Every institution seems to be in transition these days and transition is hard. There are no recipes, no how-to videos, no saviors.* At the risk of offending well-meaning Church People, here are The Top Ten Things that will not help your congregation grow:
- An electronic church sign. They’re expensive and they scream “Please Notice Us.” And not in a good way. Social media is free. Use it.
- Screens in the sanctuary. If screens will help people participate better – great. But if we install screens “because the young people like them” we are missing the point.
- Drums/Tambourines/Guitars in Worship – again – if done for the sake of “attracting the young people.” It’s not about the instruments. It’s about the relationships.
- Powdered creamer for coffee time. If you add cream to your coffee, you know why. Make an effort. Offer half and half. And almond milk. And fresh lemon for tea drinkers.
- Yellow Pages Advertisements. For the love . . .
- Manuals of Operations Longer than Ten Pages. It’s easier to come up with no-coffee-in-the-sanctuary policy than it is to talk about the spiritual maturity of the congregation. Don’t distract yourselves with regulations.
- Visitor Parking Spaces. No. Most visitors do not want to stand up and identify themselves in worship either.
- Personalized Fine China. If you already have this in your church kitchen, enjoy. But if you are thinking it would be cool to order fine china with the name of the church imprinted on them, just don’t. I know one church that voted to close rather than merge with another congregation “because of the china.”
- Historical Rooms. Some congregations have multiple spaces dedicated to the rich past of their church. But this implies that the past is at least as important as the future of a spiritual community. I love history. But there are hundreds of tourist sites in Europe that used to be churches.
- No Trespassing Signs. Your insurance company wants these on the playground. Cranky (get-off-my-church-lawn) Members want these in the parking lot. Also not to be confused with Jesus: “Play at Your Own Risk.” “Church Members and Guests Only.” “Thou Shalt Not Use Our Bathrooms.”
What makes a Church thrive? Authentic community. Serious discipleship. Radical hospitality. Making a personal effort to love people who might not love you in return. Addressing what breaks God’s heart in the neighborhood in the name of Jesus.
This is obviously old news for the last Wednesday before Advent, but as congregations are making plans for 2019, it’s worth repeating.
*Okay, there actually is a capital S Savior.
Image from Amazon. You can buy this on Amazon but I hope you won’t.