June 15, 2016

Who are you called to serve and how will you add value to their lives

A few days ago, I mentioned that if congregations hope to compete with all the other demands on a 21st century household, than they have to clearly add value to the lives of those attending–or they hope to attend.

Last Sunday, I visited a church that's doing that. St. Philip's in Laurel, MD has decided that families matter. This doesn't mean that they have to change everything that they do. Their worship is much what it has always been. Their building looks the way it did a generation ago. But they've gone to great lengths to ensure that families know that they are welcome there. They clearly want families to feel as though participating in this faith community adds something to their lives.

The first sign of this was the "Church To Go" packets I noticed in their parish hall. These packets had prayers, coloring pages, candy. The genius of these packets is that they empower (and train) parents as much as the kids. And they're fun!

Like I said, their worship is similar to what you would experience at most Episcopal churches. Yet, with something different. Rather than get the stink eye from the old lady in the pew in front of you when Junior can't sit still, instead you'll find welcoming people that are glad you're there–you and the noises of your children. You'll also find a card in the back of the pew that explains how families can best engage in traditional worship. Genius!

Lastly, this congregation has gone to lengths to ensure that spaces for kids are spaces kids would want to be in. In other words, they don't feel like classrooms. They feel like playrooms–or hangout spaces for teens.  (Full disclosure: my wife, Brooke helped redecorate those spaces.) Nonetheless, it's amazing what a few gallons of paint and swapping out a few furniture pieces can do for the traditional church basement.

Determine who will say 'yes' to your ministry. Stop worrying about who's going to say 'no.' Then decide how you're going to add value to the lives of those you're called to serve and don't stop trying until you find what works for you and the scale of your ministry.

That's what St. Philip's did and it works.