It is 5:30pm. Sam comes through the door, intent on surprising his wife Sarah. He finds her stirring spaghetti with one child wrapped around her leg, and the other hollering from the bathroom.
Knowing he only has seconds before she is off to help the bathroom child, he whips out his surprise:
“Look what I brought you!” He announces, as he displays a dozen roses.
Sarah glances his direction, while picking up the Klingon on her leg. “Hmmm. Thanks. Can you take out the garbage?”
Not exactly the scenario Sam was looking for.
Gary Chapman tells us how to fix this disconnect in the Five Love Languages. Sam can learn to speak Sarah’s love language in a short amount of time, and those momentary interactions will deepen their relationship instead of leaving them both wanting.
Believe it or not, you might be having a similar disconnect with your church visitors.
We want people to know God better. We want them to experience God’s love. If Chapman is even close to right, it would help the process for us to incorporate the five love languages into our gatherings.
This is the church assessment we are going to work on this week. Remember the work we did last week on the five purposes of the church? This assessment works the same.
Draw a circle on a piece of paper and divide it into five portions. Label each of the five portions with one of the love languages:
Start at the top of the circle, and imagine you are a first time visitor. If the center of the circle you drew is “0”, and the outer edge is “10”, how much love would a first time attender feel for acts of service? Fill in that portion of the pie..
For instance, if you have visitor spots at the front of the parking lot; excellent ushers, who offer to help people who look like they feel out of place find a place to sit; if you project the words and scriptures so the unchurched know what you are talking about, if your restrooms are sparkling and if you have greeters-at-large who find people they don’t know and offer to grab them a cup of coffee, give yourself a 10 and fill in the whole pie slice.
Now move onto gifts. How does a first time attender experience your church though the language of gifts? Rate yourself between 0 and 10, and fill in that portion of the pie accordingly.
Do the same for the last three love languages.
Next, go back around the circle and consider where you want to be. Prayerfully consider what God wants each love language to be. Maybe you gave yourself a 6 and feel God wants you to move it to an 8. Or maybe you scored a 3, and feel God wants to move you to a 4. Now, outside the pie slice, write down two or three things that you could do that would help you reach this goal.
For instance, let’s imagine you gave yourself a 2 on gifts because you have coffee and goodies, but you feel God wants to move you to a 6. Sometimes you offer prayer, which covers multiple love languages, but you want to make this important connection with God a regular part of the service; and you think people would connect better if you gave them something to take home, like a devotional. Write these on the outside of the circle.
Every person who walks through your doors has a different set of love languages. If you focus on just one or two love languages, you might be missing important opportunities to connect. Don’t just focus on the cultural parts of the service; take a look at the time you spend with God as well. Raising hands in worship qualifies as touch. Prayer can work as quality time, touch and words of affirmation.
However, don’t expect your church to have a perfect pie. Early in our marriage, my husband and I went to a mega church that focused on singles. This church had the touch love language down. They hugged everyone, multiple times a service. For some people, this was great. For us, it was overwhelming, and we found a church that fit us better. It wasn’t that they were doing something wrong. We just didn’t connect well there.
Remember, as long as you are doing what you are doing on purpose and with prayerful reflection, your pie doesn’t have to be round. Every church has a different personality, and your church’s pie should reflect it. However, everyone who walks through your doors should experience God’s love in their love languages on some level.
As a side note, it would be interesting to do this exercise twice—once imagining you are a first-time visitor, and the other imagining that you are a regular attender. Are you giving your regular attenders opportunities to show love in their love languages?
So let’s generate some comments. What do you do in your church that helps people experience some of these love languages? How do you help them feel God’s love through Acts of Service? Quality time? Touch? Gifts? Words of Affirmation?
When you do these ministries on purpose, how do you avoid overwhelming people in love languages they don’t have?
Kim Martinez is an ordained Assemblies of God pastor with a Masters of Theology from Fuller Seminary. She is a ministry and life development coach, and can be found online at www.deepimprints.com.