September 26, 2009

Two Things I'm Learning About Church

As our family has been in this time of transition in ministry, we've had the opportunity to visit a few churches. Along the way, I've learned some things about church ministry. All of this is for me from a new perspective. I've been in ministry for so long that I only see it from the pastor side of it. Now that I'm simply going to church & going to church where we don't really have a connection to anyone or anything, I'm seeing & feeling things that many of the people who walk in & out of our churches see & feel everytime they are there.

#1-It's harder to seal the deal with newcomers than we think it is.

Maybe it's because I'm from a ministry background, but I have pretty high expectations for churches, especially in the area of childcare & children's ministry. However, I suspect that even the most unchurched guests we have share those expectations. I have a 3 year old & an 18 month old, & I expect churches to provide secure environments for both & an environment for my 3 year old that gives teaches her something about God. When I come into your church & you act like I should know the routine-Strike One. When you realize I don't know the routine, & you reveal you don't know the routine very well either-Strike Two. When I give you another chance a week later, & you fail again to clearly communicate the process & a church member has to show my wife how things go-Strike Three. While I applaud the church member for recognizing the need to help a guest, the paid staff member has to be on top of that. In fact, I'm coming more & more to the conclusion that in the area of our children's ministries, we should almost assume that people don't know how things work in our systems. Sure, some people may not like that, but wouldn't you rather re-hash things with an insider than leave an outsider standing there thinking, "What do we do next, where do we go now?" You may be tempted to think this happened at some clueless little country church or a new, understaffed & untrained church plant. You'd be wrong. This happened at a church that's considered a mega-church that is doing things right. After visiting there a few more times, the good teaching & good music got trumped by the things I mentioned above.

We may think our systems & programs are going great. Those of us in ministry in places where we see some success will be tempted to really think this way, but if we don't constantly ask tough questions & honestly evaluate those systems, we'll slip into an insider mentality. And that's ok if that's your focus, but if you actually want to reach people far from God, it's not ok. We may think everything is ok but it's harder to seal the deal with people than we think it is. Cool classrooms, the newest music, & relevant teaching probably won't be enough if within the first 5 minutes an outsider has been made to feel like an outsider. That's why we have to spend time working on it rather than working in it.

No comments: