If You’re Going to have a “Club” Church – Make it a Good One!

Certainly, within my lifetime, I will not see the end of “club” churches. While they are adding to the collapse of Christianity in the West – primarily because most “club” churches are just awful, I am confident that their days are numbered. So, I thought I would contribute a word to at least help make them better.

What is a “club” church? It is a modal of organising our fellowships in such a way that they operate a bit like a ‘doctrinal Sunday club.’ Meeting on Sundays with a few extra social events during the week, people join them based on agreeing with their doctrine. These clubs often market themselves with a particular nuance such as a place where they make friends, study the word, have great worship, or are heavily involved in some social justice issue (In the UK, food banks for the poor seem to be popular.)

However, whatever their particular nuance in terms of their operations, they are in many ways like a social club. Not a mirror image, as real social clubs are legal entities that people go to every day to hang out, do activities and socialise, and tend to lack a clear ideological framework (though many Sunday club churches also lack that, as well). The point of the “club” church is that it is a place where people can belong to a community. The “club” church, most of which are not-for-profit, has an identity that is always in flux with a significant in-and-out crowd and is contended for on different issues.

Brothers and sisters in Christ…can we be honest with ourselves? Do we not also approach our churches with the idea of finding the best one; a church that meets our expectations of good preaching, powerful worship, and lively community, preferably filled with attractive people? We have brought consumerism into the Church and in that lay the rub. Most of our fellowships are weak with few congregants and willing but poorly practised volunteers, with wet, watered-down teaching, and competent but not inspired volunteer musicians. Then, add to that, Christians who are poorly established in the faith, grasping at the idea of ‘being a community’ but having no real-life experience, no actual point of reference to build upon, all of which is a recipe for disappointment, church shopping, and ultimately alienation from the Christian community.

Weirdly, given this scathing critique, you would think I would denounce the “club” church as something unchristian, which would be silly. It is Christian, just a modal of the church that increasingly conflicts with the realities that the body of Christ faces. The “club” church emerged out of a historical context in which Christians, at the time, were seeking, and still are seeking, ways to be relevant. I am not saying they are evil, or morally wrong; just that it is deeply, deeply flawed. We need the Benedict Option (go look it up) to help us regain the initiative, and I hope all of you who are reading this will take steps in that direction, even if you do not manage to fully actualise it.

However, I am also a realist and fully accept that I am not going to convince my people to get ahead of the curb (society is pushing us to the Benedict Option anyway). Accepting this, I want to offer some thoughts and reflections on how to make your “club” church better if you’re going to stick with such a modal. (perhaps share this article with your pastors).

THESIS 1: If your fellowship has less than 100 congregants, stop trying to imitate churches that are bigger than you. It is better to do something small and simple well than to try and do something complicated and ‘showy’ badly – it is just cringe-worthy.

THESIS 2: Stop with the gimmicks, large or small! If you are having to use gimmicks to make church ‘fun’ then you have not discipled your congregations properly. We come to Church to celebrate the Lord in our life, like a family coming together to celebrate a special event.

THESIS 3: If you are going to do “club” church, you need to be very strong in one of these areas; biblical teaching, worship, or community. You can not afford to be mediocre in all three – you will lose congregants. To be clear, I think you should be strong in teaching; remember though, what you are strong in will mean that is the kind of Christian you will attract, the one who values that kind of thing.

THESIS 4: Stop trying to force your congregation to be something it isn’t. For instance, trying to exhort people to be more vibrant in worship if they are not is chiefly what I mean here. The sincerity of worship is what is important.

THESIS 5: Accept that your one congregation can not do it all! Have a clear idea of the responsibilities of families, society, and congregations (and teach on it). In what capacity can families, society, and congregations work together whether it be in a local area, a whole nation, or the world (and teach on it). Trying to do everything on our own is killing us.

THESIS 6: Tackle the absence of teens and young people from our congregations. Fellowships in a geographical space should pool their youth and young people together ecumenically. Invest resources in them to build them up in the faith, rather than having 2 – 12 youth / young people being awkward together, in our congregation.

THESIS 7: Building on thesis six, congregations need to work together to build and create families within the Christian people – across regions of the country.

THESIS 8: Whatever you do – ask yourself, is it contrived, fake, cringe-worthy? So many off-putting moments in fellowships occur when leaders replace real sincerity and substance with some poorly thought-out ideas aimed at fun or entertainment.

THESIS 9: Recognise what is beyond your reach to achieve.

THESIS 10: Do all you can to break up – and break down – cliques in the church. Once your “club” takes off, I promise you, they will form, but try to recognise why. It’s not people being bad or ill-mannered for the most part. Rather, it is the result of only having a limited understanding of what it means to be a people of GOD, no education in hospitality, and only 30 minutes put into practice being a community, you end up seeking out the few people you already know.

I have many more ideas, but sadly time is against me in writing this article; plus ten is a good number to end on for us Christians, we do like a list of ten. So please, do share this article with the pastors you meet; and do take these points into your “club” churches if you are part of one – until we can truly be the body of Christ in consolidated geographical communities, we have to make our Sunday “club” church modal work.

3 Responses

  1. Hi Bob,
    Thank you for your article. I keep wondering if there is a very large divide between USA and UK churches, as some of the article I (thankfully) cannot relate to. The fellowship I attend began for me out of a respect and reverence for Pastor Robbie who left his home in South Carolina (with family) to assist our inner-city churches in Hamilton Hill, NY. Honestly, I’ve just been blessed in that I’ve been fortunate enough to meet some incredible people (who are also pastors and/or their wives) working in or around inner-cities — although i am not there now. I’d love to write more to you but I do not want to make you uncomfortable. Perhaps you’re shy, or perhaps you want to be respectful but I typically do not hear back from you — which is certainly fine — I just also know that I need to guard my heart if you’re not interested. I will say in my defense that I in no way write to other men in this manner. I just started up again on social media — and even there I’m trying to limit my exposure. Once I’m back inside ALIVE Radio Network (my former employer wants me to retun) I’ll be working on sales as well as on-air programming (interviews, fundraising, etc.) – I tell you this because I’d love to interview you (maybe on a regular basis if you’d be available). My heart is NOT to harm you or control you — it’s to see you prosper in God’s anointing on your life and the ministry, for I am fully aware that MUHAMMAD & ISLAM must be dealt with on a spiritual level — and THAT my dear friend is exactly what you do! I FOR ONE LOVE YOUR MASCULINITY AND YOUR DEPTH OF CHARACTER. GOD BLESS YOU IN THIS DAY AND KINDLY ALLOW ME TO SIMPLY ENCOURAGE YOU IN THIS: YOU ARE LOVED DEARLY BY SO MANY PEOPLE! I’m thankful to call you my friend! Mary

  2. Peace be with you too

    Re churches , I’ve just found one !

    I’m fairly new in my property and I moved in the height of Delta when everything was closed

    This flat is God Given, won’t bore you , but the man upstairs is a Christian
    He works for The CoE and it’s his job to try and get pews sat on again and encourage people back to their faith 🙌

    Lots of interesting discussions around this !

    There’s so much to say Bob

    I’ve stumbled on a local community church and it’s absolutely slaying it in the stuff it does
    Brooklands church of the Nazarene

    Lovely little church with a great atmosphere !
    It’s a hub of a community
    I could tell you all but it’s too long all I have to say
    The pastor there is fairly new and he’s really making his mark on it …it’s great !
    The Catholic church isn’t doing much at all, and I’m going to be changing churches

    This is because my health won’t allow me to go to The Catholic church and commit ,and to go to some of the community stuff the new church has
    It’s one or the other ( both are local )

    It’s a shame
    I have very severe ME/CFS and other things mental and physical

    I do plan to give back to church anything my body allows me to ,or hopefully I could make small regular donations

    So it’s a secular community spirit that in my case is bearing fruit
    People are turning up

    Blood Fire the other day was spectacular !

    He’s the kind of youth my youngest son would look up to ( he’s not a Muslim like my oldest son ) ,my Liam

    Blood Fire is street wise and he’s very cool
    He’s a clever lad as well
    I did comment what an intelligent young man he is
    What an asset

    The middle classes kind of churches , sometimes the youth can be a bit dorky ( not cool )
    And traditional church songs aren’t cool either ( and they are being sang too high eeekk )

    How do we attract young people like BloodFire?

    The local Catholics churches on twitter followed me back

    But I don’t think I’m of their favourite person’s now because I’m with you on abortion, Apologetics etc
    Since when did Catholics become weak.. wow

    They are leaning so far to the left they are horizontal

    I’m not a conservative either
    It’s very weak

    A church I left had campuses at Universities etc

    It was a very young church
    Very trendy

    Smart people, but it became too much
    They started to suck the living daylights out of me and they wouldn’t back off

    I still have a couple of friends I made there though ( not high up people in their heirarchy), just regular members
    *International church of Christ*

    I had to get out of there, but if you ever get chance watch a YouTube of a service and you will see how vibrant,how young they are.

    And they’re not afraid to be silent about the Bibles belief’s are

    They are really strong

    We could learn from them how to do it

    I believe you have a new spin off down there Bob the International Christian Church (ICC ) .. exactly the same.. how it’s grown so much and such young and dynamic members

    I really wanted to think about what you wrote ,so I could contribute
    I’m so compassionate about it
    I want the world to know about God’s grace

    Peace in him Bob

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