Well, I’ve learned how to start a good discussion at Crestwood. First, have someone evaluate your church as a first-time visitor. Next, write up a summary of their report and publish it in the Crest. Third, sit back and wait for the comments! I had a number of folks respond passionately to my article last week that gave a synopsis of a visitor’s report on Crestwood. The responses spanned the range from outrage to sympathy, from “That’s not true!” to “Yeah, I’ve experienced that, as well.” I really appreciate all the great conversation that has taken place since that article ran.
Several people have concluded their thoughts with, “What do YOU think, Kory?” I’m hesitant to answer that question because I have a different vantage point – literally and figuratively – on Sunday mornings. I don’t have the benefit of being a congregant in the pews, so my experience of our congregational worship on Sunday morning won’t be normative. That being said, I’m glad to offer some feedback on the comments about Sunday morning. Let me know if these resonate with you or if you think I’m way off base.
The point I agreed with the most was about the lack of good signage at Crestwood. Our physical facility is an absolute blessing. We have an enormous amount of space in which to do ministry and into which we can invite the community. But we also have the challenge of clearly communicating how to get around. We have two distinct parking lots, and inevitably people go to the Children’s Wing lot while looking for the Mission Center and vice versa. I preached a few months ago on the number of front doors here at Crestwood, which makes it difficult to help people find their destination. At least once a week someone will wander into the church office, looking for some other part of the building. In short, I hope to work with the appropriate committees to improve our signage so that guests can know where they’re going.
I found the comment about the cars in the parking lot signifying the affluence of the congregation to be very interesting, as did others. At first, I disagreed pretty strongly. Obviously this person hasn’t parked next to the pastor’s Toyota Matrix! But then a church member said she’d heard her relatives say the same thing when they visit Crestwood. That begs this question: Can a church’s personality be judged by the cars they drive, the clothes they wear or the size of their campus? What other characteristics go along with the designation of an “affluent congregation?” I would think it means the church is snobby, stuck-up, exclusive. That’s not how I’ve experienced Crestwood at all. But if people are getting a certain image of our church from exterior clues, then we have to work even harder to overcome that stereotype when they get in the building.
The comment that drew the biggest reaction was this one: “The overall feeling of the service, however, was boring. Everyone was very bored-looking. No smiling, no interaction with sermon through note-taking or nodding, no one used their Bibles, etc.” Some people responded as if I’d just kicked their puppy; others felt relieved that someone else felt the way they did in worship. From where I stand on Sunday, I don’t see the ennui visitor observed, but that doesn’t mean it’s not true.
So what do we do about it? Worship is and will always be a work in progress. I’m looking forward to the input of additional staff members to help Colette and me continue enhancing our worship experience. But I will also say that you get out of worship what you put into it. If you come with a worshipful attitude (even if you’re tired), sing with gusto (even if you don’t like the songs), listen with focus (even if you’re distracted) and greet others with a smile (even if you don’t like them), it will change how you experience worship. Worship is a work in progress – and so are we! Let’s keep working on being the church God is calling us to be.