- MONTEREY, Calif. — First Nazarene Church used to start Sunday services with announcements and a generic welcome from the associate pastor. Now service starts with whirling spotlights, stadium music and a cougar mascot bounding down the center aisle slapping high fives and making "raise the roof" gestures.
"Adding Christian Cougar was a great move for us," says the pastor. "No one calls our church boring anymore."
Churches across the country are adopting mascots to pump up Sunday mornings and rally people in worship.
"Our new mascot energizes things," says pastor Del Richards of Valley Baptist Church in Little Rock, Ark., which just introduced Lift-Him-Up Lion.
On Sunday morning during worship time, the Lion rushes on stage and does the running man dance to "Blessed Be Your Name." He then makes "I can't hear you" motions and broad clapping gestures, then kneels with his hands raised when the songs turn slower. Worship team members play along with his antics. During the offertory he pulls out an oversized wallet and dumps wads of fake cash into the offering plate. During the sermon he stands to the side and makes rah-rah gestures and encourages people to applaud.
"I tell him to go with the Spirit and raise some heaven," says the pastor. "By the time I get in the pulpit, the people are so amped up they can hardly contain themselves." ...
... Mascots are also an affordable option compared to larger projects.
"We couldn't afford a new youth center, but we can afford a wolverine costume," says a Michigan pastor whose attendance has risen considerably since they added Worship Wolverine, who does trampoline flips, handstands and runs across the platform with a banner that says, "Praise!" ...
... Some churches experimented with live characters like Samson or the Apostle Paul, but people "thought they were weirdos or homeless people." Most stick with animals. (Full story)
Oh, that would be too much? I suppose. After all, we wouldn't want anything to take our focus off of Christ, now, would we? Unfortunately, looking at everything churches do to get people through the doors, we can't be too far away.