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Author Topic: Church amenities on the rise  (Read 1523 times) Average Rating: 0
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EofK
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« on: January 02, 2008, 10:12:16 AM »

It appears to be the trend today to include various services and features in churches such a gyms, coffee shops, etc.  I'm ok with having a bookstore within the church walls since that's many times the only place I can find books, music, liturgical items locally.  Where do we draw the line?  When does a helpful outlet to learn more about the church become a gimmick to draw in the crowds? 

Here's a recent article about a church nearly doubling its size to provide the "amenities" to attract new members.  To me that seems a dishonest way of reaching people, something akin to the old bait and switch advertising.
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« Reply #1 on: January 02, 2008, 10:15:28 AM »

I run the bookstore for our parish and I jokingly refer to it as my "moneychanger in the temple" routine.  Some of this stuff, however, moves it from being a joke into the realm of history repeating itself.
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aserb
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« Reply #2 on: January 02, 2008, 10:34:51 AM »

EofK  May I play the advocate role? 

Churches apart from their liturgical functions are also social centers and people being social creatures love to well socialize. These amenities enhance that experience and to me is a 21st century manifestation of the old social hall. Growing up all churches had social halls (Protestants called them fellowship halls) were one could grab everything from a cup of coffee to a full course meal after liturgy/service. In the Serbian churches you could even get alcohol  Shocked.

People love to gather with like minded people or others with whom they share something in commo. In many Orthodox and some Catholic churches it is an ethnic connection. In some Orthodox churches its the convert connection. In some churches its the country club connection . . and so on.

Starbucks in church. Well, ya I see how you are probably struggling with it. Evangelicals though realize that making a connection with like minded people and people you feel you can trust is important. Some of us Orthodox realize this as well.
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« Reply #3 on: January 02, 2008, 11:00:16 AM »

If you wanted to have the church be a community, I don't see a problem with any of that stuff, in fact it would be nice.
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« Reply #4 on: January 02, 2008, 11:05:13 AM »

I occasionally work in our parish bookstore too so I might be calling the kettle black here... LOL!  But I also think that's a far cry from the bookstores that look like gift shops.  Our parish bookstore/library has a few of the basics, like censers, baptismal necklaces, icons, cards, diptychs, books (of course), etc., and I feel they're all good things to offer.  St. Thomas is the one of two Orthodox parishes in the whole of SW Missouri so we have a bit of a shortage of Orthodox materials in these parts.  Smiley

Aserb, play the advocate all you like!  Smiley  You're right, churches are important socially as well as spiritually.  I see nothing wrong with hanging out after liturgy for coffee and a meal.  What bothers me about this article is that these services are being used to attract people to the church instead of letting the message of the church draw people.  It's almost as if they're trying to outsell rival churches by saying, "Hey, come to our church, we've got water aerobics on Tuesdays!  Can your church do that?"  I wonder if it's not a symptom of trying to wall oneself off from the rest of the world, too.  Why go to a "heathen" coffee shop or gym or whatever else if you have one in the church?  I'm a firm believer in living in the world, yes, but not of the world.  I think we're a better help to people if we interact with people.
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« Reply #5 on: January 02, 2008, 11:32:47 AM »

I found this article, honestly, to be neither here nor there for me.  It doesn't surprise me a bit.  I'm from Georgia, where this type of thing is common.  There's always an overemphasis on fellowship like this.  It's as if they are trying to force Christianity into every aspect of life from the outside-in.  They are making all the secular things of the world "Christian" and bringing the secular world inside, rather than bringing Christianity into every aspect of life from the inside-out.  I agree that we should be going out into the world.  This is what Christ commanded.  He did not command that we bring all the luxuries of the world into the church and cloister ourselves there, where we have no contact with the outside and thus cannot spread the world.  (Lest someone reply to this and comment that monastic cloistering is very Christian- yes, I know.  But they don't do it with coffee shops and gyms in an attempt to give themselves the comforts of the secular world without having to deal with people.  That's the difference)

The best part, though, was this, at the end of the article:

Quote
"Worship is now an experience, and it's an experience you have to reach multiple senses. I think that's a step to reach the society where we are."

I just love this.  They're attempting to do this with technology.  We've been worshipping with all of our senses since the time of the apostles through the Divine Liturgy!  It's one of the things I love most about Orthodoxy- it envelopes your entire being in worship!  And we do it without all the technological trappings and multi-million dollar upgrades and amenities!
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« Reply #6 on: January 02, 2008, 11:51:47 AM »

I don't think it has to be an either/or.  Having a nice church plant and facilities/amenities I think is not a way to cloister oneself, but a way to make your surroundings more enjoyable while at the same time attracting outsiders.  It's possible many Orthodox parishes are so small and strapped for cash that this simply isn't an option.  I don't know the whole history of my parish, but I know it runs at a deficit year after year, so a choice has to be made about what the priorities are, and people get all worked up about it.  The parish was built in the 60's and the social center in the 50's, and believe me it shows its age.  The social center is not nice at all.
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« Reply #7 on: January 02, 2008, 12:06:56 PM »

One of the problems with our congregation is the fact that we have such a hard time year in, year out to meet our finanical burden.  When the congregation bought our current building, they were way under budget and put the rest of that money into investments.  Over the past few years, because of people dieing (mainly the very rich and affluent ones) and the lack of converts coming in, we have had to draw money from our investments to pay things like our phone bill.  But we can't continue like that simply because in a few years' time the investments will be insolvent. 

To help with this, we have started to rent out our hall again.  We just had the floors redone, the walls painted and the light fixtures replaced with newer ones.  We hope that more people will start doing this. 

We have also considered having a capital campaign to build a multi-purpose center on our property (which is currently unused) which could function as a hall, meeting place, with an indoor basketball court which we could rent out as well.  The place would have a fully functional and modern kitchen, which we are lacking in our hall right now.  Renting the place out would pay for the place so quickly and we'd be able to reap the benefits.  The Serbian church in our area has been able to do this for years with its center (and they also allow for Bingo, something our Archdiocese will not permit) and they've reaped the benefits.

I think, for us, at least, that this would be a great way to generate the finances we need to continue God's work here on earth.  I don't think there is anything wrong with it or un-Orthodox.  It would be great if our members would all pledge and follow through on their pledges for the year, but that's just not going to happen, unfortunately.  My priest would tell you that adding amenities of this kind is a both...and approach.  We are celebrating together with both the divine liturgy of the Church and the things of this world.  Just mho.
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« Reply #8 on: January 02, 2008, 12:38:08 PM »

AMM, I  agree and disagree. You have to have moved around in evangelical or in GreekChef's case Southern circles to get what she means. Many "Christians" do want to cloister themselves from the "world" so to speak. Ya all the amenities are billed as an "evangelical tool" but in the end many times ends up as an "evangelical club."
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« Reply #9 on: January 02, 2008, 02:05:08 PM »

AMM, I  agree and disagree. You have to have moved around in evangelical or in GreekChef's case Southern circles to get what she means. Many "Christians" do want to cloister themselves from the "world" so to speak. Ya all the amenities are billed as an "evangelical tool" but in the end many times ends up as an "evangelical club."

That's definitely true, I don't have that experience.  The experience related by scamandrius sounds familiar though - a shortage of newcomers, dipping in to the savings to get by, and a physical plant showing definite signs of age if not decay.  Something has to be done to reverse that, because it's not viable over the long haul.
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« Reply #10 on: January 02, 2008, 03:01:04 PM »

I guess as long as one buys one's whipless macachino half-caf AFTER liturgy, It's all good.  But one must be careful.  We arent an Emerging Church but The Church.  If the coffee is all they come for, then it's not a good thing.  And there sould be a sign "Please leave your guitars and drums in the Church Hall.  NO warming up before services, and NO WHINING PLEASE!  Thank you.  Father Whatshisfaceopolous."
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« Reply #11 on: January 02, 2008, 04:29:46 PM »

While adding amenities are nice perks they need to be balanced by a good prayer life. Creating a gym on the church property might encourage that 20 something year old to show up for a weekday Vespers then work get their workout in. A coffee shop might give the old folks a place to hang out and play backgammon after the weekday Orthros.

If these amenities are being created to build community and encourage the parishioners to spend more time at the Church then good for the parish. And if you have a friend who isn't Orthodox and wants to grab coffee or workout you would have the opportunity to introduce them to the Church in a non-threatening way.
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« Reply #12 on: January 02, 2008, 04:34:28 PM »

What I would rather see is a small chapel that's open 24-7 where the faithful can pray and there is a daily prayer service and aweekly liturgy durring the day or evening, like the Roman church has in my neighbourhood.  With the coffee shop, it could be a big help.
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