In her landmark church communications book Less Clutter, Less Noise: Beyond Bulletins, Brochures and Bake Sales, Kem Meyer of Granger Community Church writes:
“In theory, more choices may lead people to find exactly what they want. But, research shows people actually feel worse. Too much choice leads to one of three results: regret, shutdown or paralysis.”
And this is what contemporary churches often give their people:
- Choices between “traditional,” and “contemporary” worship services.
- Sometimes even a third choice, usually labeled something like “mosaic,” or “ancient-future.”
- “Ministry Fair” styled choices between many affinity-based small groups.
- Church bulletins and websites overloaded with information, some of which isn’t even related to the church
- So many competing micro messages that the main message and vision of the church gets lost
In The Paradox Of Choice: Why Less Is More (How The Culture Of Abundance Robs Us Of Satisfaction), Barry Schwartz elaborates on the problem of too much freedom in the Western world. He provides case studies that back this thesis:
“A large array of options may discourage consumers because it forces an increase in the effort that goes into making a decision. So consumers decide not to decide, and don’t buy the product. Or if they do, the effort that the decision requires detracts from the enjoyment derived from the results. Also, a large array of options may diminish the attractiveness of what people actually choose, the reason being that thinking about the attractions of some of the unchosen options detracts from the pleasure derived from the chosen one.”
If you are old enough to remember, say, 1985, think about how many more choices you have today when you walk into a store to buy:
- Blue jeans
- Video games and gaming systems
- Soft drinks
and think about how many more music albums you can buy (or even download for free) online, in every imaginable genre.
Churches face an additional problem: we don’t want people to be consumers of a product at all, but redeemed worshipers of Christ. Yet the choices we offer and the way we structure and display those choices often looks like consumerism, and leads to attendees who act like consumers.
At Sojourn we fight against this by focusing on two things above all others:
- Sojourn Gathered, our Sunday worship service
- Community Groups – small groups that meet weekly in homes throughout the city, open to all (single/married, young/old, parents/non-parents, blue collar/white collar).
We do have many ministries. We list their activities on one common Google calendar, embedded in our church website. We don’t give every ministry event the same priority, in terms of Sunday announcements, web banners, posters and other means of communication. We focus on events that affect the majority of the congregation.
Points To Ponder:
What can your church do to counter this trend? How can you offer opportunities to serve and to go deeper into God’s Word without feeding into consumer impulses or creating “ministry silos” that compete with each other for volunteers, attendees and resources?
Photo by Steven Depolo, used via Creative Commons license
Thank you for reading our post. You can download our 4-song worship album “The Whole Big Story” for free in the top-right sidebar of this website. We’ve also heard from many churches who have enjoyed leading these songs in worship services. If you’d like to do so, download free chord sheets from the “Gilles Music” tab at the top of this page. And you can subscribe to this blog for free by clicking the RSS icon or signing up via email in the right-hand sidebar.
– Bobby & Kristen
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