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5 Quirky Things That Are Way Too True About Church Life

Did you know you’re twice as likely to be killed by a vending machine than you are by a shark?

Apparently, that’s true.

I’m guessing you’ve never thought about being killed by a vending machine, even though you see them all the time and maybe even use them regularly.

You likely have thought about shark attacks, even though odds are you’ve never seen a shark in the wild while swimming.

Life’s weird like that.

And so is church life.

But once you know something quirky is true, you can better deal with it (like making sure you don’t shake that vending machine trying to get your chocolate bar out).

There is nothing I am more committed to in leadership than the mission of the local church.

I love the local church. And the local church hands down has the most important mission on the planet.

But we don’t always help ourselves. Sometimes we tolerate things we just shouldn’t because we don’t know how to deal with them.

In an earlier post, I wrote about 5 stupid things the church does that interfere with our mission.

Weird and the quirky things don’t help us advance the mission either. Some of them are things we do…some of them are things we encounter as leaders.

Hopefully by being able to recognize them and even—are you ready?—smile at them, we can move through them and make some progress.

quirky things

1. The more off-tune someone is, the more they really, really want to be on the music team

I wish this wasn’t true, but it is. Just ask any worship leader.

Why do worship leaders always need to be the people who tell someone the one thing no one else in a person’s life has ever had the courage to tell them?

Faced with crushing an aspiring musician’s heart, many church leaders decide instead to ignore the tough conversation and instead tell the sound guy to ‘just turn down his microphone.’

I outlined some solutions to this dilemma in this post on why “just turn down his microphone’ is a really bad strategy.

But in a nutshell, the best way to have these conversations is to affirm the intention but refocus the direction.

If you do that, the conversation will sound something like “I’m so glad you want to serve. I’m not sure this is going to be the place for you. Let me help you find a great fit.”

2. The more adjectives in a church name, the stranger the church

Adjectives aren’t inherently bad.

They can be an interesting feature on a dinner menu. When something is hand-fed, organic, locally sourced and maple-infused, two things are true: it will likely be awesome and it will likely be expensive. Apart from the cost, the more adjectives the better when it comes to dining.

But a good thing on the dinner menu can be a bad thing at church.

If you are the First Episcopal Baptist Freestyle Church of the Holiness of the Tabernacle of God, there’s a significantly disproportionate chance unchurched people aren’t going to check out your church.

If you need that many adjectives to explain how different you are from everyone else, everyone else may feel excluded. It just sounds too weird, however awesome your adjectives might sound to you.

A simple church name communicates welcome better than the 12 adjective special from days gone by.

Want to communicate that you’re a welcoming church? Drop some adjectives from your name.

Same goes for a pastor’s title, by the way. If you need to be the Reverend Doctor Brother Pastor X, you’re putting up a wall between you and the people you serve.

3. The longer an email and the fewer paragraphs and spaces it contains, the worse it is

So that single-paragraph, 3 page email with no spaces you got was awful, wasn’t it?

It’s like there’s this secret angry-person email rule book that says the angrier and less helpful you are, the longer you should write and the less space you should put in this document. 

How do you deal with a long, unhelpful email?

Give a short but empathetic reply. Something like “I’m so sorry you feel that way. I’ll take your views into consideration. Thanks, Carey.”

Kills the trolls every time without you being a jerk.

I know what you’re saying…but what if that email is from a key leader that makes a great contribution to our church?

Simple. Key leaders that make great contributions to your church never write emails like that. Ever.

And in the off chance one does…call that leader and schedule a lunch right away. It will probably take less time than a full reply anyway.

For everything else, short, honest, empathetic replies to long emails almost always improve the dynamic.

4. The more mature a person claims to be, the less awesome they are to be around

Ever notice the people who claim to the be the most spiritually mature often are the quickest to judge insiders, outsiders and leaders who don’t think act and behave like they do?

They’re even quick to tell you what God thinks and point out how wrong you are.

Here’s the question that bothers me: Why do the people who claim to speak for God seem to be nothing like Jesus?

Meanwhile, there are people in your church who quietly read the scriptures daily, pray deeply, serve humbly and invite their friends regularly who exhibit all kinds of signs of real spiritual maturity but who never claim to be mature.

I think we have misdefined what spiritual maturity is in the church today. I wrote about that here.

Sometimes it’s best as a leader to ignore the people who claim to be mature and instead, build your church on the people who actually are mature.

Here’s how to tell, by the way, if your church is actually producing disciples.

5. The people who complain the most contribute the least

Too often in church life, the people who complain the most contribute the least.

If you actually had access to the giving records of the people who complain the most, you will often find that lack of charity in their words is matched by the lack of charity in their finances (and deeds).

You can’t advance the mission of the church church on criticism. You can only advance the mission through contribution.

But criticism is always easier than contribution, which is why some people stop there.

Don’t let critics derail the future of your church. Think about what they really contribute…and move on.

Here are 5 healthy ways to deal with your critics. And if you need a little more therapy, here’s a letter I wrote to the person who complains a lot about everything.

Any Other Quirks You See?

Any other quirks you see that you think the church needs to address to get better?

Scroll down and leave a comment.

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  • R Scott Blevins

    The link for “letter I wrote” is a dead link at the time of this post. Just fyi… “Error Rendering Page.

    • We encountered an error when rendering this page. ◦This is a generic and non-specific error message. Sorry we do not have more information.

  • #6 the more they claim to be an intercessor the less you want them praying for you!

    Why do certain self proclaimed intercessors want to be always praying for you and giving you the word of the Lord? Quite quirky!

    Although having faithful partners in prayer is absolute gold.

  • Thanks for this great post. The email insight is helpful.


  • Yep, all true Carey. For me #4 is also one that gets me every time. I have heard more times than I can count between fingers and toes of people telling me how spiritual and also how HUMBLE they are. Here’s a line for ya: “the more mature people say they are, the more arrogant they act.” This drives me crazy.
    So I’ve learned, over the years, to just wait because in a bout 10 minutes of them telling me that they are humble not trying to become a superstar in life, they fall flat on their faces with major pride and arrogance.

    The crazy thing about it is, all of these people that have told me how humble and mature they are, always look for a ministry position and for their voice to be heard.

    • This is good therapy for all of us, isn’t it? Thanks Alex!

  • I about spit when I read #4 – some of the biggest thorns in my side are those who claim spiritual maturity when what they actually have is volunteering intensity.

    Case in point, I actually had a family once stand before me after their third visit and literally say, “You have three spiritually mature people standing before you who want to join your church. How do you want to use us?” I was too young in my pastoral journey to understand what I was missing in them. They did get plugged in super fast which embedded them into others relationally. Unfortunately, when they disagreed with what we were doing they became vocal about it and had built enough relational currency to sway others the same way. When they left, they tried to take as many people as they could and even sent out a mass email defaming me.

    Perhaps that’s a point in itself – how many people who are amazing volunteers are assumed to be spiritually mature? And – how can we make sure before anyone does volunteer that they have a character-producing process in their lives along with community that won’t simply follow them, but will hold them accountable to that character-producing process?

    Thanks, Carey.