I guess it's been a while since I had anything to say, but last week I led a trip where we took about 20 leaders and staff from my church, accompanied by several pastors and leaders from other churches, to the Catalyst One Day conference held at the main campus of LCBC Church in Manheim, PA. The featured speakers were Andy Stanley and Craig Groeschel, leading us on the topic of "Creating a Healthy Church Culture."
In a few days I'll report on the debriefing of my church officers, but my main goal was not the content knowledge imparted by the conference; my main goal for the day was to expose my leaders to the setting of a highly successful church. Let's face it: few, if any, Presbyterian (PCUSA) churches are top-notch. My church is doing well by PCUSA standards; we're growing in attendance, giving, and church school. We've gone from being the 7th-largest church in our presbytery (about 50 churches) to second. I think we're the best church within a 20-minute drive. And the problem is that my leaders believe this as well.
This is a problem because we're not competing against other churches. In Andy Stanley's latest book, Deep and Wide, Andy tells the story of the creation of North Point Community Church. He simply says this: "When we launched North Point, every other church in Atlanta was competing for the churched people market. We decided to get into the unchurched people market."
That's the core of the issue: we have to understand that we are competing for the attention of the unchurched. Yes, we have to strive for quality, but we also have to choose how we ascertain our level of quality. If we only measure ourselves against churches, then being the best church just means that we can attract members of other churches. As a church, our competition isn't other churches (hey, we're on the same team) - our competition is leisurely brunches, kids' soccer, a trip to the gym, a picnic in the park. If you can't imagine why an unchurched person would choose your worship over those activities, then you won't be able to attract them.
But these wildly successful churches have figured it out. They have worship bands that are rock concert-quality; coffee as good as Starbucks; parking as plentiful as the mall; preachers who could hold your attention if they were reading from the phone book. Their nurseries make you feel that your child is as secure as a gold bar in Fort Knox.
I needed my leaders to experience the next level, because our target is the unchurched. I needed my leaders to see that we have to raise our game. Being a good church among churches is simply not good enough. It's harder to compete against the best that the world has to offer. But we have to do it. We have to succeed at it. Because attracting the unchurched is what grows the kingdom.
I think the conference accomplished the goal. Several of my key leaders are expressing that they understand that we need to step it up. Once we have the will, discerning the way will be easier.