This is the first time in over 20 years I won’t be spending Masters Week as a resident of Augusta, GA. I have to admit I’m missing the sights and sounds of the spectacle. It’s the biggest holiday on the calendar for the city.
If you’ve never lived in Augusta, there’s nothing really to compare Masters Week with.
I guess the closest thing would be to when a city hosts an event like the Super Bowl. But even then it’s a different city every year.
For 7 days every year the city of Augusta totally transforms. Washington Road becomes the golf capital of the world. Golf Carts are lined up in front of every business. Even members of One Direction show up.
Corporations take over abandoned buildings and parking lots and turn them into pop-up party tents and memorabilia shops. Thousands of residents flee the city, renting out their homes to tourists and travelers and the golfers themselves.
For one week the city of Augusta becomes a spectacle. Then, the Monday after the tournament, everything goes back to normal.
Seriously – overnight everything Masters-related is taken down before the tourists even take their flights.
There’s no evidence The Masters even exists the other 358 days of the year. You can drive right by the Augusta National everyday and forget that it’s even there.
It’s funny – the final day of the tournament often falls on or around Easter Sunday. There also happens to be huge parallels between Masters Week and Holy Week.
Tourists and golfers often swing by the nearest church to take in a worship service, making a point to celebrate this holiday.
Then, just like with the tournament, as soon as the service is over the guests are gone either never to return or only to come back next Easter. No one puts down any roots.
I get that the Augusta National is a private golf club and has no interests in hosting tourists year round. Still, I’ve always found it a little strange that there’s no museum, no store, nothing at all for out-of-town tourists to check out the rest of the year.
The church is a little bit different. We do offer services every week after Easter, inviting the religious tourists back in the next Sunday. But maybe we’re not giving people a reason to come back.
My wife and I have been “church-shopping” around Atlanta trying to find a congregation to join. While we’ve been to some fantastic worship services around town and seen some organizations doing incredible things in our community, I have noticed one thing in common with every single church that’s turned me off.
In all the churches we’ve visited not one person has ever greeted us.
Sure, there are usually greeters at the door. And there’s often a time in the service to shake hands with the people around us. But outside of a few people we already knew no person at any church has ever noticed us or spoken to us.
Now, I do think making connections at a new church is a two-way street. I think my wife and I have a responsibility to introduce ourselves to the people around us and try to strike up relationships on our own. It’s also important for us to make time to attend small group meetings and community groups to foster those relationships. As someone who’s worked at a church, I realize the church staff can’t always connect with every person at every service.
But think about all the guests who visited your church this past Easter. Did you go out of your way to speak to any of them outside of a cursory greeting?
If you did, I commend you. More likely than not most of us walked in the door, worshiped and went on our way, ignoring the visitors filling up our pews.
And so the cycle continues. The visitors fail to make connections and head back to their normal lives until they come again next Easter. Just like the out-of-towners flood Augusta once a year without making any real connection to the city.
The difference is it’s not up to Augusta to change The Masters Mindset of tournament guests. Their one-week visit to the city brings in enough money to keep most local business thriving year-round. The Augusta National itself does incredible work behind the scenes in Augusta throughout the year as well. This is in no way a condemnation of their business model.
But if churches want to grow, we can’t treat Holy Week like Masters Week.
We can’t put all of our efforts into inviting guests in for one week of the year. We have to build communities committed to inviting visitors into the faith everyday.
Here’s a challenge for you: the next time you’re at church, be on the lookout for someone you’ve never seen there before. Go out of your way to introduce yourself and get to know them. Don’t expect someone else to do it; odds are they won’t.
It’s time to stop expecting visitors to keep showing up. It’s time to do something more to connect. It’s time to give church visitors a reason to want to come back instead of just expecting them to do so.
It’s time to go beyond just shaking hands with the people around us. It’s time to step outside of our comfort zones. It’s time to go out of our way to build relationships with our visitors.
It’s time to drop the Masters Mindset.
For more on the connection between faith and The Masters, check out these posts and subscribe to POP GOD for more content seeking God’s presence in the present: