In the following posts, I will consider 3 approaches to "church" in the U.S. that seem to have some staying power. These are not the only approaches. They are not mutually exclusive, but they can be. These posts are more observational than prescriptive, but, I think every "type" of church can learn from the others. I will try to lay out some pros and cons of each approach, but this is not exhaustive and if you happen to have some personal connection to the metaphors I've chosen and you're offended, well, sorry, but please get over it.
The first approach, I will call the "Bed and Breakfast" Church; the emphasis is on hospitality. Sometimes this is called "seeker sensitive" in that the standard weekly gathering is oriented toward attracting and serving those people who are not Christians or not involved in the life of a church. It is also "attractional" in that this approach relies on its ability to attract people to church. It is most likely to treat the public and those who show up as clients or customers. The message is often, "come as you are" and the goal is to make them basically comfortable so that when you make the (generally soft) sales pitch (this isn't the "time-share" approach), they are in a place to say "yes."
Pros- Who doesn't like customer service? Often, these churches really care about people in their community and are great about making them feel welcome and even special. Other churches can learn a lot about hospitality from seeing a B&B in action. When people have been hurt by some other kind of church, often this kind of church helps them come back. They are very accessible and non-judgmental. I remember meeting a couple men who went to a church like this. They reported that at their previous church (where they had grown up), they had cried themselves to sleep at night because they knew "they would never be good enough for God." That's a travesty. B&B churches can also claim to have the approach that is most enculturated to American society. As more and more people in the U.S. disaffiliate with "organized religion" it seems likely that more churches will have to think about the challenge of British missiologist Lesslie Newbigin for, "the gospel to have a genuine 'missionary encounter' with Western culture." In Christian missions, it's generally agreed that enculturation ("translating" the Christian message and church into indigenous/native cultural forms, rather than forcing a foreign culture upon a people) is the way to go.
Cons- The question is: does America have a real "culture" in the sense of a society structured for the 'cultivation' of healthy and flourishing human beings. The B&B approach can find it hard to critique the detrimental aspects of U.S. culture, particularly individualism and consumerism and hard to challenge people to move away from these things since it was the appeal to individualism and consumerism that attracted them in the first place. The medium is the message. Staff at these churches can feel a lot of pressure to perform and to develop new attractive programs and P.R. campaigns to keep consumers interested and worship can become a commodity. When I was a guest-teacher at a rather extreme rendition of a church like this, staff "backstage" after the service said things like, "I think we put out a pretty good product today." A friend told me about a church-sign he saw on the way to our church that read, "Starbucks! Food! Pony Rides!" His comment was: "We just can't compete with that." As a result, these churches can end up attracting and assuaging lazy or finicky Christian consumers from other churches, rather than authentic "seekers."
Images above taken from hotelpropeller.com and chahalemridge.com