In case you haven’t seen it under the title of this post, my name is kind of complicated. It’s Stacia. (Pronounced ‘Stay-sha’) I once interacted with a volunteer who was very sweet and wanted to be helpful, but was a little “weird”.
Someone introduced me to her and she had a distinctly difficult time pronouncing my name. No big deal, it’s a hard name to pronounce. The first couple of times I corrected her, but after about two corrections, I just wrote it off.
Interestingly, other people were seemingly offended on my behalf. So a few people on our church staff corrected her repeatedly, but it just made no difference. It was like they were saying nothing at all.
After I had been on staff for several years, this volunteer wanted to “say a few words” at a planning meeting. So in a room full of people where every person knew my name, this volunteer said it wrong yet again.
In that moment, I was ‘Stot-cha’. In a way, you might think that I should be embarrassed, but I really wasn’t. However, there was a room full of people cringing and asking under their breath, “why can’t she get this right?”
It wasn’t that she didn’t care or wasn’t smart enough to remember, it just didn’t even compute. People weren’t muttering under their breath because she simply pronounced my name wrong, but instead because they have had their own slew of strange interactions with her over the years.
Right now, if you’re honest with yourself, you can think of someone at your own church that makes you tense and concerned about what they will do when they interact with others. Not because they are bad, because usually their hearts are in the right place; it’s simply because they are a little “weird”.
These are the types of topics that we don’t shy away from at everything.church. These little issues that no one addresses are the ones that need to be talked about, and we want to help you work them out.
Ok so, let’s talk small church. If you work or volunteer at a small church (less than 200 people) your weirdos are:
1) Very obvious, because there is not a lot of places for them to blend in.
2) Probably known and accepted by the 200 people that regularly attend.
You know how it goes. One of these folks say something completely strange and unusual. Then the inside crew who has been at your church for quite a while says something like, “Oh that’s just Old Man Howard, he’s a little funny.” Or better yet, “Sister Betty Sue has a really great heart, but avoid her potluck casseroles.”
You get the picture. Everyone usually knows that even though they are “weird,” and put gummy bears in their chicken pot pie casserole, that they are just looking for a place to belong. Your church has very awesomely created a place in your small body of believers for that to happen.
However, what if you are a church that’s not satisfied with being a community for less than 200 people? Or what if you’re a church plant, or a multi-site campus, or you just had a new young pastor take over? What do you do then?
If you are a small or medium sized church that wants to grow, you will without a doubt treat your weirdos differently. This is because you want to grow and understand that people on the outside might not be as accepting of “Sister Betty Sue” unless you’ve created a place for her that is appropriate.
So, what do you do?
1) You find out how involved your “weirdos” want to be.
2) You put the more traditional families and volunteers front and center.
3) You love unconditionally; because that’s what this whole thing is all about. God, church, and Jesus are all about love and grace.
everyone is looking for purpose
The world is full of “weirdos”. In fact, in the privacy of one’s home, everyone might be considered a little weird. However, “weirdos” don’t understand that most people generally leave their weirdness at home.
Instead, “weirdos” bring it everywhere with them, including church. I don’t have any hard data about the proportions of “weirdos” in church compared to a normal club or workplace, but I’d say the number is probably higher in church if I had to guess.
The church is known for acceptance and coming just as you are; at the end of the day this is something everyone desires. If you are on the “fringe of society”, you just found yourself a safe haven. Church is about the “one.” At least we are supposed to be. Jesus embraced the marginalized, the sick, the dying, the poor, the hungry, and the gross. Jesus set the bar pretty high, because as it turns out most people’s sensibilities are offended by such things.
If you give community and purpose to someone who is looking for it, everyone wins. Most people are looking to give their life to something. So if you can utilize the abilities that people have for the glory of God, you’re winning.
the “weirdo” scale
When you are looking to grow a thriving church full of families and couples that are sold out to God, AND include people that can be a little strange, you have to have a system that takes out the guess work. There’s a lot of “weirdos” that will attend your church and have no desire to serve or be more active than that.
However, there are a lot of people that will come looking for purpose and identity in a place where they can give back and be a part of your community. In this instance, you need a system that can be easily utilized. We created a scale to help you identify how to place such people.
There are some serving positions where skill is essential like running camera for the main worship service, teaching large group for kid’s ministry, counting the offering, or running the bookstore & welcome desk.
Then there are other positions that require less skill like greeting at the door, picking up trash between services or waving at people in the parking lot. The same goes for how someone presents themselves. It’s actually much more important for a greeter to look nice, than it is for someone behind the scenes on the media team. Although the position on the media team obviously requires much more skill.
So, you have a “weirdo” who looks great, but is totally self obsessed and will talk about their dog for an hour. Yes, they present nicely, but they don’t have leadership skills. You need to place them much differently, then someone who looks like they’ve been living in their mothers basement for twenty-five years, but is a master at all things tech.
Most of the time a “weirdo” is just happy that they have a place to belong. If you tell them you think the place they fit best is helping set up the parking lot cones, or cutting bagels before church starts, they will probably agree. Sometimes it requires more leadership than that on your part.
Sometimes people are really “weird” and they think they should be in some fabulous position that just doesn’t line up with your needs. Perhaps they don’t see themselves clearly. Then with love and care you have to explain how that’s just not a good fit for them, but keep trying to plug them in, because if they find a fit, the loyalty they will give you is insurmountable.
Yes, sometimes there might be a little of God’s favor involved, but church growth doesn’t happen by accident. As seen by the over 30% decline in the church at large in the last three decades, people aren’t flocking to church. Rather, church growth is happening when people are doing the work to make it happen. When people are putting the right formulas, with the right demographics, in the right cities, we see churches grow.
After just a few short months you can no longer see an environment the same way a first time guest would see it. Gummy bears in the potluck casserole might be so common place that most of your regular attenders know to avoid it, but a guest is not going to understand in the same way.
In fact, they might consider that a bad experience and not come back. We have to consider the “outsider” with equal levels of love and respect that we give to our “weirdo.” With proper systems in place, we can actually fix this problem once and for all.
Chief Creative OfficerStacia has over a decade of ministry experience, with the majority of that time leading next generation change. She has experience leading almost one hundred volunteers, and developing curriculum for kids and students. Stacia has a B.S. in Church Ministries and Biblical Studies, as well as experience educating in an elementary public school environment. She is also immensely creative and accomplished in teaching children about the wonder of God.