Recently I introduced my 14 year-old to the 90’s TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer. (He loves it, as all people of good taste do.) It’s a cheeky teen high school drama but with vampires, werewolves, zombies, etc. The show’s heroes have seen all the classic monster movies, so they tend to crack great one-liners at whichever monster-of-the-week shows up. Part of the fun is watching various monsters’ expressions of surprise when their scary ways are recognized as predictable and even boring.
When it comes to vampires, Buffy plays off of all the old vampire tropes--sexy but dangerous guy (or girl) lures unsuspecting person into some necking that turns fatal. The person getting their blood sucked out may not see it coming, but we, the audience, see it from a mile away. Vampires, it turns out, are fairly easy to spot--just look for the pasty-faced goth with some dangerous dental work.
Churches can be vampires too. When a church has declined in numbers (as most churches have) and its dedicated older members have served in all the leadership positions more than a few times (as is the cast in most churches), churches begin to look at new people not as people to love but people to use. Churches end up sucking the life out of new people who get involved, give money and show up for events. Most people don’t make it that far. They see vampire churches for what they are and run for the exits.
I’ve been a part of vampire churches full of tired members who want their church to survive but no longer wish to do much about it. New folks who come in find a warm welcome, and because there aren’t enough willing members to fill leadership spots, folks new to the church are too quickly put into those roles. Almost always the new person is tasked with responsibilities for a church they barely know, and when they try something new without understanding a church’s culture and history, sacred cows get disturbed and long-time members mount an angry resistance. The frustrated new person leaves, and the church looks for fresh blood in the next new person to show up. (The same dynamic can happen to new pastors too.)
A few weeks ago in this newsletter, I shared an essay by one of the only church consultants I think makes any sense, Mark Tidsworth. Although he doesn’t use the term “vampire church,” he describes this phenomenon well in an essay titled “How to Shrink Your Church.”
Here’s how to become a vampire church.
No, PHCC is not a “vampire church,” but it could become one pretty easily just as many other churches have done. All it takes is looking at people outside the church as things to be used to help the church survive rather than as people who need the Good News of Jesus Christ and an experience of a loving community. It’s that simple. The danger in becoming a vampire is that a vampire slayer eventually will show up. For vampire churches, the slayer turns out to be a culture who wants nothing to do with self-serving congregations.
Grace and Peace,
Rev. Chase Peeples
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We're Park Hill Christian Church in KC MO. We seek to follow Jesus by praising God, loving those we meet and serving the vulnerable.