Sunday, June 1, 2014

Professionalism in Churches of All Sizes

Hey part-timers, it's the Part-Time Critic with some confident, but lightly held thoughts for you. The last month or so I've been visiting churches here in the Brevard County area and I have been finding myself reacting increasingly negative to "big production" services. I've found that "Big production" services are not just limited to mega-churches, or even mini-mega-churches, but are being found in nearly every church size that I have attended. During service today I found myself doodling (something I never do) about the topic.
A doodle I made when thinking about "big production" service churches
What do I mean by "big production" or "over-programmed"? I am referring to the attitude that views every aspect of the church - parking lots, door-greeters, worship, word, lighting, etc. - as having to be perfectly conceived, crafted, and executed to the highest degree of professionalism. To accomplish this, legions of volunteers (or smaller more overworked groups) are recruited, trained, and deployed on church teams that have leadership tree's more complex than many corporations. 

The upside of this attitude is that it can involve a larger percentage of the church in activities and make them feel part of the church family and mission. It also presents a certain level of polish and professionalism to those visiting a church for the first time. First-time visitors enjoy a level of personal attention and service quality that they experience when visiting a high-quality play or movie theater. This can make visitors feel welcomed, safe, and confident that the church they are attending takes everything very seriously.




I acknowledge that there is a lot to be said for excellence and quality in the production of a service. However, I've increasingly felt that there is too much downside to those churches that have a tractor-beam attention to professionalism. Churches and their paid staff spend so much time coordinating volunteer teams, creating training schedules, and planning events that they spend 90% of their time on things like equipping people to be greeters, working through elaborate follow-up systems, maintaining expensive lighting systems, fine-tuning sound boards, coordinating pot-lucks, etc.

It strikes me that never before have ministers and church-members been doing more and more work to less and less kingdom effect. 

Will this be the legacy of many "big production" churches? This doesn't mean that running serious hospitality systems or big worship sets is useless or the root cause of what I am identifying; but I have witnessed many churches with great big hearts think they must adopt the highest professionalism on some of the most minor aspects of the church. Going back to my doodle, I think that many visitors come to "big production" services and enjoy them. However, if they stay long enough to realize all the exhausting and systematic work that went into them being greeted and getting a first-time visitor gift bag, they receive a glimpse into their probable future: "Come to _____ Church where if you are lucky enough the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will save you and transform you into the best darn door greeter or coffee barista we've ever had! Then you can invite more people to join and serve alongside!"

I know I'm being a bit unfair and I don't mean to harp on basic hospitality at churches, because it's an important and necessary function. However, I do grow increasingly frustrated at the time and effort churches continue to put into their services while seeing less and less return. More and more I see churches being propped up by massive volunteer efforts to produce higher membership rolls and production levels, but with marginal increases in the kingdom of God. 

What do you think? Am I being to unfair (a real possibility)? Have you felt something similar? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.

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