By Lindsey VanSparrentak, Crosswalk.com
One of my favorite parts of church is that it has events where I can meet with a like-minded group of people. Some of these events help me grow in my faith, some give me an opportunity to serve my neighbors, and some just give me food and fellowship I can savor.
But there are times I find myself thinking “Man, this is way outdated!” as I participate in church activities, whether it’s in the service or during the week.
I say, “No more!” It’s time to take a stand.
Let’s get rid of the events that are holding our church back from growing. Let’s find the events that are thriving and add fuel to the proverbial fire. Let’s get rid of the old and bring in the new, and let’s start today. Here are 10 church activities that you need to consider dumping now:
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1. Events That Are Grandfathered In
Are you still doing a Christmas luncheon just because Betsy Ross was the committee chair of the inaugural event, even though the pastor’s wife is the only person to attend (and even she doesn’t want to be there)?
Okay, I admit that’s probably a bit of an exaggeration. But there are so many churches that cling onto declining (and already dead) activities. Why? Because it’s “always been something we do”.
Here’s the problem, though: When we refuse to cut back the events that are withering, we’re taking time and resources away from activities and ministries that are thriving.
But don’t just go and cut anything that started before the turn of the century. Something that was popular 10, 50, even 100 years ago, can still be a hit today! You should always be seeking and listening to feedback and make decisions accordingly.
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2. Offering Prayer at the Front of the Sanctuary
While wrapping up the service, your pastor motions for the prayer team to come forward as he informs the congregation that these people standing in front of the entire church are willing to pray with anyone.
See how this might deter someone? It requires a person to build up the courage to walk all the way up to the front of the church, where everyone can see. That’s not exactly the best idea for something as personal as prayer.
So let’s flip the script: Instead of people walking up to the front of the church, ask people who need prayer to remain seated. Have your prayer team members seek them out and pray inconspicuously.
If this isn’t possible due to close service times, you can at least give the person in need a little more privacy by creating rooms in the church where people can pray, keeping personal matters personal.
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3. Stereotypical Men's and Women's Events
Friends, I have a huge pet peeve: boring women’s events.
I look over at men’s ministry and they get to do lumberjack races, have golf outings, and go hiking. It’s all adventures, all the time.
I’m left sipping tea, crafting things made of lace, and eating a “light lunch”.
Being a woman doesn’t exclude me from wanting to get my hands dirty and eat hearty meals. I would love to have a women’s event that resembles American Ninja Warrior followed by eating all the carbs I can find.
But it goes both ways.
I’ve had male friends petition to have men’s ministry events that are laid back. Coffee and fellowship? Sounds perfect to them.
The moral of the story is that women’s events don’t always have to include talking indoors and all men’s events don’t have to include physically intense outdoor activities. Mix it up to attract more people.
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4. Having Parents Stand Up on Mother's Day or Father's Day
It’s extremely kind for your church to want to acknowledge parents on Mother’s or Father’s Day. I’ll be the first to admit my awe towards all that parents do.
But there are so many couples who struggle with infertility. There are also couples who have lost a child, and there are single parents who have limited or no custody of their children. These are all pains that can run deep.
So while some parents stand up to receive applause from the congregation, there might be others sitting next to them who are choking back tears.
The solution? Skip the mother or father based sermon and congregation recognition. If you still want to honor parents, have children make a crafty gift in children’s ministry to give their parents at home.
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5. Slime / Pie / Dunk / Duct Tape / Shave the Head of the Pastor
It delights me when churches encourage their youth to get involved in service and fundraising.
But what bothers me is when a church overshadows the cause they’re working towards with a reward of embarrassing the pastor. Which are the kids going to remember - the school kids in Haiti or getting to dump slime on their pastor’s head?
While volunteering in youth ministry, my small group of teens raised over $7,000 to help build a school in a Guatemalan village. These kids were sold out, even selling a lot of their personal thing to contribute to the fund. If we had offered some gimmick at the end of the experience, we might have had the same financial impact, but we might also have lessened the emotional impact.
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6. Fill-in-the-Blank Bible Studies
Studying the Bible with a group of people is a great way to strengthen your community and expand your knowledge of God.
But there’s a huge difference between strengthening your knowledge and strengthening your relationship; for instance, I know an embarrassing amount of information about every one of the Cleveland Indians’ players, but I don’t have a relationship with any of them. On the other hand, I know an embarrassing amount of information about my best friend, but I talk with her nearly every day. When we consider our relationship with God, we want to create a friendship more than a fandom.
So how do we fix this? Do away with the fill-in-the-blank exclusive Bible studies and start pursuing both the head and the heart aspects of having a relationship with God.
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7. Gatherings for Singles Filled With Non-Singles
It’s great that your church has a ministry intended for singles to get together with other people in the same stage of life.
It’s not so great when the singles group at a church has become filled with people who are married.
No, this isn’t some bait-and-switch intentionally done by a church. Single people begin in the ministry, invest in the ministry, make friends in the ministry, and don’t want to leave the ministry, even when they’re married.
Single life is very different from married life in great ways and challenging ways. While there should be community between the two stages of life, it can be very beneficial to have a singles ministry at church (as long as that’s what it really is).
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8. Outreach That Doesn't Serve Your Community
Outreach is a critical part of the church. I mean, even Jesus sent out the disciples!
But do you know what else is critical? Knowing the community you’re serving.
Sadly, I’ve been a part of many ministries that are trying to meet a need in the town that isn’t actually there, or trying to meet a need that we’re not qualified or called to meet.
The most encouraging piece of advice I’ve ever received is that we (all the churches in our community) are the body of Christ. Not every church can be an arm, and not every church can be a leg.
So take an inventory of the needs of your community, pray about where God would like you to serve, and see who in your church can help.
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9. Moms Events That Are Held Only During the Day
Motherhood is hard. So what better for your church to offer than a support group of like-minded women who are also trying their best to navigate the challenges of being mothers?
But the problem is that working moms are often excluded from these groups.
In fact, I’ve never attended a church that’s offered a mom’s small groups at a time that’s feasible for a working mother.
I completely understand that a weekday morning might work best for most moms participating, but your church needs to find a way to meet the working moms where they are. You could offer two different gathering times, one of which including after work hours. Additionally, you could consider doing something for moms once a month (childcare provided, of course). We need to support each other as we raise God-seeking families.
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10. Surface-Level Sermons
“Get rid of the sermon? What? Are you crazy?”
No, I’m not crazy. And no, I’m not just hoping for a 15-minute church service.
The real issue is the format of the sermons.
Think about it: when was the last time you experienced a long-lasting life change as the result of someone talking at you? Probably awhile ago, if at all. With attention spans barely long enough to read a tweet, how much of your current sermon is actually sinking in? I mean, even colleges are moving away from lecture-based teaching. So why not churches?
You can still have your pastor up front on Sundays, but instead of just talking, he or she can lead experiences. Lectures could be replaced by an environment where people are free to talk and ask questions. You could even try sitting people at tables to better encourage discussions. These are the types of moments that create the biggest impact.
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Lindsey VanSparrentak is a Youtube Specialist for a Christian publishing company in Colorado. She makes the most of life by adventuring through the Rocky Mountains, traveling around the world, and planning her upcoming wedding! You can follow her on Instagram!