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Nov 24

The Video: The Culture Crime

Nov 24
Nov 24

In the video, there were a few points made about culture. Not just the style of things, which I look forward to writing on soon, but the often unidentified aspects of culture that are less obvious—the way greeters greet, the way ministers minister, the way ushers "ush", and the way church-goers go—all of it is a reflection of a church's culture. Some churches have a very outgoing culture—others seem to be in a completely different world of their own.

I’m not just talking about our need to train greeters on how to greet as much as I’m suggesting that there is a way of "being" that each individual church has created—whether it’s realized or not. That culture can be completely magnetic to outsiders, or completely repellant. The irony is, whether good or bad, it’s usually consistent throughout—or at least is consistently inconsistent. Many times, when you see a greeter fail on his/her job, it has more to do with church culture than it does poor training.

For some of the church leaders out there, I’m about to paint a picture about a proactive culture that you might deem farfetched, but here goes...

Imagine being ahead of the game. Your volunteer team is trained and comes ready. The sermon and music was nailed long before Sunday. In addition, as a leader, you are thinking and praying for souls. You are thinking about people and how you‘re going to connect with them at every spiritual level [see my posts on the stadium]. You’re thinking about visitors—how you want to see them come to Christ. When you arrive before service, your pre-game routine is simply to pat the team members on the back and remind them of what the trophy looks like—touched lives. You encourage your team that people today will be coming and need to see their smiles as God prepares their hearts. You are thinking more about hitting home runs [see the stadium] and not so much about the details. As a result, you’ve spent what time you do have with your support team—encouraging them with enthusiasm. You are outward focused. You put your teammates at ease by allowing them to focus on their task—reminding them of the end result.

This culture is a proactive one. It’s proactively outward focused. It’s ahead of the game and it’s driven by a clear purpose. It exists consistently in about 5% of churches. The other 95% of churches are reactionary: struggling with the lack of resources, the missing team members, and the last-minute changes. In the reactionary world, it’s very unlikely that every one is thinking outside themselves and about others—specifically visitors. No church will ever be proactive all the time. Some weeks, things will happen and the reactive impulses will reign. But, the end result of weeks and weeks of reactivity is that after a while, we stop forgetting about the outside world all together. After a while, we are no longer building our efforts around the visitor experience and we lose the correlation between our actions and growth. If we go too far, we can even create a counter-culture, so fixated on ourselves that we've lost track of what non-"regulars" are going through or needing.

The culture crime of this video is not just the missed greeter opportunity—it’s the disconnection that kept every other "regular attendee" and worker in the video from thinking first and foremost of others—remembering the inside jokes and the punch lines, but forgetting the true treasure in their midst. Just this past week I experienced a rapidly growing church that was so outward focused, it was palpable. Every volunteer was attentive to me as a guest, and was adding to the experience of the well-executed service. I was amazed. I then felt the same attention given by those I sat next to. It was a pro-active culture—one where they were thinking about me long before I arrived. What "secret sauce" did this mystery church have? It wasn't their brochures. It was their culture. It starts today in your church. Go build it.

© Richard L. Reising


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I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.



Posted on Tue, Nov 25, 2008 @ 8:24 PM CST


Excellent points, especially about being more prepared in advance so you can pay attention to focusing on visitors, etc.

A question that I continue to have, though, is about being welcoming to visitors. As the video showed (quite accurately, I think), visitors can feel very awkward if they're singled-out or even paid too much attention to. Shouldn't part of "being welcoming" allow for passivity?

Posted on Tue, Dec 2, 2008 @ 8:07 AM CST


I agree with Kevin. At 31 years of age and as a relatively new follower of Christ (8 months), I spent about a year and a half before just church hopping and being invisible and listening to different sermons on Sundays. Then the day God wanted to approach me, he sent someone to talk to me at just the right time and I unloaded all my thoughts and burdens. I really do believe that most secular people want to be left alone when they visit, but Richard is also right for volunteers to be prepared (the old adage of success being where preparation and opportunity meet applies) and aware of those who visit. I almost feel that most of the greeter's job is simply saying "Good Morning" and observing the body language of people and to "listen" if God wants you to approach.

Posted on Fri, Dec 5, 2008 @ 9:36 PM CST


This web-site came to me via the video. As a pastor I am always looking for ways to inprove our Hospitality Ministry and still we do not retain what I would like. I did get the idea from reading this, of meeting with my greeters and ushers before every service. I am there already and I meet with my worship director and up-front people but I have neglected to inspire the others.
I have been working on the culture/enviroment/relationships now for about 6 months and it seems to be improving. Thank you for the tip and if there is anything you feel that can help me, feel free to e-mail me.
Pastor Danny

Posted on Fri, Jan 23, 2009 @ 5:40 PM CST

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