Monday, March 30, 2009

advice to Pastors and Churches

as any casual reader of this blog knows, my family is looking for a church. As we have visited churches, sometimes returning to a church a second time, it has occurred to me that some of my observations can be of use to the pastor of a church, especially an attractional church which wants to "grow" numerically through its Sunday morning service. As a former pastor, I may notice some things that are not working in your congregation, things you may want to consider if you like people and want them to come to your church.* This is not seeker sensitive stuff, this is common sense.

This advice is for pastors and churches. I make it out to pastors, but it does not matter who sees it. I may continue this series as I gain more "insight." However, as of today, here are some nuggets for your chewing pleasure. By the way, I have been guilty of many of these on occasion. It is okay if you are guilty today, just know how it looks to others and think about it.
  1. You are not that cool. So, don't try to be. Just be yourself. As Ben Folds says, there is Always Someone Cooler Than You (read the song, embrace it). Sure, you might be cooler than Pastor Fred from First Antioch Baptist Church of God in your graphic t-shirt, but don't try to impress me with your love of Coldplay, 24 or twitter. I would think you were edgier if you told me you were into Sacred Harp singing, cultural anthropology and folk dancing.
  2. Don't try to impress me with your technology. Keep it simple and straightforward. You will always be behind the world, so don't try to keep up with Google or U2. It is distracting.
  3. Wear shirts that fit. Don't raid Ed Young, Jr.'s wardrobe. Please. Heck, put on a freakin' suit if you need to. And, if you like those tight shirts, lose weight.
  4. Don't make judgments regarding the Christian faith of celebrities, unless they are personal friends of yours. We don't care if you think Bono, Kanye or Jessica Simpson is a Christian. In fact, keep your mouth shut about celebs. It usually gets the best of us in trouble.
  5. Speaking of clothes... don't dress like an absolute bum. But, conversely, don't look like you spend too much time, money and product on your clothing, shoes, tight t-shirt, hair or glasses. People notice. And they are not as impressed as you think they are. They are looking for a pastor they can connect with, not take to the club. At the same time, you are a role model... Act like it.
  6. Don't try to do everything. If you are leading worship, preaching, making announcements, praying, telling everyone what to do and leading multiple small groups, then you are doing too much. It tells us you have a huge ego, are not a good leader or you don't trust your people. Spread it around, even if does not go as well as it does when you do it.
  7. Make people feel welcome, but don't make them walk a gauntlet to get into church.
  8. Make sure people notice the new people. Don't scare them, but let them know you notice and care.
  9. Make sure the nursery, child care area is manned by competent, FRIENDLY, helpful volunteers. Don't ignore new kids in favor of favorite kid. Make sure family of new kid feels comfortable leaving kids there... like you have it together. If not, don't offer anything. And for goodness sake, be honest about what you have (or don't have) for kids on your website!
  10. When people come one time, don't just add them to an email or snail mail list. This is nothing more than spam and it pisses people off. I now have an inbox clogged with crap from churches I will never attend (that is why I always give churches the same email I give marketers).
  11. When you contact first time visitors (and yes... You Should), make sure it is personal. Make sure it does not sound like a form letter (once we got a letter from the pastor of a medium sized church- it was typed with our names handwritten and the pastor's signature copied). Don't just add them to that list (ask permission!!).
  12. If a visitor repeats, make sure they feel at home. Notice them. Tell them you are glad they came back, even if (like me) they try to sneak out. Let them sneak out visit one. Catch them on visit two. If they came back 2nd time, you did not offend them the 1st. They put you in the "maybe" category instead of the "no" file. In fact, the 2nd visit is more important than the 1st. If you blow it, it is usually you, not them.
  13. If a visitor shows interest, don't blow them off. Don't forget about them. Stay on top of the contact and don't play hard to get. You are not the hot chick from 8th grade when they are in 7th. You are the pastor. Pursue, but be respectful.
  14. Smoke machines and rambling guitar/ drum solos... NO.
  15. Do not try to sound like the latest hit band. You are probably not as good. Put some effort into your lyrics. Please! If you are not theologically minded, find someone that is. Just cause it sounds good and makes you FEEL close to God, does not mean it sustains or has any spiritual depth.
  16. Unless you want a bunch of brain dead consumers, the preaching and lyrics of the music must be challenging, but not guilt inducing. Think about the entire service. You have a liturgy. Embrace it and make it better. Don't just sing, preach, take money, tell people stuff. When serving communion, take it seriously. Do it less and do it right! Explain it. Heck.. explain everything. Teach us stuff. Don't assume anything!
  17. Offer some snacks and coffee, but don't brag about it. Wow! You have Starbucks. I will now come to your church. I mean, you just saved me $2.00 per week. What a bargain. Conversely, if you have fair trade (and you should!), let us know. And, don't just offer fattening donuts. You are a church and gluttony is a sin.
  18. Be green. Be careful with paper, trash, etc. Recycle and let us know.
  19. If you cannot preach, get someone who can. Take a class. Don't experiment on me.
  20. Your church should not try to do everything. You cannot do it all well. And, don't brag about stuff you should be doing anyway. Don't brag about stuff you really are not doing (especially on the website. It should be an honest account of who you are, not who you want to be). Just let us know what you have going on and how to get involved.
  21. If you actually value the place of women in your church, give them something to do besides greeter, nursery or back up singer. Your words betray you.
  22. Don't just talk to people you know and like. Talk to new people, but don't pressure them and don't act desperate (apologies for how things are never help).
  23. Value the feedback of visitors. Don't ignore their ideas. They may teach you something that will help you in your journey.
  24. Value your people and visitors as much as you value your own voice, insight and vision. If you do not, you may seem like an arrogant -----.
  25. Borrow from other preachers and churches. However, site sources. Don't steal without giving credit. Someone you stole from may show up and notice. If you borrow from the world (Starbucks, television, etc.), acknowledge it. We already noticed.
And last... stop trying to make your church seem so cool. It is not. It is church. Church does not equal cool. Your marketing should be honest, not an attempt to show how cool and "with it" you are. The more you try, the worse you look. Just tell us who you are and invite us along for the ride. I have seen too many churches trying to be cool and being inauthentic. If you are a suburb church, don't act like a city church. If you are all suburbanites, we will notice when you move your church into the city to be edgy and then drive home to suburbia. If you don't like poor people, justice and art do not fake it just to make us come to your church. You have turned important things into marketing points and propaganda. We notice when you are faking it, probably before you do.

* this comes from multiple visits to numerous churches. Many of the insights surround a church we long ago for a month or so, to never venture back into. If you think this is about you, it is probably your ego. But, then again, it might be because of you. But, it is probably about that other church down the street. But, if this sounds like you, think about it and consider changing.

Understand, this is not a bitter or mean post. This is me wanting to let churches know some of their best laid plans and attempts are not working. They look goofy and fake to many, but people are not honest with you (us). We are the naked Emperor and people are not letting us know we are naked. They are just ignoring us, tolerating it because they don't think the church is capable of doing it beter, putting up with us because they like us or never setting foot back in our churches again.


kristi said...

fully knowing how you COULD have written this, and coming from the point of view of people who are trying to find a church home (instead of "i'm a pastor, and i'm awesome, and here's how everyone else is doing it wrong"), i think this post comes across in a very helpful way.

seriously. it would be awesome if lots of local pastors saw this and actually thought about it. and then changed some stuff. :)

Pastor T said...

Thanks for writing very informative It always helps to hear form an outside point of view what we are doing right as well as what we are doing wrong. Please keep the post coming as I want to know how to be the best I can be.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm, could it be that your looking is not the same as those the church is trying to reach? You seem to have come as a secret shopper not as someone seeking. Perspective changes a great deal!

As for getting 'beat up' over this, I find many churches (not all, but many) are having these conversations. Some are winning and some are not when it comes to the 'change' front but any beating going on is among themselves.

If you really want your comments received as a tool for improvement you need to leave out the immature, insulting pokes and offer some observations about what they might be doing right, even if it doesn't speak to you but might reach another.

kristi said...

anonymous: actually, we are not secret shopping (hence the blog posting); we are truly seeking.

and the immature, insulting pokes in my opinion come in the form of the veneer we have encountered when visiting various churches.

they are immature and insulting to me, the visitor. these attempts to be cool, to be less than honest, really seem to be doing a disservice to me, the visitor.

and finally, i think that what is wrong with most churches is that they are all trying to reach the same type of person, instead of broadening their view and trying to reach all sorts of people. i think this is especially true with churches who are trying to be "edgy" and claim to "think outside the box." they are worst than most, in fact, it seems to me.

so i don't think it is necessary to make a list of all the things every church is doing "right." in fact, if you have a church, you can and already do feel confident in what you are doing "right." you probably get feedback on that all the time.

what i'm sure you don't hear, if you are a pastor, is much that is criticism or negative, because most of your followers more than likely are too intimidated to tell you. it's just the nature of the thing.

DJ Word said...

"You probably think this song is about you, don't you."

Pastor T- if I don't know you ignore the rest of this. You happen to share a pastoral name with another I know.

However, if this is who the Pastor T I know well, then the irony behind the sarcasm is this... nothing in my post was related to your church. I only directed my observations at churches I had visited while looking in the past and present.

The church you may be speaking of was not such a church. it was a church we attended, so I could not judge it in the same light as a visitor (we chose that church very quickly). There are probably 10 churches within the 25 postings and none is about that church (even though some could apply, but those could apply to many churches).

If you feel that this was directed towards your church, I would ask you to look at the bottom of the post (the first italicized paragraph). I would ask if what could be said of other churches and pastors felt like it was directed at you, when it was not, then why? It is like the person in the pew thinking the pastor is speaking to him, when the pastor is not.

This post was not meant to be about the good things a church is doing. It was meant to make any pastor with an open mind think about what they are presenting. I would love to have something like this to think about if I were starting a church.


DJ Word said...

Anonymous- I usually ignore the comments of those unwilling to share their names with me. To hide behind an anonymity is lazy or worse. However, I will play with you this evening. But, unless you introduce yourself, I will not continue with this conversation.

I second my wife's comments regarding an honest assessment, which is not what Pastors get from visitors or followers, so they continue in their ways with no one saying "this is not right." When I led churches, I looked for such critique and criticism because I felt it sharpened me.

I also second her response that you are incorrect in your assumptions. Why in the world would I subject myself and my family to being a secret shopper. Why would I drag my family all over a city trying out new churches weekly if I were not seeking a home? So I could get frustrated by shallow attempts at outreach? So I could write a blog posting that only a few will read?

So, if I have the proper perspective, that I assume you have, then I would see these attempts at coolness as actually cool. Unless you are seeking a church, you may not know what people are seeking (so I would say you do not have the right "perspective"), If you are leading a church then you probably do not know what people are seeking. Only when you are seeking do you know the "perspective."

I am not trying to insult anyone. I am sharing my perspective honestly and completely in hopes that one person will decide to be himself or herself, because nonbelievers and seekers see through many of our attempts.

My challenge is this, find a person that will be completely honest with you, if you can (harder than it seems). If you feel anything here touches you and see if they agree or disagree.

But know , many of these observations are of what I have seen from local churches (or a church) trying to be very "relevant." Other than such a church, no more than 3-4 are of any single church. They are an amalgamation of many churches (sadly).

If you would like to find out if this is about you, give me your name. I will be honest and tell you if it is something I observed at a church you may have knowledge of.

If you think something I have said is about you, then even if it is not, still think about it.

I want to help those that have ears to hear. Those without ears to hear can continue to ignore people like me that lack "perspective" and know very little.

Sorry you felt insulted.

Michael said...

I have friends that get paid to tell pastors these sorts of difficult things that are difficult to notice and hear. And plenty of pastors pay a lot of money to go to conferences to get the latest "best practices" and programming ideas. It reminds me of a guy I know that helps bands put together a show for their live performances. Record labels will pay him to work with a band and often the band or artist will push back or shut out altogether what the performance coach is telling them. The band can play and they have written good enough songs to land a deal but having a compelling, competitive and memorable live show is another step. Rick is offering some great coaching here and wise men and women will recognize that great help often comes from something unsolicited that makes them a little uncomfortable. And with all that Rick has going on with work family and personal interests (I hope this isn't calling you (rick) out as a tender heart) it should be obvious that this is something he sincerely cares about and hopes folks who are interested in growing will find helpful.

BTW - a current client of my "live music producer" friend went from selling merchandise at an average of $1 per person at her shows to something over $9 per person while at the same time playing to larger audiences(1000's a night.) She didn't lose herself because she accepted coaching. She was freed up to be herself and not have to worry about whether or not people would find her interesting.

If we truly believe the gospel is the power of salvation, our confidence is wrapped up in our ability to communicate it accurately and remove any obstacle between it and the understanding of the hearer to the best of our ability.

g13 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
danny p said...

Wow, this little blog attracted quite the fuss. I just saw your link on twitter and i saw kristi's response and had to come read it. And to find the posts--how enlightening and frightening all the same.

I mean really, this is why churches have become so pathetic at reaching our culture...they can't even take a blog criticism to heart without their feelings getting hurt. C'mon, give me a break. I look at every criticism, blog, simply opinions and ideas. And if you've followed Rick, then you know he has experience in the area he is writing about.

If it insults, oh well. Get over it. Church people sure can be judgmental on everything in the book, but when it comes to them...don't step on their lil' toes.

Bro, you be YOU! I appreciate your views and opinions. They are everything you were trying to emphasize a church should be: AUTHENTIC!

DJ Word said...

Michael and Danny- thanks. I think you guys get the spirit this blog posting was was written in.

kristi said...

danny and michael (and the post deleted by its author) are friends of my husband who i treasure deeply. thanks for giving support here.

as i've been thinking of this blog post this morning, i think i would like to add something to the list. we have visited numerous churches here over the 5 years we've lived here, and i think i can say with pretty good accuracy that most of the time, when we visit a church, whatever its denomination, we are ignored.

when we first moved here, we were coming off the mission field, really, from boston, where WE had been the caregivers, WE had been the teachers and leaders, we used OUR house for all the gatherings. don't get me wrong: we loved this, but at the end of our time there, we were tired, and probably needed more recoup time than we even thought.

we went to church after church, where people found out rick was a pastor, after which time we were promptly ignored. ignored! ok, well i was ignored. the pastor of such churches would sometimes want to pick his brain about stuff, or they would send us a letter saying how thankful they were that we let them watch our kids on sunday morning, but as far as really trying to minister to us, to find out what we needed, that didn't happen.

i would ask rick time and again, "why are they ignoring us?" to which his response was, "probably because they know i'm a pastor so they figure we are ok."

not to get on my feminist soapbox, but i am my own person. aside from being a mom and wife, i am a follower of Christ, and sometimes i need a little extra care too.

i also know that churches aren't perfect, and they aren't going to reach all people all the time. and honestly, when we are the most needy, it seems like no one can really meet our needs. but it would be nice to see churches really try.

invite us over for dinner. invite me to coffee to find out more about me. bring us a coffeecake just to say you are glad we visited. send us a real card in the mail. you know, a little love will go a LONG way...

p.s. i already know churches aren't here to meet our needs, etc. etc. so please no one lecture me about how we are to be the ones to serve. i'm just talking about certain points in our life when pastors/church leaders need a little extra.

Unknown said...

“Let him who cannot be alone beware of community. . . Let him who is not in community beware of being alone” Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Wow, like usual you know how to gather a crowd :) I like what you had to say in the post, and knowing you as I do, it seems to be your nature to form list and have be analytically sharp, so I know you, as you said, expected the criticism.

The list you compiled reminded me of many things I experienced before I started my last church, and when I developed something that fell well outside your list, I just got a different list from friends and coaches like I think there is always a list, which leads me to my question:
When I went on this spiritual retreat with Dallas Willard, back when I was playing the role of pastor he quoted Dietrich Bonhoeffer as saying that as soon as we the outsider bring expectations to a community we ruin that community, but that we should enter without expectations. I wonder if you think that applies here. Bonhoeffer also said “He who loves his dream of a community more than the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter, even though his personal intentions may be ever so honest and earnest and sacrificial.”

Honestly, being a former pastor really ruins you for being a good parishioner, doesn’t it? I think if you guys are going to really find a church you just have to dump your expectations, or choose the church with the least amount of offenses….Even though the list is true, and any good pastor would look at it and seek what he can change for the better from it, it's true for a reason.

But, alas you are meant to follow this other author:
"If change is to come... it will have to come from the outside. It will have to come from the margins... this sort of change is a dominant theme of our tradition, whose "central figures" have often worked their way inward from the margins. It was the desert, not the temple that gave us the prophets." --- Wendell Berry

As for me and my house, we are still trying to recover. Those we used to be in community with, excluding you guys, have long forgotten us. I think in the midst of the pain I caused I was looking for someone to come after me, chase me a little. To love me enough to not let me walk away...instead they just wanted me to go away, even after all I poured into them....So first on my list is looking for a church that takes my shit and still and loves me like the Christ they rally around…but I know that’s kind of another post.

Good post, Rick! Yea, this is the first time I have posted on a blog in 2 years!!


Anonymous said...

I think someone is posing as me. It is not me, I assure you. I haven't been here in a few months, and someone linked to my church blog, so I followed it back only to see that someone is posing as me.
I actually enjoyed the post, and agreed with allot of it.

Unknown said...

just for the record, I have never liked tight tee shirts..even though I think I could pull it off:)

geoffrey holsclaw said...

a longtime member just ask me two week ago if we could do a square dance this summer. does that make us cool?

good stuff. thanks.

geoff holsclaw

DJ Word said...

Geoff- thanks for stopping by. Yes. That would make you cool in my book. Quilting, too.

Christian- thanks for not being the tight shirt guy. I would send you to the website of a guy that likes to use it to show his physique. Just think of the church up in your old neck of the woods that was "cool" and easy. Check out the pastor's pic on the site or his personal site.

Seriously, thanks for the great words and insight. You quote 2 of my masters, as you know, especially brother Wendell (I wanted to name Rhys after him, but Kristi knew better). Being a former pastor does make it hard. it is like a former car dealer buying a car. You know too much.

That is one reason we have seriously considered traditions very far outside our norm, such as Orthodoxy. I have no framework for judgment, which could be very good for all involved.

I am totally with you on one of the first aims of a church, or what it should be. I wish a church, our church, had done such a thing. I hope it learns from its mistakes, as I hope all do.

Thanks again for the great insight.

DJ Word said...


I am glad it was not you. Someone has posed as you before also and I don't know their agenda.

Needless to say, I would hope you would be affirmed and in agreement with much of the post. It was definitely not about WM or PCPC. The leaders of those churches actually took me and my family in and did a good job.

Anything that sounds like WM, sounds like it because it is something all churches probably struggle with.


Anonymous said...

Someone is trying to sew discord, and create animosity that is not there.

I'm baffled, and haven't the foggiest of who it could be.

O-well, whadya do?

A Modern Ancient said...

I felt compelled to leave a comment.

First, absolutely great post. This is the first time I've read your blog, and I will return.

Second, number 6 stuck out the most to me. Perhaps because I used to be (and could easily be again) that person. I was challenged to trust others, even if that meant it might not live up to my standards or even if it meant they did a poor job.

Lastly, I think you contradict the sentiments of #6 in #19 when you say:

"If you cannot preach, get someone who can. Take a class. Don't experiment on me."

What if the ones who can speak are engaged in other things and are handing things over to someone else who might not be as talented? Some are better than others when it comes to speaking, but that does not mean the others don't have something to say.

By the way, my criticism was not a challenge, just something that I noticed. I would love to hear your response, but don't feel obliged.

Anonymous said...

This is anonymous...back for more.
Who I am...a mid 40's white female pastor not serving right now (by choice) married to a black man living in the south. We are both educated holding advanced degrees. We recently moved to a new southern city (Nov 2008) and have been visiting churches with our 3 children.

I could tell you negatives and positives about all the churches we have visited and those i have served. However, we are not 'church shoppers'. I think persons of that mindset have a whole set of issues that qualify as 'personal problems' and just don't find the need to justify them with a response. If you shop around and never find the Spirit of Christ, that's a problem. But outside of that all other observations are superfluous if you truly find the Spirit of Christ and offer yourself ready to be a part of community. What does not speak to one speaks to many of the reasons so many different worship styles are out there serving so many on a weekly basis. If you are seeking a church that would cater to each individual visitor (without knowledge of what that visitor needs and yes people to come with different needs), good luck with that, kristi.

I was not insulted by your comments but I do respect the fact that others could be. Speaking in generaliztions really does not serve any of us well...I stand by that thought.

Even when attending a church where you have been in relationship worshiping/serving for some time, it would be impossible for someone just to inherently know what your needs are and what response to your needs they could offer appropriately. When you are new, as you would be in a church shopping mode, it is just unfair to expect any church or person in a church to readily identify you as someone to whom they could walk up to and say hey, let's go to dinner or coffee. Very unrealistic expectation unless you are a child because they often have not learned those boundaries yet.

I do know what it is like to visit many churches recently. I have seen men in the Rick Warren wannabee too small shirts and leaders trying way too hard to be what they thought would be perceived as cool. (I never said there was no truth in some of your observations. And I did not feel my toes were stepped on.) I can even add one experience to the mix that is totally foreign to many and that is the issue of race. You really don't want me to go there and your blog said nothing of the powerful role this plays, especially here in the south.

So, I really did not intend to engage either of you in a grudge match. It seems Kristi felt the need to be defensive with regard to some of my comments. That was not my intention anymore than you say it was yours with writing the blog in the first place.

I still think one critical aspect your observations missed was that those exact aspects of your 'shopping' experiences that were distasteful to you are exactly the ones that speak to someone else. By basically admonishing your readers to do away with all things distasteful to you, you imply there is no room for the possibility that someone else is actually being fed. Unless you were the only persons at any of these churches you 'shopped' obviously someone else was there to be fed and perhaps was. For example in #20 you state "Your church should not try to do everything. You cannot do it all well." Yet you seem to be telling them how to do all things well according to your standards in order to cut the mustard. You are right in one thing, though, no one church can be everything to all people. That is why the focus must be on serving God by living Christ-like lives of worship, prayer and service. Churches doing this (and there are some) will continue to feed many.

As for pastors and there families sometimes needing a level of interaction/intervention/support/connection/whatever you wish to call it, I highly doubt you will find any pastor and/or their spouse (I have not met many in my many years of experience) who would expect lay parishioners to even remotely understand the depth of need we can sometimes reach. Church shopping for just the right church to meet your needs in that way, Kristi, will likely always leave you feeling you have (or should I say they-the church have) missed the mark. I am sorry but there are other places you must look for that kind of spiritual solace and comfort, likely through others who have walked that same path. No hungry spiritual leader will necessarily walk into any church and without acknowledging who they are and what they need find 'it' all in a single worship service or even by visiting a 2d or 3d. It won't happen because that is not how 'it' works.

I do hope you find whatever it is you are seeking in a church. But what exactly do you tell your kids about why you don't go back to church so and so? (Hey kids we can't go back to that church because they just tried way too hard to be cool and they were just terrible at it!) What are you teaching them about how you find a place to serve? Do you keep looking for a church until you find one that is just right, like Goldilocks? It certainly seems your plan includes observing many, writing about all your profound observations (and by the way yours do likely differ from some others) and filtering through it all until you find...whatever it is you are looking for. I truly wish you well.

It was JFK who once stated, "ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country". Churches have developed into a society here in the west where worship is, as you obviously see it, supposed to be designed around 'appealing' to 'seekers' (as if seekers are some homogenous group). The problem with that is that the churches who are being successful in Christ's mission for His church are the ones too busy serving to worry about pleasing each individual with their 'style' of worship. And these churches do exist and they are often the ones growing. Don't be too critical of the superfluous things that are distasteful to you that you cause yourself to miss it when you actually see it.

DJ Word said...

Modern Ancient

Good observation. I don't see these as diametrically opposed, but that could be a product of my own flawed reasoning.

Regarding #19- I would say that the leader of the church (if there is such a thing) does not need to be the primary teacher. There is nothing in Christian Scripture telling us that. So, a person could be the leader and find a better teacher. If that person feels compelled to get up there every week and talk at people, they should be pretty good at the basics of communication. I am amazed at how few good, solid preachers there are. But, I bet every congregation has a few people that are pretty good at public speaking and teaching.

on #6- I don't care if you are the best musician and the best teacher (which is probably not the case), you should not be doing it all. I have seen it many times and something suffers, usually the thing that the person is not as "called to", "gifted at" or loves more. Plus, it communicates that it is MY show.

Find people that do things you value for the public time. Teach or train them. If not perfect, help them. But don't think you have to do it all, especially if there are others better than you (not you, Ancient... but you, general).

Do you see how my mind separates them?

DJ Word said...


I think you miss the point. I do not know how to communicate this in a manner that you understand what I am saying. We may just be speaking different languages or both of our experiences, biases, choices of language, etc. color how we speak and hear things so much that we are at an impasse on this subject.

My point, once more, is not to look at negatives and what churches need to do to reach me. I feel this is clarified in the posting. My point is to give some friendly advice to those trying to do things I think are not helpful to their mission.

Will you disagree? Yes. But, you hold your opinion and share it freely with others. I hold my opinion and share it freely with others. If a pastor finds my advice helpful, good for us. If not, so be it. All advice is from a personal observation based upon one's own views. When I look for advice from my mentor, I know he is giving it to me from his own perspective. I can dismiss the source and advice or I can find it useful.

I see this the same way.

kristi said...

anonymous, i'm not sure where you thought i was engaging you in a "grudge match" or anything else. i was just responding to what you said. it's a blog; that's what people do.

you wrote too much to respond to, but i have two observations: first, you say you are not a church shopper, yet you claim to be visiting different churches with your 3 children, just as we are. so please quit calling us church shoppers, if you are doing the same thing we are but won't label yourself as one.

i have already stated that we are not shopping; we are really trying to find an authentic community.

i think that's the rub here; we want something honest and authentic. we don't care if it's perfect, if it looks a certain way, if people wear a certain thing, say a certain thing. we just want it to be real. i think many of the things on rick's list address that inauthenticity churches fall into when they try to "attract" people or "please" people or even "market" to people.

and second, you ask what we tell our kids when we don't go back to a church. i bristle at the accusation that we would share what you wrote with our kids ("Hey kids, it's terrible..."). our kids are intelligent, and we share what we think they can handle. but it's really none of your business how we handle the discussion with our kids. i could ask you the same thing, since you are visiting as well, but i won't, because it's none of my business how you parent your kids. and this isn't a parenting blog.

(ok, i lied about two things). one last thing: i completely disagree with you that just because a church is growing more than likely means it's doing the right things. on the contrary, i believe that usually the ones that are doing the right thing are the ones that are small, because let's face it: most people just don't want to dig too deep in their faith. it's much, much easier to just go to church, listen to a "message," and then go home and do our own thing. there is a movement of people, certainly, who want to really LIVE like Jesus, but i dare say it's not very many people in the scheme of things. if more churches were living out Jesus' words, there would be less fancy audio equipment and guitar solos and more soup being served, to put it very broadly...

g13 said...

anonymous, your comment is longer than pastor rick's prayer at the inauguration.

that's impressive.

Brandon said...

Funny list Rick! I especially like the tight tees, celebrities, and Starbucks. A root of the problem in my mind is the emphasis on growing numerically.

I have an old acquaintance who is a pastor in the Southwest. He is currently under fire from the regional powers that be for not "packing out" their facilities with 3,000 people a weekend.

In my experience, primary emphasis on numerical growth seems to be the first, most consistent, hiccup that derails many churches missions.

Some of my over-simplified, reductionist logic (which I know you've grown to love and admire) follows:

Emphasis on numerical growth creates emphasis on money. When they come, egos are inflated, giving the pastor a sense of autonomy/authority/seclusion that over time creates distance between him and the average church attender. Because the focus has never been on caring for individual people, the cycle is repeated, each time with more obvious trespasses/elements of your list. Average church goers begin to see the flaws in the system, but because it is so difficult to argue with obvious "blessing" the system cannot be changed so people (in different phases) branch out to either start something new or find something different.

The problem is that few recognize the rub, which, namely, is the drive for growth/money and ego. So various systems are setup with different cocktails mixed from your list, but because it is difficult to argue with numerical growth and because they haven't identified the main underlying problem, more and more annoying churches continue to spring up.

When one finally hits (say Mars Hill for instance), excitement and a whole new round of duplicating the NEW "formula" ensues.

Instead of uprooting the faulty premise, Evangelicalism lazily continues to circle the toilet bowl
in pursuit of the right mix. Until we stop circling and allow the system to be purged we guarantee more shallow, discouraging, short-sighted and lame ministry attempts.

We need a reformation! Ooooooo, that gives me an idea. I'm going to start a reformation for the 21st century. Yes! Yes! Get on board people, it's the next big thing. Let's see, I'll call it.....hmmmmmm.....Reformation......21st century....I know!

I'll call it Reformation Twen...Oh wait...

On second thought, I'll just commit to magnifying God and loving people He has placed in my life at home work and church.


I shudder at the next wave of nonsense
On the flip side, if growth and money never come, upset, disenfranchised pastors continue to tinker with the model because bygolly "the formula works! It has too. Maybe we're just executing it incorrectly. So a cycle of ingenuous tinkering and rearranging of items in your list ensues, hence the majority of churches that exemplify many of the items in your list.

vovkkdkd said...

Nice thoughts -eat these books, trust is hard thing to restore. I for one hope all is well.

As a former assistant pastor, pastor and prof I have some insights into all this but I am not inclined to chime in too much. I think I have come to a place in my life (older than most here i imagine) where much of this isn't very interesting any longer.
I agree with most of what rick suggests as advice. I also think anonymous is very wise and insightful. I agree with much of her analysis as well.

Its hard being a pastor, Its hard to please people, Its hard to hear criticism because invariably one takes it to heart and feels a failure. I know I did and do. Its hard to have been a pastor but now in some other field. A pastor in a previous church who was interviewing me to be a small group leader, asked me why I left the pastorate because he always felt uncomfortable with such people. He resigned two years later for numerous moral failures.

I see all the stupidity, It angers me, I was in our last church for 15 years as an elder, small group leader, and ministry coordinator. It was seeker something or other I guess. Basically it had ok 70s -80s rock and polyester, lots of messages about being a good dad, mom or kid or employer or church member or boss or employee or .........

God help me, if I hear one more sermon like that I will kill myself.

why stay there? We had a home church for over 12 years of 12 couples who loved each other, paid mortgages for those suffering, walked through aids deaths, divorces, imprisoned children, unwanted pregnancies, drug addictions and on and on. That is why we stayed. God wanted us there to help people and our family was blessed and strengthened by it all.

thats my little opinion, maybe it makes sense to someone.

Its hard being a follower of Jesus in this world and maybe much harder leading those who follow him. We are followers who lead and leaders who must learn to humbly follow.

rick's # 23 should be taken to heart by all.

Best to all


Jennifer said...

How can I get this to my church leaders and get them to take it seriously and not as a joke forward?

Great ideas - I agree! Be real, be honest, love Jesus & each other, follow God's will. If you don't know God's will, ask him HONESTLY. Don't claim to know God's leading if you've never prayed about it.

Thanks for sharing this.

LMcG said...

Sorry for my lateness in reading/posting, you're probably completely over this by now! And I didn't read all the comments, so forgive me I'm being repetitive. Nice work, I can tell you put a lot of energy into this post and I sympathize with you and your family on a quest for authenticity in worship.

Reading this makes me so happy that I joined the Catholic Church. In fact I may start refering to this post when people ask me why I took the plunge to get confirmed. Every single week I don't care what anyone is wearing, the music always and only serves the purpose of accompanying and reflecting the bible readings, and even though it can be an unfortunate use of time, I don't even really care if the homily is poorly delivered. As long as the gospel is read and the eucharist is served, I'm good to go. I will never again worry about where to attend church beyond finding a convenient Mass time.

I'm not writing this to claim that I have a solution (I don't for anyone except myself), but it did strike me that it may be helpful to find that one aspect of worship that IS authentic, and focus on that and make it your search regardless of what other stuff accompanies it.

I wish you guys luck and look forward to hearing about the continued journey!