Gwyneth Paltrow and Church Growth

April 24th, 2014
Gwyneth Paltrow | Bigstock

I recently read an interview with Gwyneth Paltrow that made me think about my church.

“I think it's different when you have an office job, because it's routine and, you know, you can do all the stuff in the morning and then you come home in the evening,” said Paltrow, “When you're shooting a movie, they're like, ‘We need you to go to Wisconsin for two weeks,’ and then you work 14 hours a day and that part of it is very difficult. I think to have a regular job and be a mom is not as, of course there are challenges, but it's not like being on set.”

Of course, many moms with “regular” jobs were irritated by her comments. I'm sure any one of us (mothers or not) would switch places with her to receive the salary she gets. She also draws a lot of criticism for her website's newsletter. She wants to give advice to moms but her tips and suggestions are far too expensive for moms with “regular jobs.” She said that new mothers would look good in boots from Bottega Veneta (I had to Google it) which go for $400. She recommends vacation sites to parents that only A-Listers with A-List money can afford.

But critics be damned, Ms. Paltrow can continue to do what she wants. It's obvious that she is catering to a certain crowd: people with money to spend. Those of us with regular jobs can complain all we want, but people are still going to buy things on her website and follow her tips for a better, posher life.

What does that have to do with church? Well, we too seem to “cater” (I know, I felt uncomfortable writing “cater”) to a certain crowd. Only we can't really afford to do so. We continue to pour resources into ministries and activities that we're already comfortable doing and have been doing for years. We hesitate to do new things because they seem too risky; we don't want to fail because it'll hurt too much; it'll be too discouraging; it might force us to face the reality that our church is indeed declining.

Our outreach ministries end up reaching out to one another. Our target demographic (often unintentionally) is people who are already going to our church or have been going to a church for years. We do things that we think are fun and normal church things for us, failing to realize that what's normal for us may be completely foreign to someone who's never stepped a foot into our church.

Being Korean and part of a Korean church for most of my life, I'm still not completely familiar with what a church bazaar is. All I think of is “bizarre.” (It's a huge rummage sale, right? Then why not call it a rummage sale?)

I don't have the answers. I'm still trying to figure things out for my wonderful church, which like many other local churches, seems to be one of the town's best kept secrets. Except churches shouldn't be a secret.

I can write that we need to begin looking outward, instead of inward; we need to be more invitational rather than simply welcoming; we need to be more focused on being missional rather than on maintaining the church. But we all know that it's easier said than done.

I also believe that each church is uniquely equipped to serve a need in their community, no matter the size or makeup of the church. Therefore, there is no “one size fits all” solution for every congregation.

All I can offer (and ask for) are prayers. Prayers that we will know that as much faith we have in God, God has more faith in us. That we'll realize that we have great news that people want and need to hear. That our faith will be stronger than our fears. That we'll understand that failure is okay, and is a great learning opportunity. That God will equip us where we are weak, and humble us where we are strong.

Joseph Yoo is a Ministry Matters contributor and pastor of St. Mark United Methodist Church in Santa Barbara, CA. He is the author of Practical Prayer and Encountering Grace from the Converge Bible Studies series. He blogs at

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