Not long ago I attended a young adult ministry conference. My wife commented that I looked out of place because none of my clothing was torn. I showed her the frayed cuffs of my pants to verify my young-church-leader credentials. Andy Rowell was associate pastor at Granville Chapel, Vancouver, British Columbia, and recently became visiting instructor in biblical studies, Christian education, and philosophy at Taylor University in Indiana. Here Andy shares his concern over the image management that he sees driving the younger generation of pastors.
Perhaps you have noticed at your most recent pastor's conference that a number of young pastors have slipped away together. If you had followed them, you might have found them in a plain church basement room with chairs circled around together. And if you drew close enough to overhear them speaking, you might have heard, "Hello, my name is _________ and I'm an Image-Conscious GenX pastor." Unbeknownst to you, you would have stumbled into the latest booming group therapy movement.
All joking aside, I can't help but recognize the unease in my conscience about how image-conscious we are becoming as young pastors. I want to share with you some examples of the importance of image as well as some of my concerns about this tendency.
First, GenX pastors want a cool sounding name for our new ministries. We name it something like Axis or Mars Hill or The Inn or The Place or The Tapestry. (Many start with "The _____" perhaps likening back to "The Way" in the book of Acts?) Why the catchy name? People have become desensitized to much of what is presented before them. Therefore the image, the name, is important. Sadly, people are not likely going to read the ministry's statement of faith. As shallow as it seems, it is probably true that some will give the fresh-named ministry a second look based solely on its name. In this sense, GenX pastors subscribe to the clich? "always make a good first impression."
Though we may rightly question whether the name will still sound cool in ten years, the fresh names stem from good evangelistic motivations. These names are intended to be pre-evangelism. They intend to communicate to the skeptical seeker, "This is not the church you're used to. Give us a shot."
Second, GenX pastors put a huge emphasis on having a sharp-looking website, preferably with lots of digital effects and edgy photos. The logo needs to be professionally designed if at all possible and the color scheme chosen carefully. Black is always a popular choice. Above all else, "Thou shalt not be tacky."
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