So, what’s a “Side Door” for?

I had been through the front doors of the Astor Park on 5th and Lenora many times. It was the “go-to” club in downtown Seattle in the early 80’s. I saw The Cowboys, The Cramps, The Replacements and others. Even up and coming acts which went on to super-stardom played the Astor Park, like U2 and the Red Hot Chili Peppers (I didn’t see them at the A.P. however).

The Astor Park:

When the side door works

But the most significant visit I ever paid to this iconic, Seattle club was in the Winter of 1983 when I went in through the side door. The “band” door. I don’t recall which band we opened for that weeknight; they were only slightly less of a nobody-band than we were. We only played 3 songs, and of the 11 people in the audience, zero of them paid attention to us. But it was still awesome.

The Greatest Seattle Band you never heard of!

Going through the side door changed everything:

  • The Side door is for participants, not the audience.
  • The side door let’s you see what’s going on behind the scenes. (it’s “real”)
  • We were part of something bigger, but not just the crowd.
  • We learned a lot.
  • We bonded as a band.

Side doors have these exciting effects and more…

Even churches need side doors

Good churches have beautiful, wide and inviting front doors. Relevant sermons, excellent music and art, comfortable seating, friendly greeters and engaging programs designed to capture and hold our attention. But side doors into churches are often too small, blocked, hidden or non-existent.

Where might this door lead you?

It’s not that an attractive front door is bad. It’s that our neighbors (Allen Creek Allen and Alice) have been marketed to and beckoned into attractive front doors their entire lives. From retail stores, to clubs, relationships and social media – there is no shortage of those who will dress up the front door in whatever way is needed to get their attention, ignoring what might really be on the inside…and most of our neighbors are tired of it.

Truth in advertising

The marquis outside reads something like, “Seattle’s Hottest Club – hear the latest – be the coolest – come in and hear future rock stars!” But on Wednesday nights, you’re really going to get an amateur wanna-be-prog-rock trio who are decidedly un-cool and have no stage presence what-so-ever.

So, job one if you’re going to begin opening side doors is to make sure what’s on the inside is consistent with what your advertising.

Truth in advertising

But after that, you’ve got to ask yourself, what will allow people to be participants? What is real and authentic? What will help them connect, help them learn and create real bonds? Side doors into a church will do all that and still accurately reflect what’s on the sign out front.

Therefore, at AC3, we will be constructing more side doors as we move out of Covid 19 restrictions and into a new year, God willing. We have already seen success with our ACE program, the “A-maze-ing Revelation Halloween” event and we expect our “Follow the Star” light display to be a hit.

So, will you be prayerful and creative as you think of ways that we can continue to open ALL the doors into Jesus’ church for our neighbors? Let’s start by being authentic, available and vulnerable with those God has already placed in our lives. Then let’s work together to create doorways into community that reflect the same.


57 year old husband of 31 years, father of two, drumming Gardner.