Friday, 18 November 2011

Are gatherings really helpful?

Picture the scene, a roomful of people, mainly families with young children, a good number of mom and dad's and splattering teenagers, there is noise and laughter, families interacting together and the place is just about as full as it can get.

Surely this is a good thing for a church, the majority of people attending are not followers of Jesus, but would consider this their church. For 2 hours on November 4 this was the scene at the church chapel on Harold Hill. The night ending in a firework display worthy of Buckingham Palace! With the 2 guys that the children have made going up in flames beneath the Catherine Wheels.

On top of all this Steve had a teenager's group and led an excellent discussion about their stresses and enjoys and what they thought about Jesus and I had the privilege of talking to the parents about the same things. (Results of the discussion to follow shortly)

On the whole an excellent evening one which I'm sure would tick many boxes however, I'm not sure that hosting this type of gathering is in the long-term effective for church planting or regular church.

Firstly, I don't think we as a team had an opportunity to say more than a brief hello to all those who attended. Secondly I don't think that we as a team spent any time with our children, which meant that in the middle of this fantastic gathering were 3 little shorters wandering around on their own! Thirdly the event is costly in both time prep and finance. Fourthly by doing these events so well we are setting a high standard which is not always easy to follow.

So as a team we decided to reduce the number of events/gatherings that we do. We can see their value in bringing people together and giving people an excuse to attend one of our events. These gatherings give us the opportunity to see people who have not seen for a while. So we will keep some events in the diary. Our plan for the next couple of terms is to try and use the time that we would have spent in planning and preparing events in people's homes or down the Cafe or in the park with those people whom we have come here to serve.

I'm becoming concerned that our gatherings and in fact all Christian gatherings are not reflective of the Trinity God whom we follow. The gatherings like ours did not increase community and interaction with one another. They do not allow the space for the young and the old, the hurting and the well to be heard, to be involved and to have the opportunity to influence what is happening. Our hope by scaling back on big events is that we build community and so more faithfully represent the the Trinity in what we're doing.

After Christmas we are going to start sharing communion at the end of each of our community meals. The community meal will finish at 6 o'clock and communion will be served between 6 and 630. We will say to people they can stay, they can join in for as much or as little or their free to leave. Our hope is that by doing this will be sharing the Christian story and the Gospel in a way which enables people to interact receive and give while being part of our little community.

Gatherings can be helpful but what really builds community is allowing people to have a voice, to be heard to be challenged to be encouraged and I'm not sure that how easy that is in a crowd.

Love and prayers


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