"Church Shopping"

Shopping carts in ABC Tikkula.                                          Image via WikipediaI've been engaged in some discussions with folks about church shopping.  In a simpler, more pleasant sense, this is what one does when you move to a new town and look for a church.  You try them all on for size and look at how fabulous the preacher is, what the youth group is like, if they have a nursery, etc.  You "shop" for a church to find the one that's right for you...for whatever reason.

Now, not all shopping in a consumer culture is merely about going out to get what you need.  In a consumer culture such as ours sometimes shopping is all about getting the latest and the greatest gadget or item.  It's about trading in your car every two years for a newer model.  It's about buying one more outfit for a closet that's already overflowing.

The same holds for church shopping in a consumer culture.  People are looking for the latest and greatest church.  People trade churches in for newer models.  Denominational allegiance is low and churches try to outdo one another in attracting the seekers, the unchurched, the dischurched people.

This can be a problem, in particular, for our smaller churches.  I noticed this much more in the first church I served in Indiana.  There were three United Methodist Churches in our town of 15,000 people.  Add to that an untold number of Presbyterian, Baptist (of all kinds), Catholic, Independent, Disciple of Christ, Pentecostal, etc. churches.  We were a small and we knew it.  We kept looking at some of the bigger churches and wishing that we could have the youth group or the choir or the facility that they had.  And we could tell from the faces of some of our visitors that they would never be back.  Perhaps it was the lack of a suitable nursery.  Perhaps it was the lack of air conditioning.  Perhaps it was a bad sermon from me.

I think this springs from the fact that many persons look at churches asking "What can the church do for me?" rather than "What can I do for the church?"  And when a church isn't meeting a perceived need, church shopping begins.

So, it was nice to see that this religious phenomenon isn't just an American issue.  I saw this cartoon yesterday over at Internet Monk.  The cartoon is from Great Britain.

This cartoon is taken from the Dave Walker Guide to the Church, published by Canterbury Press. It originally appeared in the Church Times.
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