It was about ten years ago that General Motors decided to present a new image using the line "It's not your Father's Oldsmobile". If you're looking for a place to go for a Christmas service this year, you may walk out saying "it's not my parent's church".
Church in the 21st century is slipping from priority to "whenever" for many folks. So in order to get new faces in the door, churches are willing to try many things.
For example, when Pastor Tom took over as pastor at a Presbyterian church in Los Angeles, he knew he had to do something. Parishioners at this once vibrant church were few in number and predominately in their 60's. They were faithful but there was no growth. So Pastor Tom decided to do some visiting to his flock and found that many had pets in their homes. He noticed that people who are alone have done well to adopt a pet to keep them company. And when the furry friend is sick or dies, the owner grieves as if they were losing a family member.
There is a great love that these folks had for their pets and so he decided to include the 4 legged friends at an appropriate worship service.
So with doggie beds and water bowls placed next to each chair, the church began to fill. There was a "greet your neighbor time" between the animals at the beginning and when the pets calmed down, the worship continued including each one. Prayer time normally has request for a sick animal or for someone who has lost their loved one. During the offering, ushers have to step over a menagerie of leashes and while collecting cash, they distribute dog bones.
One similar church on the east coast has dubbed their pet friendly service "woof and worship". Definitely not your parent's church.
In the Midwest, there was another interesting method to get folks through the door. A pastor in a small town encouraged folks to come and bring your cell phones to church. The pastor knew folks would have them anyway but decided to incorporate the hand held technology into the regular service.
During the worship, the pastor challenged those in attendance to call or text a friend and tell them "I'm in church and I want to pray for you. What do you need?" Folks without a phone were given a greeting card that they were encouraged to write a note to a friend saying that they were praying for them this week.
Some people got responses to their text or calls before the worship was over. One lady had called a friend in the hospital and the friend was so impressed, that the lady held up her phone and put the call on speaker so he could "participate" in the worship from his hospital bed.
A third church actually had a month long promotion, giving folks one entry into a raffle for every church event they attended. At the end of the month, a drawing took place during another worship time for new and donated prizes like a TV and computer. And yes, you must be present to win.
So before you pack up the kiddos and head down to your local sanctuary for Christmas at church, do some checking. Otherwise you may find out too late that you could have brought the family pooch and the teenagers' cell phone to worship.