10 Ways to lure back the ‘Chr-Easter’ worshippers for the other 50 weeks of Church.

This past Sunday I made my annual pilgrimage to church for Easter mass. Thanks to my fidgety three year old, I have been able to duck out of weekly church services, or at least hang out in the lobby until after the benediction when I am forced to go by my wife. I spend the other 51 weeks out of the year(I used to be a ‘Chr-Easter’ worshipper myself but I’ve been able to eliminate Christmas Eve ever since I had kids and they became more interested in prepping for Santa than the birth of Jesus)away from Jesus. This Sunday however, along with me, three hundred other members, unseen for weeks at a time, piled into our pews, shoulder to shoulder.
Christmas and Easter are like the Super Bowl and MLB All Star game for Christianity. It is no surprise, neither to the weekly worshippers nor to the presiding clergy, the church is at maximum capacity, for all mass time slots, during these two days with ‘Chr-Easter’ worshippers. But what about the other 50 weeks out of the year? Where does everyone go? If they aren’t rejoicing in the glory of Christianity’s spoken word, what are they doing? Congregational attendances are receding faster than Brett Michael’s hair. The rise of ‘Chr-Easter’ attendees is growing at an alarming rate.
As the preordained orator was reading the same passage read on every Easter Sunday since Constantine made Christianity the official religion of Rome, I began contemplating these attendance problem and potential ‘Chr-Easter’ remedies(Why me? He who has put his faith in the evolutionary process, fossil records, and verifiable evidence? Sometimes help comes from the unlikeliest of places folks. For my purposes today, consider me your good Samaritan.)
Church services need a facelift. A facelift the likes of which would make Joan Rivers’ plastic surgeon jealous. While the pews are populated with a dense thicket of baby boomers(and those boomers parents), what the church wants are you and I. Nuclear families. They want young adults, preferably with kids. Blessed are the young for they can help churches avoid fiscal insolvency.
The problem is not God. People believe(or at least they say they do to avoid an argument with their grandparents). The problem is Gen-X’s and Y’s are wired differently from their parents. They don’t have the attention spans to sit in church(we barely can get through the free credit report dot com commercial without flipping the channel). X and Y’s don’t do well with restrictions either. Orthodoxy rules could put the tax code to shame. Not good if you’re trying to lure in people under the age of 40 into your ceremonies every week.
Church, for most of us, is boring. It offers less laughs than a dentist visit.
Church is outdated. Like boxing or a printed newspaper, Churches are slowly become a thing of the past simply because they have no idea how to win over the age bracket capable of re energizing them. Most of us would gladly ignore the church bells for the Fox pregame show or a buy one get one free sale at Old Navy.
Luckily, during the Easter service gospel reading, in between nodding off, I had a chance to really ponder the dilemma facing churches around the country. I have found 10 ways to save the country’s houses of God(maybe Bill O’Reilly will finally settle down about secular progressives now)

1. Thou shalt hire a minor league baseball organist and an NBA PA announcer. Could you imagine instead of the normal droll organ music playing, the congregation gets a rousing rendition of “Charge!” to start things off? Then the lights go out and spotlights begin beaming in an omnidirectional manner followed by, “And now, the starting father for this, the 4th week of Lent…A 6′ graduate out of Freeman Seminary College, put your hands together for Faaaaaathhherrr SMITH!!!!!”(A Panavision unit may be a wise investment too. This way highlights of the father’s accomplishments can be shown during the announcements.)

2. Thou shalt get a mascot. The Phillie Phanatic makes six figures a year, outside of games, just in appearances. The California ‘Chicken’ co-hosted ‘This Week in Baseball’. Mascots make kids happy. People take pictures and will want to see more of Grace Lutheran’s Ezekiel the Lamb mascot. Get a fuzzy over sized costume, slap an altar boy into it, get a mini trampoline and a tiny motorcycle and watch the people flock(pun intended) in. In fact, get him one of those shirt cannons. The ones that launch shirts into crowds. Churches can plaster “WWJD” logos and their Anglo Saxonized Jesus on them and fire them out into the congregation between the 1st and 2nd lessons.
3. Thou shalt build a concession stand. People don’t go to the movies, a place we enjoy going, without our 72 ounce Pepsi and extra large popcorn drowning in artificial butter. Why not have a stand in church? Put it next to the weekly announcements and the sign up sheets for CYO basketball. Put Jesus’ face on some nachos(Why not, he shows up on Ebay on burnt pieces of toast daily?), have bottles of ‘Holy’ water(get it?), and some gummy fish. Now, it doesn’t matter the service is running long because of the 8 baptisms going on, you have your Virgin Mary Malt balls. Plus, the church has now added another source of revenue. And everybody knows the only group who loves money more than orthodox religions are the Republicans.

4. Thou shalt remix those hymnals. I realize the median age of most congregations is somewhere north of 64 but so what? Churches want young blood. What better way to attract that blood than with a revised and remixed hymnal book(Unfortunately for the choir, their days will be numbered. The church needs the kids from High School Musical singing, not off key middle aged men and women.). The songs are so bland now, they could make Johnny Mathis look like Marylin Manson. Hire any American Idol finalist, second level rapper, or moderately talented pop star. They remix good songs for a living. Remixing an outdated hymnal will be child’s play for them. Add a section for kids too. Have Hannah Montana do it, she’ll put her name on anything. So now, instead of texting during the four verse sleeper that is hymn 402, maybe our teens will sing along to the new upbeat and techno version of hymn 402.

5. Thou shalt shock the world. Churches need some publicity outside of a Boston Globe story about child molestation. Churches need their Brittney head shaving moment for all the world to see. Have an exorcism, put out a DVD ‘Nuns gone Wild’, have a calendar of the sexiest Pastors. Anything to garner some much needed attention to the church. If people see the preacher at their church performing an exorcism on an Appalachian women possessed by Lucifer on youtube, guaranteed his church attendance is going to be up next week.

6. Thou shalt forget about silly archaic rules regarding the preachers. If your religion forbids marriage or women entrance into the liturgy, this one is for you. The disconnect felt amongst young people and their houses of worship may in fact be due to not having anyone they feel any sort of relatability to? Quoting scripture to ease marital tensions may have worked before cable was invented but that won’t fly today. A podiatrist is an MD but I wouldn’t go to him to ask about pain in my back. And what could possibly come from allowing women into the fold? A fresh view? Someone other women could relate to? A way to distance yourself from the stigma of child molestation charges? It’s time religions got over their ancient views on women being inferior to men because in most cases they have men beat by a mile.
7. Thou shalt ‘tip’. No one likes panhandling. You may give but only because you’re guilted into it. Money is tough to come by these days and here are churches passing a wicker basket down your pew expecting you to cough up some cabbage. It’s time offerings were based on a gratuity scale. Let those running the show work for their money instead of expecting their money. Jim Baker didn’t make millions until he started healing cripples. The least our clergy could do for us(if they aren’t willing to heal a limp), is put on a show we feel good about tipping them for. No one minds tipping a waitress who refills their coffee without asking. No one would mind digging a little deeper for a service you’ll talk about when you get home. Who knows, by making the offering a ‘tip’, the preacher during 12 o’clock service may not be so inclined to mail it in?

8. Thou shalt pay for entertainment. Churches need to get themselves some entertainment. It is the same principle sitcoms use during May sweeps when they are trying to get picked up for next season. Bring in an actor featured on a Star or Us!Weekly magazine cover for a three episode arc to boost the ratings. It creates buzz. People flock to buzz and celebrities. Our society has a celebrity fetish. Even the most minor of celebrities can grab a majority of the headlines(how else can you explain ‘Keeping up with the Kardashian’s’ success). Grab a contestant from Survivor Season 1 as a guest one week. If I knew Richard Hatch was going to be giving the sermon on Pentecostal Sunday, I wouldn’t mind blocking out some church time on Sunday.

9. Thou shalt stream thy service. Just put the whole thing on the Internet. Missed that Advent service last week because you were sleeping off a hangover? Just go to the online church service archives and download it onto your iPod or Mp3 player. It’s time for religion and their services to stop pretending computers and technology are the work of the devil and get with the times. The youth of today are much more inclined to stream your Sunday service knowing they don’t have to squeeze into a church outfit they have had since 8th grade. You could add live online chats with the pastors after the service. Read the altar boy’s Tweet updates live. Have a ‘tip’ icon to click so online viewers can give, even at home. The possibilities from this one are unlimited.

10. Thou shalt have retro-mass. By implementing all of these changes, churches will have the ability to have ‘throwback’ services. The old hymnals, organist, and choir members will be there. Dust off a retired Monsignor no one has seen since the Nixon administration and have ‘throwback’ service. The choir feels important again, the baby boomers can get their sermon served on a plate of stoicism, and everyone can dress up in their Sunday best while the rest of the congregation watches online or sleeps.

Religions and their churches want only to spread their Lord’s message(and perhaps increase the weekly offerings). They have tried their way. Out of touch, boring, repetitive, monotone tradition has not drummed up the new memberships the elders thought it would drum up. With dwindling congregations, organized religions had better be open to the new ideas. They need to be less concerned with the ‘How’ and the ‘Where’ of their message. They need to know the message is all that is important and it can be told any way, so long as it is told. They need to embrace our changing culture and realize they could still be influential in that culture. But by continuing down the same path, on the same donkey, with the same palms, regurgitating the same verses, in the same manner practiced fifty years ago, churches risk becoming a bi-annual event…for everyone.

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2 responses to “10 Ways to lure back the ‘Chr-Easter’ worshippers for the other 50 weeks of Church.

  1. Now its great I think…

    Like

  2. I agree totally. And parents that send their kids to youth group every single Wed. just to get them out of their own hair, but have never, and will never actually see the inside of the church themselves, that really gets me.

    Like

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