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I Survived a Boring Church Service to Watch a Japanese Game Show

It occurred to me a few years ago that although I had grown up in church, church and fun generally didn’t go together.   So we tried to make our experiences as a community of Jesus followers more fun. Then we met some friends a few years ago who made us look boring. North Point, Connexus’ big-daddy church affiliate, and our good friends at Orange, know how to have fun.  They notched it up a level or two.

Last night my kids and I sat down to watch I Survived a Japanese Game Show, a really kitch show about ten Americans who end up on a zany Japanese Game show.  It was just funny at every level, and it made me think again about how church people rarely think outside the box.  Not that we’re going for crazy stunts, but our God is way more creative and imaginative than most of his followers are.

As I was writing this post, I just got off the phone with a woman I haven’t met who attends our Orillia Campus.  She brought her boyfriend for the first time two weeks ago.  He hadn’t been to church for years, and his comment was "this isn’t like any church I’ve ever been at before, period."  For him that was a good thing.  One of the things he had was "fun".  The service engaged him and didn’t have any boring religious mumbo jumbo. It bothers me that so many unchurched people write off church because, among other things, we’re just boring.

As you think about making fun, shock, surprise and delight as words that might one day describe some of your church experiences, here’s why I’m committed to becoming more creative as time goes on:

  • Humour disarms people.  If people laugh, their defenses go down and they are far more ready to hear a hard truth.
  • Fun helps makes environments irresistible.  It makes people want to come back.  Truthfully, most non-church attenders never want to go back to a church they’ve just visited.
  • Fun should be appropriate, and ideally it should make a point.  Best yet is when it accentuates the key point in your message.
  • Fun, humour, shock and surprise makes things memorable.  A couple weeks ago during our God and Sex series, we handed out gourmet chocolate bars with a cryptic message on them, encouraging people to wait and not open them.  Naturally, by the time we explained what we were doing, many had opened it and chowed down all or part of their bars.  The message was on waiting with sex for marriage, and then we revealed that everyone who didn’t open their chocolate bars would be given another one on the way out – similar to the way sex is more of a blessing if people wait for marriage. I poked gentle fun at people who had opened their chocolate bar and been "caught."  It was a cool and funny moment, and I think it helped people remember the "wait" message well!  Then, as an act of grace, we gave everyone an extra chocolate bar as they left.

The last thing I want church to be is boring.  Because God, actually, is not boring.  Not in the least.

How comfortable are you with ‘fun’ in church?  What are other things things has humour and fun helped you accomplish in church?

6 Comments

  1. Duster on June 26, 2008 at 1:52 pm

    As my Aunt Faye used to say "homes should look lived in", and therefore yes, her house was always a little bit messy. Tidy yes, clean no! I can remember my mother always commenting on how dusty Aunt Faye's house was as we drove back home to our sterlized and "everything in it's rightful place" home.

    But us kids never noticed – her house was just a fun place to be. She never asked us once to take our shoes off, and we could always sit in the "adult" livingroom, and we were allowed play with that precious little figurine on the piano. We could even bang away on the piano if we wanted!(though my mother would never let ME get close to the piano!).

    Aunt Faye's house was the funnest place to be because you could be your self and not worry about all those "silent" rules that seemed to apply in so many other people's homes – don't do this and don't touch that.

    Church can be full of those rules too – get all dressed up, don't laugh to loud, sit up straight, don't eat that in here, wake up!
    But Aunt Faye's was the best home to be in because of her desire to just let us "be" while we watched her grace and listened to her funny stories of life and love with her friends and family – each story ending the same way "…I loved __insert name__ so much".

    Aunt Faye never did go to church and now I know why – it was always just too clean. In hide sight I don't ever remember seeing her vaccuum or doing dishes (though there was never a pile of plates in the kitchen), and I don't ever remember her asking anyone to place a coaster under their drink on the coffee table. Those things just weren't important to her. Rather, our family just being in her home seemed to be the most important thing to her at that partciular moment.

    Aunt Faye is long gone home now and I'm sure heaven is a little more messy since her arrival! And I bet there ain't a coaster to be found anywhere!

    Fun times… and I realize now… I loved her so much.

  2. Tracey M on June 25, 2008 at 10:11 pm

    Started reading the one comment and the "no fun in church" and was reminded of my boyfriend and kinda went "gee i thought only Justin said that" and then got to the end! haha p.s. Humour + church = the right place to be

  3. Jayne on June 25, 2008 at 10:05 pm

    By the way…no offense to KJV fans! Just didn't make much sense to me as a kid!

    Peace!

  4. Jayne on June 25, 2008 at 10:02 pm

    The church I grew up in was no fun at all. We were literally afraid of our Sunday School teacher…if we didn't know our memory verse – look out! I distinctly remember one time during the sermon when my friend and I got the giggles (that happened often during the King James readings) and the minister stopped speaking, glared at us and asked if there was something we'd like to share with the rest of the congregation (we were about 11 years old). How's that for making people feel comfortable? And then, of course, there was the frequent reprimands for gum-chewing. I laugh about it now because it was just so ridiculous. But I also realise now that those experiences of church from my childhood were definately contributing factors in my departure from church completely as a teen. I couldn't wait to "not have to go" anymore.

    Long story, short…at Connexus, I can't wait TO go! I love the messages, the music, the people. It's just a laid back atmosphere. Not intimidating, definately not boring and not something I want to miss. It really bothers me when I have to miss a Sunday morning at Connexus….I almost feel left out, like I'm missing out on something great. I guess that's just because I probably am!

    Thank you, Carey for letting us all share in your vision for our church…it IS fun and I love it!

    Oh yeah, Justin…awesome post! Agree completely!

  5. Carey Nieuwhof on June 25, 2008 at 10:45 am

    That's a great point, Piercy-man. Thanks. We actually should be most ourselves when fully alive in authentic community.

  6. Justin Piercy on June 25, 2008 at 10:18 am

    Carey, this post made me laugh a bit. The first church I ever consistently went to (not that long ago), was itself a bit stern on Sundays, and if you were caught horsing around, it would always draw bad looks from those who were a bit older. It struck me as not quite right from the beginning, perhaps because I didn't grow up in church. To this day, sometimes when I see people playing around in church I'll yell "No fun in church!!", jokingly of course.

    I think it's bad for anybody to take themselves too seriously, especially a church who's purpose it is to reach the unchurched masses with a message.

    In Matthew 12:49 Jesus points to his disciples as his "Mother and brothers", or in otherwords his family. In church, if we are doing things right, we should be just like one big family, and who can you have fun with if not your family. No family is all business all the time, siblings horse around with siblings, parents poke fun at children, and children, when they can get away with it, poke fun at parents. Families live and laugh together. And so I can only imagine Jesus must have laughed and had fun with his disciples and followers.

    Looking at this example I would say it's more than apporpriate, but almost necessary to have fun at church, at "home with your family" if we can't loosen up and just be ourselves, quirks and fun included, then what are we doing there? I love Connexus because it gives me a family I can have fun with, and be myself completely with. Good post:)

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