It was bitterly cold and May Lin and myself were walking through Newbury town centre last month. It was early evening with shops still open. However, notwithstanding the bitter cold, most of the shops still had their doors open. In one sense this was plainly illogical because every second heat was disappearing out of the shop and the fuel bill for the premises was escalating. So why have the doors open?
It struck me that there could be one reason only for the doors being open and that was because doors are barriers. The proprietors and managers of each shop wanted to maximize trade. And trade is maximized by getting people over the threshold into the shop. A closed door hinders that process. A closed door is perceived by a potential customer as a barrier. Now anyone set on going into the shop does not think that way because they have set themselves to get through the door. But for those who are “window shoppers” or wandering through the town the prospect of getting inside the shop is lessened if a barrier is perceived to be in the way.
This all leads me to ponder upon these issues as regards to churches. Someone set on going to a church is most unlikely to be hindered by a closed door. However, what of those who are uncertain about going inside? Surely any sight of a door is a barrier to them crossing the threshold. And what of those who just cast a glimpse at a church building with closed doors. Do they think I could never go into that place it is so intimidating?
My thought from all this is that we should be careful about not making it too off-putting for people to venture into a building. Solid doors must be a “no-no.” Glass doors at least allow someone to see inside and therefore the building is not so intimidating. Avoid a double set of doors which double the barrier effect. Also in summer when the temperature is warm enough get as many doors open as possible. It just provides a welcoming impression to people.
It is so difficult for so many people to come into a church. Therefore, it is surely beholden upon us to demonstrate that our God is a welcoming God by making our buildings as welcoming as possible With this in mind we need to remember that “doors are barriers” and seek every means to minimize their barrier effect.