The group met in a medium-sized assembly hall with a wall of windows on one side and a bank of classrooms down the other. The first thing I noticed was the smell. The room smelled like … like old. The second thing that caught my attention was the clutter. Stuff was scattered everywhere. Sunday school literature. Bibles. Hymnals. Umbrellas. There was even a llama grazing on Cheerios in the corner. The blinds on the half-dozen windows were all pulled to varying heights. There was a bulletin board with a half-dozen flyers randomly tacked to it. The wall color was bad. The carpet needed replacing. Did I mention the smell? And no, there wasn’t really a llama in the corner.
This was an adult Sunday school assembly space. Grownups met in this room. For Bible study. After being in the environment for less than a minute, I knew one thing for certain: The people who meet in this room on Sundays have met here for so long they don’t see it anymore. The room is invisible to them. It’s not that they enjoy clutter. They don’t see it. But a newcomer would notice it immediately. I certainly did. The real tragedy from my perspective was that this adult ministry environment taught a series of lessons the Sunday school department wasn’t aware of.
Lesson #1: We aren’t expecting guests.
Lesson #2: What we are doing here is not all that important.
Lesson #3: We expect somebody to clean up after us.
Lesson #4: We don’t take pride in our church.
Stanley, A. (2012). Deep and wide: Creating churches unchurched people love to attend. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.