I’m not ashamed to say it: I hate the beach.

Yes, yes, I know that it’s the height of vacation season and I live in a state that technically is connected to a beach and many of you own beach houses that you’ll never invite me to and what do I care because you haven’t invited me so far and some of you will take issue with my strong statement of beach hatred.  But I maintain that if God had wanted me to like the beach, he would have made sand feel more like my recliner and the sun feel more like my air conditioning.  Or at least put a few more mountain cabins on Ocracoke Island.

And don’t get me started on sharks or tar balls or heaven forbid a Tar Shark.

But I digress.  The beach has a weird factor that we should talk about, and that’s ocean drift.  I first discovered ocean drift on my first trip to the ocean when I was a teenager on a youth retreat.  I was out in the ocean, picking my way around Who Knows What (dead bodies? jellyfish? generally slimy stuff?) and trying to catch a few waves and hang a few tens.  And suddenly, I realized my entire youth group had moved about 50 feet down the beach.

That’s right, they just picked up and moved.  All their stuff, all of them, and I was back to having self-esteem issues and working on a new joke routine for the bus ride back.  It was bad, I tell you.

But then I realized they hadn’t moved.  I had moved.

Editor’s Note: Awesome illustration…almost as good as the first 142 times I heard someone else use it.  Move along.

Here’s the point: every single week, churches face ocean drift.  There you are, minding your own business and riding the waves.  Your systems and structures get fluid, while guest’s needs and wants are relatively static.  They want to connect.  They want to belong.  They want to matter.

And we dive right in and implement new systems and start new programs and try new things and before we know it, we’re a few hundred yards down the beach while our guests are trying to figure out where and why the heck we’re drifting.

I love systems and structures and changes, but I also know that we have to keep a constant eye on the beach and a constant hand on the wheel.  (And if those metaphors aren’t enough for you, I don’t know what is.)  Know what your guests need, not just what you assume they need.  Be careful of the drift.