Regardless of my personal preferences, philosophies, or other serious considerations, one ministry characteristic is quite a highlight during my crazy year as I attend so many churches:
This theme is on my mind bigtime after attending Fellowship Church in Grapevine Saturday night. I’d never been to Fellowship, but this was a perk of coming back to Dallas for the break. Led by Ed Young, Jr., the church is actually one of the “Most Influential Churches” in America. They annually lead the C3 / Creative Church Conference, too. So they’re known for being “cutting edge.”
And I got to see why last night. It was surprising for me, after attending so many churches this trip (often 5 in a weekend), to find a service with not just one “difference” but multiple unique aspects.
The “uniquenesses” (uniquities?) that caught my attention? They’re random, but here you go.
- Most extravagant children’s setup I’ve seen.
- We were encountered “greeters” 4-5 times before sitting down – from the front door to the aisle.
- Biggest worship screens I’ve seen.
- “De-greeted” on the way out, at the doors, wishing us a good weekend. I think that’s only happened once on the trip so far.
- Interesting band – with 2 drum sets perched stories above the stage. And an organ (played by a barefoot gal)!
- No separate college ministry – pretty unique for a church this big and contemporary.
- First place I’ve been told I couldn’t take pictures (except by appointment), including in the lobby.
- Most artistic “bulletin” so far.
- Most “conversational” message style I’ve heard.
- While the service I attended was clearly contemporary and seeker-sensitive, Fellowship has now begun a Fusion service Sunday nights – an even more contemporary, postmodern sort of service. Complete with energy drink bar! This is the first separate “contemporary service” within a contemporary church I might have seen.
- After the offering (post-sermon), Young came back out and “wrapped up” the earlier message. He finished the story he had used to start the message and added some extra application. It was really kinda cool, and pretty rare.
Sure, some of those items just take money to accomplish. Others felt a little odd, like not having a college ministry and the photograph rule. (My guess is the photo thing was for the sake of fellow attendees, but I’m not sure). Several were pretty sweet – including all the greeting and de-greeting. And I’ll hopefully get to see that Fusion thing sometime.
But my point today is that it really surprised me to be hit with “difference” at every turn at a single church, even after I’ve been to dozens of ’em since August.
I guess that’s why they get to hold creativity conferences!
There have been other churches (and college ministries, too) where I’ve been struck by uniqueness: little well-done aspects of the service, a unique part of the group’s philosophy, an excellent way of assimilating visitors, a surprising worship service element, etc. I’m sure (especially as I head to the Left Coast) I’ll see plenty more such “tweaks” in college ministry or church services that give me something to think about.
(If “tweaks” sound like a familiar topic, I just wrote an article about it that I linked to last week.)
As a Visitor to all those ministries, I’ve realized that I do really like it when something about a church strikes me as unique. Is “uniqueness” a positive quality, in-and-of itself? I guess not. But a church doing things a little different causes me to take notice, which isn’t a bad thing when you’re trying to draw Visitors, right?
But uniqueness draws this Visitor for another reason sometimes, too. Some uniquenesses are there because brilliance has been applied, and I appreciate that in my church experience. Those little, particular oddities often exist because somebody, somewhere sat down and thought. Maybe they considered how to make visitors feel a little more at home. Or they examined the effectiveness of their signage around the church. Maybe they just updated their “connection card” for visitors, making it just a little better. Perhaps they veered from tradition just a smidgen – not simply in something “big” like worship style, but in something “small,” like how they collect the offering.
It might have been a pastor who thought through these things. But it equally might have been a college minister or church secretary, just doing their jobs well. But somebody thought, and it led to just-a-little-better-ness!