7 Reasons Your Church Needs to Stop Functioning Like a Cafeteria

A lot of cafeterias have gone out of business. If your church doesn't stop operating the same way, it might suffer the same fate. (Photo by ihjaaz manarikk on Unsplash)

I have pretty clear memories of my first visit to a cafeteria. I was 5 years old, and my parents wanted our family to experience a Morrison's Cafeteria in Montgomery, Alabama.

It was amazing. I saw untold numbers of dishes of meats, vegetables, salads, fruits and, of course, desserts. I had never seen anything like it. Mom and Dad had already given my brother and me strict instructions on how much we could choose. But, for a small-town kid who had never seen such a feast, I was amazed.

The concept was basic. If you paid your money, you could choose whatever you wanted. Your preferences were paramount. It was all about you.

It sounds like some churches we know.

Get Spirit-filled content delivered right to your inbox! Click here to subscribe to our newsletter.

Though we don't have the numbers of cafeterias we once had, the lessons are instructive. Simply stated, your church is not a cafeteria. Here are seven differences:

  1. In a cafeteria, you pay for your preferences. In a church, you should give abundantly and joyfully without expecting anything in return. If you ever hear someone say, "We pay the bills in this church," you know they act like the church is a cafeteria.
  2. In a cafeteria, the focus is on you. In a church, the focus should be on God first and then others. If you ever hear someone say, "I'm not getting fed in this church," you know they act like the church is a cafeteria.
  3. In a cafeteria, you demand to have things your way. In a church, you should sacrifice your own needs for others. If you ever hear someone say, "I want the order of service to be like it's always been," you know they act like the church is a cafeteria.
  4. In a cafeteria, the business must continue to make things more appealing and attractive for you to return. In a church, you should not expect to be entertained to get you to come back. If you ever hear someone say, "I'm going to a church where the music is more exciting," you know they act like the church is a cafeteria.
  5. In a cafeteria, if the customer does not get his or her way, the business must make every effort to address and remedy his or her complaint. In a church, we should be so busy doing for others and serving Christ that we don't have time or the desire to whine or complain. If you ever hear someone say, "People are saying...," you know they act like the church is a cafeteria.
  6. In a cafeteria, you have a full staff serving you behind the glass partitions, indulging your every desire. In a church, you should not expect the staff to do all or most of the ministry or service; instead, the members are to do the work of ministry. If you ever hear someone saying, "Pastor, you should ...," you know they act like the church is a cafeteria.
  7. In a cafeteria, you will likely complain to others in person or on social media if you are not fully satisfied. In a church, you should not have a gossiping or complaining spirit; instead, you should be building others up. If you ever see someone complain about their church on social media, you know they act like the church is a cafeteria.

Cafeterias were fun when I was a kid. But Morrison's went out of business, and the pieces were picked up by Piccadilly Cafeterias. And Piccadilly declared bankruptcy in 2012.

The big cafeteria chains have not fared well. And neither will churches if they keep acting like cafeterias.

Thom S. Rainer is the founder and CEO of Church Answers, an online community and resource for church leaders. Prior to founding Church Answers, Rainer served as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Before coming to LifeWay, he served at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary for 12 years, where he was the founding dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism.

For the original article, visit thomrainer.com.

Get Spirit-filled content delivered right to your inbox! Click here to subscribe to our newsletter.

Dr. Mark Rutland's

National Institute of Christian Leadership (NICL)

The NICL is one of the top leadership training programs in the U.S. taught by Dr. Mark Rutland. If you're the type of leader that likes to have total control over every aspect of your ministry and your future success, the NICL is right for you!

FREE NICL MINI-COURSE - Enroll for 3-hours of training from Dr. Rutland's full leadership course. Experience the NICL and decide if this training is right for you and your team.

Do you feel stuck? Do you feel like you’re not growing? Do you need help from an expert in leadership? There is no other leadership training like the NICL. Gain the leadership skills and confidence you need to lead your church, business or ministry. Get ready to accomplish all of your God-given dreams. CLICK HERE for NICL training dates and details.

The NICL Online is an option for any leader with time or schedule constraints. It's also for leaders who want to expedite their training to receive advanced standing for Master Level credit hours. Work through Dr. Rutland's full training from the comfort of your home or ministry at your pace. Learn more about NICL Online. Learn more about NICL Online.

Charisma Leader — Serving and empowering church leaders