Church or Cafeteria?

Photo by Jonathan Borba on Unsplash

This past Sunday, UUCA Board President Ryan Williams spoke about his membership path at UUCA, where he arrived as a consumer (look at all the cool things I can get from this!) to his current position much further down that path as a supporter (what can I do to keep this congregation alive and vibrant?).

As luck would have it, Rev. Claudia ran across an article that speaks to this same idea but in a somewhat humorous (and yet telling) fashion.  The original author is Thom S. Rainer.  I have de-Christianized the language a bit and made it UUCA-specific in a couple of cases.  You’ll see.

Seven Differences Between Your Church and a Cafeteria

The article starts with a reminiscence of a first visit to a commercial cafeteria.  Mr. Rainer wrote, “For a small-town kid who had never seen such a feast, I was amazed.  The concept was basic.  If you paid your money, you could choose whatever you wanted.  Your preferences were paramount.  It was all about you.”  But a church is NOT a cafeteria.  And here’s why.

In a cafeteria, you pay for your preferences.
In a church, you give abundantly and joyfully without expecting anything in return.
If you ever hear someone say, “We pay the bills in this church,” you know they act like the church is a cafeteria.

In a cafeteria, the focus is on you.
In a church, the focus is on others.
If you ever hear someone say, “I’m not getting my needs met in this church,” you know they act like the church is a cafeteria.

In a cafeteria, you can expect to have things your way.
In a church, you should sacrifice your own needs for others.
If you ever hear someone say, “I want the order of service to be the way it’s always been,” you know they act like the church is a cafeteria.

In a cafeteria, the business must continue to make things more appealing and attractive for you to return.
In a church, you should not expect to be entertained to get you to come back.
If you ever hear someone say, “I’m going to a church where the preacher is more exciting,” you know they act like the church is a cafeteria.

In a cafeteria, if the customer does not get their way, the business must make every effort to address and remedy the complaint.
In a church, we should be so busy doing for others that we don’t have time or the desire to whine or complain.
If you ever hear someone say, “People are saying…,” you know they act like the church is a cafeteria.

In a cafeteria, you have a full staff serving you behind the glass partitions, indulging your every desire.
In a church, you should not expect the staff to do all or most of the ministry or service.  Instead, the members are to do the work of ministry.
If you ever hear someone say, “Rev. Claudia, you should….,” you know they act like the church is a cafeteria.

In a cafeteria, you will likely complain to others in person or on social media if you are not fully satisfied.
In a church, you should not have a gossiping or complaining spirit in public.  Complaints get directly communicated to the person with whom you are aggrieved.
If you ever hear or see public complaints, you know they act like the church is a cafeteria.

And a bonus one from me:

In a cafeteria, you will not return if your needs or expectations are not met.
In a church, you should (and I’m quoting from our covenant) attend to our differences with openness, compassion and trust; create healing by listening and speaking in the spirit of love; and be steadfast in support of our community in times of disagreement.
If you ever hear someone say, “I don’t like the decision that was made so I’m leaving,” you know they act like the church is a cafeteria.

Have any you want to add?  Send ‘em along.

Linda Topp, Director of Administration