This post is for those whose church meets in a single location on a regular basis. That is assumed but no more is assumed. The environment in your church matters because any “visitor” who shows up will evaluate “what you offer” by what they see and experience. They could be 95% wrong and wildly inaccurate, but that wouldn’t matter because they made a decision on the basis of what they saw and experienced. Maybe you don’t want that sort in your church … I’m not so sure that’s the way we are to approach “visitors.” Either way, environment matters.
If you are against “environment matters” you will create an environment that matters.
Now if you have any aesthetic senses environment matters to you and it will matter to visitors.
If you don’t care about environment, hop to a different post or blog; if you do, read this summary of Andy Stanley’s section four in Deep & Wide.
Before we get there a story: we once visited a church because we had heard about it. We got there about 15 minutes early and no car — no car — was in the lot. So we drove around and came back to about ten cars. We walked in the front, and no one greeted us; within a minute or two several people had walked through the lobby area but no one greeted us. We sauntered into the “sanctuary” and sat down in a rather cold (temperature-wise) room … people sat at a noticeable distance from one another … a few greeted us during the passing of the peace … no one said anything to us after the service ended… we left, never to return. Fair? No. Evaluation? Yes. Environment matters.
Unless you want a church for church people or a church for those who are already a part of that particular church. Or unless you want people just like you. Stanley’s model is attractional and it is pragmatic; it doesn’t say everything; it says important things. Some in the missional group oppose attractional, but I believe attractional can be missional.
Environments are the message before the message (157). The sermon begins in the parking lot (157). You (should) choose what message your environment will communicate. “Time in erodes awareness of” (159) — that is, the longer you indwell your environment the less you notice it. At North Point they try to create irresistible environments. You need to define excellence. Maybe you don’t care about that, but that will be your definition of excellence. They (North Point evaluators) have three ingredients leading to these three questions:
1. Is the setting appealing? Good stuff on physical environments.
2. Is the presentation engaging? Very good on combining engaging presenters with content creators — they are not always, or even often, the same.
3. Is the content helpful/useful (capable of transforming)?
So North Point seeks to create an irresistible environment with three rules of engagement: engage, involve, challenge. Each of these is given a full section in the chapter. Worth reading.
In the engagement: preservice experience, opener (1/4 to 1/6 weeks have an opener), welcome.
In the involvement: signing, baptism (2-3x per month), special (songs, interviews, sketches, videos).
In the challenge: title package and message, closer.