This weekend my dad visited Saddleback, and one of the main questions he had after the adult service was – what exactly is Summer Spectacular? It was mentioned in passing from stage … and associated with the set built on stage, but none of it made sense to him. As we talked about it that afternoon, I wondered how many other people visiting our church wondered the same thing.
Now, the insiders of the church would know exactly what it is, our family has been looking forward to it for weeks. The entire church property takes on a whole new life and about 4.6 kajillion kids descend on our place for a vacation-Bible-school-on-steroids type of program for children. But someone there for the first time would have no clue what that even is, much less appreciate the magnitude of effort that goes into it or realize the benefit they could receive. It is easily one of the best things we do all year for children, the church is so proud of it and it changes lives for Christ.
So no harm meant using it as an example for a greater point – and we’re by no means immune from it either. Our HSM (stands for High School Ministry, in case you’re new here – ha!) summer calendar had a line that read “Ensenada.” That is simply the name of a place in Mexico, so not super helpful for anyone who didn’t know the legacy of the annual mission trip there over Spring Break. I wonder if ambiguous ministry names and clever-but-not-clear event names are hurting ministries, rather than building identity.
I think we keep people away without even realizing it.
I’m all for branding, and I think there’s a place for some insider stuff in the church. I’m not suggesting we rename events to lame things like “Summer Bonfire at the Lake” or “Movie Under the Stars That Starts at 7PM Don’t Forget the Blanket” – but too often we ask the uninitiated to learn a new vocabulary to understand us, or worse yet don’t bother to think about them in the first place.
All I’m saying is … if you’re on stage making an announcement, designing a summer calendar or talking about an event you do every year and you’re sure everyone is just counting the seconds until it is over … remember, a bunch of people listening to you probably have no idea what you’re talking about.