By Tim Chermak
For the ecclesiastically challenged out there, this guide’s for you. If you’re fed up with the color of the carpet, boring sermons, generic donuts, or the terrible lead guitar player at your current church, maybe it’s time to consider looking for another house of worship.
Today’s church market is more competitive than ever, and this translates into low levels of commitment for you, the consumer.
Smithian free-market economics has created a dream situation for church shoppers — decreased demand in religious seekers has current churches scrambling to keep their doors open, which leads to great deals for consumers.
The oversaturation of the religious market that occurred in the last few decades has proven deadly for pastors, and many churches that rode the rising tide of the prosperity gospel movement have found themselves struggling to stay afloat as that tide receded. An overabundance of supply coupled with a massive decrease in demand has created an inevitable perfect storm for church shoppers — purchasing power is greater now than ever before.
While still far behind our neighbors across the Pond, the American church has seen a steady decline in market share in the last few years. Other Sunday activities, mainly sleep, have cut into weekend time slots traditionally reserved for church. To combat this, churches have diversified their product line into an impressive array of low-commitment appetizers, such as online sermon podcasts and short-term small groups.
Many churches now feature happy hours designed for “seekers,” which feature programming designed for especially frugal religious shoppers. These free-trial experiences have translated into frequent return customers –a good sign for pastors who find themselves in a struggling religious marketplace.
Sick of overwhelming commitments and stressful sacrifices? Today’s houses of worship offer many experiences and solutions… with no down payments! While our parents were expected to attend church programming at least twice a week to retain their membership status, today’s churches require little or no risk on your part. If you don’t like what you see, nobody is making you stay.
Tired on Sunday mornings? Try the evening service. Sick of smelly old people and their outdated hymns? Try the young adult Saturday evening service. Weirded out by the candles and tight jeans? Join an “online community,” a church experience specifically designed for those of us who prefer cyber-interaction to the real thing.
Whatever your style or preference, today’s ekklesia has a solution just for you!
It’s easier now than it has ever been to get plugged in at a local church — in most cases, you don’t even need to leave the comfort of your bed, assuming you have a laptop with wireless internet capabilities. Still scared off by unrealistic expectations and spiritual conviction? No worries, today’s sermons are diet versions of the traditional two-hour discourse of our parents’ age, and rarely (if ever) intimidate us into making lifestyle changes we aren’t ready for.
There has never been a better time to invest in a local congregation. What are you waiting for?
Tim is a writer hoping that somehow, someway, his work will influence the world in a positive way. He is currently an undergraduate student at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan.