What Makes a Church Welcoming?

What makes a church welcoming? Writing in the ADN, Chris Thompson offers some thoughts. I especially like this one:

I’ve recommended for years that multiple teams from a specific church need to visit other churches, every Sunday, to see how they are treated, and look for encouraging practices worthy of emulation. By and large, churches refuse to do this, plain and simple.

I do this every time I’m away from our congregation. (During a two week study-leave/vacation, I worshiped with three different congregations — taking lots of notes and a few pictures — in addition to the conference I attended.)

Thompson links to another article he wrote describing one of his visits. This is the sort of thing he’s talking about:

As I entered the doors someone said hi. Going up the steps to the sanctuary level, I was greeted by a man named Roy who offered his name first, a guest-friendly practice. I responded with my name. Spotting me as a guest, he invited me to sign the guest-book, indicating no one would call on me. I mentioned that was not my experience and preferred not to do so, whereupon he seamlessly shifted to offering to find me a seat even though the church was not full. …

Whenever you attend worship somewhere, let me know. I’d love to sit down with you and compare notes about your observations.

Russia’s Anti-Evangelization Law

Pastor Luke mentioned a new law (the “Yarovaya Law”) in Russia that prohibits pretty much any kind of religious activity outside church buildings. Christianity Today has an article that describes the law in some detail:

To share their faith, citizens must secure a government permit through a registered religious organization, and they cannot evangelize anywhere besides churches and other religious sites. The restrictions even apply to activity in private residences and online.

Stetzer: Church Architecture Trends

Ed Stetzer has a series of articles (part 1, part 2) on trends in church architecture:

Much ecclesiological conversation these days indicates a love-hate relationship with church and church buildings. Yet historically, many people find and follow God in sacred places and spaces.
… Buildings can be a telling of God’s story to our culture. If we are going to have buildings—which is actually neither a biblical requirement nor always helpful—then we should at least use them well, leveraging them for maximum influence needs to be part of our strategy.

It’s worth thinking about what a building does, besides keeping the snow off you when you worship. What would you try to communicate if you were designing a brand new church building? What does it communicate to people who worship there? To people who drive by it during the week?

Common areas in church buildings are one of the trends Stetzer pointed out (in part 2).

Community (People) Space. If you look closely at old modern church architecture, there isn’t much of a lobby or gathering place for people to congregate before proceeding into the worship space. Step in, grab a bulletin, step forward, and you’re in the back of the auditorium.

Community space is a designated area where people can congregate and fellowship prior to entering the auditorium. Many churches have large lobbies or foyers with standing and seating areas. Others have created full coffee areas and cafés where people can grab refreshments before and after the service. …

Connection Space. Another common area in church buildings today, regardless of the kind of church, is a connection space. A connection space is a designated area where people can find information about the church. This could range from a Welcome Desk for first time guests to larger areas that include information on small groups, children/youth ministries, and mission opportunities. For instance, North Point Community Church’s newest campus (Woodstock City Church) created “The Gallery,” which is a nicely designed area for guests looking for more information about the church.

Skin in the Game

Here is another very helpful message from this past Sunday that we found online. Andy Stanley had a candid conversation with two African Americans to help bridge the divide between how events like those this past week in Minneapolis, Louisiana, and Dallas are perceived by the black minority and the white majority in our culture. Stay to the end because there’s an application that everyone can do. The message can’t be embedded, so follow this link.

Notes on 1 Corinthians 1, Week 2

In Search of Sanctuary: a lengthy profile of a UCC congregation facing decline. (The Boston Globe) An accompanying Big Picture feature here has some incredible pictures.

But the conflicts continued, exposing a divide between people who had been there for decades and more recent arrivals. In 2005, the church council advised the clergy couple to begin searching for a new church. They were already looking.

After they left, the infighting metastasized. An interim minister and associate minister clashed about how to lead the church forward. The congregation split into factions. Some people stopped speaking to one another, avoided one another’s eyes at coffee hour, even the passing of the peace.

Matt Marino discusses what it means to be “spiritual but not religious” at his blog The Gospel Side.

I recently walked the final leg of the El Camino de Santiago in Spain. Before leaving I was in a coffee house having a conversation about the trip. A guy behind me asked, “Why Spain?” My response, “It’s a spiritual thing.” Today a lot of people, particularly millennials, care about “spirituality.” 250,000 people walked The Camino in 2015. More will this year.

…Too often the evangelical church has dropped surrender for wish-fulfillment. Conservative churches have often settled for a message of self-help … diminishing God to one who exists to meet our desires. While the conservative church has lowered God, the progressive church, on the other hand, has tended to elevate humanity … purging our documents of the words of surrender: Father, king, Lord…if a symbol might be deemed “oppressive” or “problematic,” it is not to be understood in its’ redeemed context, but struck from our hymnals, prayer books, and bibles. But God is not known either by shrinking him or elevating us.

In The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis imagines two demons discussing how to use conflict within the church to their advantage:

I warned you before that if your patient can’t be kept out of the Church, he ought at least to be violently attached to some party within it. I don’t mean on really doctrinal issues; about those, the more lukewarm he is the better. … And all the purely indifferent things-candles and clothes and what not-are an admirable ground for our activities. We have quite removed from men’s minds what that pestilent fellow Paul used to teach about food and other unessentials-namely, that the human without scruples should always give in to the human with scruples.

Finally, in The Guardian, an article about how (of all things) McDonald’s is “the glue that holds communities together.”

Walk into any McDonald’s in the morning and you will find a group of mostly retired people clustering in a corner, drinking coffee, eating and talking. They are drawn to the McDonald’s because it has inexpensive good coffee, clean bathrooms, space to sprawl. Unlike community centers, it is also free of bureaucracy.

…Most importantly though, McDonald’s provide many with the chance to make real and valuable connections. When faced with the greatest challenges, with a personal loss, wealthier Americans turn to expensive therapists, others without the resources or the availability, turn to each other.