My Saddleback Observations Part 3: Some Things I Learned in Their Foyer

The foyer at Saddleback church is very small and in fact they have seats out in their foyer I’ll comment on this more later.  But their real foyer is an outdoor foyer, which they call “The Patio”, this works in Lake Forest, CA., it was 78 degrees at the beginning of our church service there Sabbath. 

On the outdoor foyer they have canopies and under these canopies are tables where folk can sign-up for the primary ministries of the church (small groups and Celebrate Recovery) and or sign-up to volunteer in different areas, a lot of churches I have been to, beg for volunteers a couple times a year, these folk had it set-up so that whenever the Spirit moved someone to serve, there was immediate opportunity. 

I really appreciated the organization of the tables.  Everything was laid out very neatly and was easy for a person to peruse through. 

I also appreciated that all the volunteers helping with the ministries had name tags hung around their neck with the name of their ministry and or position title.  You looked at the name and then you looked up at the volunteer and they were all smiling infectiously!  They looked like very happy Christians…like they were happy to be serving.

The third thing I noticed and this stood (no pun intended) out for some reason.  Every volunteer behind the table was STANDING!  No one was sitting (that is not true there was one table and I will get to that in a minute).  I realized in that moment that standing is inviting.  Sitting can often be very closed, many of us sit with poor posture and this often times can create a closed position.  There was only one table where the people were sitting, it was the youth and jr. high table.  They were sitting and the volunteers looked disinterested and guess what? I never saw a single person at their table! 

I want to make a quick comment on Saddleback’s inside foyer.  The inside foyer has some extra seating and also there are some TV screens and the service is broadcast out to these extra seats.  The reason this caught my attention is that I know each week there are a number of mothers who at some point in my service end up sitting out in the foyer.  We have a sound system, but it often times gets turned off, but I was thinking it would be great if when these mothers, grandmothers, even fathers, and grandfathers need to leave the sanctuary for a ‘bit if they could still hear and SEE the worship service inside.  Sometimes these little amenities make the difference (though this is something that may cost a little money). 

So what can we learn, no matter what our size?  Have sign-ups for volunteers every week so that when God speaks to an individuals heart that they need to get involved, then there is an opportunity for them to get involved!  Second I learned that we need to always make sure we are standing-up, not sitting down, when wanting folks to take interest in what we have to show them at our ministry tables.  These are just a couple things any church can do no matter the size or resources.


  • Lisa

    Chad,I’m really interested in this project you’ve been doing and the observations you’ve made. I think what strikes me is this. I’ve heard comments over the years from some dear saints about studying the practices of or "imitating" Sunday churches, saying that there is nothing that God’s "chosen church" needs to learn from them that it can’t gain on its own, directly from God. But your observations have been interesting to me because they aren’t doctrine-related. They are service related. I’ve thought often (usually after interactions with some of those dear saints) that although some of their theology may be misguided, Sunday churches sure do GET the gospel. They GET evangelism. They GET being a Christian, better than many of us do, I think. So if we really can "do" church without the influence of other churches, I have to wonder this: Just how inward-focused are we? Why aren’t more of us (and kudos to you, by the way) stepping back and asking what we can do to make church an inviting experience for our visitors?My church started hosting an annual ministry fair a few years ago (think: fall festival with ministry sign-up booths) and I thought that was pretty progressive, but having those same tables available every week? That is a fantastic idea! Greeters who don’t just stand around and socialize with their Adventist friends? Brilliant. Those are absolutely things we could have come up with on our own if we were really serious about reaching people.I’m not running down my church, by the way. It’s one of the warmest, most inviting congregations I’ve ever been a member with. I think we do a comparatively good job of welcoming visitors and helping them find a place in our church. But I think there’s another important question to ask once we’ve welcomed them and made them feel at home and a part of things: What’s next? We ARE different and we need to find a way to follow through on sharing those differences with new members once we’ve gotten them in the door.I’m very interested in hearing the rest of your observations!

  • Chad Stuart

    Thank you Lisa for your comment. I am glad you notice what I am trying to convey here is not theology but methodology and not even methodology that would require compromise. I would say the concerns you have in regards to churches in our denomination are valid concerns, but I don’t think the people are ultimately to blame. I have been taught by many great leaders, "the people will only go where you lead them," "The people will not go any higher than their leader," and other axioms of the like. So when I look at the churches I don’t say what is wrong with them (although they are not without culpability), I will first look to the leaders. And if we have a problem as you described above that has been passed on from generation to generation. We need leaders, whether Elders, Deacons/Deaconesses, Pastors, Conf. administration to step in and say enough is enough…and no matter how tough it is, or how much resistance there may be, leaders need to be willing to "do what’s right because it’s right and leave the consequences with God." (maybe even losing their jobs or being ran out of town:)). So if you are a leader in your church set the tone, now you have the information, call the other leaders and hold your overall leaders accountable. This job we have as pastors is not a right, it is a privilege and if it is just a job and not something we are willing to die for or change things for then we should be told our services are no longer needed.

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