Count on it: your church will encounter critics, skeptics, and cynics (and surely already has). This is to be expected; no place of worship can please everyone. At some point, you’re bound to get on someone’s nerves, and that’s not always because you did something wrong.
Sometimes, though, churches do deserve to get a bad rap. Many bodies of believers are guilty of easily avoidable behaviors that have a direct negative impact on the future of the church. If the following list of missteps feels like looking in the mirror, find ways to phase them out as soon as possible.
1. Focusing on the Needs of One Group, to the Exclusion of Others
Have you ever visited a church and immediately thought, “Something’s missing“? When you looked around, you didn’t see anyone over age 35 — or under age 68? This type of environment feels unsettling and unnatural. But even in less lopsided congregations, sometimes church leaders focus on the needs and preferences of just one group instead of the church as a whole.
Maybe the church leaders are so concerned with pleasing the older “donor class” or the younger “future of the church” that they exclude the rest of the congregation. This is a problem! Churches should strive to meet the diverse needs of all its members, no matter their age bracket, relationship or economic status, or racial background.
2. Trying to Be an Entertainment Venue
Hear me out: I’m not suggesting that church has to be a snooze-fest, or that we shouldn’t try to keep people engaged. However, the church, at its core, is not an entertainment venue. We have a higher calling than that, and that higher calling is where we should place our focus.
If entertainment is our chief goal, we will almost always be outdone in terms of quality and quantity. Our games, concerts, food, and activities will never be as exciting as the professional versions available outside the church. These things can still be effective tools in reaching people, meeting needs, and building bridges, but they are a poor substitute for focusing on the true calling of the church.
3. Confusing Visitors and Guests
Some churches don’t often consider the first-time visitor experience. I recently pulled up to a church for the first time, and I couldn’t tell where the driveway ended and parking began. I guessed wrong at where to park; it turns out that I was parked on the walkway.
This church had several buildings, each with several doors, and no signs to be found. I couldn’t figure out which building was the sanctuary or where I was supposed to go. Then it hit me: if I am this confused, how much worse is it going to be for someone who has never visited a church before? Making your property visitor friendly should be one of your top priorities.
Also, think about the “insider lingo” you use in your services. Some religious terms are necessary, but over-reliance on church jargon can leave your guests feeling unwelcome. Anything that a visitor needs to understand should be explained in easy to understand “outsider” language. Why? If they get confused, they may decide to never come back.
4. Relying on Old-Fashioned Church Giving Methods
The next time you attend services at your church, take a look around at the congregation. How many of your members are holding phones? Chances are good that nearly everyone in attendance has a smartphone in their pocket or purse — and an increasing number won’t have a single scrap of cash in their wallet. Do your church giving options take this into account?
Your members want to give, but what happens if they don’t have cash or checks? Do you have another way for them to participate in church giving? Many people who contribute give more consistently when they have a mobile giving option. If they can use their phone to read the Bible or check their bank account, surely it’s good enough for church giving, too.
Don’t exclude would-be givers because they forgot their checkbook. Church giving should be open to anyone who wants to participate — and it’s your job to make sure they can.