5 factors that can mess with your mind. Four | The WOW Factor
During the off-season, that is, when there's no football on TV, Harriet owns the remote. That means we get a good bit of HGTV every evening. So, I've become familiar with the Scott twins, Chip and Joanna Gaines, Love It or List It, Flip or Flop, Log Cabin Living, and some of the more popular reality programs dealing with home buying, demo, renovations, and real estate. Part of the learning curve in this stuff is the language these folks have popularized. It's a sophisticated world where the cost of a new house is the "price point", and having a bathroom attached to the master bed-room is an "en suite", and the exterior of a house, that is, the curb appeal, must have "pop". Drew Scott explained one night that "pop" is The WOW Factor.
In our rush to reach the Millennial Cohort (an unspecified age grouping of people reaching adulthood in and around the year 2,000, thus the label), the idea of "pop", or The WOW Factor is now in the church dictionary. In some respects it's a side-bar to the more contemporary idea of shopping for a church. There was a day when church selection was denominational, doctrinal, geographical, or even hereditary, the church home of the family. Suddenly, these factors are no longer the prime magnets that draw people to a church home (home emphasized). Instead, in the new world, there's a shopping list, especially among millennials, but also in their younger cousins, yet unnamed and undefined. As a result of the shopping mentality, many churches organized first impression teams and other devices and groups to add "pop", The WOW Factor to their facility, programming, mission involvements, curriculum, staging, staffing, and other visual aspects. This has been especially evident in children's, youth, and women's ministry areas, places where first impressions make a big first impression.
There's been a great deal of research dealing with the various elements of The WOW Factor at church. Most church watchers agree that facility management and marketing savvy are appealing aspects affecting people shopping for a church. They communicate excellence, or lack of it, that filters down into the more significant areas of church. A sloppy, unkempt building translates to the same kind of leadership, teaching, worship, and mission. Yet, most demographers agree that the physical plant and media presentation of the church aren't the most critical points when people are making church decisions. They are important as signals about church attitudes and personality. But, the teaching ministry of the church, the way the congregation expresses a dynamic spiritual life in worship, and discipleship and mission are the important WOW factors that move people.
Many congregations invest enormous resources creating The WOW Factor. Of course, if The WOW Factor is actually the spiritual aspects of the church, leaders should soon discover that it cannot be created without the authentic leadership of the Holy Spirit manifest in a sense of the supernatural, the mystery of his calling and filling the deep voids in our personal lives. Still there is a case for putting our best foot forward and responding to the needs of the community we have been trusted to serve. Ignoring The Wow Factor entirely could be a serious oversight. People genuinely want to know the personality of a local church and can often detect something about them by paying attention to the surroundings. In most instances people make church decisions without a serious exploration of the church history, values, mission statement, goals and objectives, staffing, budgetary considerations, or who cuts the grass every week. But, grungy bathrooms and a sloppy foyer do send messages.
The Wow Factor can mess with your mind, however, and, by extension, your ministry. There's this "double-minded man" thing that can throw leaders off course. Here's a couple of thoughts---
(1) Pizzazz is no replacement for substance. First impressions go a long way in helping us make the people connection, but not all the way. I met a young couple in our neighborhood who snapped my attention by an acute observation. They had visited one of our state's most visible mega-churches, a multi-site congregation that touches every button where "pop" is concerned. They were frustrated by several visits there. The young woman, under thirty with two children, said, "There was a lot of sizzle, but little meat." They were expecting spiritual WOW.
(2) When The WOW Factor is an essential part of the program, many resources are needed to re-create it often. Even a set of expensive, flashy banners can become landscape if not refreshed regularly. Anything can become old. New and fresh are the by-words of "pop".
(3) Human needs are significant in the twenty-first century and only deep spiritual truth can provide answers in our multi-layered world. If there's going to be a WOW factor at church, insure that it is in authentic worship, relevant Bible teaching, daring challenges, disciple making, and mission. People will forget the lights later that night, but not the truth that touched a nerve in them. And, if we're going to be edgy, let it be a gospel dare.
(4) If you're into the facility and programming WOW Factor be sure it resonates with the community God has given to your spiritual care. The demographics of our populations indicate that most of us serve in distinct areas---rural, suburban, urban, exurbs, etc. "Pop" in the inner city and "pop" in the country may have a different look and feel. It's just another reminder that genuine The WOW Factor is biblically grounded. It's forever relevant.
(5) Do the word study on "trendy" and understand the fickle nature of most human whims right now. What "popped" yesterday might be old hat tomorrow. Right now plaid shirts and skinny jeans are in, self-registration is the thing, and the welcome time in worship services is losing it's appeal. Being up-to-date, creative, and relevant are ideals to be pursued. But, not decided by the up and down fads of the human species.
Jesus understood and modeled The WOW Factor. Matthew wrote about one incident in this way---"And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes" (Matthew 7:28-29). Here's the thing. They were astonished, which means "WOWED", by Jesus. People can become "wowed" by mere humans too. But, if they do, something is flawed in our presentation. They really didn't know who he was at that time. So, they were "WOWED" that he was teaching with authority, and not as one of the religious people who taught human tradition. When people come to church today, they aren't really looking for what the world can offer them. They're looking for something deeper, something real. We know what it is because his word revealed that to us.
So The WOW Factor isn't really us, the buildings, the music, the self-registration kiosks, the cool hand-outs, or the manicured lawns. They're all important in some ways. But, The WOW Factor is always him. There is no other.
He must increase, but I must decrease.