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Unexpected Solutions

I just got back from another roadtrip. I love taking long drives, especially when I get to be in the mountains or explore areas that I haven’t visited before. Those road trips put a lot of miles on my car… which means more frequent oil changes during those times of the year when I travel the most.

I’ve always been pretty faithful about getting my oil changed… but until I got my current vehicle, I had never really noticed any difference performance-wise before and after oil changes. And I never thought much about that, because it was just a maintenance thing. I was doing it to prevent problems, not correct them. Plus, since I use one of those full-service oil-change places, I got all of my fluids checked, my tires filled, windows cleaned, and the inside vacuumed too :)

But my current vehicle always seemed to “perk up” noticeably after an oil change… almost like it was happy to be clean and topped off! Since it’s a convertible and more of a “sports car” than anything I’ve ever had before, I just figured it was more sensitive to oil and fluids than the average sedan. The most striking difference I noticed was that the gas pedal was so much more responsive! Then it would slowly lose some of that responsiveness as the odometer closed in on my next scheduled oil change.

I assumed that the responsive gas pedal had to do with something that the oil change guys were checking, lubing, or topping off.

But I was wrong.

I accidentally discovered the *real* reason for my post-oil-change perk up the other morning.

It’s the vacuuming.

It turns out that the floor mat “creeps” up under the gas pedal as I go about my normal driving routine. It slowly makes the pedal physically harder to push. But if I just pull the mat back a bit… which you pretty much have to do when you’re vacuuming the inside of the car… instant improvement!

I love finding unexpected solutions. Sometimes big improvements come from small, seemingly unrelated adjustments!

My Tech Addiction

It’s been rough couple of weeks to be a piece of technology in my house. I’ve had issues with my computer and my cell phone — which is my primary phone, since I haven’t had a landline in years.

My laptop is on life support. Literally. It’s sitting on a cooling pad — an external heat sink platform with some build in fans to help with ventilation. Without it, if I run photoshop or even try to play angry birds, the laptop overheats and shuts off. So basically… my laptop is on a┬áventilator. I’m treating it like a sick family member: giving it plenty of time to rest and trying not to get it too excited or stressed out. Ironic… here’s technology that was supposed to make my life easier, and now I’m going out of my way to make its life easier. *shrug*

But I was already well aware of the extent of my laptop addiction. I spend more time with my laptop than I do with anyone or anything else. Period. If I’m not showering, driving, or eating out somewhere with friends… my laptop is rarely out of reach. I’m one of those intensely connected people who will check email if I happen to wake up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom.

But my phone? I didn’t consider myself to be as much of a phone addict. First of all, I don’t like talking on the phone and I’m not the kind of person to spend hours on end in phone conversations. (On occasion, I have… but it’s not the norm for me.) I’ve had a cell phone in some form since I was just out of high school… but I was not an early adopter when smartphones hit the market. In fact, I resisted smartphones entirely until June of 2009 when the Palm Pre was released… mostly because my pastor was so excited about this new phone with its amazing new operating system, WebOS. But once I got a taste… I was hooked! I started using it to check emails, keep up with my calendar, send text messages more efficiently, play games, even get GPS-style directions. But even so, I didn’t consider myself addicted. I had friends who were far more attached to their devices than I was. Compared to them, I was a relatively casual user.

Or that’s what I thought until yesterday morning… when my Pre finally died before church. I knew that being without my smartphone would be an inconvenience, but I never realized just how much it had become a part of my routine until it wasn’t there anymore.

I don’t wear a watch. It isn’t that I’m opposed to them; it’s just that my wrists have always been watch killers, so I’ve just stopped trying. Now, in the age of smart phones that auto-sync the time and even update your time zone as you travel… I use my phone to check the time A LOT. And I’ve been lost without it!

My phone had also become a replacement for my point-n-shoot camera. I would have loved to take some pictures of a special presentation at our church yesterday morning… but without my phone, and my much larger and more complex DSLR at home, I couldn’t.

I’m on the worship team & many Sundays, I’ll play a song at the end of the service. Sometimes I think of one that would be perfect during the message and look it up on my phone to refresh my memory for chords & words. Couldn’t do that either.

Couldn’t tweet or post a facebook update.

Couldn’t text the tech team during service to let them know when something wasn’t showing up right.

Couldn’t check emails.

At lunch, couldn’t check in with my friends using a location service.

Couldn’t check the weekend hours of a store I needed to visit while I was driving there.

At home, couldn’t call my mom from a phone number that she’d recognize as mine.

Couldn’t text a quick question to a friend.

Couldn’t set my alarm for the morning.

And since my Pre displays the time while it is on its touchstone charger… I also lost my night table clock!

No wonder I’m feeling a little depressed! No wonder I’m going into tech withdrawals!

For a brief moment last night, while I was lamenting my situation, in a flash of either clarity or insanity… I wondered if maybe it might be a good idea to stay disconnected for a while…

Nah. Not gonna happen!

How To Discourage Visitors

It’s difficult for a church to see itself through the eyes of a total outsider, someone who shows up for the first time and doesn’t have any friends or family in that church to help them navigate through the facilities, culture, lingo, and expectations… so I’ve compiled a little list of observations based on multiple real churches that I’ve visited over the last 6 years or so. I hope that this tongue-in-cheek “How-(Not)-To” post makes you smile… and maybe even opens your eyes to some things that your church might be doing without even realizing it.

Web Site:

Make sure that your service times and exact address are nowhere to be found on the main page of your site. (As an added bonus, if your church is in a city with a common name like Springfield, boldly proclaim that fact and even provide a street address… but neglect to mention what state you’re in… and don’t give the area code with your phone number.)

Mention your service times at least two other places on your site, at least three clicks away from your homepage… but make sure that you give different times in both places. Gotta keep folks on their toes!

Give written directions that use landmarks like “turn by the old Walmart” (that was torn down years ago). Folks who are new to town need to have enough respect for the community to learn where things used to be, not just where they are.

Devote half a page to your statement of faith, and dedicate at least four pages to a defense of tithing.

While re-designing your site, don’t use “under contruction” pages or other placeholders… instead, direct every incomplete link back to the main page of your site with no explanation.

Parking:

If you have an early service or early Sunday School classes prior to your worship service, make sure that everyone who attends these functions parks in such a way that their vehicles cannot be seen when the visitor first pulls into the parking lot. Maybe the visitor will just turn around and go home…

Avoid having any sort of directional marks or even painting parking stall lines… things always work out so much better when folks are allowed to choose where to park for themselves, free from the legalistic confines of yellow paint.

If you have a parking lot ministry, make sure you station those volunteers inside the foyer.

Signage:

Didn’t Jesus say that a wicked and adulterous generation seeks a sign? Who needs them! Especially if you have a larger campus with multiple buildings, three of which used to be your main sanctuary at some point and still look like they could be from the outside. Anyone who is being led by the Spirit will be able to figure out where to go.

Greeting:

If you want to run people off, there are two opposite but equally effective ways to accomplish this. 1) Don’t talk to them at all. Make them go searching for a bulletin. Make sure that none of the staff are identifiable or available to help in any way. 2) Stalk them. Make sure that at least 6 people greet them with uncomfortably long handshakes, and at least two of those attempt to get the visitor to fill out a multi-page dossier before they even make it to the sanctuary.

For bonus points, slap a nice big “Hello, my name is…” nametag on every visitor… and make every effort to spell their name incorrectly.

Bulletin/Announcements:

Give every ministry, small group, fellowship, and committee a truly unique and uninformative name. Then cheerfully announce that “Cobalt” is meeting tonight, but “Indigo” is postponed until next week. Give no indication of what these are.

When giving an announcement that requires folks to see a specific individual for more information, position that person in a poorly lit back corner of the sanctuary and have them wave briefly when you announce them. Yeah, I’ll remember that hand next time I see it.

Worship:

Use worship music that is popular and familiar to many folks — stuff they might have heard on Christian radio — only change the words just enough and alter the melody just a bit so that any comfortable feelings of familiarity are eliminated. This will effectively squelch any desire on the visitor’s part to sing out and participate in worship for fear of sticking out like a sore thumb.

Another approach: use only music that members of your church have written, and sing them in keys that are unattainable by the general public.

Sermon:

Never let a sermon “stand alone.” Preach in such a way that no one will have any idea what you’re talking about unless they’ve listened to the last 40 sermons leading up to this one…

Follow-Up:

Don’t distinguish between visitors and members in your church database. That way, after they’ve visited the church once, they’ll still get mail five years later pleading with them to contribute to the Pastor Appreciation gift.