At the start of a new year, as a pew-sitter, I have a few wishes for the church leaders I know and love:
1. Banish the “stand and greet your neighbor” time in the worship service. I know your intentions are good, but it’s forced, fruitless and goofy.
2. Forget everything they taught you about three-point sermons. You’re wildly successful if you can get across one point. Just one point. Then sit down.
3. Get out and spend time with real people. Schedule lunches at your members’ workplaces and schools. Listen. Get a feel for how real people live.
4. Encourage regular evaluation. Use comment cards. Ask us what we remember from last week’s sermon. Then take us seriously, and adjust.
5. Crank down the volume of the band. Allow us to actually hear the voices of the flock.
6. Burn the fill-in-the-blank sermon guides. They’re insulting, distracting and ineffective. (Can you imagine Jesus using them? Let’s see, “Feed my _______.”)
7. Show hospitality. Encourage people to enjoy a cup of coffee—during the service.
8. Let us participate. Entertain our questions—during the service. Let the real people around us tell how God is working in their lives.
9. Relax. Make some real friends. Spend more time with your family. Don’t schedule every evening with church meetings.
10. Get rid of the pews. Really.
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I found myself lost a while back when the pastor gave us a ìfill in the blankî sermon guide. I spent most of that service trying to find the answers and canít even remember what the point of the sermon was. It brought back bad memories of test anxiety in high school. The paper that they pass out does come in handy when you get bored and need to make a grocery list for after church
Good list, I agree with everything except a couple points.
5. In my experiences, the louder and more powerful the music is, the louder the congregation sings. One theory is people do not want to sing if they know all their neighbors will hear them (after all, they are singing to God not the congregation). I have received some feedback from a few people mirroring that assumption. Weíve experimented with this. One Sunday we kept the music very low and averaged 80dba, there was no energy, no power, it sounded dead and you still couldnít hear a soul sing. Because nobody was. The next Sunday we went back to our usual 90dba, and you could see the people singing.
7. We do this, along with most of your other points, I think this is just a distraction to people. Not to mention our many stains in the carpet.
I like most of these. I have to say, Iíve been a big fan of fill in the blank sheets. But, Iím a visual learner who mind will wander if Iím not actively engaged in writing, reading. Just because a church has them does it mean those that hate them have to do them The sermon in most churches really only engage one or two of the multiple intelligences. That needs to be changed in ways well beyond a sermon outline to be effective.
Come to an acappella church! Never have to worry about the band being too loud and we get enjoy the four part harmony of the whole church singing every Sunday. Just donít ask us about how loud the praise team mics should be!
Although I agree with the heart of this, I disagree with a few of the specifics. As a musical person, I would much rather hear the band than the congregation. Maybe itís because I always manage to sit in front of loud, off-key people.
I find the denigration of the fill-in-the-blank outline to be haughty. Obviously it insults your intelligence, but there are many congregants who need that help in unpacking a sermon. It helps people who are visual learners make the connection. I actually keep mine in a folder to refer back to.
Finally, the coffee thing. Personally, I enjoy that kind of casual atmosphere in church, but many people do not. I know a woman who just converted to Catholicism because she was so put off by the irreverence of evangelical churches. (She specifically mentioned the coffee drinking!)
My point is not to pick at your suggestions. I just think that we often base ideas on our own personal preferences, forgetting that not everyone shares them
Yes and Amen to #1! I hate that time! I think it also breaks the ìflowî of the service, assuming it was flowing in the first place.
Good title: from ìaî pew sitter, not all. Iíve recently been encouraged by a few Gen Yís and others that the (occaisional) note sheet was helpful, the pew greeting a good ice breaker, and beverages IN worship rather than after was offensive. On other points, Iím all in (like the one point sermon ñ amen!). Praise God for our many and various approaches and for the wisdom to discern what is locally needful.
Raised as a MO Synod Lutheran and now being what you could call a contemporary Baptist, I often miss the formality of a more traditional church service. Allowing members to speak freely and even drink coffee during the service distracts me from what I am at church to do worship our Lord. My vote would be to have this type of service separately for those who are more comfortable in this environment.
I have to wonder if the title of this entry is part of the reason behind its insulting nature. A “pew sitter” from our point of view in the pastorate, is one who, essentially, gives criticism from just that, a position in the pew. A place where criticism spreads like some damp mould in a dark place from people who have little idea of what it actually looks like to serve a church without criticising it. A pastor’s job, by the way, or at least as told to us by the “pew sitters”. I could speak to each one of your ten ideas (a couple of which actually have well thought out and valid arguments attached) but what would that accomplish? Instead I will simply say that our church fails at 6 of your ten and I am quite proud of it. I must confess my disappointment in the founder of a resource to so many of the pastors this post puts down.
Hey, it’s wishes from A pew-sitter. Of course it is one opinion of what he would like in church. I didn’t see it as insulting, but instead a challenge to think through how to be most effective with those we draw on a typical Sunday.
#2 sounds simple, but really takes work. I keep catching myself back into the old rut of cramming 3 sermons into one if I’m not careful.
#3 hard to get the time, but you are right. We aren’t real people if we are only students of the word. We become Pharisees.
#4 Comment cards don’t work, at least not for us. Better to pick 3-6 people to be your evaluators.
#5 I like it loud mostly, soft sometimes. Variety is the key for me.
#6 My wife loves the guides, i hate them. Easier to speak without them I think.
#8 that works for usÖ most of the time. How do you get the mic away from the jerk however must be addressed. it can be dangerous
When I read this I was immediately taken aback. I have known for a long time that the tone of modern religion has been to become more of a social club than a spiritual environment. This list confirms my suspicions. The entire list directs the attention toward the person instead of toward God. It appeases the human nature’s desire to be the center of attention rather than attacking the carnality that pervades our lives. The first suggestion promotes getting rid of the second commandment Jesus gave, Love your neighbor.î The second suggestions insults the minister’s intelligence. The third and fourth suggestions suggests that the ministry isn’t even real and is completely out of touch with normal people. The fifth suggestion is, again, about self-importance. We are singing to God not to each other. The sixth one insults the intelligence of others sitting in the pew. We’ve been filling in the blank since kindergarten. When did adults suddenly become stupid? If you don’t know the word that fills in Feed my _____. then you need to go home and study so you can fill in the blank. Number seven, coffee before church or coffee after church, but not during church. We need a holy rain of God’s Spirit during church. I like number eight as long as it doesn’t distract from the Word of God. Questions can’t overtake the position of the pastor. He is the spiritual leader not the follower of those he is leading. Ninth on the list, I agree and I disagree. I agree we need to spend more time with our families and friends, but what is better than being in the presence of Jesus Christ? Perhaps quality should be the goal instead of quantity. And finally, what’s with the hating on the pews? Really. I feel like this last statement is just a spewing of rejection of all traditionalism. What does it actually profit? A pew can’t save you or send you to hell. If it increases space or helps facilitate worship that’s one thing, but to just hate on the pews that’s sad. Here’s my suggestion: let’s pray more, read the Bible more, love people more, and seek the righteousness of God more in 2011. Be a real Christian. I’ve got a feeling that will bring us a greater response with God and with our world.
I agree with especially #1! Uninspired greetings from reluctant church members are not symbolic of Christ’s love, but maybe it is reflective of the church. This type of thinking and actions are not meaningful to regular attendees or comprehensible to guests.
It’s sad for me to think about how many pastors and church-goers I’ve experienced have difficulty considering how someone who is seeking Christ perceives the church.
I find this whole list so completely indicative of evangelical churches. Due to the fact that there is no liturgy, evangelical services really fall into the category of choose your own adventure. Someone earlier hit it right on the head when they said that this is all about the culture of a church. Having been raised in evangelical churches, I have found that a traditional church culture (Episcopalian) is for me. We have a huge pipe organ and sing almost every song from a hymnal. I personally find praise bands distracting and inappropriate in a church service. We also still have pews ñ wouldn’t want it any other way! Pews really force you to sit near your neighbor in a way that chairs never do. Also, the peace (greeting) in our liturgy is one full of warmth and genuine introduction to visitors. It really is all about the culture that is present at a church. The church that these wishes describe is of no interest to me and quite frankly insulting to many facets of a church service that are important to me.
this has really stirred up the pot! i love it – way to go soup!
lots of great points, and a lot of great feedback for and against each point mr. soup has made! i like it – i love it! to
those of you who feel defensive and offended or ready to kick mr. soup and his company to the curb i’d ask the following questions:
how many baptisms of new believers has your church done in the past year? how many people have confessed a sin or a deep pain in their life to someone else during the 30-45 second greeting time between songs before communion (getting rid of the 2nd commandment? in the words of hall & oates, pastor john, you’re out of touch!? how many of you pastors can confess your own sins before their congregations without being fired? no-as pastor, youíre called to hold to the status-quo and guard yourself against saying/doing anything that might hurt those who write your paycheck every month.
show me the part of the bible that shows jesusí commandment on liturgy; on sitting on wooden benches; on the volume or type of music in the service; or on services for that matter (do you think jesus would do the tradtional or contemporary service)? jesus was crucified because he didnít fit into the formula. he didnít fit the box people had stuffed god and worship into. when he showed up w/his non-traditional way of reaching out to people, hearing their stories and truly loving them- the religious leaders saw they were having their asses handed to them and did what they had to do to get rid of the nuisance and stay in power.
while jesus broke the traditional norms, he also was reverent and gave god all his worship (which was his LIFE as opposed to an hour on sunday mornings. actually it was likely on saturday evenings).
i applaud mr. soup’s courage to share this w/those who pay his bills as well as his honesty and candor here. if your church has baptized zero new believers or only infants over the past year, its time for you to break out acts 2, read it, and start a revolution in your church by mirroring the early church and living faith out instead of holding tightly to the box that keeps you and your congregants happy, looking good and out of service in time to get a good spot at the country club’s brunch.
what makes my heart heavy is the thousands of christians, churches and pastors who are no longer inclined toward the movement of the holy spirit and teachable. What encourages me (along w/the passage Marian shared) is that the holy spirit works in spite of our own earthly, sinful limitations.
if your heart is heavy, perhaps its because the holy spirit has revealed something to you in relation to why church attendance across the u.s. is dwindling while most churches and pastors could care less and also perhaps because mr. soup’s points are ringing true
let the dead bury their dead.
Just wanted to say I like a lot of your ideas from the pew.
I think it would be nice to enjoy a cup of coffee before or after service. My church has a snack bar open after service right outside of the sanctuary. At one time would have breakfast after Sunday school before morning service. I think that we should individually identify the reason we go to church. Let’s not make the sanctuary such a common place. There are so many other places we can go for coffee. One less distraction away from the Word and Praise & Worship.
I think it would be a better time to entertain questions during Bible study or Sunday school classes. Members should also know and feel comfortable asking questions after service as not to interfere with or interrupt the flow of the service. It is encouraging to hear how God is working in our and the lives of others. Most churches have devotional services, where the floor is open to share testimonies, songs, praise reports.
I also take issue with forced greetings. It is ashamed that we don’t just do this naturally with everyone. However, I do recognize that people come in all conditions with various issues and sometimes a forced acknowledgement may make someone’s day. Forced does not necessarily mean false or insincere.
I was not clear regarding regular evaluation. Is this intended for members to evaluated the Speaker? The purpose is to get the Word out there and pray that it is received and understood. Not everyone is going to get everything. Not everyone is in the same place to receive or ready to. I think it would be a dangerous thing to allow people to evaluate God, which is what they would be doing if you are speaking a God inspired message. We need to trust that we are being led by the Holy Spirit to bring forth the Word and let God evaluate us.
Feel in the blank sermons! Fortunately, have never heard one. I agree, insulting. People come to receive the Word, not play guessing games. We do not want others to feel uncomfortable , if they do not know the ________.
I enjoy hearing what others are looking for and hope that we can all learn and develop ways to reach all without compromising the Word of God.
Thanks for your input. I will share this with others.
In regards to the fill in the blank sermon outlines I would say that a number of people in my church have spoken of them being good and helping them focus. One of my relative asked me to start them in a new church I moved to. Like most things, beyond the Bible, some will find them helpful and some won’t but I would not use condemning language in speaking about them. People learn differently.
I worship and lead at a church where all 10 of these have come up in debate at some point in the last 4 years. If you you are in a mainline denomination and haven’t heard them at your church, just wait. Someone agrees with every single one of them. And, of course, someone disagrees with every single one of them as wellÖ
This puts the spotlight on the two church church those enjoying and finding God in many of the traditions, and those who find more formal liturgy and tradition a disconnect between themselves and a very personal God they desire to worship. Hard to reconcile the two, even when many families of believers have both types of people attending (and leading).
Very thought provoking thanks!
I disagree with several of these suggestions. I believe that it is vital for a church family to fellowship with other members and some would not talk to anyone if there was not a set time to do so.
I was raised to not bring anything to eat or drink into our worship center except when partaking of the Lord’s Supper. I don’t believe you should be drinking coffee during worship, before or after is fine.
I don’t believe we should limit our Pastor’s to how many points they should have. Let them preach what God has laid on their hearts to preach and if they go over the time we are supposed to get out, so what let him preach.
If a church wants to have pews let em! We should try to preserve some of the history of the church besides that, some people get too comfortable in chairs.
I do believe that there is a time for the congregation to share, but I believe that the Pastor should be led by the Lord on when that should be. I also believe that the volume of the band should be turned down in some churches.
And as far as the fill in the blanks go, if you personally don’t want to use them, then don’t. But some people who have a hard time keeping focused on the sermon find them useful. Don’t get rid of them all together.
I was not at all offended by these comments – this is a place for personal opinion to be expressed both for giving ideas and maybe gaining ideas. In the end, worship is not only for our own benefit, but also a chance for Christians to reach out to the un- or under-churched. Many of us can look around us in worship and know that the guy or gal sitting next to us, a few people from us, or even in front of or behind us are saved. But on any given Sunday, there are likely to be those in our worship services who are searching to know God. And their worship experience ñ from the time they walk in the door of the building ñ will likely determine whether they come back or not. There are things that all churches do that would make someone want to come back and then again might make another person run for the nearest exit! While not everyone will or should agree with the points in this post, they should make us stop and think about the worship experience in our own church and whether or not we are giving new Christians a craving for wanting to come back or scaring them away to never see them again! Agree or not, many of the points made in this post can make a difference in one or another church when it comes to welcoming new Christians into our church families. It is not all about what we want, but about being God’s hands and feet on earth.
As far as #3 and #9 – I wouldn’t be so sure that these weren’t pointed more at the church family than the Pastor. It wasn’t until I started working in our church office that I really realized all of the commitments a Pastor is asked to make. If the church groups had their way, the Pastor would be at a meeting ñ or even two ñ each night of the week. And while I realize that many of those meetings are part of the job, I also now have a greater understanding for all of the early morning and late or middle-of-the-night emergency calls the Pastor gets that pull him away from what is suppose to be his family time. A pastor, especially if your church only has one, is on-call 24/7/365.
My suggestion would be to not take these suggestions personally, but to step back and look at whether or not any of these thoughts could make a difference in a positive way in our own churches.
Good discussion, and you have to give the original post credit for the conversation that started. Several of the responses I read kept me thinking about context and expectations. Having worshiped the the Lord in various settings, I must admit that some would be hard to combine or reconcile to each other and I’m not sure what atmosphere is best or correct. Very formal reverent, even spare worship services and places can be profoundly meaningful and capable of making us pause to consider the Holiness and mystery of God. Yet at the same time very casual, think Bible camp, worship is also effective in provoking productive reflection, prayer, and introducing the personal/relational aspect of our Lord.
One last radical thought (for me) is if the Lord is really very concerned about these things we call worship services? Do we overemphasize them because God is so far from our thoughts the rest of the day/week? Isn’t Jesus disappointed in all these arguments about how to make these worship services better ó when his favorite style of worship service might be service that worships? Would Jesus walk into any/all kinds of worship service and tell us to get up and go out, and quit wasting our time – especially if whatever reverence we feel is quite temporary and not really forming who we are the rest of our days?
These are all great ideas if done in the right Spirit. It seems to me though that the focus of this list encourages the concept of a feel good church,î which congregations and church leaders in our culture have encouraged in an effort to reach people.
Even in Jesus day people followed Him in hopes that He would heal this sick, walk on water, and feed the multitude. But when things changed from what they expected they denied Him and screamed Crucify!
I only hope that churches understand that Christ is the focus,not us. And I hope that, through the examples of the leaders and people of the church, the pew sitters will be filled with the amazing, selfless love of Jesus and truly begin to impact the world around them, growing ever closer in their relationship with their Savior. This world is not our home. Let’s not get too comfortable here.