The following are short reflections on some of the things we’ve found at the churches that we think fall into the category of “Best Practices” a church might adopt.
St. Luke’s Episcopal, CdA
Including the young as full and active participants in the most important elements of the service–what could be a better practice?
Greenacres Kingdom Hall
The ushers were welcoming and informative (you might recall we were “late” to the service that began before the one we intended to attend). In the midst of the horror of entering a packed service that’s already in progress, it’s really nice to be quickly, efficiently, and kindly seated.
Valley Assembly of God
Really comfy pews and chairs. There are a number of churches who’ve moved to comfortable seating, and, having recently been in a few where the springs are poking through and the suspension’s shot, it’s nice to not be distracted by the circulation in your legs being cut off.
Southside Christian Church
What’s not to like about a church that has mocha-frappe-whippa-chinos? This is coffee country, and there is something nice about churches who serve something that people enjoy.
Spokane Valley Church of the Nazarene
It was particularly interesting to see a non-liturgical tradition reach out to “lapsed” people from liturgical traditions. It was the first time I’d seen a non-liturgical tradition use the word “liturgical” without an accompanying shudder or diatribe on empty ritual.
In order to get to know the congregation better, the pastors had “Life Certificates” which could be won at the games at lunch that afternoon. One was for game night, one for movie night, one for dinner, each at the home of the pastors. I suspect pastors in general, like CEOs and managers and college professors, don’t often get invited to dinner at the homes of their congregations, employees, or students.
East Valley Presbyterian Church
Has an on-going discernment process to reach a consensus about what to do with their physical plant.
Life Center Foursquare Church
When we lived in Raleigh, our priest, who’d come from Tri-Cities, told us of churches in WA that had whole coffee bars. We didn’t really believe him, because we showed up at ECOR, which serves, um, very generic coffee (usually something that rhymes with Tracksbell Mouse or Smoldgers). Life Center has that coffee bar. It’s by donation, and looks just like a little Starbucks in the middle of “The Commons” (the foyer/entry hall of the building).
Bethel Missionary Baptist Church
In 2004 or 2005, as they finished building the building, the Bethel Missionary Baptist Church hosted a picnic for the community. They had games and bouncy things for the kids, and hotdogs and hamburgers. But what they did that I was so keen on, was they had a series of signs that were like the old Burma Shave signs, that apologized for the mess they’d made of the central road, thanked the passerby for h** patience, and invited h** to join them for a burger and a coke.
Otis Orchards Seventh-day Adventist Church
Very welcoming, and good directions from the people in the hall, good instructions through the service about what to do next . . . but mostly, very welcoming. They also have a time of sharing, where one of the ushers moves through the congregation with a microphone, so that the prayer requests and praises can be heard by all.
Foothills Community Church
Foothills is the first church I’ve been to that has woman’s sanitary products available on the backs of the toilets in the women’s restroom. What a really super-good idea.
Episcopal Church Of the Resurrection
ECOR has a moment in the service, after the passing of the Peace, where a small line forms in front and people may give thanks, or ask for prayer. The priest has a small church-shaped bank called the “blessing bank” where the participants might give a small donation (although that part is very much optional). It’s a few moments for the congregation to connect with the lives of others.
The priest is infinitely patient with new folks, and explains the parts of the service as we’re going along, taking as much time as is needed. I’ve also watched him, when someone has thrown out some weird question or statement in the middle of the sermon, just take it in stride, and incorporate at least a portion of what they said back into what he’s said. One week, out of the blue, and–as far as I could tell, completely unrelated to anything he was saying–a woman announced that she’d, “Been an adulterer. More than once. I’ve hurt men, and women, and children,” she said.