All you have to do is drive around the community and take a look at what many churches are advertising on their front lawns. Even easier, check out their web sites. This time of year you’ll find pumpkin patches, crop mazes, haunted houses, “trunk or treat” events, and hay rides. And soon we’ll be treated to Christmas Craft Fairs, Living Nativities, Christmas Concerts, and, inevitably, Christmas Tree Sales.
Churches go through a lot of effort to host these events in the hope of raising money and connecting with their community, which, theoretically, will bring new members. In fact, with rare exceptions, most of these events are not particularly successful fundraisers, and the connection they’re making to their communities is a completely consumer-driven, entirely superficial exchange.
How do I know? We tried to “event” our way to church health and growth and it got us nowhere, except fed-up and frustrated.
To move on to more mature (and successful) efforts we had to honestly ask ourselves the following questions:
- If we weren’t already doing these events, would we now initiate them?
- Are we only doing these events because every other church is doing them?
- Are we only doing this because we’ve always done it, and there are parishioners who are 100% invested in it and would be offended if we took it away from them?
- Even if hundreds show up, will this event really connect more people to the Christ and his Church, or might there be a better investment of time and resources?
- What are we not doing that perhaps we should be doing, because we’re doing these events?
Maybe your Trunk or Treat event is radically different and hugely impactful for the Kingdom, and if so, you should write a “How To” Guide.
But if your experience is anything like ours, you’re trying to “event” your church to health and growth.
Why do churches take this approach?
Simple, its easier and less painful than making the necessary changes to their worship & music, discipleship & outreach strategies, and church environments that would lead to health and growth.
All that involves hard work and change. People don’t like change, they like doing church like they’ve always done church. Introduce change into your culture, like dropping an event, and people will get upset and criticize and complain, and call you names and then leave (and take their money with them).
So, since churches don’t want to face that, they distract themselves with events. After the Christmas decorations come down they’re on to planning for the Super Bowl Party, Valentine’s Day Dance, St. Patrick’s Day Dinner, the Easter Egg Hunt, the Spring Fashion Show, the Summer Vacation Bible School, the Men’s Golf Tournament, and Fireworks on the Fourth.
They knock themselves out, they stay super busy. And they label all their efforts “outreach” or “evangelization.” The heavy lifting and hard work of actually developing an evangelization strategy, the incredible discipline of actually sticking with it, the resolve and, frankly, the courage to demand your church culture change to serve your strategy is entirely avoided.
Flipping pancakes with Santa is just so much easier.
For another take on this check out tonymorganlive.com