by Rob Cizek
One of a leader’s greatest responsibilities is to keep an eye on the culture in which they serve, and to make adjustments accordingly. Here are three increasingly negative attitudes about the church today . . . and what we can do to change them:
#3. I DON’T HAVE TIME FOR CHURCH BECAUSE OF KIDS SPORTS
Church leaders should recognize the degree to which youth sports are impacting families. Increased college costs raise hopes for athletic scholarships. For-profit travel teams pressure kids to specialize and play year round. The resulting high demand for athletic facilities mean fields must be open Sunday mornings to accommodate everyone (keeping families out of church).
What we can do: Have frank discussions with kids and parents about the proper role of athletics in life. The truth is that the vast majority of students will never receive an athletic scholarship. The money spent on high school travel teams and specialized coaching might be better saved for college tuition. Students who specialize in a sport run the risk of burning out midway through high school, leaving them with a negative outlook on athletics (and perhaps fitness in general).
The church can have a voice in teaching parents and students about a balanced approach to life. The physical, spiritual, mental and social realms each deserve our attention. Every kid should have a chance to play team and individual sports for exercise, skills and social lessons. However this can be achieved with seasonal sports programs, which leave margin for other things during the rest of the year. As the church we should advocate that time with God is as important as time on the field or in the classroom. We get what we expect from people.
We can also consider more strategic solutions . . . like holding services at alternative times. If kids sports are taking away Sunday mornings from church, perhaps church can claim other time periods. Real Life Ministries, a large church in Idaho, noticed its members missing Sunday services due to weekend activities. It had great success solving this problem by starting a Thursday night service.
#2. I HAVE TO BE PERFECT TO GO TO CHURCH
Today’s culture is all about appearances. Our social media accounts show only our best moments. Relentless advertising tells us that if we want to belong we need the newest phone and to drive the latest car. If people’s worlds are already full of fake perfection, why would we want it as part of church?
Traditionally, church has been about “putting on your Sunday best.” You shine up your car, your family and put on a fake smile for a couple of hours each week. Change is needed if this is still part of our church culture.
What we can do: Authentic church experiences start with us as leaders. Are we willing to be real with our staff, volunteers and members? Will we have someone over to our house while there are dishes in the sink? If so, our members may let people in when their homes are less than perfect. Will we share an instructive-but-not-so-flattering story about ourselves? If so, we create safety for our people to do the same. Fake church dies when leaders get real.
#1. THE CHURCH ONLY WANTS MY MONEY
Don’t discount someone if you hear them say this. Yes, it may mean the person lacks maturity and generosity. But people have seen many examples of greedy, unscrupulous preachers on TV. They’ve been to churches that over-emphasized giving in seasons of building campaigns or tough financial times. In short, this attitude problem may have been started by people claiming to do good in the name of the church.
What we can do: Talk about money, don’t just ask for it. Let people know what’s in your church budget and your monthly need. Tell them about the controls in place to ensure gifts are handled responsibly. Teach them about the spiritual discipline of tithing. Hold classes like Financial Peace University to educate people about personal finance. Provide people the option to give electronically. Reduce the number of special “asks” to just one or two a year. In short, be upfront and honest. Educate and treat people like grownups in matters of finance.
Whether we like them or not, negative attitudes about church are out there. Let’s acknowledge them and use our platform to set the record straight.
Rob Cizek is Executive Pastor at Northshore Christian Church, a non-denominational church of 1,500 and Christian academy of 1,000 in the Seattle area. He oversees daily operation of the organization and its ministries. He also organizes a networking group for executive pastors in the Puget Sound area. Rob, his wife, Janice, and two children live in Everett, WA. Rob regularly posts resources for church leaders on RobCizek.com and Twitter at: twitter.com/robcizek.