What the Church Can Learn from Barbie

Photo from Trailer to Barbie movie Produced by Warner Brothers

By Mary C. Frances, Senior Associate Consultant

I finally got to see the Barbie movie.  At first, I wasn’t all that interested.  It has been many decades since Barbie was a priority in my life.  But then I heard that it was about much more than Barbie the toy and so out of curiosity, wanting to see for myself, my husband and I ventured out last week and I was quite surprised by what we saw.

In the movie, Barbie is living the perfect Barbie life in Barbieland.  She can’t imagine anything that needs to change or be different.  Everything is pink and wonderful.  Pink and wonderful until, subtly, she begins to have strange feelings and realizes it’s not all perfect.  In an effort to fix what now seems to be off kilter, Barbie leaves Barbieland and ventures into the real world.  And, since I don’t want to include any further spoilers here, let’s just say that her taste of the real world left her realizing that changes needed to be made – in the real world and in Barbieland.

After the movie, I found myself pondering the many messages in the movie and how the movie has so much to teach us: about ourselves, about the culture in which we live and, surprisingly, about the church.  Many churches are living in Barbieland; thinking that everything is fine just the way it is.  Some churches are in that place where they are starting to realize something isn’t quite right but the whole idea of exploring why and what to do is as overwhelming as Barbie’s journey to the real world.  Many churches just wish we could go back – back to pre-Covid, to the 1950’s, to a more prosperous time.  But even Barbie realized that she couldn’t go back to the way things were before she visited the real world.  Change is a constant in our lives whether it’s in Barbieland or in our real world.

So, what do we do when we realize that the current state of affairs just isn’t working anymore?  For some the signs aren’t so subtle anymore.  Attendance is slipping, giving is down and 80% of offerings come from just 15% of members, volunteers are few and hard to find and the way we used to do things just doesn’t work anymore.  Those issues are real, not just imagined.  Note this data below.

Key Statistics:

  • 20% of Americans attend church every week (Gallup)
  • 41% of Americans are in monthly church attendance or more (Gallup)
  • 57% of Americans are seldom or never in religious service attendance (Gallup)
  • Regular church attendance has steadily declined since the turn of the century (Gallup and Pew Research)

Through these challenges, God is asking us to find the WHY.  So often, when problem solving, we start with WHAT – what can we do differently to make improve things here?  A new worship time?  Worship on a different day?  Different music?  But WHAT only addresses the symptoms.  If we want to get to the root of the issue, we have to ask WHY it is that church is important to us and WHY does your church exist for anyone outside of your members?  Once you know your why, you can start to consider what God is calling you to do and with whom.

So, what does Barbie have to teach the church?  Change is inevitable for all of us, whether we live in the real world or Barbieland.  Need some help navigating these real-world challenges, we’d be happy to help.  Contact us at info@faithx.net