Wednesday, June 30, 2010

More on Distractions in Church

I certainly don't expect every church to function the way that our church functions. Every culture, every community, every target group is different, and therefore, every church should decide for for herself the best way to "do church". My thoughts and opinions come out of my own experiences, come from the purpose, vision and strategy of my own church.

"You're welcome at our church."

"You're not welcome to cause a distraction to others when you have the ability and maturity to control said distraction."

At NHC, these are two things that we communicate to people, both in word and action. We believe that these two statements are not contradictory. We believe that these two statements better allow us to fulfill our purpose as a church, to reach people to discover life in Christ.

We also believe that there is a HUGE difference between parents who don't care about the distraction they are allowing and those people who come to church because they want to know God but may cause a distraction to others because of their natural tendencies. There will always be something that could be a distraction to me during a church worship service. The lady behind me sings off-pitch, the guys beside me smells funny, the couple in front of me plays footsies. But, it's my responsibility to not allow the natural distractions around me to keep me from worshipping God.

But, it is also my responsibility to be aware of my own naturally distracting habits. I like to bounce my legs when I sit, I like to fiddle with things in my hands when I'm listening, I like to move when I sing. However, corporate worship is not about me...corporate worship is about US giving worship to GOD, and I realize that simply doing what I want to do (bouncing my legs, etc.) can be a hindrance to the worship of those around me.

On Sunday mornings, I want my worship to be pleasing to God AND unifying to those around me. This means that I've got to be willing to lay aside my personal preferences and attempt to subdue my naturally annoying habits so that I don't distract others in worship. I certainly hope that those around me do the same, but I also realize that the people around me represent the spectrum of the spiritual journey...those who are maybe in church and hearing about God for the first time, and those who have known God intimately for many years...other people may not always smell, or look or act in a way that I find pleasing, but again, I can't allow that to distract me from worship.

But, as a church leader, it is also my responsibility to address those who choose to be or allow a distraction that prohibits others from worshipping. Whether we want to admit it or not, there are distractions in church that are impossible to ignore. Children, to continue to use the example I wrote about before, are not a distraction. Noisy, energetic, unattended, ill-mannered children CAN be an unignorable distraction.

We seek to be proactive in avoiding any possible distractions in worship. We make our nursery and kids church highly visible to everyone who enters our building. We have greeters who target young families and inform them of the options for their children. We invite young families to sit near the back of our auditorium so that they can limit any distractions their children might cause, and so that they can exit easily if necessary. We inform families with young children early in the service that many of the topics we discuss on Sunday morning are sensitive issues (sex, addiction, etc.) and give them one last shot to make use of our Kids Zone.

Nobody looks down on any family who chooses to bring their children into the auditorium. Nobody gives them a guilt trip. We have never had a family communicate anything but appreciation for our commitment to helping their entire family worship God.

And, when a child (or anything for that matter) becomes an ignorable distraction during a service, our ushers quietly invite their parents to follow them to the lobby where the parents can allow their kids to vent some energy AND still listen to the service. We have never once had a family refuse to exit the auditorium OR become upset with us that we asked them to exit.

In fact, just this past Sunday, one of our ushers did just that, and ended up having a long conversation with the family. They are new to our area and were checking out our church for the first time. He gave them a tour of our building and our Kids Zone and explained to them why family is so important to NHC.

Bottom line...they felt welcomed and valued. Those still in the auditorium also felt welcomed and valued (as did our preacher). Our usher made a much deeper connection with this family than he ever would have if he had not invited them into the lobby. And, their kids were able to see what they were missing in our Kids Zone.

Again, there are many different ways that we can worship God in a corporate setting. And, at NHC, there are many opportunities for parents and children to worship God together, far beyond Sunday morning. But, for our church, Sunday morning worship in our auditorium is targeted at adults who are seeking to learn more about God and grow in Him. Any kind of ignorable distraction simply prohibits that from taking place.

You might think that we're unwelcoming and unfriendly to families, but until you understand our strategy from an experiential point of view, it's hard to make that call. I'd love to discuss this further with anyone, which is why I wrote this second post.



Michelle Jamie said...

Your clarification was encouraging! May the Lord bless your efforts at protecting worship :)

Rick Lawrenson said...

Frankly, what others outside our community think or don't think about our policy is a non-issue with me!

It's like the vacationer from another state who wants to argue my use of other than the "authorized" version. I don't waste time listening or responding.

Anonymous said...

That seems rather arrogant. I understood that the 'community' was fairly fluid in any case, so there's quite a possibility that 'others' (what a welcoming term) may join you from time to time. Don't you want to hear about how your policies may impact on them? No-one's saying anything should change, but surely the more data you have, the easier it is to decide what's the best thing to do?

I don't think listening is ever a waste of time. You might even learn something.

ViolinMama said...

Thanks for this post! It did clarify - I do think though the danger that the written word, void of tone, is what can cause the most damage. People reading this blog from all over the world could be unclear in how welcoming you are, etc. Same with facebook. The way things were worded is what elicited what I felt. It did not seem to match what I had pictured. It seemed to come more from the emotion of a frustrating service than sharing an idea (something I do as well).

And yes, in the grand scheme - there are many churches out there, with great programs, and families can choose what they want to do and go elsewhere. I know many worshipers must be grateful to have their time protected at Nags Head, and parents should control and guide their children and remove upset children. It was just more of how you worded things against parents or families that felt unwelcoming.

Thanks for reading, posting, and listening. You get me thinking every time!!!

rashidajones said...

Worship is a vehicle that was created by God for man to express and approach God with love, reverence, submission and respect that is in our hearts. worship is a platform for us to express our love e to God.

Anonymous said...

Wow well I'm from out of state and I always came to your church. After reading what Rick wrote I won't come again. Real "Christ like" So much for southern hospitality

CFHusband said...


Right...there's a reason people post anonymously.

Anonymous said...

Wow. There are many reasons to post anonymously. I do not know what the previous poster's reasons were, but my reason is that I do not need to try to puff myself up thinking the whole world wants to know what I have to say on a particular subject.

I stumbled upon this blog and it didn't take long to realize that you are the same person behind the screen name "Irate Nate" on other blogs.

I always thought after many of your posts that you were "Irate" because you think you are brilliant and everyone else is stupid. Your arrogance and lack of true humility are disgusting, considering you call yourself a church leader.

You make your church sound almost cult-like, and you simply tolerate "outsiders" or "others", as you put it. You say things to the effect of, "I'm not saying every church should do it this way..." but it is plain that you think your way is the best.

Allow the Lord to search your heart and He will reveal your pride.

CFHusband said...

I've been challenged recently to love unlovable anonymous person is basically unlovable, so instead of saying what I want to say to you, I'll just say thanks for stopping by, God bless.

Love, IrateNate

Anonymous said...

If I attach a screen name to my comments, does that make me any more lovable? I could show a screen name, but you would still not know me.

I must ask you to forgive me, I was a bit harsh, and although I do get that impression from you, I came down too hard on you. Sorry, but I just get irritable when this plank in my eye starts bothering me.

However, I do find Rick's comments arrogant and prideful. He makes it clear that outsiders are not really valued and worth "wasting time" on. Really, what are the odds that someone who is not from Nag's Head, or especially a vacationer from out of state, would have a valid theological or doctrinal point?

When the visitor posted his offense at the remarks, you did not show a bit of compassion or concern, but simply took a shot at them for posting anonymously. It gave me the impression that you could not care less if that person ever came to worship with you again, and that you agreed with Rick. At the very least, you were simply careless with your reply.

Glory to God alone, and may He bless you greatly, Nate.

Rick said...

This very thing happened just last Sunday at our church. The infant kept vocalizing through my message. She not only sits practically in the center, near the front, she enjoys holding the child high enough so that see can "show off" her baby. My message was off the entire time. We love children, but something may have to be said about the distraction.