There was no room for them in the . . . megachurch?

December 15, 2011 — 10 Comments

Christmasbyreservation

I’ve noticed a trend leading into this Christmas that is troubling: large churches requiring tickets for admission to holiday services. 

Having worked at a large church, I’m acquainted with the discussions that likely preceded the decision. The asphalt ocean that surrounds the complex can only hold so many vehicles at a time. The 70 minute format limits the number of services that can be offered. A dearth of volunteers caps the amount of children that can be handled. Seating is limited by a finite number of folding chairs and mobile televisions.

Still, tickets? “Act now, before they run out?” C’mon. 

The concern here is valid: Christmas and Easter are the two most populated services in the liturgical year. These churches want to make room for the crush of visitors while also accommodating their “regular attenders.” What’s a large, attractional church to do? 

Drawing from other popular entertainment venues that suffer the same capacity-versus-demand challenge, they decided to try and get an advance head count. I’m sure that this effort is aimed primarily at people “in the know.” What they really want is to know how many of THEIR people are coming (and to which services). 

I hope that’s the underlying motive. Do they really expect twice-a-year parishioners to check their website to see how to obtain tickets or make a reservation? What happens when some hapless guest shows up without a ticket? Just out of luck? “We’d love to have you come worship Christ with us. Unfortunately, this is one of our busiest times of the year and without a ticket, I’m afraid we just can’t let you in. But you’re more than welcome to try again any of the other 51 Sundays in the year…”

What if, instead of requiring tickets, the leadership of these churches divested themselves of their regular attenders for a week? Many of these folks drive past dozens of smaller houses of worship on their way to their megachurch. These littler churches are also expecting unfamiliar faces on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Instead of requiring tickets for megachurch attenders, what if they were challenged to worship at the church closest to their home

Loads of visitors will still flock to the megachurch for Christmas services. Regular attenders can show their hospitality by choosing not to be there, by giving up their seat to make room for a guest. Then, by attending a church closer to their home, they still get to engage in worship with their family and they allow these smaller churches the opportunity to worship with some fresh faces. 

These suggestions will likely fall on deaf ears. They’re ripe with logistical problems (what about volunteers? If all “our” people go elsewhere, who will pass out the candles and watch the children and take the offering?) and they create a bit of anxiety about sending people elsewhere (what if “our” people attend another church and like that one better?). But there has to be a better solution than ticketing Christmas.

Anderson Campbell

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  • Terry Clees

    I agree there must be a better solution than tickets…I long for the day when that becomes a problem at a church I pastor

  • Anderson Campbell

    Maybe it is a nice problem to have. But certainly there are better ways to address it, don’t you think Terry?

  • Eric Spiegel

    Great article! I definitely agree that ticketing is very off-putting. I probably wouldn’t mind it so much if there was just a little more transparency as to why it is needed from the church leaders. With little-to-no explanations as to why the church may change how it operates, leaving its members and visitors in the dark, can create a sense of othering rather than a sense of community.I really like the idea of visiting a smaller church closer to home as to give up my seat at my normal church.

  • Rodger McEachern

    Andy – it is difficult to be constructive and not cynical with the situation you describe…yet I think the mega churches function with at best an unintentional self centredness regarding smaller churches and at worst…”an intentional self centredness”…I don’t know of any mega churches that invest any time, effort or people into smaller churches around them…even as they have sucked the life out of them…as far as ticketing…one wonders if they are presenting a theatre production or a service of worship…so lets see…if I am to go to the mall or some Christmas play at my neighbourhood mega church…which will I chose?

  • Anderson Campbell

    Rodger,I agree with your assessment. And it is difficult to be constructive and not cynical. I wonder what it would mean if megachurches started investing in the local churches around them? Pulling from business models, I’m afraid they view them as their “competitors” … What would it look like in your situation? Are there any megachurches in Edmonton? How are they perceived by churches like yours? 

  • Noneya

    Your Hitler comment is extremely offensive. Just because we don’t worship like YOU doesn’t make us Hitlers, you asshole. My father lost three uncles, a wide, and a son to Hitler. And you are comparing him to a non-believer? You thumpers should be arrested for a hate crime.

  • Rodger McEachern

    To Noneya – what is it that you are attempting to say? And can you say it without being vulgar and offensive?

  • Mark

    WOW Noneya….that was brutal! Anderson, I once knew a pastor who said “small churches are for small minds”…he was from a very LARGE church.

  • Anderson Campbell

    Mark–Thanks for the comment. What do you think the pastor meant by that comment about small churches? 

  • Mark

    Well Andy it is hard for me to try to figure out this quote especially from whom I heard this. The pastor was a very prominent pastor from Northern Indiana with a very large church & lots of christian radio stations around the world. Me, personally, I like smaller churches because they seem to be more personal. I always seem to get lost in t he crowd at megachurches. What do you think he could have meant?