Sunday night, we visited The Village Church in Highland Village. Here’s my thoughts as a first-time visitor.
Parking: Parking was really, really easy. They had an attendant that showed us exactly where to go and it worked great.
Pre-service They keep the auditorium doors closed before service which has the great side effect of having everyone congregate in the foyer. I can see where this is a nice step toward community because everyone was talking in groups. That’s great for people who’ve been there, but not as much fun for visitors. Not knowing anyone, there weren’t a lot of people to talk to. However, we took the opportunity to tour the building.
The Building: Looking at this building (which is incredibly nice, by the way) you wouldn’t know it houses about 4,000 people every weekend. They are currently running six service each weekend and making incredible use of the space they have. The kids area was even more impressive. They have a full worship band for the kid’s service. I really want the boys to experience what they have there.
The Worship: Wow. If you know me, you know I’m not a huge praise and worship guy. I never really have been. I’m just going to say that a song they sang brought a tear to my eye. It didn’t fall out, though. Let me be clear on that. I did not cry. Close, bt no cigar. I believe the associate worship pastor, Josh Drew, led worship that evening and did a great job.
Sermon on Video: Driving two hours to a church only to see a guest speaker on video it usually a sure-fire formula for disappointment. Not this time. It started with the way they do video at The Village. If you’ve seen the way Lifechurch.tv does video you’ve seen what I call “produced” video. It’s not bad, but the multiple camera angles and slick presentation make it look like you’re watching tv. Not bad, just different. The way The Village does video is what I would call “organic.” A giant screen comes down and covers most of the stage. The video is then presented as a one-camera straight ahead angle. It literally looks like someone is standing on the stage preaching. I’ve never seen video done better. I wouldn’t mind experiencing church like that at all. It also helped that Ben Stuart, the guest speaker, hit it out of the park. His sermon was the best one I’ve ever seen on having personal time with God. It went beyond explaining the benefit and pitfalls of a quiet time and moved into actually motivating people to do it. I was motivated to make my quiet time (or devotional time as he called it because quiet time sounds like punishment) even better.
Connecting: The Village Church has one of the best ideas I’ve ever seen for connecting with visitors. They have an informal 30-minute “chat” after every service where you can instantly connect with the church. Most churches (ours included) greet visitors and then just pray they come back. This “Guest Central” meeting is a great way of giving people an immediate place to plug in. We decided to sit through it and see what they did. The volunteer greeted us learned more about us. She then began to tell us a little more about how they do life there. Then the executive pastor, Josh Patterson, came in to answer any further questions people might have. This was impressive because I know how busy Sundays are when you’re trying to put on a service. He took a lot of time to talk with us, find out about our story, and tell us a little more about their’s. Generally at a church of 4,000 people it’s incredibly hard to connect with the upper layer of leadership, but they made it easy. I can’t tell you how impressed I was with this class. It seems like a really great way to do something churches aren’t traditionally very good at.
Volunteers: Wow. Not only were all the volunteers we saw very friendly, the were everywhere. I’d be curious to see exactly how many volunteers they have to pull off everything they do. Their volunteers deserve a pat on the back for the great work they are doing.
Overall: This seems to be one of the most complete experiences I’ve ever had at a church. They were firing on all cylinders, and this was the fifth time they’d done it that weekend. I originally wanted to visit The Village because Matt Chandler’s preaching had a huge impact on my life recently. Turns out they have just about everything going on. They’ve grown from just over 200 people four years ago to almost 4,000 today. You don’t do that unless God is in your midst doing great things. I’m sure these guys feel lost sometimes trying to do things so quickly, but they seem to do everything with both eyes focused on God’s will.
Disclaimer: I call this little feature first impressions because it’s hard to know a church just from visiting on Sundays. Church is about people. It’s not about what happens on Sunday morning, it’s about connecting with fellow Christians and working together to spread Jesus’ message. These are just first impressions from a brief Sunday visit.