What the Penninsula Golf Course can teach the church…in a negative sense

Yesterday I headed off about 5.30pm to hit the crap out of 70 golf balls at the Penninsula Golf Course.
I was looking for a parking spot and noticed that there was about 15….yes 15 great spots right near the course. Only problem was…they were marked STAFF….in fact they were even closer to the course than the disabled bays. Unbelievable.
How did this make me feel? Well it was obvious who was the most important person there, not the customers…the staff.

What do we do at church which makes the visitor feel they are the most important person? What do we do as a church which ensures that those who are not yet part of the church community know…that we care about them? That we are placing their needs in front of our own?

Just one small thing I do as the pastor.
I don’t rush out of the building when my ‘stage work’ is done
I don’t hide away in a ‘prayer room’ after the service.
I don’t go straight to my friends first and laugh with them.

I go to the exit….quickly…before the visitors rush off.
I make sure that I shake their hands, and introduce myself.
I make sure that nearly everyone who came to church that morning sees me, hopefully says hello, and if they have a need, I get to hear about it.

Its not about the Pastor being more important than anyone else, but they do need to lead well….and lead through being available to serve.

The most important people to me on a Sunday morning are those I have never seen at church before, and those who I have not seen very much. I cant apologise for that. I am here to see the church grow.
Those who come to church every week, I also want to touch base with them, and care for them if needed, but my priority is those who are not yet part of our church community, and I want them to know it.

6 thoughts on “What the Penninsula Golf Course can teach the church…in a negative sense”

  1. i wonder though whether this sets up a sort “false value” for these visitors/new comers – that they are important to the pastor while they are possible “new” members, but that importance slips as soon as the deal is done and they cross the line (pardon the crass imagery).

    I’m not saying this as directed at you Mark, this is exactly what we used to do at our church as well – but our VIP parking was closer than our visitors bays (but not closer than the disabled, so maybe this neutralises that 😉

    Short-term, this kind of special care makes people feel “welcome and important” but long term, it wears thin pretty quickly as people fade into the distance of the pastor’s memory/attention.

    i understand the chain of care is supposed to make up for this – ie, the new comers get into a small group and the small group leader becomes the new carer, or they get involved in ministry areas and ministry heads and leaders become the go-to person for care.

    But all of this simply builds the illusion that people are cared for because they are uniquely special – when the reality is that they are cared for because of where they fit in the system – new comer, new member, new leader… if people choose not to engage in this role playing, they fairly quickly fall from view and eek out an existence beyond the reach of our structured systems of care.

    Again – not pointed at inglewood – more at the prevailing culture of role-based care evident in my previous church experience and many others. BTW – I’m not simply speaking as a victim of such reality but as a perpetrator of it as well.


  2. I understand what you are saying.

    But….when someone first comes to your house, you make a fuss.
    then….after sometime they just drop in….

    finally when they come over, and become good friends…they hang around and help do the dishes.

    It is how things work.

    As a Christian matures…they no longer want to recieve, but give.

    The difficult aspect of church life is helping people to be transformed….

    What I have described is a reaction away from what is our natural inclination, to be inward looking.

    I would expect and hope that the visitor would grow from being a visitor, to being a contributor…in every sense. and extend that same welcome to newbies as they recieved.

  3. i guess that is what i am challenging – the idea that after a while, they become “good friends”. I actually think this is our desired intention, but there is very little reality to this in regards to a deepening level of friendship.

    People are encouraged and expected to come and eventually integrate – to move from being helped to being a helper, from receiving to giving. This works well, while the person is able to maintain their role within the system. But…

    if for any number of reasons that person is unable to maintain their place in this system of roles – ie, they go to uni and can’t be a youth leader anymore, or they start shift work and can no longer be on the worship team, or they simply go through a time of disillusionment with church, theology, leadership whatever, and choose to remove themselves from the “lines of relationship” – it is not long before they disappear off the radar in many leaders level of attention/care/concern.

    this happens partially because these people quickly become replaced by other new comers/disciples who rise to fill the holes left by these people. This is often out of necessity to keep the church programs running for the rest of the community (ie not deliberately targeted at the individual who has ‘fallen off the wagon’). And as we all know, we only have a limited capacity to be in so many relationships with others – hence one moves out and another moves in – this maintains our capacity to care for the “lost sheep”, even if we truly want to.

    So, on the way to transformation, many people experience seasons of winter, of fallow, of death, of stagnation – which often renders them unable to maintain their active participation in the church. This results in them moving outside of the systems of circles of accountability and care… leading to them becoming even further isolated and lost.

    Like i said – this is not only my story, both as leader and “lost sheep”. And despite the best intentions of our leaders, continues to happen in churches all over our society.

    I pray that you might be able to buck the trend as you care for the flock at Inglewood.

  4. “this maintains our capacity to care for the “lost sheep”, even if we truly want to”

    should read… “this ensures that our capacity to care is maxed out for those who remain in our lives – rendering us unable to follow the “lost sheep” even if we truly want to.”

  5. When I play golf I park as far away from the course as possible, especially when you’re playing Mark! I think the staff did you and the body work on your car a favour 🙂

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