Looking at Your Church as an Outsider

Looking at Your Church as an Outsider

 

My work at the Foundation takes me to many different churches of various sizes across the Annual Conference. Few churches make it easy to find the right door to the office, the sanctuary or to restrooms in the building. Granted, in a small church the sanctuary entrance is easy to find, but finding the office door can be a challenge. In larger church buildings one can wander and wander trying to find the right door. Many do not even have a sign outside stating the correct time of worship each Sunday. Some still have old signs with incorrect worship information. And we really expect new people to feel welcome?

 

I usually check for a church website or Facebook page before visiting. Some have a presence and others do not. The United Methodist Church and the Annual Conference provide information about each congregation in Mississippi. It at least lists the pastor and location. Though, I have discovered that some addresses are not correct. Many churches have not taken the time to enter their worship times. Then there are churches that have not updated websites in months or years. It is better to have nothing than an outdated electronic presence, because this is usually the first place a first time visitor will check.

 

Once inside your building think about directional signs, cleanliness and timely materials. Bulletin boards featuring events from 2011 and 2012 do not inspire new persons. Again, displaying nothing is better than outdated information. Another issue is outdated door signs in the building. Do not leave a sign saying, “Nursery,” that is now a storage room. I think you get the idea.

 

Why not invite one or two key leaders to approach the church as an outsider?


Simplicity

Simplicity

 

Richard Foster, author of Celebration of Discipline writes, “Christian simplicity is an inward reality that results in an outward life-style.” He goes on to say that without an inward reality simplicity will lead only to legalism. Foster pens, “because we lack a divine Center our need for security has led us into an insane attachment to things.” So we end up celebrating the lives of the rich and famous, while we ignore those who choose to live more simply for the sake of others.

 

Foster warns that simplicity is not to be confused with asceticism, which believes that the world and things of the world are evil. God created a good world for us. God intends for us to enjoy his abundant provision without making stuff into our god. Simplicity reminds us that seeking the kingdom of God first is where life is found. Anytime we seek stuff first it becomes idolatry.

 

Foster goes on to list ten outward expressions of simplicity:

  1. Buy things for their usefulness.
  2. Reject anything that is producing an addiction in you.
  3. Develop a habit of giving things away.
  4. Refuse to be propagandized by the custodians of modern gadgetry.
  5. Learn to enjoy things without owning them.
  6. Develop a deeper appreciation for the creation.
  7. Look with skepticism at all “buy now, pay later” schemes.
  8. Use plain, honest speech.
  9. Reject that which breeds the oppression of others.
  10. Shun whatever would distract you from the goal of the Kingdom of God.

Executive Director

Lost in a Crowd

Lost in a Crowd

He went looking for community with those similar in age and lifestyle. He chose to sit near the front of the service, even arriving a little early. The hope was that someone would notice and speak. The space filled for worship. The worship was good, but no one spoke. No word of welcome or invitation to join them for Sunday school after the service.

He went the second week to the second service. Still not one person said, “Welcome, we are glad that you are here.” And then he even went to a Sunday school class the next Sunday. It was something of an adventure because there was no information on the website about classes nor anyone greeting guests to offer guidance. The first try was a class too young. The second try was the right age, but almost all couples. Then worship again. This time friends, who were a married couple, joined him. Some folks talked to the couple, but they ignored him.

He hasn’t given up yet in seeking community in a Christian setting, but the way is difficult. And we wonder why single, young adults tend to be absent from our services of worship and life in the church.