Just a short(ish) thought today.
I’m not suggesting there’s anything negative about this – routines can be helpful. They provide structure which, for some, is crucial. They help us to keep going, to get things done.
But they do hold a danger: routines, over time, become firm. As we do things the same way – day-by-day, week-by-week – we form habits. And if you’re anything like me, sometimes these habits become so set that they obscure the original reasoning behind them.
We get so used to doing things in one way, that we forget there are any other options available.
Stuck in the mud
This can be the case with our communications.
Perhaps it’s our church email newsletter? We produce it every week without fail, with the same structure or content each time. Is there anything wrong with the way we do it? Maybe. Are there things we can do better with it? Perhaps.
But because it’s a habit, we don’t ask the question.
The inertia from our communication habit stops us from even asking these questions. It’s easier to keep doing something the same way than to consider whether it’s the best way.
The inertia from our communication habits stops us from asking questions about what’s working – or what isn’t.
Obviously this can apply to other elements too – our news-sheets, the updates we post to social media, the style of our flyers.
But I shouldn’t need to point out this isn’t limited to our church marketing output.
This ‘routine-fuelled tunnel-vision’ can apply to all areas of our church lives.
Tradition or habit?
We can find ourselves singing the same hymns month to month. Or preaching through the same passages every year or two. Or following the same service format every week.
Because ‘that’s the way we do things’. And it’s not worth questioning.
So we don’t ask ‘why’.
How then do we recognise where we’re doing this, and break out of the tyre tracks that we have created?
Mix it up
Thankfully, this is the simple part – mix it up.
If you publish the same few social media posts every week, try something new – there are loads of social media ideas for churches.
If your news-sheet simply contains the same thing week to week and is essentially becoming pew-lining, mix things up! Why not try a new format? Or even go a week without a news-sheet (I can hear the cries of ‘Heresy’)!
It doesn’t need to be perfect, and the best part: if it doesn’t work, you can try something else!
If the structure of your Sunday Services is the same every week – shake things up a bit. How about moving your notices to the end of the service, or including a time of reflection after the sermon, with a quiet musical accompaniment.
Don’t be limited by how things are usually done, or by how others do them. Why not really mix things up and start the service with the scripture reading and the sermon, and see how this impacts the rest of the meeting.
As well as helping to review your own habits, your congregation will notice changes like this. It will make people actually think about the routines of the church, and will communicate to them your willingness to see where God is leading you, rather than simply carrying on without question.
Remember to seek out feedback from people, to gauge reactions.
Will there be resistance? Probably. It’s the nature of habitual creatures to resist change!
Is this resistance a reason to avoid rocking the boat? Absolutely not! It may even be more of a reason to do it.
Moreover, there will also be encouragements, and helpful feedback from those who wish to see the church moving forward in the best way possible, rather than assuming ‘business as usual’ is the only way.
After all this, it’s entirely possible you’ll discover that what you were already doing was working perfectly. And that’s great because you wouldn’t have been able to prove this without your little experiment!
The new normal
One warning – don’t form a new habit!
If you’ve found something new that acts as a breath of fresh air, don’t just let that become the new routine. Keep reviewing and evaluating – keep mixing it up!
In all of this, we can be glad of our freedom to worship God in any number of ways.
And we can rejoice on that habit which never needs to be questioned – worshipping the God who bought us this freedom with His blood.