About once a year, I attend the contemporary worship service at a church adjacent to the University of New Mexico. I like this church and enjoy the informal, but well organized, youth-oriented service. The praise band is lively, but punctual. The pastor knows how to give an appropriate message for that setting. The church has invested heavily in lighting and sound, so that the fellowship hall is ideal for contemporary worship. But, where are the college kids? I didn’t see any.
I contrast this to the service that I once attended in College Station, Texas. Here, everything was less than optimal. The gymnasium-like space, in particular sticks in my mind as being uncomfortable to worship in. This may have been due to the fact that the space and the stage were packed with college students.
You may be thinking that I am going to show an inverse relationship between perfectionism and the appeal of a worship service to college students. Perfectionism is bad for the health of any congregation. I haven’t seen any studies relating it to the worship preferences of college students, though.
What’s at play here, is the core vision of each congregation. The church near the University of New Mexico, is what I call a Diamond Church. They take pride in being the best church in the region. Every decision they make, hones in on the question, “What is it that will cause people to drive by other churches and come to ours.” They demand quality from their paid staff and program leaders. They don’t do anything, unless they can do it well.
In College Station, at least a portion of the parish has been set aside to pursue a different core vision. This sub-congregation is oriented entirely towards reaching the next generation. They have abandoned all expectations, except those related to evangelizing 18 to 30 year olds. Perfectionism doesn’t stick to this mindset. They are a church that is clubbing away at post-modern culture (what I call a Club Church).
In Reality Check 101, I talk about the four exits off the round-about. Every congregation must discern its core vision. They must choose their path. Diamond Churches may have a well attended contemporary worship service, but the demographics of that service is likely to be older. Club Churches may have to become a sub-congregation within a more traditional and wealthier parish. It takes courage to walk the path that aligns with your core vision.