Sometimes we have blind spots in our church communication.
For instance, I recently realized my church was ignoring a potential source of visitors: public transit users.
We’re a neighborhood church in a major metro area located on a bus line. A new rapid transit route goes right past the church.
But our website’s directions page said absolutely nothing about taking the bus to church. We didn’t mention the routes or how close the bus stops were.
A simple website revision has made it easier for people to take the bus, has maybe even caused them to think about it. I can’t say hordes of people have started taking the bus to our church, but it’s one tiny example of how a blind spot can keep us from welcoming and accommodating guests.
More Church Blind Spots
What other blind spots do our churches suffer from?
- There’s plentiful parking, but bike riders have to lash their bikes to signs or trees. How about adding a bike rack?
- The growth of digital giving is great, whether it’s mobile or online. But we shouldn’t leave others out. Cash should be an option, not second rate.
- A seemingly innocent statement like, “Stand with me and sing,” can leave a sour taste for those in wheelchairs or who are otherwise unable to stand.
- Speaking of wheelchairs, how easy is it for someone with mobility issues to get from your church parking lot to the pews? Are sidewalk ramps easy to navigate or do people face an insurmountable curb? And once they get inside, do stairs block the way? Is there an easily accessible seating area?
- Church diversity has been an important topic lately, but the discussion often focuses on the congregation or the leadership. You should also consider your marketing or education materials. A church that claims to be diverse but features all white children in Sunday School handouts misses the mark.
- Blind spots multiply when it comes to kids. We’ve talked before about how churches need to welcome children.
- Women’s ministry events that happen during the day may appeal to stay-at-home moms, but can cause working single professionals and mothers to feel ignored and neglected.
- Likewise, men’s ministries should be wary of playing to stereotypes. I once attended a men’s ministry event that featured clips from Gladiator with Russell Crowe, but not every guy relates to the manly warrior image.
- A singles ministry should also avoid the matchmaking service stereotype. Ministries to specific groups are good, but we should be vigilant to not surrender to stereotypes. When we do, we miss the people who actually show up.
- Election season can be a major blind spot for churches (which is why we endorse quitting politics). Believe it or not, your entire congregation is not voting for the same candidate. You likely have people on both sides of the political divide (and many caught in the middle).
- Sometimes we’re eager to kill the print bulletin or ditch the old CD (or even cassette tape). Moving forward and making progress is great, but offering “backwards compatibility” makes sure everyone feels, and is, included.
Pleasing Everyone Isn’t the Point
Blind spots aren’t about making everyone happy. We simply can’t do that. A difference exists between the person complaining about the color of the carpet and an individual unable to get their wheelchair in the door.
But sometimes we plow forward in the name of efficiency or effectiveness and leave people behind. We become so focused on the way we do things that we forget to consider other perspectives and emotions. We get stuck in our heads and miss simple ways to welcome, accommodate, and love our neighbors.
Jesus talks about leaving the 99 sheep to find the lost one. That isn’t exactly an efficient use of resources. Or, think about the woman who pours expensive perfume on Jesus’ feet—an extravagant waste that could have been used to feed the poor (as pointed out by model disciple Judas).
I think, out of all places, the church should be known for extravagant welcome and inefficient love. There’s nothing practical about the love of Jesus.
Welcoming Every One
I’ll leave you with a picture: At my church, the congregation moves to the front of the sanctuary to receive communion. Occasionally, some people can’t come to the front, for whatever reason. When that happens, our priest and the chalice bearer come and offer bread and wine to the parishioner. I imagine it’s a case-by-case situation—some people may not appreciate the extra attention.
But I love that moment—the church accommodating all its members. How can your church make room for a guest?
Check out Unwelcome: 50 Ways Churches Drive Away First-Time Visitors for more blind spots that may be keeping people from feeling welcome in your church.Image: Jennifer Boyer (Creative Commons)