Is there such a thing as a Christian vibe? Most places seem to have one, and we can pick up on it within moments of being there. Churches are no different of course, with the one exception that few in church land seem to take notice of their own. The visitor then is left to feel out the environment for themselves, and we have to admit that their conclusions are not always that positive.
Being Honest About Your Vibe
The building does not always help our cause either. I know people who stay away from the most beautiful communities because their building has a more gothic style to it, and well, that is just creepy. I know others who will not even give a community a chance because they meet in a ‘basement church’ (which is a church built above ground that feels like it is beneath the earth all the same). The building matters, especially to those on the fringe, and it is about time this is reflected in the architecture.
By and large though the most important vibe comes from the community, the people in the building, and this can easily be picked up by the visitor. If the building doesn’t turn them away, then this impression can be what makes or breaks a person’s commitment to coming back. I still recall quite vividly an encounter I had on Easter Sunday. After the service a gentleman approached me to say, in quite serious fashion, that we needed to talk about how unwelcoming this church was. And even though we have not had that conversation, it left me with an important question: if the vibe one gets from our places of worship is important, then why aren’t we addressing it?
Be Intentional About Your Message
Businesses do this all the time, and as we look around, many of our brothers and sisters in different Christian denominations are doing the same. They are being intentional about what message their community is sending to the outsider. They constantly ask themselves, ‘what would a person experience if they came here for the first time?’ And then they work on forming the environment and community until the message is clear, consistent and in line with their mission. The message does not come in spurts either. Whether it is Christmas or low season the underlying message about who we are and why we are here permeates all that they do.
This is not about making a sales pitch, but it is about helping people to see Christianity through the right lens. And if the first lens they have is marred by greeters who essentially ignore their presence, or a door that closes as they approach, then the odds are not in our favour.
We could make great strides in the renewal of our parishes and the evangelization of our neighbourhoods if we just took some simple steps in this direction. Your church gives off a vibe, so turn it into a message.