And there's the temptation to compete with churches that have taken up the consumer-driven model. "In suburbia it's all about things for the kids," Carlson says. But rather than compete for consumers by selling ministry to members, Oak Hills is emphasizing ministry by the members, including youth. "We're building on service. Our kids are serving." And the ministry is growing.
That kind of ministry, Carlson emphasizes, is what sets Oak Hills apart. "The non-churched will be impressed when the church finally starts doing what they think the churches should be doing—not creating a big club where people come because you have the best music, and the best youth program, and the best children's ministry, and the best women's ministry—but serving the poor, seeking to deal with social issues that are of great importance, working with other churches.
"In that, there is a recognition that Christians not only say we're different, but we really are different."
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