The Great Green Room Debate
Recently, author and podcaster, Natalie Runion shared a thought regarding the classic church green room. She received quite a response for and against having a green room. My wife literally just got done reading her book, Raised To Stay, and has been raving about it. I haven’t gotten a chance to read it, however I understand the book is “An honest exploration of disappointment with the church” and “is for anyone weary of God’s people, but longing to keep their faith in God”. In other words, we should all be passionately pursuing Jesus, while forgiving others along the way. Natalie alludes in this recent post that the green room has some healthy uses, however like many things in the church, it has been abused.
“Stage ministries” are one of a few areas of the church that seem to be elevated above others. Often times members are unwilling to serve, unless it is on the stage. “My calling is to worship leading. I’m not called to kids. It’s not my gifting.” Well, you’re not called to the couch in the green room either. Your gifting isn’t snack eating. Wait a minute…I think MY gifting actually is snack eating. You get what I’m saying! We’re all called to serve, and not just areas we feel gifted. A church is a lot like a family. The church building or venue is a lot like the family’s home. Having a family is a blessing, but a blessing with responsibilities. In a home, no one is gifted to do the dishes, but they still gotta get done. If someone on the team feels like the only way they can serve the church is on the platform, then there’s more discipleship needed before they belong there. (BTW there is a name for people who are called to serve kid’s and the next generation. They’re called Christians.)
Many green rooms are equipped with comfortable furniture, stocked with what seems like a Marriott styled continental breakfast and many even have a live feed of the service to ensure they only have to exit at the exact time they are needed.
Often times it’s these more elevated ministries have access to a green room. Many green rooms are equipped with comfortable furniture, stocked with what seems like a Marriott styled continental breakfast and many even have a live feed of the service to ensure they only have to exit at the exact time they are needed. Meanwhile, other ministry volunteers have a 4×8 sized closet with a handful of granola bars, some mints and water bottles. Having a green room is not overtly sinful, but like old school JC Penny family photos, it’s not a good look. It screams of exclusivity and privilege for those serving on the platform as opposed to those serving behind the scenes.
Here are a couple common reasons why some justify hiding most of the morning in a green room:
“I’m an introvert”
It is true, being around many people and trying to make small talk can be draining. Especially for an introvert. Being introverted, however, is not an excuse to be isolated. Can mingling with people you don’t know very well be uncomfortable? Sure, however comfort should not be our aim when we serve others. There are times we need to simply be sacrificial and fight through the awkwardness. Sunday mornings are definitely one of those times. At Rhiza, we teach our volunteers to “be awkward so others don’t have to be”.
If a volunteer is so burned out that they absolutely have to be in the green room in between services, then maybe they need to take a break from serving altogether for a season.
“I’m feeling tired and burned out”
I’ll say this and move on. If a volunteer is so burned out that they absolutely have to be in the green room in between services, then maybe they need to take a break from serving altogether for a season.
Preparing to write this blog I asked our Worship Pastor, Frankie Krasinski, what are some reasons that led Rhiza to not have a green room. He responded simply “I’ve never seen a green room culture that I like. We’re here to serve, not be pampered.” I don’t mean for this to be a sweeping statement of any church that has a green room. In fact, I recently taught at a church that had a green room. Their team had a lovely spirit and were hardly in the room, because they were out in the lobby connecting with folks. I’m really focusing more on the celebrity culture that is expressed by a spirit of entitlement and exclusive attitude.
It may seem like I’m focusing on worship leaders and ignoring preachers. I’ll just say I could fill a novel on the dangers of elevating and idolizing preachers who care more about how they’re seen than how they’re loving the unseen. Many others have already written about that. For the sake of this conversation I’ll focus on platform leaders in general. One might think to themselves “I’m not a leader. I just play the drums.” Whether we like it or not, people on the platform are viewed as leaders. Worship leaders should act as lead worshippers, not A-listers. Preachers should be viewed as shepherds, not celebrities. If you are given the opportunity to serve from the platform, you are called not only to demonstrate worship, but also to participate in community.
If you are given the opportunity to serve from the platform, you are called not only to demonstrate worship, but also to participate in community.
Here are some things that may help get your platform leaders out of the green room:
CHANGE THE CULTURE
It’s ok and even beautiful to care for volunteers. Create a “volunteer room” centrally located for EVERY volunteer. Coach volunteers to “stop in” and take a “quick break”, however emphasize quick. Make it less comfortable to stay. Take the couches out. Make it more of a pit stop than an Airbnb.
CHANGE THE FOCUS
If people celebrate the pastors and worship leaders more than other kinds of roles, then you have a celebrity culture. My advice is to create a culture of “killing celebrity”. Nobody needs to know what the lead pastors think about them more than what Jesus thinks about them. No honor culture needs to exist that does not give the same honor to someone teaching as it does to someone cleaning. Certainly no honor should be given to the singer more than the savior.
CHANGE THE AUDITION PROCESS
At Rhiza, we have an internal value of “leading in obscurity”. To that end, we’ve now made it a prerequisite for anyone desiring to serve on the platform in any respect to first serve on a non-platform ministry such as Kids or guest services for at least three to six months. If they’re too good to lead in lesser seen ministries, they’re not good enough to lead from the platform regardless of their artistic gifts.
CHANGE YOUR GOAL
If the only goal of the worship team is to lead worship then shift the target. Rather than worship leading, make the goal servant leading. Adjust “weekend wins” that are based simply around how well the band sounds and how many snappy lines the pastor had. Add new wins around connection with congregants and learning new names. At Rhiza we coach volunteers to “3,2,1”. Learn 3 new names, have 2 meaningful conversations and pray with or for 1 person every time they serve.
CHANGE YOUR LANGUAGE
Words are important. Let’s be purposeful with them. Many churches have changed their language to speak towards their values. Let’s stop calling it a stage and start referring to it as the platform. Stages are for performances and used for entertainment. Platforms, on the other hand, are defined as “a raised area”. To that end, stop calling platform leaders, performers. Performing means acting. Pastors are not “the show”, just as the worship team is not the “opening act” and “encore”.
Let me say this…I do not know it all or have it all figured out. Our church is not perfect in these areas. Far from it. We are still cultivating our culture. Learning new ways to kill celebrity. I’ve been and sometimes still am guilty of hiding for a while on a Sunday. Ministry is hard. Some Sundays are harder than others. Let’s allow grace to reign over judgment. I’m not referring to individual moments, but to church culture. I also understand, Sunday morning is not the only time to interact with members. It is, however, usually the greatest opportunity to interact with the most people at one time. It’s hard to imagine if Jesus was at a church this Sunday, that He would be hanging out in the green room, throwing down on an everything bagel and scrolling through His Tiktok while lost and hurting people were in the lobby.