Tuesday, January 13, 2009

crowded house

Sorry for being away so long. Famous last words of penitent bloggers, eh?

Let me sound the alarm.

We’re in a bit of trouble at VCC. The last few weekends have been packed…meaning, not many seats and very few parking spaces, especially at the 11:40 party. There are limited options at this point because of the speed at which any serious changes could take place. We usually get a bump at this time, but this is more like a shove.

Got any ideas?

The drag for me is the frustration I know it can bring for a new person checking out church. It already takes a fair amount of courage to come to a church the first time, but if there are added barriers, who wouldn’t think: “Sheesh. It took me ten minutes to park…and I don’t want to walk in after everything’s started—it’s scary enough!”

Which, by the way, does it ever scare the bejeebers out of you going into a new church? It does me…and I’m a pastor. I’m not sure why it’s so weird to me, but it must be my high introversion level and the drag of potentially being singled out in some way. I cringe at the thought of hearing, “If you’re a visitor today, would you stand up?”

First of all, visitor? Am I in a foreign country? What’s that all about? Actually, I think for the average guy out there, a lot of churches do feel like a foreign country. It’s a different culture. A different language. Not knowing what’s expected of me. People doing really different things than what I’m used to seeing. I don’t know, but it seems to me I should be a guest, not a visitor, to a party that’s thrown every weekend by people who’ve heard some really fantastic news.

Going to a church can be traumatic. That’s why it’s always better to have a guide, a sherpa, someone who’s been up the mountain and can tell you how to breathe. Because it’s really hard to breathe in some churches I’ve been in. And I’d be crazy to assume VCC isn’t just as scary to new people—maybe just in different ways. I would love to deputize all you grapeheads to be sherpas.

Anyway, I digress.

Got any great ideas for the overcrowding?

And if you don’t, go all Screwtape on me and give me a series title that is sure to thin out the crowds…


  1. Our church is really small (around 25-30 people). You can send them to us :-)

  2. kill the 8am celebration and start a 12:50.

    I mean only fanatics go to the 8 anyway. And they are clearly going to keep following Jesus anyway... I mean anyone committed to getting to church that early is serious.

    ... joking... mostly...



  3. Hey, Dave.

    I really didn't want to post a comment because it feels like a shameless plug for my blog, and that isn't my intention. But I am visiting 52 different churches in 52 weeks to step outside my comfort zone experience the "Body" - good, bad, and ugly.

    The first church I went to (two Sundays ago) literally had new people raise their hands during the service so someone could bring them an information packet. They went section by section, and I was the only person to raise my hand. From that moment forward, it was like someone painted a sign on my forehead that said, "Please treat me like a freak."

    Talk about awkward.

  4. What if at the end of the 11:40 service you let everyone go but have the band play a couple of songs as they leave? Some people will stick around to hear the last 2 songs....some will leave....maybe less congestion leaving at the 11:40 session? I guess you could do that at the earlier session if you started that one earlier?

  5. Maybe talk up the small groups. If people get frustrated with the "big church parking lot" thing, (I do tell people I love my church, but hate the parking lot. and I go to the 10:00 service...) maybe they can find Christ in the small groups.
    I guess that's a transition plan for the fallout.
    for seating: set up big screen tvs in the cafe area? Would it really be much different than the balcony? (My favorite place...)
    For parking: the "tip" last week was good. keep that one going. If half the parking lot went out that way, your parking issues my be lessened. Leaving in batches helps too. Make the band play! good suggestion.

  6. Sounds like it could be a good time to investigate the possibility of a multi-campus option. Do you think people would go to a coffee house or a movie theater and watch church on a big screen? I personally go to Sat night service, but would not be opposed to going to church via video if my drive was shorter. There are a lot of churches out there trying different things trying to avoid adding services.

  7. I like the idea of the band playing additional songs at the end.

    Adding another service is a possibility if you and Joe can handle it, it seems like a lot to me.

    Perhaps you could e-vision the service over to the Healing Center and people could watch it from that auditorium. This could also work at the Chapel, as you have done on occasions at Resurrection time.

    PS> I loved the popcorn analogy, concerning tithing ;)

  8. sounds like a good problem to have, count your blessing. Could be the other way around?

    Add another service, that is the pat answer. Tell all the regulars to go to that service from the one that is very crowded.

  9. Time to plant some churches baby!!!! Yeah!!! Then it could be like church umm...block party!!!

  10. I'm thinking Velcro suits. Think of all of that wasted wall space.

  11. Send some of the overflow to The Vineyard Westside.

    It's fruit of the same vine, no?

  12. Let's just argue about something stupid and have a church split.

  13. Dave it may be time to bring back a second saturday service or bring back the 1pm Sunday afternoon service or even sunday night again.

  14. I like Chads idea of dropping the 8:30 celebration and have another one on Sun. after the 11:40
    This way maybe some of the 8:30 volunteers would be willing to serve at a later one.
    I know it's hard to start a new celebration, what with needing a whole different team.
    We could have a volunteer drive just for that. I think we will have to bite the bullet and add another celebration.
    Btw, the Sat. service is usually real full as you know Dave.
    We gotta pray,pray,pray.

  15. Velcro walls...too funny!
    Please don't change the 8:30 spot.. It is the only time some of us who must work on Sunday by noon can attend...fanatics that we are.
    Well..you could push it back to 9:00 a.m. and offer free donuts to the early birds to lure some of the sleepy heads in..oh wait... I guess I wasn't listening this Sunday about temptations and self control. Where are those fat free sugar free soy donuts when you need one!

  16. I visited the church for the second time yesterday. Once I was referred to the website by a member...it was easy to locate. It had a nice but confusing layout for me. Everyone there was friendly and quick to answer any questions I had. I suggest that you dedicate a partial lot for 1st time visitors only and sign it well...just to get the foot in the door.

  17. I think an additional Saturday evening service would be a great plan. I know there is a problem with people serving on Saturday evenings is Discoveryland because people want to be able to serve before or after they attend the service. An additional Saturday service may solve that problem by allowing us to serve at one celebration and attend the other.

  18. The idea of having the band play a few numbers might be worth trying. Maybe the easiest quick-fix attempt. They could play something relevent to the message, maybe some of their original stuff, or just something popular and catchy so a handful of people would stick around awhile. The obvious sure-fire solution is to add a 1:00, but that's an undertaking!

  19. I started attending on January 10th and can honestly say that the parking at 6:30 and 10:00 was not that bad. It takes a little bit of patience, but we all need to work on that anyway.

    Having more music at the end would only hurt the parking situation on Sundays...the overlap is already pretty close. When we are leaving at 11:15, people are getting there already for 11:40am.

    Short of adding another celebration, the only think that I can think of is pushing poeple towards the 8:30 a little harder. I think that an honest plea would be well-recieved. If that doesn't work...it's time to look at a little expansion, isn't it?

  20. Focus on solving the parking problem, if the concern is not a lack of seats or crowdedness in the building. Some churches use a shuttle system for staff members and all day volunteers (the shuttle gets them from a remote location before the 8:30 service and returns them after the 11:40 service rush). I know the student union/healing center has no parking lots to spare. Build a parking garage?

  21. “Saved, sit in the back. Sinners, you’re up here with me.” :)

  22. I think the comment of 'saved sit in the back, sinners in the front' is really funny, probably because I have worked for a church, and now I am a missionary. Can I say that being in a packed church rocks? I love it, the 8:30 service lacks the energy! Saturday night rocks!