While we were at the beach over Thanksgiving, we had the opportunity to visit Seacoast Church down in Mt. Pleasant, right outside of Charleston, South Carolina. It is probably about the 4th or 5th time we have visited while on vacation. They are a growing multi-site and now multi-venue church, and they were also recently labeled as one of the most influential churches in the country. I first learned about them through a feature article in Vision magazine. I have been listening to the sermons through their podcast for close to a year now, so I have kept up with all their new changes with the multiple venues.
Instead of going to their main service, we checked out their new FamilyLife Service which is held in the “Warehouse” which is in the same building as their main sanctuary. They have created a really cool environment for the FamilyLife service and the Unfiltered(young adult) service. It has the feel of a really cool nightclub. The FamilyLife service is really geared toward involving kids in worship, and I think they did a great job of that. The music was fun and our kids really enjoyed it. Right before the sermon, most of the kids leave the service and go to their kids activities. And their childrens areas were absolutely amazing. I have never seen a daycare as nice as the church rooms were. First class all the way. Since we were visiting and our kids knew no one, they decided to stay in the service with us. Looking around, it made us feel comfortable that there were other kids there. I don’t know how many times I have visited churches and feel like I am annoying everyone just because we have small kids. I love to hear kids talking and laughing during church, it’s a sign that the church is family friendly and that families are welcome. Show me a church that doesn’t like kids, and I’ll show you a church that is headed toward closing the doors. The main sermon is then shown via video from the main sanctuary. They had some technical difficulties getting the feed going, and they did a really good job of slipping in the video from the Saturday night service (I noticed because I was sitting near the back) It was really seamless. It’s glad to know other churches have tech problems. That shows the need to plan for the unexpected.
Here’s what I really wanted to talk about though. Although Seacoast is a growing church that I have really enjoyed, we still noticed problems with being welcomed and knowing what to do. The message was good, and we really enjoyed the entire service, but there were a few things that stuck in my mind. As a pastor, it’s nothing that really makes that much difference to me, but it is always important to know how it feels walking into the unknown. We had no problem parking, they even noticed our out-of-state plates and parked us closer. Nice touch. And we were greeted several times on our way in. But from the time we got into the service, not one person talked to us, even during the meet & greet time. And I know I should have been greeting others as well, but I really wanted to see what it was like to just hang back and see how others react. The other thing that was a little awkward was the response time of the service. From listening to their podcast, I knew that at the end of the service they offer communion, or a time to pray, or a time to go to the cross and nail your burdens to it, which I think is a really great way to get people to think about the service and what they have learned. However, this was never announced from the stage. As we were singing the closing songs, people just started getting up all around us and going to the front. We did leave after two songs(Drew was getting fussy), so they might have mentioned it at the very end, but by the time we left everyone was already back to their seats.
It really made me think about how people feel when they visit our church. Do people talk to visitors? Do they know what is going on, or do we just assume that everyone knows the routine? But the experience was good for me. I need to put myself in the shoes of others. And by going there I learned some good ideas about incorporating the kids into the service. Overall, a great learning experience for a small-town country boy.