Let’s face it: sometimes we don’t feel like going to church.
Most don’t like to admit that because it doesn’t sound spiritual. Or worse, people might call you a heretic or ask you if you’re back-sliding. But when church gets boring or stale, it can cause people to skip and spend their time in other ways. Anything we do in life can become stale at times, from work to relationships to our favorite TV shows or weekly restaurant choices. Sometimes, it’s good to shake things up. Take on a new project or hobby. Have a date night on a random weeknight or take a spontaneous trip. Try a new restaurant or prepare a recipe at home you’ve never tried. Turn off the TV and do something different. We encourage individuals to freshen things up now and then.
So why not do the same for church ministries? Even the most unique churches usually follow a certain format or pattern. It can feel too programmed, regimented or manufactured.
Church leaders go to conferences, read books and websites and talk amongst themselves about how to attract people, keep people, grow in number and spirituality. They say that to reach adults, have a great children’s ministry and provide great programs. They say that doing a series that lasts 4-6 weeks will make people want to come back to enjoy that series. (They don’t consider if someone doesn’t like the series, they could choose to skip the next 4-6 weeks). It’s “different” to have coffee and donuts in the lobby, or call your small groups “life” groups, or “community” groups or some other wording. I’ve sat in on meetings where pastors discuss calling it a program instead of a bulletin to not be too religious, or have to plan how they’ll walk up the steps. They think they are doing things “outside the box” when really they’re just slightly rearranging items inside the box.
Pastors these days have to plan and regiment everything. Services are timed in great detail. While it’s good to have a plan, and try to accommodate a schedule that includes more than one service on Sunday, the spontaneity and fun (and passion) can often be subdued. I’ve been to many churches that claim to be edgy and different, but really are a carbon copy of every non-denominational styled church these days.
Regimented. Programmed. Manufactured. Cookie cutter.
I took a leadership class in college taught by the President of the University. The school had a policy to take attendance each class and to write students up for skipping too many times. He took attendance the first class and told us that he won’t be doing that every class, only the first couple times. He just wanted to get to know our names. He acknowledged the policy (again he was the President) but said that the responsibility should be on the professors: “if your class is interesting enough, students will want to attend. If students aren’t attending your class, maybe you need to do a better job of keeping them there.
Don’t get me wrong, I know churches mean well. And some people like repetition and shy away from change. You don’t want to change just for change’s sake and you do need structure and stability. But we also could use some variety, to experience something fresh and new. Mix it up a little.
In the same way that individuals are encouraged to shake things up to bring some refreshing to their lives, here are some suggestions churches can do to bring variety to their ministry life.
- Do an acoustic worship set, or even acapella (or a totally different style of music altogether).
- Do something creative like more visual demonstrations and modern day parables.
- Get more people from your church involved so it’s more about community and less about watching a show on stage.
- Shake up the order of service: perhaps spend more time on worship and prayer and shorten the sermon
- Have special services with no sermon but more involvement from people, creative performances or even viewing a Christian short film.
- Invite guest speakers, artists and performers to bring some fresh perspective (and give your volunteers a break)
- Plan more community events
- Team up with other churches in the area for joint service and outreach projects, and have a joint worship gathering after to celebrate what God is doing in your community.
There really is no limit to the number of ideas you can try. I encourage you to pray and seek God about what ways you can liven things up to bring some variety and add interest to your ministry.
What are some creative things you’ve tried in your ministries that you’ve found successful?