DON’T GET COMFORTABLE
Every ministry environment communicates something. There are no neutral environments. Environments are the messages before the message. Here is some helpful advice on how to create irresistible ministry environments.
As I am constantly reminding our leaders, the sermon begins in the parking lot. By the time I stand up to deliver what is traditionally considered the message, everybody in our audience has already received a dozen or more messages. Many have already made up their minds as to whether they will come back the following week.
I love everything we do, but that doesn’t make it right, just comfortable.
The same is true for your church. The quality, consistency, and personal impact of your ministry environments define your church. To put it another way, your environments determine what comes to mind when people think about your church. This is especially true for first-time attendees. Regardless of your size or denominational affiliation, your church is a conglomeration of environments. Whether you refer to them as classes, programs, ministries, or services, at their core they are environments—environments that involve a physical setting combined with some type of presentation.
YOU DETERMINE THE MESSAGE
As stewards of a local church or even a department within a church, I think we should determine the messages our environments communicate. We should choose the messages before the message. It’s our responsibility to shape the way people view our local churches. We can’t leave this to chance. And as much as I love ’em, we can’t leave this to the individual whims of our volunteers. Unless . . .
It is amazing what church people will put up with.
Unless you are content to have a church for church people. In fact, if you want to be a church for church people, you can skip this chapter. Church people will put up with just about anything as long as you let ’em out on time. Don’t believe me? Just visit the average church. It is amazing what church people will put up with, neglect, refuse to spend money on, acquire a taste for, grin and bear, or flat-out ignore.
But the moment a church, or even a group of leaders within a church, catches a vision for capturing the hearts and imaginations of those who consider themselves unchurched or dechurched, environments take on new significance.
THE LONGER YOU’RE THERE . . .
Before we jump into the details of what makes a great ministry environment, I need to warn you about one thing. The longer you’ve served where you are and the longer you’ve done what you are currently doing, the more difficult it will be for you to see your environments with the objectivity needed to make the changes that used to be made. The shorter version: Time in [x] erodes awareness of [x].
. . . THE LESS YOU’RE AWARE
The longer you serve in a particular ministry environment, the less aware of it you become. This is why adults, many of whom pay to have their houses cleaned, can walk into the Sunday school assembly room I described in the section introduction and not be distressed by what they see. They don’t see it. The mess is invisible to them. Time in [x] erodes awareness of [x].
We have systems in place in our churches to ensure that we don’t unintentionally make it difficult for those who are coming for the first time or the first time in a long time. In this regard, I’m pretty much worthless. I’ve been around our church from the beginning. I love everything we do and I love the way we do it.
But that doesn’t make it right. That just makes it comfortable.
If there are things in your current ministry environments that are offensive to outsiders, you probably don’t know what they are. If you did, you would have already done something. That should bother you. It sure bothers me.
This is the third excerpt adapted from Andy’s latest book, Deep & Wide: Creating Churches Unchurched People Love to Attend. If you didn’t catch the excerpts we posted the first time, be sure to read the first post (on providential relationships) and the second(on the things that define and determine us).
Edited by David Munoz