Doors-small_jpg_pagespeed_ce_IQrytsB-xsOf course, I’m speaking figuratively, but you know what I mean. Pastors often use the “three doors” analogy to talk about how people come and go from their congregations. Since our churches are all about people, let’s take a closer look at the church’s three doors.

Front Door

The worship services are the front door in virtually all American churches. You’ll draw your largest crowds through your worship services. Whether you have one or more Sunday services, do additional Saturday services, or use video in a multi-site setting, your services are your biggest draw. People come to hear the word of God being preached, engage in inspiring worship experiences, and celebrate God’s presence in a corporate environment. There’s power in gathering together as a faith community.

Side Door

Any other “entry point” other than your worship service, where you might expect new people to start attending, is a side door. Some churches intentionally use their small groups as a side door entry point. The regular attendees invite their unchurched friends and neighbors to their small group to experience Bible study and get a taste of Biblical community before the newcomer ever enters the physical church building to attend a service.

Other churches use “niche programming” as a side door. Recovery groups, marriage enrichment programs, divorce care, Men’s breakfasts, or M.O.P.S. (Mothers Of Preschoolers) are examples of side door ministries when “outreach into the community” is either a main goal or secondary goal.

Back Door

This is the door by which people leave your church. It’s rare that a person will attend just one church their entire life, and it’s inevitable that some will grow dissatisfied, disgruntled, or discouraged, and choose to move on. Moving on is a reality that can actually be a healthy experience, depending on how it’s handled.

No pastor likes the back door. Some ignore it. Others pretend it doesn’t exist. But the church’s back door needs to be examined. You’ll never completely close it, but try to learn why people leave through it.

You can do this by conducting an informal “exit meeting.” Meet with the person who is leaving. Not to try to get them to stay. By this point, they’re already gone. But meet with them to listen. You’ll likely find the most common reasons people exit through the back door are seldom theological, but more often relational. Your goal of the meeting should be to learn from them, and to send them off with your blessing.

Resource Allocation

Every church has limited resources, so the important questions are, “How many resources, and how much organizational energy do we devote to each door?”Which door gets the highest priority?”

Devote most of your attention and resources on the front door. It will have the highest return on your investment. The next priority should be to find out why people exit out the back door. If you find commonality in the reasons people leave, those are issues you’ll need to address. And spend the least amount of resources on the side doors. While there are exceptions, most side door ministries don’t actually attract many newcomers. They keep the saints busy and edified, but they typically aren’t an effective means of outreach.

So, open wide the front door. Close tight the back door. And if people enter through the side door, that’s great too. These are only my suggestions. The important thing is that you examine and wrestle with the amount of time, money, volunteers, and organizational energy you devote to each door. Focus primarily on the ones that will have the biggest impact. Be intentional about your approach to your church’s three doors, and you’ll leverage your resources and maximize your outreach efforts.