I’ve mentioned before that there was a Protestant Church here in our community (our very vibrant community) that recently closed. The congregation got too small to sustain the place and they agreed to close up shop and put the place up for sale. The thing about this particular church is that it sits on one of the busiest roads in our area, in an amazingly prominent location. And they couldn’t make it. Their sign now says it all: closed.
Sometimes when a church gets to that point its just officially labeling what they have been subtly saying for years in one way or another, probably lots of ways, “Sorry, we’re closed.” At least we’re closed to visitors and newcomers and anybody who isn’t a card carrying, life-long, dyed in the wool, never miss a Sunday member. Here’s my take on perhaps the top five ways we do it in churchworld.
#1 Confuse People
I was at a church recently but I could not figure out how to get into the place. There was absolutely no signage, and no obvious clues and at least at the time of my arrival, no one to ask either. Displaying confusing signage can be even worse: it’s frustrating and annoying and not the introduction you want to give visitors and new comers. To be honest, this is somewhat of a challenge for us, at least during the week and we probably need to again revisit the question of signage. A lack of signage is a form of saying, “we’re closed.”
#2 Don’t Greet People
If your guest or visitor does find their way in, don’t greet them, ignore them instead. Have no one greeting at the doors, on the parking lot, in the lobby. Encourage parishioners to talk to one another in their holy huddles. All great ways to silently say, “we’re closed.”
#3 Make People Uncomfortable
This is taking it one step further: stare at anybody who is obviously new, make it clear when they fail to know all the club house rules that they’re in violation. Under this category I would also add the positively motivated but ultimately bad strategy of having visitors stand up in church, as a way of acknowledging them. People who haven’t been to church in a long time do not want to be acknowledged. It makes them uncomfortable and that is another way of saying, “we’re closed.”
#4 Have Your Own Language
Churchpeople in churchworld can hardly resist this one. We make up acronyms for everything. And then we use them in homilies and announcements and we think everyone knows what we’re talking about and meanwhile visitors are clueless. Or we use names during the announcements, as asides in the message, without any explanation of who that person is. It’s all another way of saying “we’re closed.”
#5 Beat People Up
Make them feel bad about themselves, make your sermon into a sledge hammer and hammer them with it. Or take the passive aggressive approach and do it subtly: either way it makes insiders feel special and outsiders horrible. And it’s all another way of saying “we’re closed.”
For another take on this, check out ronedmondson.com. Think about what you need to do at your church to take the closed sign down, permanently.