2009 01 - How Would We Score...
The following article was seen in a church bulletin from another metropolis...
A reporter visited eighteen churches in a metropolitan area on successive Sundays to find out what these churches were really like. In every instance, he dressed neatly and stood near the front. After services, he walked slowly to the rear, returned to the front to receive his antidoron, and went back to the narthex using another aisle. He smiled at everyone and asked others for directions to specific places - the parish hall, the office, etc. He remained for coffee, if served. Using the following scale, he awarded points on the criteria listed here:
10 - for a smile from another worshiper
10 - for a greeting from someone nearby
100 - for an exchange of names
200 - for an invitation to have coffee
200 - for an invitation to return
1000 - for an introduction to another worshiper
2000 - for an invitation to meet the priest
Using this scale, the reporter discovered that eleven of the eighteen churches visited earned fewer than 100 points. Five actually received less than 20!
The conclusion: Despite the beauty of the church and its liturgical worship, the fullness of the faith of Orthodoxy, an inspirational choir and truly uplifting sermon – when a visitor finds that nobody cares whether he or she is there, they’re not likely to return!
ON A PERSONAL NOTE, HOW WOULD YOU SCORE?
One of the comments I hear every so often is, “Father, how can we get more people to come to our church?” Other questions associated with this include: “Maybe if we did more of the services in English...”; “Maybe if we had more programs for the youth...”; “Maybe if the priest goes and talks to the people that stopped coming to church...”
Could the answer be, “Maybe if we were more friendly to visitors?” Well, that might be part of the answer, but it is the wrong direction for us to look. You see, we can play “church”, or we can live and be Christians. What’s the difference? The first is a matter of going through the motions - train ourselves to respond a certain way if we see a visitor. That’s kind of like training a monkey to press a button if he wants to get a cookie...
The other way is better: letting Christ live within us and letting His Holy Spirit guide and lead us. What is the mission of our church? The mission of our parish is to keep, practice, and proclaim the Word of God and strengthen the religious and moral life of our parishioners in accordance with the Holy Traditions and Canons of the Church in its fullness as faithful members of the Body of Christ. We just added this to our parish bylaws as you remember. Do you understand the meaning of this statement? If you do, and if you make this your mission as well, then you know the answer to making our church grow. If you don’t, or if you’re not sure, then stay tuned... That means, “be present”, and “pay attention!” We will be informing your brain and inspiring your heart so that the light of Christ will burn brightly within all of us. And then if that reporter comes to visit us, maybe we can be one of the exceptions to his experience. Oh yes, we might also see more people in our pews experiencing the light of Christ in their hearts, and not just “playing church”...