Paying for Services

Here’s an interesting article by Austan Goolsby about What’s Killing Shopping Malls (it’s more than Amazon) but I’m struck by this particular thing:

“With every passing decade, Americans have spent proportionately less of income on things and more on services.”

Today we spend more on travel, movies, eating out, childcare, education, and business services than we spend on products sold at the mall  – or any retail store.  So interesting.  Buying habits have evolved through the decades:

  • In 1920, Americans spent more than half their income on food and clothing purchased in traditional stores.
  • Today we spend only 12.2% of our income on food and clothing.

So, here’s what I wonder regarding “worship services.”  Many Church People refer to what happens Sunday morning (or whenever) as The Worship Service.  It’s a different kind of “service” from services like babysitting or lawn mowing or housecleaning.

The “service” that happens in a church context usually involves a time of praise, confession, proclamation of the Gospel, and thanksgiving. And – maybe I’m wrong but – most people do not consider the financial offerings they give to the Church to be about “paying for services.”

Many pastors provide “services” like officiating at weddings and funerals.  Some of us are paid something additional for these events and some of us are not.  (That’s for a different post.)

And if we really think about it, the services a particular church provides are so much more than what happens for an hour every week: food pantries, counseling, education, space for 12-Step Groups and other non-profits, clothing closets, prayer spaces, childcare, coffee, companionship, community dinners, rides to the polls, and beyond.

A bride once referred to me (her pastor and the officiant at her wedding) as “a vendor.”  Ouch.  I was hoping that our connection was more about our relationship with each other and God than a business proposition.

This is a huge culture shift – the notion of spending more of our money on services than things, and frankly I wonder if Dr. Goolsby factored in personal economics.  If I’m a poor woman living on minimum wage, I’m probably spending most of my money on food and rent rather than “things.”  I’m not buying things because I don’t have the money to buy the latest Ninja food processors or Air Jordans.

A Vitamix seems awesome but I’d rather have a therapist and a pedicurist.

Doing seems better for the soul than havingBeing seems more fulfilling than doing.  And being (a follower of Jesus, a believer, a faithful Jew, a practicing Muslim, etc.) seems to be about service – but we are the ones doing the serving.  This – and not owning stuff – seems to be the meaning of life.

Image of the Bluth’s Frozen Banana booth from Arrested Development.

2 responses to “Paying for Services

  1. I suspect “wealth” for an average family meant something different 100 years ago too, right? My great grandparents and some of my grandparents were busy working to get by. They didn’t bring in big incomes with their long work days, which didn’t leave them with time to shop or time to get pedicures or have long brunches. They shopped the Sears catalog. It feels like “time” is a commodity as much as cash is.

    There are likely comparisons to their lives and ours. The wealth gap was huge then too.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Agree. The whole world has changed so profoundly in the last 100 years and every day it amazes me.


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