Saturday, November 28, 2009

“After church, I sometimes feel empty inside...”

If people say that, it a problem? Whose problem is it? And regardless of whose problem it is, what can or should we do about it?

A friend said something like that to me the other day, and it reminded me of another person's comment: "We try to have perfect signs, perfect music, perfect A-V, perfect coffee, but still people visit and don't come back. I don't know why.... When we traveled, we visited another church, where the music was led by a pastor who had to look for his guitar. He found it, and he didn't play all that well. But at the end of the service, we knew we'd had an encounter with the Lord."

My feeling was that these folks have a point. Not that we should get sloppy with the A-V or ruin the coffee on purpose. But what?

I'll tell you: I don't know. Here are a couple more questions I can't answer either. First, what "actual" need (as distinct from "felt need") brings congregants to us on Sunday morning? Is it a need for social interaction? Do they need a touch of transcendance in their lives? Are they too apt to sleepwalk through life, hence they need a reminder of God's presence in the world and in their lives?

Here's the other: What does "success" mean for us on Sunday morning? That is, at 12:45, when we're more or less closing the doors, how do we decide how well we've done today? A few things that come to mind:

  • We had more people come than last week (or last month's average, or last quarter's average)
    • Alternately: we've had increasing attendance for the past ___ weeks
  • No glitches in the video presentation, missed cues for lighting or song lyrics, etc.
  • Every visitor was met with a smile
  • Every attendee who wanted it had a caring personal interaction with someone.
  • Of the ____ people who asked for prayer about particular issues the previous week, over 80% of them were asked by someone else, "How is your ________?" (job situation, health problem, injured/ill relative, relationship issue, whatever they mentioned last week).
  • Music was an appropriate balance (traditional/contemporary, etc.) and was connected to the sermon's main point
  • No logistical goof-ups -- signage, doors, snacks, coffee, chairs, etc. all met guidelines.
  • Each volunteer and staff member carried out their tasks with love and grace
  • Participants in the worship center felt a strong sense that "God was with me every day last week, he's here and cares for me now, and he will be with me, guiding and caring for me, every day in the coming week."
  • All congregants felt after the service "I've had an encounter with the Lord."
  • A significant portion of the worship service (___% of the minutes) was spent in prayer.
Well, there are a few anyway.

What do we think our answer should be? What do we think it actually is? That is, as we look back on the service, what makes us say, "Good day today"?

I don't know the answer to either, but I suspect the answers aren't the same.

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