‘The church is stuck in out of date methods of teaching and learning styles that are not effective and need to change’. I wasn’t and am not offended by this comment made to me this week as it’s been said to me in many different forms over the last five days and it has been fascinating to explore how other church communities have responded to this challenge.
Church ‘A’ has a traditional ‘classic’ church building. Although they moved from pews to chairs some years ago, the chairs were always arranged in pew like formation of rows facing the elevated stage at the front where the band play and the minister speaks. They have recently adopted an ‘in the round’ set up where the communion table is the focal point that everyone faces. People face each other and the speaker/preacher must work a bit harder to engage people and move around a little. Whilst this change has been met with some disgruntlement, people are more involved, engaged and responsive. There are less silent passengers on the back row and there is less sense of a show or performance or hierarchy. It levels the playing field.
Church ‘B’ uses interactive software as a regular part of their preaching/teaching. A question can be posed that the congregation can respond to it on their smartphones or tablets. Word clouds are formed on the screen as people respond with the most popular words growing on the screen. Participants can also send questions/comments or reactions that appear on the screen as the speaker is speaking. Mairi and I trialed this as we led Mettle on Wednesday. All entries are totally anonymous which allows the quietest and shyest person in the room to have a voice and be heard. It felt strange to be inviting people to use their phones rather than asking them to put them away and turn them off, and this in turn arguably led to greater engagement. In an age when people literally live on their phones – this is a great way to engage.
Church ‘C’ is applying new thinking to their children’s/youth programme and making an active change from passive listening to lively activity. They identified that they were constantly telling their children to sit quietly, raise a hand to speak and colour demurely. These dynamos of pent up energy were literally waiting to explode, and it just wasn’t working for them. So, they changed it. Sunday children’s group involved running and team games and noise and activity all structured and organised but allowing the children to be children. The result? The kids love it, the parents love it, and the work is growing.
And the final example is me. I admitted to the CLT last night that for two-and a-bit years I have tried to fit what I perceived to be the RBC mould of how to pray …… Sit in a circle, in the quiet with heads bowed, politely waiting my turn to speak. But that’s not me. I prefer to stand and walk and pace and not always say Amen and generally be a bit livelier. So, I did and (for me at least) it was a great 90 minutes of prayer engagement
These are three real examples of church communities wrestling with this issue of a robustly relevant message (the gospel) being communicated through a relevant engaging vehicle, not a vehicle that should have been parked many years ago.
The challenge is letting go of what we love, for what we love more.
So, with some trepidation, but in the spirit of participation and listening…
What do you think?