Tag Archives: Church

Growing Your Church: Responsively

Week four of our exploration into UK church growth, we have covered HospitalityInclusivity  Leadership and we find ourselves this week looking at the topic of responsiveness. What does that look like? Before we delve into that here is an example of responsiveness.

Back in my parents day, TV Programmes were in black and white, the tv remote didn’t exist, and you actually had to press buttons on the telly! The news was listened to on the radio, viewed on the telly or read in the newspaper. Plasma, LED or touch screens didn’t exist, and the internet was confined to company communications.

Over the last 20 years, society has undergone a radical change, communities have  embraced the computer revolution.  There were silver surfer clubs, courses sprung up teaching people how to use the internet, write on a word processor rather than the electronic typewriter and so on and so on.

People were encouraged to get equipped and up to date and get online. Who can remember the sound of first modems? (click here to listen) Now long replaced by the quiet hum and blinky lights of modern routers.

Over time, as people have encountered the digital revolution help was at hand, there were people who would teach and offer assistance of many kinds. So that wherever you were on the scale of learning, your needs were met as you signed up to your digital life.

The point of today’s post is to consider what responsiveness looks like in terms of our church focus. We have seen that society has shifted massively from analogue to a digital existence and that there has been an understanding that people engage in their digital life in different ways and in using different methods.

The research suggests that how we are responsive across the life of the church really, really matters. Underpinning church based responsitivity is that we do not live in Christendom, not everyone knows the Lord’s Prayer. There are so many different spiritual, theological and philosophical ideas out there that the question of what does it mean to be a follower of Jesus inevitability gets jumbled up.

In short, if the life we offer people is a life following Jesus, we need to find ways for people to access that new life in Christ.

How do we help people then, at their point of access to the Christian faith?  Do we offer one type of worship or many, one way of being a Christian and discovering faith or several?

Responsive churches are in their DNA are flexible and willingly find ways to respond to different needs. They find approaches that engage a range of people and their own place in the walk of discipleship.

“People who are negative, who try to prevent change, rather than excluding them. Bringing these on board was seen as necessary for the church to grow.”

It’s easier said than done, we will always have those people for whom change is too difficult, and we should be responsive to them too.

looking for new initiatives keeping in step with what God is doing. Allowing those who don’t want to do the ‘new thing’ to enjoy the current expression of church, however still moving ahead with the willing.

The research says unsurprisingly, that different kinds of small discipleship groups, engaging in people’s faith development, leadership that was flexible and open to new ideas and who have the enthusiasm to meet the needs facing them were crucial in growing that diverse tapestry of faith development.

Would we love to go to a church where we were not told to sit in a particular seat, but instead find a space where we could flourish?

It’s not to say we should be tossed around by the waves of change, but instead church communities should steer a course that means for most, if not all, they could find a spiritual home centred on and in Christ.

Link to the research Leading Together in Growing Methodist Churches’ webpage can be found here

Look back across the series on church growth:

Week 1: Grow Your Church: Hospitality

Week 2: Growing Your Church Inclusivity 

Week 3: Growing Your Church: Leadership

 

Growing Your Church: Leadership Style Matters

Week three in our discovery in what makes churches grow, we turn our attention to leadership within the church of all kinds and levels.

When we think about leadership I wonder what comes to mind.  There is a spectrum from authoritarian to laissez-faire.  Somewhere along that spectrum, we find a particular leadership style which growing churches are modelling.

This is not to say that there is not value in other leadership styles, but the evidence suggests that there is one particular style that stands out.

As a side note, we are surrounded by these leadership styles all of the time and particular styles relate to particular contexts.  For example, we might like it if a policeman was more laissez-faire if we get pulled over for speeding, but we would want him or her to be authoritarian in arresting the person who stole some money that belongs to you. It is important that people in particular roles have a consistent leadership style and then people know what to expect and feel safe.

That being said our leadership styles naturally become nuanced when faced with particular situations. The person who is caught speeding might actually be speeding because they’re trying to get to the hospital for some reason, and so the policeman would (hopefully) nuance his or her response within the bounds of an authoritarian leadership style.

I digress, according to research the leadership style that stands out above others is the collaborative style.  This is not to say that there are times for authoritarian stances, but in these particular growing churches in traditional denominations, people are allowed to find their role in a collaborative way.

People within these churches are resourced properly and not overburdened by the tasks that they are given. One person does not do all of the jobs but the jobs are shared.  More important roles like the treasurer are broken down into bite-size chunks so that the treasurer doesn’t become overwhelmed.

This model of church and of ministry is not just about the few people of power, but instead, leadership is shared across the whole people of God. This has meant for those churches the people have been enriched and empowered and the churches flourished.

In contrast, there are many in our churches who may sometimes think that they can’t let go of a particular task. The question in that person’s mind becomes who would or could take over, and who could I ask?

All too often there appears to be a lack of volunteers and the assumption for  that  individual who is overburdened is that they will just have to carry on regardless.

In nearly every church I have ministered in I have come across these individuals, they are overburdened and cannot see how they could ever retire.

As church leaders, these are the people who are perhaps in greatest need for our intervention. The cost to their health mentally and physically should concern us.  We should find ways in releasing the burden from their shoulders and sharing it around.

I sat in a stewards meeting and a person expressed their sense of being overburdened.  One by one the other stewards in the room simply declared, “I’ll do that Julie,” to each of the jobs she was trying to give up.

As I sat there and watched this act of grace unfold I found it deeply moving and inspiring to watch collaborative leadership at work, freeing burdens of others and empowering a broader leadership.

As I conclude I would like to refer to the MBA of ministry book, it also highlights the need for a collaborative ministry but also makes the argument that there is one other leadership style on the spectrum between authoritarian and laissez-faire.

That style is known as the shepherd, the shepherd that nurtures, leads, and inspires his sheep. I wonder what kind of leader might you be? Make God bless you in your leadership wherever you find yourself in church and outside of a church.

Link to the research Leading Together in Growing Methodist Churches’ webpage can be found here

Posts in this series:

Church Growth: Hospitality 

Church growth: Inclusively

Please feel free to leave a comment.

Grow Your Church: Hospitality

Throughout this month, we are looking together at four elements of church growth. Each of the elements of growth are from a current Leading Together in Growing Methodist Churches research project.

The first stop on discovering what are the characteristics of growing churches is hospitality. This is so much more than the welcome on the door, though obviously this is extremely important.

Hospitality in the church is deeper, more encompassing then a warm welcome on the door step. It is an attitude that permeates and ripples across her life, through advertising and signage, the buildings architecture and room design, decisions made at committees, and of course hospitality is shown in that smiling welcome as you enter into the church on a Sunday morning or indeed any other time of the week

Hospitality-wordcloud

The word in english has its origins in the word hospital, this broadens our understanding of what the word means, and perhaps challenges our thinking on what that might look like going forward.

Our experience of good hospitality causes us to physically relax, smile and respond in kind, long term it causes us to make a home in that place, whether that is a coffee shop, restaurant, relationship, or church.

The pastor sat listening to the welcome of the steward, who announced to the congregation gathered, how appreciative that they were to have him and offered a warm welcome to him for however God would use him in their service.

An unnoticed expression appeared fleetingly on the pastors face, as he recalled how he was welcomed on arrival 10 mins earlier. An observation occurred to him, that what he was listening to, though perhaps sincere in the moment, was quite faraway from the experience as he arrived at the church, flustered, later than he wanted to be due to a road closure next to the church. No-one had greated him, or even looked up from their conversations.

We will all have our stories of unwelcoming churches and congregations, there are far too many such encounters. Lets hear instead for a moment where welcome is good. The young missionary arriving at Treforest Methodist Church in south wales, a church which would a few years later, invest itself lock stop and barrel in its church plant on a council estate near Pontypridd. The church had its ‘characters’ but which church doesn’t.

The missionaries who went there were warmly welcomed, upheld in prayer and for two of them their call to ministry was inspired and confirmed. As a church the hospitality included the door welcome, the delightful welsh cakes for refreshments, but structurally at its core, it served its community welcoming all, loving all, and helping all find home there.

A church who is growing is hospitable it enables people to grow, spiritually and more than that, its welcome, its architecture its DNA is predisposed to putting you, me and everyone at ease.

After all what did Jesus say again, ‘what you do to the least of these you do for me…’

Next week we look at inclusivity, see you next Monday.

Does Hope Have A Chance Today?

You turn on the news or read an article in a newspaper hoping to find lots of positive, encouraging stories that communicate the best of humanity, offering a balanced diet of hope rather than overwhelming negativity.

Certainly this would be great to experience, rather than the information diet we get.  The BBC, like other news outlets, argues that essentially it is our fault! Positive news doesn’t sell well for some reason.

newspapers-444449_960_720

“…newspapers and TV broadcasts are filled with disaster, corruption and incompetence because we’re drawn to depressing stories without realising”, says psychologist Tom Stafford.”

What Hope is Up Against.

Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately for the news corporations, a recent Gallup poll tells us that the world actually is marginally more depressing and has been on an increasing downward slide for the last 9 years! This is especially true for people who live, you guessed it, in the Middle East.

Respondents were asked, “Did you experience the following feelings during much of yesterday? How about physical pain…sadness…stress…anger? 

“People living in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region report the highest negative emotions in the world and have done so since Gallup began tracking this index in 2006”

It’s more than just negative situations.  The tone and narrative of some of that reporting of the way people speak of each other, or indeed presidential candidates speak of other people, seems to be increasingly aggressive, pursuing a negative agenda and fear mongering along with ostracising the outcast.

“The voices of moderation and grace are too often drowned out by the diatribe of misinformed accusations and negativity. “

never_lose_hope_by_cre8art4life-d6btr4r

Even if the information is informed or there is a grain of truth in it, it is said with such venom that you just hear it as an angry rant, from people (sometimes leaders) who frankly should know better.

Grandma Could Tell them About Hope

My Grandma would say in her rich and warm northern accent, whilst wagging her bony finger at you, “If you have nothing nice to say don’t say anything at all.”

These words have the same truth today. Imagine a world in which people were more thoughtful in what they say to one another, where each syllable was seasoned with grace rather than malice or disinterest and where we were willing to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes.

Seek Kingdom Of God

Matthew 6:33 Seek First the Kingdom Of God

The Church Stands For Something More.

If the kingdom of God stands for something, it is the value of upholding the best in each other. As people made in the image of God, it is the place where the widow, orphan, foreigner and sinner are welcomed.

It might be a perception of the church that we are all holy saints that dwell within its walls. Well I am not a saint. Are you? I sin. Sin is defined as whatever separates us from God.  It is less about a list of ‘do nots’, rather it is about what breaks the relationship between you and God, what gets in the way.  Whatever that is, it could be defined as sin.

The hopeful reality that the church can remind society of is beautifully summed up in the lyrics from the song Same Love.

When I was in church, they taught me something else
If you preach hate at the service those words aren’t anointed
And that Holy Water that you soak in is then poisoned
When everyone else is more comfortable remaining voiceless
Rather than fighting for humans, that have had their rights stolen.
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – Same Love Lyrics | MetroLyrics

Let’s not be a member of the voiceless. The rights of all are at stake so let’s not be ‘OK’ with the status quo, but be willing to stand for something deeper, better and holy.

For a God who calls neighbours to love one another, that justice might be done for all; that people have the right to live, love, and be free; that the only limitation to human life is not what’s in their wallet, but instead the limit of imagination, within the will of a God in whose image we are made, cherished and loved.

I wonder what it takes for news corporations to give us a more balanced diet of news. I wonder what it might take for the Gallup world negativity index to fall.

It begins with us…

Get Your Faith Lift Here!

Has your faith become sanitised, tame, lukewarm? Is church ‘run of the mill’, no more challenging than what you might pick for breakfast in the morning? The video below that reminds us otherwise; the sheer challenge of the gospel, the agony of the early mission leaders to choose Jesus every single time.

Today in ISIS held land Christians are facing the kind of hate these early missionaries experienced. And just see what God does with that. The story is based a long time ago, but it could be a story and narrative that happens today. Not in our comfortable, westernised lives perhaps, but where people live in fear from those who would have them killed for their faith, this story is real and relevant.

Be warned, the story in this video is not for the faith hearted!

Finally, what does your faith mean to you?  How far would you go?  What would you give up for the sake of the gospel?  As you listen to the words, the story alongside blows you away.

The Song Of Fresh Expressions

It’s become apparent in recent years that people engage with church in different ways and new forms of church have been around in different guises for many years.

The people of God have sought to engage with the community in relevant ways they have discovered that new ways and forms of being church are needed, as traditional forms have continued to decline or as people have a new vision of what church might look like.

We might ask ourselves, ‘What is a Fresh Expression?’  In some sences defining Fresh Expressions is akin to catching jelly!  In that it comes in many forms!  Fresh Expressions isn’t an entity in its own right but is simply two words that denote the type of Church that seeks to be defined by them.  I think that’s a good thing.

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Trying The Coffee In Church!

Café Culture in the U.K. is huge. The choice of cafés in my home town is massive – not just the mainstays of Costa, Starbucks and Café Nero but also more local, individual cafés that make coffee that is equally as good.  Although when I did order a macchiato in a place other than Starbucks I discovered that Starbucks defines a macchiato very differently!  It was a bit of a shock, so be warned!  What if your local café gave birth to church? What would that be like? Would you go?   Indeed, would the coffee taste any better?

cafechurchphotos

Church In Coffee Shops, Can It Work?

When I walk into a café it’s not just great coffee that I look for but the ambiance, the feel of the establishment and (of course) the pastries! When all of this is done well, it tells me that this is a good place to sit, relax and unwind – and perhaps even think about faith issues.

When I go to church as a disciple the welcome, the worship and the preaching are the most important to me.  I want to be inspired, experience God’s presence and be equipped for my week ahead.  But also I want to know that I am genuinely loved genuine ‘by God and by the congregation’.

So can Café Church and ‘Decaf’ church (regular church) be a marriage made in heaven?

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Is Messy Church Really For Kids?

Messy Church is just for children, right? So as churches we focus our crafts, food, worship at these cherished mini adults with varying degrees of success and perhaps that’s fine?
messy-church-blog-session.jpg

A bit of background first.  Over recent years as churches and denominations there has been an increasing focus and emphasis on what makes us church, both structurally and as believers.  Especially in terms of what we believe spiritually and theologically about God and as we come to terms with an increasingly diverse spiritual and religiously pluralistic context. On the most part we realise we have to refocus ourselves, and our ecclesiastical emphasis, on Jesus.

From this continuing period of reflection on who and what God wants us to be, religious movements have sprung up that have become church in their own right, just as the Methodist church did 300 years ago. Messy Church, its what is known for the uninitiated as a fresh expression of church. These and similar expressions of church, have flourished in recent years and found their identity having emerged across a 8 stage process, see below.  

FX journey

The FX of Church Journey

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The Social Media Church

How might we define Church?

What's important to us about church?

What’s important to us about church?

Perhaps as a building, a gathered Christian community, a discipleship  movement? What though would it look like if Church was online, would we attribute the same value or worth, if it existed in cyber-space?

Where do you gather as a Christian community? A small group sitting together in someone’s living room, maybe something outdoors, perhaps meeting in a cafe, or a church building. Community created in these places is tried and tested.

But there is change afoot, with the explosion in social media in the last few years, more and more people are finding, creating and enjoying meaningful community online. For example, if Facebook was a country it would be the biggest on earth, a whopping 1.44 billion plus people are currently subscribed to its community. Facebook dwarfs all other social media platforms, like WhatsApp on 9 million, and Twitter 320 million to name two.

But It’s Not Proper Church

When considering online Christian community some people think that somehow online community is not as meaningful as face-to-face. Somehow church online is seen as something less!

Many don’t agree with that argument. Yet there are many more people who go online to find answers to spiritual questions rather than the church; and for whom church community doesn’t fit with work or family commitments.

Those that hold a negative view of online church may find their stance stems from a fear of what it might mean for the church in the future. The world is changing and has changed and we would do well to keep up with it rather than take a reactionary stance. We step into whatever the world is offering and seek to make community in that place. After all is that not what Jesus did!

An Image Of Online Church

dchurch-logo

The internet is the next earthly frontier to be explored, it is wild and untamed, various nations debate over how to police the Internet. However the Internet in some ways it is like a living thing, and Facebook amongst many other platforms has managed to harness and form community in that place.

Facebook as already mentioned is vast and global, and you who are reading this, will be given the option to share on Facebook and may well be yourself on Facebook. It is in this place we seek to form Christian community that is vibrant and meaningful.

As part of the team for d-church we have been developing an online christian community for a number of years now on Facebook, Instagram, WordPress, Google Plus and twitter. Together as Christian leaders, once a month, we sought to bring together meaningful content, images videos and text on a particular theme.

One of the beauties of using Facebook as a platform for community building, is that the mechanics for social interaction are already well established and well known. Generally everyone knows how to comment, share, tag, like, set up a group or page and if they don’t its very easy to find out.

How It Works For Us

For d-church we chose a page, for particular reasons and flexibility. The d-church monthly event takes place online. The team all ring each other on a conference call using Skype, and each of us have responsibility for different social media platforms, including WordPress, Twitter, Google plus and of course Facebook.

The content is preselected and put together in a document, the content of which is shared appropriately across the various platforms. Most people who interact with the monthly event use Facebook. I know personally of a number of people who join in with d-church as their only Christian interaction and many others for whom it is part of their spiritual diet for the week and month.

This community offers several things, a safe place online, no one is judged here, people are accepted for who they are and what they bring. The only expectations are, that participants treat others well. We are told that the doors of our churches are often a barrier to outsiders coming in and we are encouraged to go outside of our churches. D-church on social media is very accessible to those who just want to take a quick look, and we hope they will gently be drawn into the friendly community they find.

Its Not The Future Its Now

We live in a post christendom world, a world that is instant and in the moment, and d-church and others who are engaging with social media are creating, forming spaces where people can interact with faith issues. Not that it might replace Church but broaden its horizon to encompass all of humanity as it seeks meaning, value and peace with itself. Of course our hope is that what they come to find is a God who knows and loves them.

Post also found at http: Churches Alive Online Website creating resource.

The Know it all

We all know one I am sure, that person who always has an opinion, and who is basically according to their own standards always right! Whether thats at the bar, in the office of in the church.

The main faith leaders pre-pentecost were the Pharisees, and they don’t get an easy ride with Jesus. It seams like the faith leaders of the time that were more interested in empire rather than kingdom building. Their empires rather than Gods Kingdom.

The status-quo was important to them, because this was their base of power. The modern day rabbi is a descendent of that Pharisaical system. Similar to modern day church leaders the Pharisees and rabbis have an intensive period of training, there is an expectation of theological and biblical scholarship and understanding.

Yet despite their training the Pharisees couldn’t see the wood from the trees as it were, they couldn’t see the gold from the fools gold.  Even Saul with all his learning couldn’t recognise what the christians were saying. Jesus literally knocked him of his horse to make him see!

So what is it that makes church leaders blind, It is the same thing paul was afflicted, with  disease of knowitallism. There appear to be two main types of knowitallism.

Perhaps the first is as a leader, you believe you are right, if not all the time, because of your training and status, your rightness is undisputed. It’s not just about making sure others know how right you are, but more subtly, not valuing the opinion of others, not questioning what you ‘know’ to be true.

Plenty of christians and church leaders have justified all kinds of things, because they knew they were right. You only have to go back a few years to the church leader, and evangelist Harold Camping who knew unwaveringly that the end of the world was ending October 21 2011! He has since graduated to heaven a few years later! We might laugh at Harold Camping’s notion, but people did believe him and their faith would have been rocked as October 21st came and went. We would do well to learn from his mistake.

The other part of this disease is defined by other people’s perception of you, of you being with the expert and all knowing! As church leaders we mustn’t believe our hype! Because as quickly as it came it will go away again.

Knowitallism keeps us doing the same things, keeps the same people in power and stifles creativity and change. The Pharisees we hear about in the New Testament had the disease and were blinded to what God was doing in their midst.

In the service of the community, I hope I don’t sound like I have it all together. Rather I hope that my actions and speech point people to the one who has got it all together, the one who rose from the dead. I hope for those of us who are church leaders, or indeed those who fill our churches, that we are not so blind to what God is doing in our midst, that we have courage, to stand and be counted on his behalf, rather than that of our own agenda.

Have a good week

Last Weeks  Post : Saying GoodBye

similar themes: Can Church Be As Good As Chocolate 

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