Last year around this time I had given out a list of ways for churches to grab parishioners on a more weekly basis (10 Ways to Lure Back the ‘Chr-Easter’ worshippers for the other 50 weeks of Church).
Wouldn’t you know it, last week, I found myself shoulder to shoulder with the same crowd of people I sat with last year. We sat through the same lessons, Gospel, sang the same hymns, were poked in the side by the same wicker offering basket with a nice long hand to reach way down the pew (Ironically, we sang a hymn that had the verse “…a VICTORY for our God!” just as my ribs were jabbed and my hand let go of the money in the offering envelope. The irony of this was lost on my wife.), and said “Peace be with you” to the same faces as we did last year. My suggestions apparently were lost on the clerical hierarchies of the Roman Catholic Church.
This year, as last, I daydreamt through the 1st lesson. I tweeted during the second lesson. While we were kneeling in our pews, I made bets with myself at how long it would take for the guy two aisles over to go between yawns (I had an over/under at 4 ½ minutes). And during the sermon (the same one I heard last year…they both sounded like the teacher from Charlie Brown) I again thought about ways to enhance to this entire experience because after that Sunday, none of us would be seeing each other for a while.
As I was scribbling down this update to last year’s list the other night, I asked my little one what she would do to make church more fun (I thought I could use one or two more ideas).
She thought about it more intently than I had expected, almost as if she had been waiting for someone to ask.
“Um…toys. And a soda machine. And TV (I hadn’t thought of that one). And a snack bar”
If I wasn’t sure she couldn’t read, I would have sworn she read my blog from last year. There was one more thing.
“Daddy! Best one of all….” Long deliberate pause. She was building the suspense.
“A pool!” Now that is a good idea (it could double duty during baptisms).
And so, with the expertise of a four year old and her similarly thinking father, here is the list I scribbled out on the announcements bulletin during the sermon.
More ways to lure the ‘Chr-Easter’ demographic.
1.Thou shalt dance. Actually stomp. Think about seeing the priest and all the altar boys and acolytes “stomping” out the prayers? Banging on turned over trash cans, slapping their knees and stomping on every ‘Amen’. It would be like a Broadway show. I’m not against a little break dancing either. The priest could do a Turtle and a Hand Glide on a flattened cardboard box shaped like a cross with the altar boys huddled around him, one of them with a large boom box pumping out techno versions Amy Grant tunes.
2.Thou shalt make available ‘season tickets’. “Buy” your pew. Give your offering up front at the beginning of the year and buy the best pews for the big events. When you’re rushing to get to church before the other 3,000 members of your community do on Easter, your thought is about getting there to get a good seat. And does anyone? Not unless you get there before the previous mass ends or if you have season tickets. You bought Easter season tickets which means you get valet parking and front pews (if they adopt my snack bar idea this one would really take off).
3.Thou shalt handout free swag. People, more than keeping tabs on Kate Gosselin, what’s trending on Twitter, or lecturing us about why Tiger Woods shouldn’t be allowed to golf, love free things. Who would not want to be at church for Pentecost Sunday and Jesus Bobblehead morning? How about a Holy Trinity golf club covers set to the first 50 husbands who come? The first 100 kids get a Pontius Pilate knit hat? Give away even the most mundane things and people will storm those pews.
4.Thou shalt merchandise. Have you ever read the Bible? There are some fascinating stories in there with even more fascinating characters. I thought comic books made up good stories? They can’t hold an eternal flame to the Bible’s tales. And because of that, the church could have a killer action figure toy line for kids. Samson with wall crushing arms and removable hair. Jonah action figure and a giant Sperm Whale with huge teeth and a body big enough to swallow Jonah. Daniel and a wild lion to battle. John the Baptist with removable head. Adam and Eve (with strategically placed leaves) and an Asp with a fully articulated jaw. Moses with two stone tablets for shields and a pre-recorded voice that says, “Let my people go!”. And of course resurrected Jesus who comes with a cave and roll away boulder set. For the girls have a Mary, Ruth, Delilah, and Mary Magdalene dolls with trendy clothes and accessories from 0AD (Delilah gets a pair of scissors). All of which you can carry in your Ark carrying case. Have all of these available at church or online, where the church has hopefully set up their streaming videos of previous services, to purchase (could you imagine if there was a limited edition of the immaculately conceived Mary with Joseph set? The kids would be lining up to get to mass.)
5.Thou shalt consult with Laz-Boy for new pews. Since when did going to church mean we had to make an appointment with our chiropractor on Monday? Guantanamo Bay has better seating arrangements than most church pews. Lose the benches. Make them from something a little less hard than pressure treated oak. Take a hint from movie theater seating. When did God say you couldn’t be comfortable while pledging your loyalty and love to him (or her)?
(*as an added bonus, make the really comfortable chairs available to season ticket holders)
I’m only trying to enhance the experience for apathetic worshippers who feel like they have done their duty to their god bi-annually. As I said last year, churches get too hung up on their rituals. Glued to their traditions, the messages churches are desperately trying to get us to believe are going out to empty pews for the exception of two Sundays of the year. Surely my ideas will go by the wayside for another year and I will find myself next to the same people on Easter Sunday as I saw this year and maybe there can not be a pool where the baptismal fountain is or season tickets for worshippers but I bet if there were, those empty pews might get filled more often…even if the they didn’t have cushions.