My wife and I have been house hunting for a while now while we wait for our current home to sell. I believe I have seen 50 houses in person and 100 more online. We know what we want and what we need. Finding the balance between those two things can be tiring. As we walk through each house, both in person and online, we evaluate the rooms, the layout, needed repairs, the neighborhood, and cost. We make charts to help us examine the pros and cons of each location. It strikes me that so many people look for a church the same way.
The last time we purchased a house there was no online option, really. If you wanted to see the house you contacted the realtor and set up a time. Today, Realtor and Zillow make it much simpler to do research and weed out so many that “sounded” good but do not fit our needs. As people are looking for a church home, many look online first. Gone are the days when the majority would be at church first. We live in a technological age. What are people able to discover about your church online? What information will they click away with when surfing? If they looked again next week would it be different? It is imperative that churches today have an online presence. Then, when they choose to attend church there is a familiarity that allows for comfort in today’s young adult market. Are you preparing to receive those who choose to attend for the first time?
House after house has been walked through, some on Sunday open house and many others with our realtor. As we walk up to the house I begin scanning the roof, the yard, and perimeter. Is it shabby? Are repairs needed immediately? As we enter the house, my wife and I split up and look around. She is looking at the fit and feel. Do the rooms look adequate? Is the kitchen enough? Is the layout comfortable or not? I look for what will need to be fixed or updated. I want to know how much will it cost me after closing.
As young parents come to your church, they are looking too. While it does not have to be flashy and new, it does need look and feel clean and nice. Young mothers are picky about dropping their babies off in a place where they feel uncomfortable. Clean, neat, well-lit rooms that have happy people at the door is so important. How long has it been since you walked through your church with “first-time” eyes? We get accustomed to how things are and forget what it is like to be a guest in our space.
At the end of the day it always come down to cost. We have looked at a lot of houses. We have turned away many because they are out of our budget. We have turned away others because the “real” cost after closing is more than we care to bear at this point. We are not opposed to hard work, but I have more time than money!
As people are looking at churches today there is a calculator, of sorts, in their psyche. They are adding up the costs of attendance and possible membership. Some are more important than others to those IN ministry, but it might be the opposite for those NOT in ministry. I have counseled several churches in regards to this area. It is important that you be true to who you are. If a church changes who they are at the core just to reach a few they likely will lose others. Your church must be true to God and who He has made her to be. Not everyone will be drawn to you. Find the balance between being who God makes you and who we have made the church. Our traditions, often, are nothing more than approved preferences. Let us be careful we are not pricing ourselves out of the market.
What a joy it will be when we can, not only sign a contract, but also close on the contract and move into our new home. That moment of satisfaction when it is final is fabulous! As families make the decision to attend and join let us celebrate those moments over and over.
Ooops…gotta go! Another house needs to be seen….