There is a popular theory, particularly among youth workers in the church, that if you just get people in the building for lock-ins and game nights and other non-worship service events, you will build their familiarity with the building and some of the people in the building, and tear down a proverbial wall that prevents them from joining the congregation and being a regular attendee in worship.
I must argue with this line of thought. The only thing that having people in the church building for non-worship service events is going to do in terms of people coming back in the future is that they will know where the bathrooms are.
When a person who is not a regular worshipper in a congregation comes into that church building for the first time, they are going to feel uncomfortable, they are going to feel a measure of law, convicting them that they are in a place that is unfamiliar to them. And that is a good thing.
That law of unfamiliarity is their sinful nature knowing that it is in a place it is not accustomed to being in: a place where the Word of God is preached. That sinful nature hates God, it hates being where it knows that God is present in His Word and sacrament, and it wants to leave as soon as it enters.
Those quick and nervous glances around the building are the quick and nervous glances of a sinner who feels that He is on enemy territory. That uneasiness as one sits in the pew and hears the words of the Pastor from the pulpit; as one looks at the words of the liturgy; as one hears the congregation singing the hymns; that is the sinful nature feeling the walls closing in on it.
The solution to this nervousness, the answer to those nervous glances and uneasiness in the pews is not more lock-ins or more suppers for the community or allowing the building to host community meetings or serve as a polling place. These will in fact have the opposite effect: they will lure the sinful nature into a complacency that it can come into the presence God because this building is just another place in the community where people gather for non-descript things.
No, the only answer is regular attendance in worship where one can regularly hear the Word. For in that Word is not just the conviction of one’s sins, but also the remedy to those sins. Comfort in the church is built solely by hearing that one’s sins are forgiven, that Jesus died for the poor miserable sinner who sits nervously in the pew.
Comfort in the church is built by knowing that one belongs in the church; that the holiness of God that is present in the church extends to those who enter the church in faith.