There are, and continue to be, a load of initatives aimed at “getting new people into church”, whether that is children, young people or adults . . . but, I am just thinking at the moment – do we need a completely new kind of thing? “Church” still seems to revolve around Sunday attendance . . . despite a whole load of stats that suggest a Sunday morning is not the best time to try and grab people!
Church literally means “community of the called out ones” . . . in the age of the Big Society – are we, in the Church, seriously “building community”? There are churches that think if the door is open on a Sunday that they are being “evangelistic” . . . there are even some engaged in youth work who do not grasp the need to engage in schools ministry . . . which is where children and young people spend a lot of their time – rather, do some “church based” activity for children or young people and just hope they will come.
The challenge is to look “both ways” as we think about the future of the church. By that I mean there are alway good models of what Church could look like – and these are very encouraging – however, silently, without any fanfare at all many churches are moving into the “end game”, the average age in the church is 61 . . . but for many churches, if you are 61, you qualify for the youth group.
We need a new kind of “road map” for people to discover Christ, but also discover Christian community . . . we need far greater investment in work with children, young people and families . . . and we need it now. We need to be unapologetic about evangelism – because many children and young people are growing up without any idea of who Jesus Christ is. We need a road map that will take the church into foreign territory like never before – and maybe, rather than get there and then try and bring people back to where we started from – we need to set up camp right there in this land that does not know Jesus and build something where people are – rather than bring people to buildings . . . . what would happen if the Church of England flogged its buildings and we became a house church movement for the 21st Century? A faith lived out in community “cheek by jowl” with those we are trying to reach with the gospel – rather than coveniently “separate” in our Church buildings?
There is a big difference betweek “letting” our Church buildings and actively engaging in our communities – the two are not the same. Having people “use” our buildings does not automatically mean we are egaged – in fact, if we think that is enough we might be even more detached than we think we are – the church purely being seen as a social service in the community – rather than community of life giving, life bringing, faith that we are called to be.