June 5, 2005

I have often thought that we spend too much time in church services trying to make people feel welcome. It’s not that we don’t want people to feel welcome, we certainly do. However, all these attempts to make people feel welcome create a division of sorts. And this division creates a consumer mindset for those who are attending the church. Here’s some examples of things that I have noticed as we’ve been visiting different churches lately:

  • As we were walking out of church today, several people were standing outside saying “Thanks for coming.” What that subtly communicatas is, “Thanks for consuming the services that we had to offer you today.” It is as if there are a select group of people who represent the church itself, and all the rest of us are just there to receive what they offer.
  • Sometimes churches have select people with nametags, and they say or print things such as “If you have a need or prayer concern, find someone with a nametag. We’re here for you.” Again, this creates a customer service minded approach where those who are attending the church are there to be served by those who are really in at the church — consumerism.
  • People are often given opportunities to fill out cards with their contact information, along with places to comment, or even check a box that says “Please have a pastor call me.”

I don’t think any of these things are inherently wrong, and we may perhaps even use variations of some or all of them at Pathways. However, there is a danger in what they subtly communicate that we have to think through. Even to those who regularly attend, it creates a perception that there is a select group of people that is there to provide for them. How can we make people fell like they are genuinely welcomed in the community without communicating that they are consumers who are there to receive the services and good we have to offer them? How can we connect them not just on a consumer level, but on a community level?

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