Everything Speaks! So, what are you trying to say? Or what is it you are hoping to communicate? Is your message getting across?
When I visit a church, I prefer to arrive with the crowd in order to get the first time visitor experience. During a recent visit, I lingered in the lobby for a while. As I walked into the dark gymnasium (aka worship center), I noticed the volunteer team putting out more chairs. There was a big commotion and despite my years of church-going experience, I wasn’t quite sure what to do. Should I wait for a chair to be set out for me or walk ahead and look for an empty seat?
I spoke to the leadership about it afterward and discovered the commotion was intentional. Their goal was to create enthusiasm. As in, wow – look at this - we are growing so fast we can’t keep up, we gotta to put out more chairs. The problem was, the majority of the folks they were wanting to imbue with enthusiasm for were already in the service with their backs to all the action. They were already engaged in worship and not really paying attention to the chairs unless they were being distracted by it. (Another topic for a future blog.) Everything Speaks. Clearly leadership knew what they were wanting it to say and to whom they wanted to say it, but did their intended message make it through the noise?
The idea that everything speaks came into focus for me one morning as I was taking my son to school. We pulled alongside a filthy school bus. It hadn't rained in a while so I couldn’t imagine a reason for the bus to be so dirty. I was getting a message loud and clear. Someone is not doing their job. Someone just doesn’t care enough to keep this school bus clean. I asked my son what the dirty bus said to him. He imagined this bus travelling down a long country road, over hills and across a muddy creek bed to pick up a child that otherwise had no means of getting to school. Wow! Same dirty bus – two completely different messages.
Everything speaks alright, but it might not be saying the same thing to everyone.
Back to the church I visited. With my new insight I realized at least two different interpretations of the same activity, in this case, the putting out of additional seating. To some folks it says "Hey, look at us, we are growing and we need to put out extras chairs!” But for the first time visitor who slowly makes their way in, arriving to no chairs or being swept into the commotion could say, “We weren’t expecting you.” That person wouldn't catch the intended enthusiasm at all.
Take a look around your worship space with this thought in mind. Everything speaks. What messages are you sending? How could different people interpret what they see? What do you really want to say and to whom do you want to say it?