One hundred years ago the local church was the centerpiece of many communities which meant that the gathering on Sunday morning was one of the most revered hours (or 3 for Pentecostals) of the week. It inherently had a very high value in people’s lives. Fast forward to today and we can see that the Sunday morning “Time & Place Gathering” is quickly losing value in people’s lives.
The industrialization of the world has been reflected in the church with a highly scaleable and repeatable experience that is today’s church service: Some songs, maybe a video clip, someone talks and we drop a few bucks in the plate. Rinse. Repeat.
People have hired a hit and run experience to augment life with a low grade spiritual experience that is convenient first and foremost. Our idea of what is convenient has significantly changed has it not? All of a sudden driving the mile and a half to church to sit through boring songs and 40 minutes of a talking head is less than convenient…it’s downright hard.
The Church started out as a tight knit community that was all up in each other’s lives on a daily basis and relationships, based around Christ, were the centerpiece of the community not a pulpit.
We’ve lost the plot and we are only now just seeing it. When the church was the main, if not only, place to get spiritual content then it garnered enough energy that relationships and spiritual growth could happen. We have always said that this is the main thing but in reality our actions have been saying that the Sunday morning gathering is the main thing, community and spiritual growth were just a side effect. Now that the “Time and Place Gathering” is losing it’s value, the side effects it was creating are falling off considerably.
All this has me excited!
The tools of the web, new media and social media have given us the opportunity to transition from churches that control content and deliver it on narrow channels (Sunday morning); to vibrant community where everyone has a voice and relationships and spiritual growth can become the centerpiece once again.
The first step in this journey is to embrace this reality and stop wasting resources on trying to save the “Time and Place Gathering”, it’s not going away any time soon, it simply has less value.
The next step is rethink the priorities of your church and consider how you create content and experiences. Every team I consult with is stuck in a rut that puts too high of a value on Sunday morning and too high of a value on the current components of Sunday morning: Talking head teaching, musical corporate worship etc. Think of the last time your team created a gathering that wasn’t on Sunday morning; how quickly did musical worship get wedged into the equation? We have a hard time fathoming getting together as a Christian community without singing songs and listening to a talking head.
Lastly, engage your people with the tools that are at your finger tips. The tools of social media have very little ROI when the point of measure is attendance and giving, but what’s the ROI on a real relationship? If you approach new media with the intent of getting more people to your “Time and Place Gathering” then you will quickly begin to see it’s not strategic. However, if you learn to meet the needs that used to be met by that gathering, using new media as part of that plan, you will quickly see life change and vibrant community develop.
We are in the very early years of this new reality, but the time is now to get in the game.
Vince Marrotte is a Christ Follower, Husband and Father. He serves as the Internet Pastor at Gateway Church in Austin Texas. He recently released an ebook, Context and Voice, that is available for download here. Click here to follow him on Twitter. Or here to read his blog.