Church Shopping in the Big City

No one greeted us at the door.

We walked in anyway.

Nobody said, “Hi.”

We stood there for five minutes anyway.

People had to walk past us to get into the worship area, a large traditional space with organ pipes on the far wall.  A few people made eye contact, but nobody said “Hi” until we picked up a church bulletin as we walked in.   After some singing, there were announcements, including a very long appeal for the members to give more because the church was falling short of its budget.  I looked around at the congregation.  It was mostly seniors, with a sprinkling of a few young families and only one teenager, other than my son.

The choir sang with practiced precision, but no passion. The sermon was biblical, but uninspiring, with no practical application.  The best part of the service was the fact that it was only one hour long.

I was disappointed because I really wanted to like this church.  It was a church with the same affiliation as our previous church, which we had attended for 10 years.  On this church’s website, it looked like they had an active youth group.    So, where were all the youth? As we left, I asked about that and was told that the congregation is really made up of two groups:  The Sunday attenders and the neighborhood youth, who come mid-week, but generally not on Sundays.

A church worship service that doesn’t appeal to younger people is doomed.  No wonder they were having financial problems.

This was the second church we visited since moving from suburban Rogers, MN to “inner city” St. Paul, MN.  The first church was almost the polar opposite in character.  Very laid back.  Very friendly. Very high energy.  Lots and lots of young families.   They knew how to make people feel welcome.  They had a greeter outside the church.  They had greeters inside.  People walked up to us and started talking.  If I had been 10-15 years younger, with little kids, I would have felt right at home.

As dissimilar as they were, the two churches were similar in two striking respects:  no teenagers and no off-street parking.  The lack of parking lots took me by surprise.  Prior to visiting these two churches, I’d never been to a church in this country that didn’t have its own parking lot, even if that parking lot was a school parking lot.  I guess not having parking lots is common in the city.

So, I’m still church shopping.  But the next church isn’t going to be in the big city.


About Diane Windingland
I speak for organizations that want their people to have better, more profitable conversations.

One Response to Church Shopping in the Big City

  1. riverhts says:

    So very true. When I first moved to Nashville, TN I went church shopping. LOTS of them are big churches that are “unfriendly” and have a sr pastor (which only a select few have ever met), 17 associate pastors, 5 directors of missions, many other “preachers” and have 3 morning services. I grew up in a church that everyone knew the pastor (and the pastor knew them). We didn’t have to wonder who was going to preach that day. I feel that a lot of “mega” churches need to spread out, form “sister churches”..too big for their britches (pride, jealousy, and other “nasties” can set in). The pastors need to know their “sheep”. It’s hard to shake hands, visit, minister one on one when there are over 700 in your congregation.

    I finally found a church 30 mins away that I really enjoy. We are a small non-denominational church. About 50 families go there. Everyone knows everyone. Have a great and growing youth ministry. We are a sister church that got too big.

    Wow, sorry to ramble.

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