A mission.hack is defined here. We look at mission statements or at mission initiatives and examine different ways of expressing them. Hacking them…if you will.
Yesterday, I attended a presentation by Doug Ruffle, PhD, of the New Jersey area of the UMC who came and did a presentation on church growth and tools for evangelism. He said (at least) one thing that really stuck with me and reminded me of many UMC Mission statements. He said this:
Stop being a friendly church.
- A friendly church is not what God calls us to be.
- We are called to be a church where people can make friends.
Dr. Ruffle writes…
My mother had to move over 10 times during her first 12 years of marriage. My father worked as a salesman and the companies he worked for were constantly assigning him to new places. We asked my Mom how she had managed to pick up everything and move with a family of five to a new town or city where she didn’t know a soul.
“I would find a Methodist Church,” she replied, “because there I knew I could make a friend.”
I thought it interesting how she worded her response. She didn’t look for a “friendly church,” but rather a church where she could make a friend. There is a big difference.
The difference was underscored for me recently upon hearing of a colleague who moved to a new town and sought out the closest United Methodist Church. He found a “friendly church.” People were kind. They smiled at him. Some greeted him during the after-worship fellowship hour. But, he wasn’t making any friends. He even went so far as to invite some of the church members he met to his home — to try to build a relationship — but they couldn’t find the time to come over. My colleague had found a friendly church, but not one where he could make a friend. He has given up trying and now is attending a church of another denomination where within two weeks of his first visit he was invited over to a member’s house for dinner.
To me, this is not mere hospitality, but a discrimination issue too. Too often we are only “friends” with people similar to us, and “friendly” to people who are not similar to us.
- You know…those people.
- The ones who you will talk to in coffee hour, maybe even wave back on the street, but otherwise outside the church walls you aren’t connected to their lives.
- The ones of a different race or, perhaps more likely, economic level than you.
We are called to be friends and accountability partners, not just “friendly” people who greet you with a smile, but keep you at arms length.
The statement on a plaque on the front steps of my church says this: “A friendly Church in a friendly town.” I’d rather it say “A Church where you can make a friend.”
But maybe friendship isn’t what you are looking for. Perhaps you are one of those wounded ones who just wants Sanctuary, a time alone with God. Emphasis on alone. That’s fine too, and churches that take “to make a friend” to borderline-stalking are out of the loop too.
So, where is the sweet spot between being “friendly” and “making friends” that churches welcoming and hospitality committees can address? And how can pastors and laity alike help move their church from being friendly to actually treating one another like the brother and sister in Christ that they are?
Ruffle concludes his talk with this nugget:
My mother taught me a valuable lesson about the difference between a friendly church and a church where you can make a friend. It’s a lesson of which our churches need to be reminded.
When I see the words “a friendly church” that just reminds me to be friendly. If I instead saw “where you can make a friend” I might remember, hey, that’s ME. I might be the one making a friend today.
Mission.hacks examine what effect mission statements have on people, and what our mission statements betray about us. Perhaps the “country-club” stigma of the UMC could be a bit more eradicated if we stopped being “friendly” and started trying to offer to be “friends.”
Thoughts? Other “friendly” manifestations that you want to note of?