Lessons from the deYoung Museum

Today we took the kids on a field trip to see the Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharoahs exhibit at the deYoung Museum in San Francisco. The exhibit was really great, but it was one of the worst museum experiences I've ever had.

From the moment we arrived it was evident that the entire deYoung staff interpreted their role as being cranky rule-enforcers. We were rarely smiled at and for 2+ hours suffered a barage of "no"s and "don't"s. Our group was very well-behaved, but these are the statements I can remember that were either said to me or I overheard being said to someone else:
  • No strollers
  • No food or drinks
  • No sippy cups or bottles
  • Don't stand there
  • Don't touch anything
  • No running
  • Stay behind the ropes
  • No cameras
  • No flash photography
  • No chewing gum
  • No video
  • Shhhhhh!
  • You can't carry your backpack on your back. You must carry it at your side like a suitcase.
  • No re-entry
  • Don't carry your daughter on your shoulders
  • No boys, no!
  • Don't do that, girls!
What the deYoung needs to realize is that no matter how great your product is, if you're customer's every interaction with your staff is negative, it leaves a very sour taste in their mouth.

In the churches I've served in, I find great joy in reminding the finger-waggers that "This is a church, not a museum." I don't know how many times I've said that over the years. It's a great reminder to not take ourselves too seriously and enjoy life as it comes. But inevitably there will be some that insist on treating their church like a museum.
  • Don't run!
  • No food in the sanctuary!
  • You can't say that.
  • Don't go there.
  • You can't wear that.
...and on and on it can go. Churches who couldn't abide having children act like children in their church, now have no young families with children. Churches who wouldn't show grace to teens going through their rebellious stages, now have no teens to worry about.

The bottom line is this: Museums are made to house old stuff and dead things. Churches are made to give life and live life together in Christ. A museum is an organization; a church is an organism. It's the choice between death and life. Which would you rather be a part of?

1 comment:

John said...

Nice post. Perxactly why I have no desire to go see it (we saw enough already when in Cairo some years ago). At any rate, my wife would like to go see it so I suggested she go with some girl friends. "You'll have more fun without me around." Reminds me when we went to go see Bob Dylan at a small venue in S.F. soon after 9/11. They made us throw our water bottles away before entering. Possible terrorist activity at a Bob Dylan concert? Or simply they wanted us to get thirsty and buy the high price inflated drinks served there. Going places and doing things just isn't the same anymore.