My dad and I shop in different ways. While we’re both Apple kind of guys, where we buy those slick looking devices differs. You see, even though we live in different states, we share something about our locations. For both of us Best Buy is the closest electrics retailer and the nearest Apple Store is about 30 minutes away. Yet when we are looking to buy the latest Apple gadget or accessory, I make the drive to the Apple Store and he ends up walking through the doors underneath the big, yellow Best Buy price tag.
I’m not 100% sure why this happens. I know I like the atmosphere, expertise and feel of being in an Apple Store. My dad chats with the blue shirts at Best Buy, but always calls me to see if he got the right advice. I think he cares less about the shopping experience and more about the convenience of getting the devise in his hands quickly.
Whatever the reason for our shopping choices, this small example shows that different people have different tastes.
As churches, we need to remember that. We may be doing everything right in terms of good communication, great Sunday worship and connecting people with the community, yet personal preference may keep someone from making a first (or return) visit to your church. You may be doing the best contemporary worship music in town, but that visitor might be looking for something more traditional. It’s the classic relationship line, “It’s not you, it’s me.”
So if we know that people’s preferences play a role in determining where they go to church, there are a few things I think we should always keep in mind as communicators.
Don’t try to be something you’re not. You are not the church down the street. You can do an average job trying to be the church you aren’t or you can do a great job at being the church you are. God has gifted congregations with certain strengths. Use them.
Do the best with the resources you have. It’s easy to drool over the things other churches are doing, especially in the communications realm. They might have a slicker website or better equipment. But lusting after another church leads to you ignoring what you already have in front of you.
For the past several months, I’ve been going to a small church near my home. While it’s far smaller than churches I’ve gone to in the past, I really appreciate that they don’t let their size get them down. From a tech standpoint, they don’t have a lot of fancy lighting rigs, but they adjust the normal lights throughout a worship service to change the mood. They use best practices in communications by including lots of visuals and less text in the weekly bulletin. Are they perfect? No. Are they trying hard to be best they can with the resources they have? Absolutely.
It’s better to work with other churches than compete with them. Instead of copying the church down the street, what if you tried to partner with them? Are there strengths you have that they don’t—and vice versa? God has uniquely blessed and equipped churches in different ways, so think of the impact we could have working together. I know this is easier to say than to do. But I can envision a more impactful church when we quit wasting time being depressed about what we don’t have, and start working together to grow what we do have. Nothing communicates God’s love better than seeing the entire church in action—together!
The urge of wanting what other churches have is especially strong this time of year. We see the cool graphics and events someone else is doing for Christmas and wish we could do the same thing. Fight that. Your church will have an impact on someone this Christmas. Make the most of that opportunity.