ChurchRater

The Internet
Other
Senior Pastor: 
N/A
Rate ChurchRater: It's Only Fair!
3

Rob, one of our site's participants, emailed us and asked just the right question: "Could you please have a section on your Web site called something like 'Rate ChurchRater' in which people could be given an opportunity to give this Web site feedback using up to five stars and room for comments?"

Yes, Rob, by all means... I give us a three, but then I am biased. How about you, the person reading this right now...? Is ChurchRater a good idea? Bad idea? More importantly, is ChurchRater living up to its standards? Are we making good on our mission create dialog and not debate...?

Let the polite, respectful response/critique/dialog begin! Click Reply to respond to my rating, or create your own rating by clicking a star and writing in the text box under "What you have to say."

Comments

4

Thanks, Matt.  Just a moment ago, I wrote Jim:  "I will admit that it's not easy to think of criteria for how one might evaluate a limited open forum with a rating system.  While one might think of lots of ways in which one church might be compared to another, since such an abundant variety of churches exist, what you're doing is quite new and apparently unprecedented.  One might well be open in spirit to receiving feedback even if a 5-star rating system wouldn't make sense re how to present such."  And so I like it, Matt, that you've publicly articulated a standard of excellence by which ChurchRater could be evaluated, i.e, does it genuinely contribute to dialogue, especially of a polite, respectful nature? 

My hunch is that enthusiasts for churches that have received high ratings might have a different opinion than churches that have received low ratings, but in both cases people who might disagree with the ratings others have given are free to offer their own ratings.

For example, I think Matt is modestly giving ChurchRater an unduly low rating, so I'm offering a higher rating of 4 stars.  Maybe even a rating of 5 stars would be fitting, but then again what if someday ChurchRater ends up getting sued because someone posted a message about some pastor somewhere having an affair with the choir director that turned out to be completely libelous, and the posting somehow didn't get removed in time to keep the lawyers happy?  In other words, is it possible that there could be some room for improvement connected with this site being relatively new, with some worthwhile improvements yet to be made?  My hunch is that this is so, while I think you're off to a strong start in contributing to public discussion of church life.
 

I just have to post SisterSunnshine's video, it makes my day every time. 

"This one is gonna be one...well it sure disgusted me" 

"We've had the craigslist killer, craigslist prostitution, craigslist scam artists, craigslist everything" 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vxwlfpsqieQ&feature=response_watch

1

Rating a church, and seeking ratings for one's own church trivializes the deep dimensions of spiritual experiences and the role of the Church in a broken world, reducing our mission to a mere consumeristic and market-driven ethic.

It makes me wonder about our eschatology and ecclesiology. What are we, followers of Jesus, here for? What do we believe is our role in a world where poverty and injustice have prevailed because we are consumed by self-indulgence?

We live in a world where 1.1 billion people lack access to clean water, over three billion people live in poverty, and children of God are sold into slavery; we have no time to waste rating "Sunday shows."

Even if you guys want to be subversive by being a mirror of the Church in the US, it is unlikely that you will start a revolution by perpetuating the paradigms that sustain "the empire."  We are not called to consume but to implement the radical love of God.

 

 

2

I've given you guys two stars because I honestly think you mean well, and because you've got an attractive-looking site.  But that said, I have a number of reservations about what you're doing; I believe that it ultimately does more harm than good.  I'm engaged in a respectful conversation with Tyler on my website, and a more detailed account of my misgivings--which I'll merely summarize here--is found at this link:

http://www.byron-harvey.com/?p=2841

Briefly:

I believe that your website, perhaps unwittingly, bolsters the notion that church is a consumer-oriented proposition where "the customer is king".  As such, it heightens our individualistically-oriented approach to church.

I believe, even more seriously, that by providing such an open forum, dirty laundry can be aired (in fact, IS aired) with no means of proving its truthfulness; as such, you become accessories, in all likelihood, to the bearing of false witness, even slander.  This is not the Scriptural way to deal with conflict in the church, or with accusations against elders.  I read some posts that, by allowing them to continue on your website, constitute sin on your part, I honestly believe.

I believe that one of the most woeful areas of understanding among American Christians is ecclesiology, that a high percentage of American Christians are, sadly, incapable of rendering a knowledgeable (read: beyond surfacey) judgment upon a church.  Some of the comments offered, for instance, in support of your "highest-rated" churches are inane fluff. 

I believe that the "unequal yoke" between Jim and Casper is problematic.  I haven't read the book; I can see value in it.  That said, the motives of the two men categorically CANNOT be the same; Jim lives with Jesus as Lord, and ought to act in keeping with His authority; Casper does not.  I say that not in any way to slander Casper; it's just a statement of fact.  That alone dooms the proposition, IMHO.

I write all this appreciating that you meant well in beginning this site, but I believe you have erred seriously.

"I believe that your website, perhaps unwittingly, bolsters the notion that church is a consumer-oriented proposition where "the customer is king".

Thanks for your thoughts but per the above issue ChurchRater is not a living person - it is a public paltform where real people say what they think. If the church is consumeristic then people will notice that and talk about it. Why is ChurchRater responsible for something the church seems to have created all by itself?

"believe, even more seriously, that by providing such an open forum, dirty laundry can be aired (in fact, IS aired) with no means of proving its truthfulness; as such, you become accessories, in all likelihood, to the bearing of false witness, even slander."

Actually our biggest problem is not slander (please send us the sections you are worried about and we will review them) our biggest problem is Christians who Churchvertize their pastor and churches. If we want to make the site objective and free from human exaggeration we would have to go through and clean up a lot of 5 star ratings. Why Christians do this I have no idea.

It might help you to know that ChurchRater Is Not A Christian Ministry. It is a business operated by a team of volunteers - 2 Atheists, One Jew and 2 Christians

2

Thanks, Jim, for your response.  It seems to me, though, that some of your responses actually make my points.  I do hope you took a minute to read my more detailed critique on my blog via the link I sent.  As to your points, I'm not really sure what you are driving at by your first response, so let me clarify my point, if I can: I'm not talking about any given rated church being consumeristic (though there are plenty, of course), but rather I think that the existence of a website wherein folks can act and speak as consumers only contributes to (doesn't create, I agree) an attitude toward church that suggests that it's all about pleasing the consumer.  ChurchRater isn't responsible for creating that atmosphere, but I think it fosters its furtherance. 

Yeah, I agree that you have an issue with "churchvertizing"; I suppose that's to be expected, and it hinders, as you suggest, objectivity.  Christians naturally want to pass on what they see as a good thing (their church), and that accounts for it, I think.  But such "churchvertizing" is going to skew your ratings, and it seems to me that the regularity of this happening portends trouble for you in doing what you're trying to do.

Where would I send my example?  Or, if you read my blog post, it wouldn't be hard to figure out what I'm talking about.  I don't want to post my example on this forum, but if you can't figure it out from reading my post, tell me where to send it and I'll happily comply. 

Finally, I am not sure what to make of your makeup, personnel-wise; I'm not sure why atheists and a Jew would care to help people "find a church that fits".  I guess it helps to know it, as you suggest, but it leaves me pretty confused (maybe I need to read your book, I guess).  I wonder what the motives would be that would cause people who don't recognize the Lordship of Christ to give a rip whether or not Christians find a church that fits.  That confuses me, frankly.  Maybe you could enlighten me?

 Hi fanuv24,

Thanks for discussing this subject with us, I know it sounds silly. But thank you again,  for the respect you are showing for Jim and myself.  I believe that your website, perhaps unwittingly, bolsters the notion that church is a consumer-oriented proposition where "the customer is king".  As such, it heightens our individualistically-oriented approach to church.

To briefly address "churchverizing." People are going to write reviews somewhat reminiscent of an infomercial. Praising the magical pastor, the wondering preaching, and how “bible based” everything is. So if you’re a pastor, you should love this site. You get to see what a god job you are doing every week. Well, not really, the churchrater team pushes back on these “churchvertizements” just like we push back on negative criticism and personal attacks. If you want to put up a billboard for your church, buy one on the side of highway because we will critique that review. If anything churchrater is on the front lines, fighting the consumerization of church. Lots of people are simply on the side lines doing nothing, and watching their next church buidling project go up. 

Also young people like myself are very skeptical, and that is certainly a "for better or for worse." I can see through every rating that seems like an ad in about 5 seconds. However much like Amazon.com, when I find a book with 50 one stars, and 60 five stars. I know it's going to be a love it hate it kind of thing. But every once in awhile the voice of reason comes through with a semi-objective 3 star rating. Then I give the book another look.  Young people are very prudent to this kind of thing. Trust me, we are really good at the internet.

I believe, even more seriously, that by providing such an open forum, dirty laundry can be aired (in fact, IS aired) with no means of proving its truthfulness; as such, you become accessories, in all likelihood, to the bearing of false witness, even slander.  This is not the Scriptural way to deal with conflict in the church, or with accusations against elders.  I read some posts that, by allowing them to continue on your website, constitute sin on your part, I honestly believe.

Jesus used “outsiders” to provoke “insiders” constantly. It’s hard for people to accept, that even though Jesus loves everyone; he did play favorites. Jesus was tough on “insiders” (the apostles, the scribes, and the phariees) and nice to “outsiders” (the Roman Centurion, the woman with the 2 coins, and the woman at the well). Just think about the parable of the Good Samaritan? It’s a story where the “insiders” who are supposed to love and serve strangers; but simply walked right on by. The Samaritan picked up the man and took him to the inn. We’re doing it, because Jesus did it, and he did start the movement. If Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan today, it would go something like this. A Catholic Bishop walked by the man of the side of the road in need, the devout Baptist minister walked on by too. It was until the “outsider” (an atheist, a Muslim, a Gay couple, or a non-practicing Catholic) came by and picked up the man and took him to get help at social services. I mean take a look at Luke 10 25-37, especially the end. Is Jesus saying the model for how we love our neighbor (part of the most important Christian commandment) is by looking at how "outsiders" treat other people? I think he is, but again that is just my opinion. 

Plus dirty laundry will come out. But we don't let people pull personal attacks or criticize, we try to stomp that out as quickly as possible. We won't catch it all right away, but we will get to it. I'm not saying anything in this example justifies why we do this. I just want you to think on my point, then come back at me with this point again.  I believe that one of the most woeful areas of understanding among American Christians is ecclesiology, that a high percentage of American Christians are, sadly, incapable of rendering a knowledgeable (read: beyond surfacey) judgment upon a church.  Some of the comments offered, for instance, in support of your "highest-rated" churches are inane fluff. 

I talk to people about this site daily. Everyone (generally speaking) under age 30 loves the idea so far. I talk to the top law and MBA students in the country. The feedback I hear is "I would love to use something like this" or "that is a great idea." The minute I ask a seminary student or a pastor I get two answers. 1.) "This is great, we could really help people find a church" 2.) "I seems like people are just going to use this to slam churches." Why does question number two come up? Pastors and future pastors are afraid of being made fun of, that's the best I can gather. However they have no problem to step into the public square for social justice with megaphones or jam right wing politics down peoples throats. 

What would you have us young professional's do? I recently moved to Durham, NC to attend Duke University Divinity School. I know one person in North Carolina, an old family friend. How am I supposed to find a church? Young people don't own the yellow pages anymore, I look up literally everything online. In order to find a church, I have two options. 1.) Get on church websites and look through their info online or 2.) I can ask around until I find someone who give me a recommendation. Asking for that recommendation however, is like asking what's your favorite soda? There is no way outside way other then churchrater that I can find any slightly unbiased information. (besides other forum posts or past news articles) 

Without the Guttenberg press in the 15th century, the Protestant Reformation would have never had spread so fast. And because the reformers were able to print letters and books; the movement spread very fast. The Reformers were able to get the information in the hands of the people. People also didn’t need to have power in order to get their message out. Now at the dawn of the 21st century our culture has the Internet. The more information people have available to them, the more power they have. That’s democracy. But thats the problem with democracy. We can't control it. Churchrater.com is a democratic tool, with a few guide lines. We are gonna get fluff and we are gonna get gems. 

I believe that the "unequal yoke" between Jim and Casper is problematic.  I haven't read the book; I can see value in it.  That said, the motives of the two men categorically CANNOT be the same; Jim lives with Jesus as Lord, and ought to act in keeping with His authority; Casper does not.  I say that not in any way to slander Casper; it's just a statement of fact.  That alone dooms the proposition, IMHO.

You're right, but I think there is a problem in the faith, when I'd rather hang out with Matt Casper than most of the Christians I meet. Casper has never said that he has the same motives as Jim. But Jim and Casper are asking the same question. Is this what Jesus told Christians to do? Sunday morning rock concert? $220 million dollar Catholic cathedral in L.A.? I see it all over American, and I don't see the same philosophy in the gospel. I'll pick on my own denomination for a minute. Jesus was homeless, and now the Pope lives in a castle. (granted I do love the Pope, his academic work alone is enough for him to be admired for a long time). "Outsiders" know enough about the Bible to see this disconnect too.  Ok I have to go to class, Thanks again Fanuv 24, I look forward to your response. 

 

 

2

Tyler,

First, can I recommend doing some reworking on the fonts/sizes in which your post came out?  It is distracting, and some of the fonts are a little small for old eyes like mine!  Second, respectfully is the only way to have a conversation such as this.  When you commented on my blog, you said words to the effect that too often Christians can't speak decently to one another.  I wholeheartedly--and sadly--agree; frankly, if you started a ChristianConversationRater site, I might be a co-sponsor!  And thus I reiterate that my beef isn't personal in any way; it is rather with the items I've enumerated.  Let me try to respond to some things you're written:

I agree with your comments about "churchvertizing"; I only disagree that ChurchRater reduces the commercialization of the church.  I'm not sure there's much more to do with that than to agree to disagree agreeably, but I guess my only rejoinder would be that, knowing pastors/churches as I do, knowing the tendency to ape the world, play to the audience, bend methods to accommodate consumer preferences, etc., it strikes me that there will be some (misguided) pastors/churches who could well compromise bedrock principle just to get a good rating.  Perhaps my cynicism about the current state of evangelicalism is coming thru?  Yep...

With all due respect--that key word!--I think your analogy to Jesus telling parables is poorly taken.  Jesus didn't slander people by name; He spoke hard words, to be sure, right to the faces of the Pharisees, told parables that hit the "religion boys" between the eyes, but there is a qualitative difference between doing that and what I read on your site yesterday (to your credit, it appears you've removed the slanderous posts; that's a step in the right direction).  However, if/as your site grows, it will become harder and harder to police personal attacks.  It might be impractical, but perhaps a before-the-fact clearing of all comments--rather than an after-the-fact cleaning up of the mess--would alleviate the problem to some degree.  But in general, criticism (other than mild and general, I suppose) needs to be taken to the source of the problem; to post to a website, hiding behind the cloak of anonymity, is gutless.  That's a simplified version of the proper way to criticize--there are times to do so publicly, but never anonymously--but it's a good general rule of thumb.

Be careful about judging the motives of pastors/future pastors, as to why they don't like the idea of the site.  That may be true, of course, in some/many instances, but you run the risk, in saying what you did, of dismissing genuine concerns with an ad hominem attack.  You didn't do that, and you've not done that with me, but you're in the neighborhood with that remark.  I'm presenting a principled argument--not a mere "I'm afraid of somebody criticizing me"--at the same time, nobody wants to read a one-sided critique by people who have a portion of the facts, and nobody wants such published on the web without at least being made aware of its existence--and thus I return to a question I asked earlier: do you have a mechanism for informing churches of comments made?  If you implemented a before-the-fact clearing of comments, you could also implement a system to accomplish this.  What you'd lose in spontaneity, you'd more than make up for in credibility.

What's a young professional to do?  Not even a hard question--but your asking of it betrays a fundamentally-individualistic approach to answering the question!  I don't know you from Adam's housecat, Tyler, but if you asked me to help you find a church in Durham, I'd draw on my knowledge of good church movements, do a little web-surfing (knowing as a pastor what to look for in steering people to a good church), email several friends I have in the Raleigh-Durham area, etc.; I've done it many times.  We had a young single man move to Little Rock a year ago, and he's now in the church I recommended.  Now, I have no RCC to recommend--I don't accept RCC doctrine, etc.--but surely any priest worth his salt would do what he could to accommodate your request if you went to him!  My point is that if you have a good relationship with your current church, then in the event of a move, that church/leaders ought to be willing to be of help to you in relocation.  Question: would you rather trust the counsel of a trusted spiritual advisor, or the recommendations of total strangers?  Don't know about you, but that's an easy call for me.

I'm sure I'd enjoy hanging out with Matt Casper as well, from everything you've said--and there are some professing Christians I have little interest in hanging with--but that's not really the issue here.  Let me draw a parallel (you like to do that; my turn!): I don't understand why Casper is interested in this any more than I have any interest whatever in directing a Muslim to "the mosque that fits him", or a Jew to the "right synagogue", or a pagan to "the perfect Wicca circle" (is that what Wiccans have, circles?  Beats me...).  I don't care what Mohammed said, or what Edgar Cayce wanted his followers to do: I'm interested in seeing those folks converted to Jesus.  If I were Casper, and I passionately believed there was no God, wouldn't I be more interested in disabusing Christians of all this nonsensical God-talk, living life "under the sun" to the fullest, than I would be helping them find a good church fit?  I just don't get it; maybe I need to read the book...

Anyway, that's my 35 cents worth; enjoying the conversation, and will be linking to it on my blog.  Thanks.

 

4

Could your software be changed so that one of your staff members or volunteers could preview all posts before they were seen by others, as a means of preventing publication of personal attacks?

Suppose that two or three Muslims expressed interest in a MosqueRater site modeled after the present site, with a few participants from no religion or another religion to be included.  Would this interest you?  I could imagine this being of interest to author Irshad Manji, though I don't know her personally.

 

4

Perhaps the appeal of MosqueRater might be higher if a mosque ASKED to be included.  I realize that in the present climate anxieties might be high re this form of interreligious dialogue.

we will leave Mosque rating up to someone else :-)

3

I  was excited to hear about this website (in the Raleigh News & Observer).  I moved to Raleigh from NH ten years ago.  I haven't found a church that "fits" here yet.  I am still a member of my old church in NH.  I have tried several churches here but found problems, such as:

Churches with HUGE building budgets and no mission budget?  I am used to my old church giving most to others.

Churches who want me to enroll my child in their non-accredited high school to become a member?  Seriously? Or vice versa, Churches without an active youth group or Sunday school (I have kids and I want them to participate).

Churches with only men "allowed" in leadership positions.  I would expect women to have some leadership and women tend to gravitate toward Sunday school teaching, music, etc.  I am actually not too thrilled with male teachers of young children.  Did I mention only married men?  Not very inclusive.

Churches where not one person said one word to me.  After three services, I went elsewhere.  Also, the opposite - where the minister called me at home THAT afternoon and wanted to stop by my house that day.  I think he got my phone number off my collection plate check, but was so over eager and intrusive that he scared me off...

I actually sat with my daughter and discussed one day what we were looking for and I think many churches would be surprised - we wanted a church to be active in the community (our "old" church was the site for boy scouts, AA, the local food co-op, a summer camp, a montessori program, etc); my daughter wanted hymnals and was adverse to large projection screen sing-a-longs; she loves the part of the services when members and friends in need are prayed for;  I wanted some emphasis on Matthew, Mark, Luke and John - not just Revelations every week; an active youth group (at least 4 kids?); etc.  We were open to different music types, ministers' personal charisma didn't really matter, services under four hours long, we aren't even that picky about denomination although we lean toward Baptist and Roman Catholic, etc.  I would love a church that was comfortable for more than one race (good luck in NC!).

We still haven't found the church.     So I was very interested in your website.  Unfortunately, Raleigh is chock full of churches and very few were rated.  I was even going to check out our old church in New Hampshire, but there are not ratings there.  I think if this was more widely used, it could be great for folks like me who are still looking to get an idea of what to expect - I went to a 9am service once not knowing the services were all day and that congregants do a pot luck luncheon, SURPRISE.  One church expects guests to stand and introduce themselves during the service (Ok, but was a little unexpected).  I think this could be VERY useful for the churches to see how they are perceived by visitors!  Most seemed unaware of how they appeared other than how pretty the building was.

 

Thanks for the effort!

The reasons you listed above Skeptical are many of the reasons we started a site like this. Basically no one had any information that was somewhat objective about churches. As I young professional myself it took me several months to find a church. I moved to the triangle about 6 months ago, and I only had to look for a Catholic Mass, which are very uniform. I just tried to find a place with a few people my age and care about the neighborhood. 

I'm also very confused about the "Churches with HUGE building budgets and no mission budget?" If we spent half the time and effort we do to raise money for building projects and spent that on serving the poor and discipleship, we'd have a much different church. Thanks for your post, we are just out of the gate Skeptical, about 4 weeks out of Beta testing, so more and more ratings will come. I hope you and your family are able to find a place to worship in the triangle. 

Ty

 

1

I came to check out your site after reading the article about it in the News and Observer this morning.   I read quite a few reviews for churches in NC, where I live, to get a sense of how the reviews go.

In the end, I think any system with anonymous and unsolicited reviews will never have too much value.   Readers deserve to know either 1) who the reviewer is, so they can undersand their biases, or 2)  that the review system has credibility through intentional selection of reviewers.   (The criteria would be your business, but let us know what they are, so we can decide if they're meaningful to us.)

Of the reviews I read, there was a lot of variability in what reviewers were looking for, and what aspects of the church were being rated.   Some were reading quite a bit into what they learned from presumably a single visit to the church.   This is understandable, given how your site works, but a huge drawback.

Several of the reviews I read were by one person.   That should have been good, because they would all reflect the same perspective.   Unfortunately, this person provided us with no substantive information about what they were really looking for, and the reviews seemed like a project for a seminary class (that would have received a poor grade, at that.)   How many times can a person use the term "boring" without getting a little more specific about what bores them?   You mention that you pay reviewers.  I hope you don't pay them very much!

Here are some things you can do to improve:

1)  Give us more information about the review itself.   How many times did the reviewer visit?  (Is this a regular place of worship for the reviewer?)   What other ways, besides a visit to worship, has the reviewer had to learn about the congregation?  If the review was based on a single visit, is there any reason to think things were out of the ordinary that day?

2)  Give us information about the reviewer.   Some reviewers actually tell us a lot, but some say nothing.

3)  Avoid speculation and generalization in reviews.

4)  Give us some objective info about the congregation.

In the end, even if you do this, I'm not sure what actual value you'll have.   Churches are different for good reason.  One person is attracted to one church (because of theology, culture, location, music style, etc.) and another person is attracted to another.   Perhaps the best service you could provide is to get rid of the 1-5 rating entirely and just try to be descriptive.

 

 

Tint

thank you for the detailed critique of our site. Some of the press gives the impression that we pay all people who rate churches when in fact if you read our homepage we make it clear that we only pay people who apply to anonymously rate chuches who hire us. Everyone else ( the vast majority) do it for free.

We would like everyone to identify themselves ( timt?)
but most people don't like doing that. Also when it comes to human beings there is no such thing as objectivity only observations. For that reason we will continue to use the very subjective and objectively meaningless rating system that has proven so popular with our species

Thanks for your reply.   Sticking to observations would be great.    (And there is such a thing as objectivity!)   "Three hymns were sung from the denominational hymnal,"  or "the congregation recited a traditional creed" would be pretty objective comments.   However, "[the sermon] did not motivate me (or the other congregants) to action of any kind" and "the church also seems to have a good children and youth ministry and a strong young-adults ministry, though I have not yet attended," are not!   (How does the writer know whether other congregants were motivated, or what the unobserved ministries are like?)

timt, I like your first suggestion. Even in those cases where a reviewer wishes to preserve his/her anonymity, it would be good if ChurchRater included some additional questions in its review form, such as "How many times did the reviewer visit?"

BTW timt I really like some of your ideas.As we get more resources I hope we can implement them

4

After I read www.readwriteweb.com/archives/yelp_for_religion_churchrater_lets_users_review_wo.php in ReadWriteWeb, I figured that I'd check the site out myself. As someone in a position of leadership in my own church (I am finishing a term as an Elder), I figured that ChurchRater could be very good, or very bad, depending upon how it was implemented and what the community and the website staff were like.

One drawback is that very few churches are listed at present, but hopefully the word about the site will get out and this will be rectified.

When I saw that Saddleback Church was one of the churches that was listed, and that it had several reviews, I figured that I'd go to www.churchrater.com/churches/saddleback and read those ratings. Saddleback seemed to be a good church to evaluate ChurchRater, since (as I noted in a comment on ReadWriteWeb "to some people Saddleback is the most wonderful place on earth, while to others Saddleback and Rick Warren are Neanderthal Bible-thumping bigots, while to still others Saddleback and Rick Warren are Jesus-ignoring church growth Satan worshippers." Given the controversial nature of the church, the comments on Saddleback were relatively respectful, and some of the discussion (for example, is the church for believers, or for non-believers?) was thought-provoking. Jim's and Matt's comments to the comments helped to move the discussion along. 

However, most churches will not get the number of reviews that Saddleback received. In fact, at this point most churches don't have ANY reviews. Presumably an increase in awareness (ReadWriteWeb can't hurt) will help...um...spread the word about the site.

Thanks for the comment John,

I just wrote you a response over at ReadWriteWeb. Thank you the the encouragement too, we are an all volunteer team right now. We put in a lot of hours to drive conversations about what it means to be the Church. 

Thank you John about spreading the word too,

Ty

Rating a church is as meaningless as rating your own sister.  We no more have a choice over our Christian family than our biological one.

There's a real risk that by perpetuating the myth of the 'perfect' church, we lose our willingness to fit in, contribute and carry our brothers' and sisters' weaknesses as they carry ours.  No human relationship is ever perfect and only works through compromise, effort and love.

If our motivation for attending church is what it can give to us rather than what we can give then our relationship with it is as doomed as any self-centred selfish friendship. 

Seeking a church that fits us as individuals suggests that we've forgotten our calling to give as Christ gave.

Everything you just said carlton I whole heartedly agree with. We shouldn't be asking what a church can do for us, we need to be asking what we can do for the Church. But we still need help finding a church. People are moving in record numbers because of a bad economy and often are packing up their whole lives in search of better economic opportunities. I just think a tool like this could help them narrow their search for a new church home, instead of spending week and months trying to find a place.  I don't think of it as finding a church that fits me like a nice suit coat, I want to find a church where I fit in. Where I might have a voice, where people challenge me to grow, and where I know I can count on some people. Anyway, those are just my thoughts, tell me what you think Carlton? 

I read with interest the article in the News & Observer regarding churchrater and was surprised to read some of the comments. Specifically the one from Rev. David Hailey…

"It evaluates a church by its worship service," said the Rev. David Hailey, pastor of Raleigh's Hayes Barton Baptist Church. "But the worship service is just one element of church. A rating system cannot begin to quantify the love and care a congregation extends its members or the many intangible ways it contributes to the community, Hailey said.”
 
I must say that I respectfully disagree. I understand that the number of stars given a church doesn’t fully reflect the church as a whole, but the comments will help others to better understand from where the rating is coming. If it was just a matter of stars, comments would not be allowed and opinions would not be voiced. Not many people put a lot of “faith” in the stars, but want to understand “why” it is a 5 star or why it is only a 2 star. They want to know about the experience. Experiences speak volumes through the comments. Once a decision is made to attend a church based on the rating, then the process can begin to understand the church as a whole.
 
I do, however, agree that some people might just attend one worship service and base their rating on how they “felt” about the service. I have always had the exceptional blessing that I have not had to choose a church. I have always lived in the area where I had access to a Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Church. I have no qualms about rating my church. I can fully evaluate my church at all levels not “just one element.”   Ever the optimist, I would like to think that the majority of ratings will come from those that want to provide a service to the community and not a disservice.
2

Couple quick thoughts:

To Tyler, you've twice now suggested that ChurchRater could be valuable to the "new mover", but never responded to my suggestion that any pastor worth his salt would be a far better resource, IMHO, than an anonymous site such as ChurchRater.  Curious as to your response.

And to Skeptical Searcher, I promise that my following words are meant with love and mean to in no way condemn, but you've been searching for 10 years?  In my 20+ years of experience as a pastor, I'd say that one of two things was true of someone who'd say that (and I have names/stories to back this up): either you haven't been looking very hard, or you're way, way too particular.  It's interesting, further, that Baptist and Roman Catholic were the churches toward which you "lean"; it seems to me that's like saying you "lean to Nancy Pelosi and Glenn Beck".  I'd really, really encourage you to consider, prior to the "trappings" of church to which you refer (most of which are preferences) to consider what it is you believe about the Bible, Jesus, the church, etc.; narrow that down, and then begin your search.  I won't give my opinion here; I want to keep the conversation as the operators of the site seem to want it (getting into doctrinal issues, I mean; they seem out of bounds here, and I want to respect that).  You need a committed body of believers to belong to; you'll never find a perfect one; you'll never find one that meets all your specs.  Figure out what you believe; look only at churches that are in line with that (if Roman Catholics are, Baptists won't be, and vice-versa), try out a few, and then commit yourself to it.  Seriously, wholeheartedly, and unreservedly, and you'll be the better for it.

"Any pastor worth his salt" I like the phrase (i.e. in reference to salt of the earth). Anyways sorry for the delayed response Fanuv24, as a graduate student I'm constantly swamped and our conversation takes a little more time to discuss than others. We've both made long questions with several different points to address.  I really don't think a pastor/priest would be a good resource in looking for a church. For one, I can't help but believe that they will try to sell me on their own church. That is not to say that all priests/pastors would try to sell me on their own parish, I just think it would be like asking Coach K whats his favorite sports team. Also, If someone moved to a new place, I can't imagine they would know too many pastors in their new community right away. 

"I'd draw on my knowledge of good church movements," I think that is a good strategy. But then again isn't it nice that churchrater is trying to gather, at the very least, where all those churches are geographically?. But who is to say what a "good church movement" is, your opinions could differ with the person asking the question. It's going to change for every person. What if someone is trying to change denominations? For instance, in the same way you don't know anything about Catholic parishes in your area, I don't anything about Evangelical churches in my area. 

"Do a little web-surfing (knowing as a pastor what to look for in steering people to a good church)". But what are you basing this off of? What criteria are you using to find a "good church?" Most church websites are simply advertisements about their own church, with a statement of faith maybe, and  times of services. All three of those things usually just confirm their denominational title, it gives me little to no information about what the people of the church are actually like. 

Question: would you rather trust the counsel of a trusted spiritual advisor, or the recommendations of total strangers? 

Simply put, Yes! However this could just be a generational thing. I would like to use churchrater to find a trusted spiritual advisor first. I think people are very prudent when reading ratings or reviews, I look at several ratings here and wouldn't base my whole selection of a church on one review. Because I know one review isn't going to give me a full picture of a church, so I still might need to check it out. We will hopefully build a critical mass of reviews to help people can a semi-objective view of a congregation. That takes time, we only left beta 22 days ago. 

Thanks for the convo Favnu, It is hard to convey tone with typing things. So please know that I'm asking these questions in a serious manner and in no way am attempting to be aggressive or flippant. I understand your strategy in finding a church, and I actually believe it is a very good one. I just think there are too many variables in it, and therefore I don't think it can't really work on a broad scale like churchrater. 

 

 

"any pastor worth his salt would be a far better resource, IMHO, than an anonymous site such as ChurchRater."

I see that Tyler has already replied. Maybe you're most interested in his response, but, here's mine, anyway.

I disagree with your statement. You're welcome to try to persuade me otherwise.

I disagree firstly because, how would a pastor know what it's like to be a layperson in another church? He (or she - I will go with 'he' for ease of reading) might know the pastors of some other churches and/or know what other churches are in his denomination/share his beliefs. But that information is easy enough to find out from Google.

Moreover, a pastor will be too busy with his own church to go around visiting other churches, so he won't be able to provide the information that people do here. And even if he did visit other churches he would view them as a pastor, not as a layperson.

I have been creeped out a few times by the amount of control some pastors (in churches no one would call a 'cult') think they should have over the lives of people in their congregation.

Pastors are not all-knowing and in particular, often they know very little about many people who attend their churches. How can a pastor who barely knows a person claim to know what church is 'best' for them? Especially given that pastors are unlikely to know much about churches other than theirs anyway.

Last time I changed churches I did it because I'd met other people like me (i.e. not pastors) from a neighborhood church who believed like me and were enthusiastic about their church. That means a lot more to me than the opinion of a pastor, with all due respect. If someone wants to ask a pastor for advice about a new church, I'd say go for it, but - with all due respect - I can't see the opinion of a pastor being the deciding factor in how I would choose a new church.

3

One thing I'd like to see churches (church members) address on this site is the church nursery situation. As a mom of two I know the security of my children is very important and can be compromised, especially in small churches that don't have big bucks background checks, etc. I have friends who have liked the preaching, etc. at a church, but wouldn't go back because they did not like the lack of organization (no pagers or parent contact system) in the nursery. With the problems regarding child abusers/molestors out there, having a good idea about a church's nursery safety plan is important.

great idea about the nursery and security issues
Thanks

4

I like the "Rating and Response Guidelines," and wonder what more specific questions participants might suggest could be considered when visiting churches that would be consistent with the spirit of these guidelines.  Also, perhaps the "Rating and Response Guidelines" could somehow be featured in a more prominent place, as some people might well respond to a thread without having seen these guidelines.

2

Thanks for responding, Tyler and Helen, and I do understand you're a busy guy (we all are!); I also type fast and thus tend to write wordy responses, so that doesn't help either.  Briefly, one thing perhaps I wasn't clear about is this: I'm suggesting that you go to your current (or former, as the case may be) pastor(s) for their counsel in making a decision of this sort, not that they'd be the final arbiter, of course, but insofar as I, as a pastor, have had a pastoral concern for you for x years, that concern doesn't stop once you move away.  I'm not saying "go to some arbitrary pastor in your new town"; rather, the person(s) who've cared for you spiritually previously ought to be a great place to start.  Trust the person you've trusted for years to help you, not some new "spiritual adviser".

As to the concern regarding a "good church movement", I'm saying that a person who has been happy in my church--and who comes to me asking my advice as they move--comes from a particular theological viewpoint, and will likely be seeking something similar wherever they move.  I appreciate that it's likely different in the RCC, but I know what particular movements are similar to my own (full disclosure: Evangelical Free); I know where ones that are similar may differ (and I can explain that to the person); I can look at a website and tell from some subtle, and some not-so-subtle, clues a whole lot about that church's style and commitments.  Now, of course I can't tell if the people are friendly, or if the pastor is an obnoxious jerk--and that's why I'd never say to a person, "here's the one church that'll line up with you" (well, in one situation, I did, but that was a special case). 

I would hope that my clarifications would also clear up Helen's concerns.  If, Helen, the church you are in has one of those control-freak pastors, then get out of that church, of course!  But the very fact that a person is happy/productive, etc., in my church would indicate that they'd likely be happy in a similar church in a different area, and again, personality-issues aside, if a person moves, particularly to a city of some size, it isn't all that difficult or time-consuming--and I as a pastor consider it time well-spent--for me to do a little research and produce for that person a list of several churches that would seem to be very similar to the church that person is already happy in.  I did this, for instance, for a college girl who was in our church in PA; she moved to VA.  She ended up with one of the churches I recommended (there was no church from our movement in that city, but I could discern without too much difficulty a few churches that would likely be "up her alley"--along with giving her "they'd differ from us in _________________"). 

4

I came across this book on Amazon. com, and thought perhaps it might be helpful to people reviewing churches (nope, I haven't read it): 

Studying Congregations: A New Handbook (Paperback)

~ Nancy Ammerman (Author), Jackson Carroll (Author), Carl Dudley (Author), William Mckinney (Author)

I wonder if there might be other books potentially helpful for ChurchRaters that people might suggest (but perhaps too huge a subject for this thread?).

Rob, we're happy to have 'amateurs' rate churches without having read any books about it. I think the most important things for being a good rater are a) being curious b) noticing things c) not rating simply as a way to 'get back' at a church where you had an unpleasant experience (i.e. drawing a line carefully between 'honest' and 'mean').

I noticed that the book you mentioned is a seminary textbook according to Amazon - I wouldn't necessarily expect it to be of interest to lay churchgoers.

Jim and Casper go to Church provides interesting context for how this site got started and it's a great book: very readable and amusing. However no-one is required to read it in order to rate churches here.

5

Well I have to admit I haven't read the lengthy ratings that have been posted already...  but here's my 2 cents anyway.

My husband is active duty army, we move alot (imagine every 2 years).  We like being members of a church.  It's a good way to have some 'built in family' in a new and strange place, especially when you have kids (we're expecting our 4th this summer).  So tell me this... how do you find a new church every 2 years in a place where you don't know anyone?  Well last week I found our newest church right here on ChurchRater.  Found one rating for the town we live in, emailed the pastor, visited the church, realized it was a good fit and voila, we found a new church home.  You can't begin to imagine what a relief that is for me.  Now I just need to find a new pediatrician, dentist, play group... hey maybe someone at my new church can help me out.  Are you starting to see what a help this site is for our country's finest; the gypsy military family?

I loved the church we belonged to at our last duty station, was very sad to leave it.  Had no idea how I was going to find another one without a ton of blind trial and error (not easy with 3+ kids in tow).  Thank you ChurchRater for helping me out.  It's as simple as that. 

I loved our old church so much that I think I'll go rate it now... maybe there's another military family moving to Ft. Riley that is looking for a new church home.  I'd like to help that family out and thanks to ChurchRater I can.

Thanks Melissa

Please do post something about your former church at Ft Riley and let the pastor know.

4

What a testimony to the tremendous potential of ChurchRater to make a positive difference!  Wonderful!

Melissa, might there be a military chaplain whom you could tell about ChurchRater?  Perhaps there are other military families facing a similar situation who could benefit from this service.

Actually Rob I have been in discussions with a military chaplain in my home town about this story. Melissas story is having great impact

4

That's great!

This site has gone to ____, which is a site for _______. (edited post to remove general unpleasantness).

Had to edit your posting, m-man... no profanity. Care to try again...?

4

I wonder if there might be some way for the ChurchRater site to include a map linked to churches that have received a rating, so that people could type in their zip code and be given leads to any churches in their area.  I realize that your site already allows people to find churches in whatever state is of interest, but the number of churches being rated seems to be growing rapidly, and some states are much bigger than others, so an additional help like this for people looking for a church that fits in their local area could help.

5

I wasn't going to give a 5 star rating at the beginning of my "Church Rater" experience because I am new to this site and haven't experienced enough of it to know, but after reading all the negativity, I just felt the desire to.

I, personally, see nothing wrong with rating/reviewing a church. There are many unchurched people out there, and I think this site provides a tool for those people to find out what the congregation is like prior to walking in the door. We do the same thing before buying a TV, computer, car, seeing a movie, etc., why not find out how others view a church too? At least people are looking for a church to get closer to God - isn't that the point? We have to remember that we are living in an age of technology, people want this, and from what I see, people need this. I don't think God is going to send anyone to hell for rating their church or reading ratings of churches. From what I see, this site has good intentions, and great potential. I say bravo, thank you, and God bless you for creating it. The nayayers will talk loudly, the foolish always do, but in the end it's God's judgement that matters, not theirs.

Peace!

Thanks Edgcumbe

It was kind of you to take time to spell out your appreciation

You're welcome, Jim. (I have now created my own account so that my own views are not mistaken for the church's views.)