Hope Beyond the Generic

When my wife and I got married we came from geographically different areas and we chose to settle in the middle. Because of that choice to live in the middle and continue working our respective jobs, we drive about 1400 miles a WEEK for work. Whenever I mention that to people their jaw drops and they wonder how we do it. I have a 3 word answer for them: “we drive hybrids.” 

In all seriousness, our crazy amount of driving meant there was no way we could continue going to either one of ours home churches. One was 2 hours away, the other 45 minutes. After you’ve already driven 1400 miles in a week, the thought of driving 45 minutes to church sent chills up our spines. Besides, how do you build community and have friendships when you have to drive 45 minutes to get to where your friends live? Because of the drive, and our desire to build local friendships, we started looking for a new church.

We tried somewhere around a dozen churches in our 3 year span, and probably six more that we checked out online, or listened to talks online, and they just weren’t the right fit for us. My wife says I was being too picky, but because of what we do at Equip Ministry Resources, I was hyper-critical of how churches greeted visitors, and how people responded to us. At some churches, NO ONE said a single word to us, at others, people were super friendly and made us feel welcome. Of the churches who actually had something for visitors, more often then not, what they gave us was a generic, pre-printed piece. One church gave us something specific to them, but it was printed off of a cheap copy machine on cheap paper, and didn’t inspire much confidence in that churches standard of excellence.

Every time we got something generic, Becky would look at me and give me the stare that says “stop critiquing them on your first visit!” But I can’t help it! At one point we went to 3 different churches, 3 weeks in a row and got the SAME generic welcome packet from all 3 churches. Talk about lame!

Taken individually, people may not know that what you give them is generic, but if our experience is anything like others, people shop around to find the right church that fits their unique situation. By the time we got the 3rd copy of the same generic piece, I barely paid attention to it. The lack of effort to actually tell me something unique about that church made me not want to go back for another visit. I mean, if the baptist church, pentecostal and non-denominational church all give out the same generic literature, what am I supposed to think?

Justin (that’s me) and Becky, who are both devoted followers of Christ, got married, moved to a new area, and spent 3 years trying to find the right church. Two-thirds of the churches we attended did nothing for guests, and the rest gave us something generic or poorly produced. Nothing that was given to us really inspired us to want to try a church again. We had to come to that conclusion on our own, and most of the time, we found no compelling reason to go back a second time.

What is the guest experience like at your church?

What about you and your church? What is the guest experience like at your church? Do church members go out of their way to talk to people they don’t know? Do you have an area with information for guests? Is the information you’re giving out unique to your church or is it generic like the majority of information we received? Remember, if you’re giving out something generic, there’s a real good chance that another church down the street is using the same generic welcome packet. Is that really how you want people to view your church? Somewhere that only cares enough to give people generic stuff?

If my experience resonates with you, and if what your church hands out doesn’t reflect the uniqueness of your church, and your God-given mission on this planet, I have good news for you. There is Hope Beyond The Generic.