Yesterday I was with 90 other people sharing together in a Café Church training day. It was a good time to meet some old friends, and to make a few new ones. The aim of the day was to equip and inspire churches to plant congregations into coffee shops in their localities. On the whole it was a good day.
Juliet Kilpin led a session on connecting with the wider community, and with her blend of humour, passion and compassion challenged us about a number of things, including the way that churches have hindered, rather than helped, people make meaningful relationships outside the context of churchworld. Worrying stuff.
I’ve written elsewhere about the need for church to be more experimental, and today sees some of that working out in Bromley. We switch (for the next 3 months at least) from having a pattern of two services (10.30 & 18.30) to having three (10.30, 16.45 & 19.00). The 16.45 “Sunday Break” will be a classic-style service, for those who appreciate a more traditional flavour, and the 19.00 “Later Service” will be more experimental, drawing in elements of the Café Church experience of the last few years as well as AWE in Northampton, and some more “emergent” type stuff.
My hope is that we, as a church, will discover ministries that have been waiting for us to get our act together. I’m convinced there are a large number of people - mainly but not only those in their senior years - who have struggled with the changes in church life, and need a place that will be more predictable and what they might think of as normal. We’ve had no place that’s been specifically geared for them until now. My prayer is that Sunday Break would grow quickly, as it ministers to a needy section of society. The experience of Mount Pleasant in Northampton was that this service grew and became the one with the highest proportion of those who were visitors.
In the same way, I hope and pray that those in our communities who are turned off, or find totally alien, the tradition service, will find space to explore their spiritual life in new ways at the Later Service. Somewhere in the mix here I think we’re moving towards a model of church that we may see happening in many places, church that finds a way to meet people where they are, but encourages them into the same place - a growing relationship with Jesus who loves, encourages, challenges and changes.