September 5, 2013

Church Selfies

If the Pope can take one, then so can we.

A picture of the Pope in a selfie—a self-portrait taken by a cell phone (more on what a selfie is here)—has been making the rounds on social media. To be fair, the Pope wasn’t taking the picture himself—but he did lean into the frame to appear with several teens.

So I started thinking: maybe this is a good time for churches to take some selfies (the clean kind). First, let me tell you why—and then I’ll talk about how selfies can make this happen.

In order to be outward-focused, we also need to look inward to get ready. There are lots of ways to do this, from Bible study and formation programs about hospitality and service to targeted newcomer ministries and building improvements. And if we stretch this metaphor of the selfie far enough, we could talk about what we see in the behaviors and hearts of our congregation. But I’m going for the soft-pitch for today with a look at our facilities. 

If we want people to feel welcomed, we need to design our space in welcoming ways. This includes good signage, plentiful (and marked) parking, clean and tidy restrooms and common spaces, and a convivial coffee hour. Our Sunday School rooms and nursery should be brightly lit, freshly painted, and engaging. The youth room might still be full of old, lumpy couches, but it should look like a place teens would want to hang out, not an afterthought. The landscaping should reflect that this is a place that cares—and grows, with trimmed bushes, budding flowers, and cut grass.

Why should we do this? Because Jesus asks us to. He calls us to make disciples and to extend hospitality always as we might be entertaining angels unaware.

So where do selfies fit in? Well, at their core, the selfies are about reflection (they might be about ego, flirtation, attention, and angst too, but we’ll focus on reflection). Sometimes we don’t know how we appear to others until we see a picture.

Here’s my grand idea: at the next youth group meeting, invite the teens to spend 30 minutes or more taking selfies around the church. In front of the church sign. In the narthex. In the classrooms and the priest’s office. By the stairwell and in the parking lot and on top of the playground slide. The kids will have a blast.

And who knows what new things you might see.