Bigger on the Inside: The #Tardis #Church

My church works hard to be community oriented and to be out in the neighborhood.

1 that runs a Neighborhood Farmer’s Market in our parking lot from May-Oct, completely thru volunteers

1 that arranges for free exercise classes (with babysitting) during the farmer’s market

A Market that book-ended by 2 Chicken BBQ fundraisers (the company cooks, we serve)

p.s. we put up great signs for these events. GREAT signs!

1 that puts on a health fair, plays, concerts, art shows.

1 that has done a clothing exchange, electronic recycling,

1 that has a weekly free playgroup and runs a 2, 3, and 4yr old Nursery School

1 that hosts over a dozen AA’s, 3 other congregations, 2 community choirs, an immigrant ministry  & the neighborhood association

When I talk to people about my church, the reach is far.

Our location is good, most people have stepped into our building at some point for various things

Our Farmer’s Market is well known, we are possibly the best small farmer’s market in the city

And everyone is shocked, I mean shocked by how small we are….they think we have 150 people at least

keep-calm-its-bigger-on-the-inside-1

Why is that?

Because we are bigger on the inside

That’s what happens when a church holds God and the Community in their hearts..

bigger

we end up growing in ways that we can’t even comprehend….

And God increases our efforts twofold/fourfold/tenfold

yoda

Its time to STOP thinking of ourselves as a small church, and to start thinking of ourselves as bigger on the inside

Loneliness & Church

Churches feel like lonely places. It is clear to me that one of the reasons that big churches do so well is because they don’t feel lonely, at least not immediately

•I have no doubt there are many reasons to explore about why churches are having trouble…therefore I am only tackling this one

But walking into an empty-ish church of mostly older age feels…lonely….

The loneliness is everywhere; and worse its palpable.

Here is the thing, pastors talk about this a lot…pastors tend to be lonely but little is talked about the layperson’s loneliness. The feeling that “we aren’t in this religion thing together” any more–we are in it alone.

Perhaps that is why the Spiritual but not religious label hits so hard….What do you mean you can do your religious thing by yourself? Where does that leave us…and me?

Religion can be a lonely place to be right now

I just watched Breuggeman’s Prophetic Preaching on the Old Testament which is wonderful

And he talks about how Prophetic Preaching is the breaking of the totalism (or hegemony), which is a SILENCE that leads to VIOLENCE with an outside voice

Good News is so important

Hope is so important

God is not a God who wants us to have to live and die and do everything alone.

Don’t let the emptiness of the church trick you.

Aren’t we the people of the empty tomb?

Aren’t we the people of the empty cross?

Didn’t God make the world out of the emptiness?

Didn’t God create space within God’s very self to give birth to us?

Didn’t God empty out her very self in the personhood of Jesus Christ to give us new and better life?
Churches don’t have to be lonely…don’t buy into it. The lie of death, the lie of not changing, the lie of security and worries about looks and judgements…..don’t believe these lies

God creates…we are called to create and be CREATIVE with God

To me that work is fulfilling, not lonely at all…

Behold I make all things new!

Small Church, New Church, Old Church, Blue Church: Credo Reflections

“Trust the Process”

Credo is a great program started by Episcopalians and picked up by the Presbyterians to help with clergy health and welfare (emotional, spiritual, physical, mental, financial). Its a process to work, worship and create so that a rule of life can be developed.

This year the Presbyterians are running the first ever early ministry model. (Previously it was only available to mid-career). I was lucky enough to be pulled randomly from the hat to attend. Its a support network to help what is now the overworked life of the clergy today.

I would say, for me, the process was a success. We shall see how the rule of life plays out and whether I can use the accountability tools helpfully.

Here are some interesting things that emerged for me….

1. Many of the pastors there were wishing to start a new church somewhere…

Which makes me wonder, what is that about? Are we prophets of the future? Are we wishing for a system with more pull? Is this what revolutions look like? Or is this how we manufacture hope? What is at the root of this and how does it effect the church in general as we go forward.

2. I also heard that a lot of people wanted to write, really write something, either through a blog or a publication or something. Recently I read a blog (I wish I could find it again) about the fact that pastors are writers who get paid

I personally feel that is true, I write sermons like I wrote my English/History papers (which I double majored in). Writing papers every week in undergrad was a good warm up to solo preaching.

So as we look forward, and as CREDO happens next year, I wonder, what can we do with these amazing revelations.

 

Small Church, New Church, Old Church, Blue Church–the clergy seems to be moving in a similar direction

Especially considering that us Presbyterians believe the Holy Spirit works by consensus 😉

 

 

Church Event Guide/What I’ve learned in the last 4 years: Don’t do anything for free

Recently there was an article concerning the …..lets say staidness of overly churched culture….

How do you get a church to event plan beyond the church culture? Here are some guidelines to consider

Rule number One: Don’t do anything for free….it creates a debt mentality that is unhealthy for the congregation and the attendee

Church: Let’s throw this free event, then people will love us and come to church….

Potential Attendee: Free? Really, I bet that church just wants my soul, no way I’m going to that…

Church: We had a free event…why didn’t anyone come (or) People came to our free event, why aren’t they coming to church

Rule Number Two: If you throw an event, have a reason behind it (other than attracting people to the church…ideally have at least TWO solid reasons

ex: Let’s have a farmer’s market 1. it will support our local community and help reaquaint with the neighborhood 2. It will help our local economy–these are our reasons, we are sharing them with the farmers and the customers

ex 2: Let’s put on a play of Charlie Brown Christmas as a food drive because 1) that’s what Christmas is all about 2) we don’t want it to be free 3) because its for children, and if someone cries they can be taken out without money lost

I have found if you have 2 solid reasons, more and more reasons to have the event start to build…..eventually we realized a. there is no farmer’s market in our corner of the city b.people are meeting each other at our farmer’s market and becoming more communal c. its easier to come to the parking lot than the sanctuary (see the ps for more info) d. Won’t you be our Neighbor? we found a motto that described that we wanted everyone in the neighborhood to come to the farmer’s market, and that this reason should drive everything we do

Charlie Brown Christmas 1) its accessible to children of all ages (yay for a mental center coming to see it) 2) one of our actor’s father with alzheimer’s could wander around and enjoy the show 3) people don’t feel bad when their kids make noise because we welcomed the children and they didn’t have to pay “good money” for it. 4) People love to donate food, we got wayyyyy more than the number of people who attended 5) It’s multigenerational, children are seeing what their parents and grandparents grew up with so everyone enjoys it 6) It tells the good news but is not too preachy–many people who are spiritual-but-not-religious felt comfortable with coming to see Charlie Brown

Rule Number Three: No ulterior motives….Try, try, try not to have ulterior motives for putting on Events, because when you do, You hamper God!

You box the event into being successful based on a bunch of random info that you think is important, instead of running the event and then discovering what was important afterwards.

Discuss What Worked Rule Number 4: This is the one piece of advice that I MUST stress, talk about the BEST part of the events, discuss what worked, look on the brightest side, ok not many people came, did you get ANYONE new (?) that’s progress, did you learn anything about advertising (?) that’s progress, did the group do a lot to work together and enjoy certain parts of the process (?) that’s progress. Progress is incremental, you do not build a success story out of one event, but many

Rule number 5 You do not build a success story out of one event but many (see above).
Rule number 6 Try to do repeatable events. I find it take 12 meetings (rule of thumb) to know if something has failed. I repeat, an even CANNOT have failed until you’ve tried it multiple times: whether that be a Bible study or a playgroup or a concert series. That means if you meet once a week it takes 3months, if you meet once a month it will be a year. If you have an event every season then its 3years before you can write it off as a failure. (recommendation: if you have monthly events that are not really connected but seem to be a “thing” that are happening, start measuring those as a grouping, because you are advertising regularly.
(Rule number I’ve lost track, because it doesn’t matter how many rules there are) If you must count (altho I try not to) include your workers as attendees! They are there, they are making time and effort because they think this event is important, and you value your current members/community as much as your potential community (well that is the theory you should be practicing right?), include them
Another Rule Reinvest from the event: For our farmer’s market all our farmer’s fees went into advertising the market, we didn’t make a penny. For our Charlie Brown Play we turned it into a food drive to further teach the message of the play. Don’t do it for the church, do the event for the MISSION of the church
Final Rule: advertise, advertise, advertise: Get people to hand our pamphlets, send out invites, be sure to do that internet thing pick ONE UNIFIED IMAGE for the event and post it everywhere. It takes 3 times of seeing something to register. Put up NEW SIGNS for every event, it makes you look active, it shows your paying attention, it shows your reaching out and you care.
PS try to have events outside the church building (I know, I know that monstrousity costs a lot of money to maintain), but its a lot easier for a stranger to go to neutral ground then to come to your turf where you make the rules ex: its easier to come to the parking lot than the sanctuary, the fellowship hall feels less forboding than the chapel area and the NURSERY is a very friendly place if you make it feel welcoming. Also TRY To make things clear (where to enter, where to park, etc) you don’t want to make your people feel stupid before they even arrive<—my church is still struggling with this, but it makes a clear in-crowd, out-crowd thing…you don’t want that!

What Young People want in church

What Young People want in church

YES, YES, YES

“So here are some of my thoughts about this.  Please chime in as you feel so moved.

1. Young people want innovative things in church. 
Now, this is going to seem to stand in direct opposition to what I said above, but bear with me.  Far too often faith communities latch onto the word “innovative” and think it means media in worship services, contemporary bands, and so on and so forth.  This is wrong.  This was maybe innovative 20-30 years ago.  Maybe not even then.  When I say innovative, I mean different from ordinary life.  I have a smart phone and a laptop that are with me constantly.  I am constantly connected and surrounded by a multimedia, multi-sensory experience.  In the church that I attend, I want something different.  We actually want to be fully present and have an experience of the divine.  We are not looking for entertainment.  Which leads me to my next point…

2. Young people want church to be part of the world
Congregations have gotten into a nasty habit of trying to appeal to young people, or furthermore any new people, by trying to make their churches as much like the “outside world” as possible.  This rests on at least two problematic assumptions.  First, that the church is separate from the world and, second, that we want to be isolated from it.  This is not true.  Just because your congregation has a coffee cart in the narthex, doesn’t make me think you are cool and certainty doesn’t make me want to come attend worship.  We want churches that are in touch with their neighborhoods and our country and our world.  This is not limited to once-yearly Habitat for Humanity builds or mission trips (that is another post entirely) to Mexico once every couple years or collecting food for the food pantry.  No, young people want their congregations to share life with their communities.  The good, the bad, and the ugly, which leads to…

3. Young people want church to be a place where they can be real
Coming of age as a young adult right now is a lonely and terrifying proposition.  We are disproportionately unemployed.  We are the first generation who are “worse off” than our parents.  We are drowning in debt.  We are putting off getting married and having children and owning homes.  We will likely never realize the American dream as it has been known in the past.  We are being bombarded with demands to “hold it together” and maintain a certain image because networking is important and we “never know what contact will help us get a job”.  There are very few places where we can be truly who we are.  Where we can share our pain and disappointments and joys and fears. Church can be that place.  But most of all, we want to be heard in all of who we are, which brings me to…

4. Young people are tired of having assumptions made about them
“Young people” are often seen as a commodity.  And furthermore, seen as THE commodity that will save the church.  A church is seen as thriving if it has young adults and we sometimes feel only like numbers and a bullet point in the strategic plan.  We are talked about and around and all sorts of people have ideas about what we want and what we need, most of which is wrong.  There is a pretty easy way forward.  People could ASK us what is important to us, which leads to…


5. Young people want to feel valued in the church

We want to have opportunities to serve and learn in faith communities.  But it is not as simple as keeping the existing structure of volunteer positions and leadership structure and plugging in young adults.  How about getting to know us and identifying and nurturing our gifts?  This is an entirely opposite approach than currently exists and it is scary.  If you want us to lead, you might have to step out of the way to make room for us. Which leads me to…

6. Young people aren’t interested in maintaining the status quo in church
The Derek Penwell article, What if the kids don’t want our church?, has been floating around for awhile  and I have even written about it on this blog before.  This is painful but I am just going to say it, we don’t really want your church.  This is not a value judgment.  It just is.  The Baby Boomer generation is perhaps the first in American history that has had such a wide swath of products and experiences targeted especially towards them.  They received this well.  And this huge and gifted generation has assumed that everyone else wants the same thing that they do.  We do not.  We want the same opportunities that you all have received to re-imagine and re-shape what church can be.  Which opens the discussion of…


7. Young people value authenticity
Authenticity gets thrown around as a marketing tool, particularly in churches.  Young adults have a finely tuned ability to smell inauthenticity and nothing is more pathetic than a carefully crafted facade of being “authentic.”  We want congregations to recognize their own gifts and identity and live into that. Not every congregation can stand for everything and not every congregation is going to be able to be a place where young adults find a church home.  But that is okay, because we need to leave room for the Holy Spirit to do what she will and form and reform our congregations and our leaders which leads me to my final points…

8. We are open to where the Spirit is leading us and we want our churches to recognize that
Those of us who are a part of faith communities are incredibly faithful.  Our religious practices look different.  We want to discuss theology in bars with our friends.  We want to experience worship, not just attend it.  We want to sing hymns loudly and badly in pubs with our congregations.  When we start becoming engaged in congregations, it might look different than our parents and grandparents, but it is no less valid.  

9. Those of us who sense a call to serve want to be raised up as clergy in the church
We are young.  We are faithful.  We are LGBTQ.  We have tattoos.  We sometimes swear.  We have made mistakes.  We will continue to do so.  We are no different from you, yet we are so different from you. We need to be mentored by you, but we also need for you to allow us to fly and to be moved by the Holy Spirit.  

10. We want to hear when we need to step back and let a new generation lead
We won’t be young forever.  Even though we are often the youngest in congregations, we will continue to age.  And if our church communities are doing what they hope we will, we won’t be the youngest.  And we need to learn when to get out of the way for something new to happen as well.  At that point, we will need you to help us know how to gracefully step aside.  “