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How far would you go to attract families to church?

Rochester Cathedral have installed a crazy golf course in their nave this summer. But should we be using places of worship for activities like this in order to welcome children and families into church?

Yes, we should

The foreboding entrance of a church is a barrier for so many people, a threshold that should never be crossed. A deep sense of shame and unworthiness grips so many hearts that even entering a building where God might be present is simply inconceivable. Yet it’s in these houses of worship or, more specifically, through God’s people that they may find forgiveness, grace, love, hope, freedom, healing and salvation. It is therefore essential that we do everything possible to break down those barriers and help people to come through the door, taking those first steps on a journey to faith. 

Our God is not distant and unapproachable but a loving Father who can use every circumstance and opportunity to help us enter into a personal, loving relationship with him. Our churches should be places that reflect that same heart. Using fun and engaging activities is a fantastic way to show the 95 per cent of children and young people who don’t attend church that God is not boring, religious or far-off. 

Few people today wish to be preached at on street corners or in stadiums. They do however want to be loved, to be a part of something that matters and to belong. The Church can offer this in a way that no other group can and running free fun family activities is a fantastic way to begin to engage with the wider community. In my experience, people don’t care what you know until they know that you care. Not everyone needs a food bank or debt support, but there are many other great ways to engage people and show that you care. As the church of God and hope of the world, we should use every creative tool and resource at our disposal to love people all the way to Jesus.

Ruth Lancey 

helped pioneer The Hideaway, an educational play centre in Manchester that tells the Bible story.

 

 

No, we shouldn’t

I have no objection with cathedrals and other large places of worship being used for slightly different purposes. I’m a big fan of Messy Cathedrals (indeed I’ve helped organise one myself).

Going further, I think the Malmesbury skate initiative, where a skate park is built in Malmesbury Abbey and used by local young people, is a fantastic mission opportunity. However, this move to build a crazy golf course in the nave of Rochester Cathedral over August doesn’t seem very, well, contextual. I’ve never been to Rochester before, so I can’t say whether there is a vibrant and widespread crazy golf community there that the cathedral is seeking to reach out to. But I suspect there isn’t.

Places of worship can be awe-inspiring spaces. Using a pastime, piece of entertainment or event to draw people in can be a great way to get people through the doors and introduce them to a place where they can meet with God. But I think it has to be linked to the local community or the place of worship itself; it should meet a need in the community or reflect the history of the worshiping community.

I’m not sure doing something leftfield with the sole purpose of attracting people is good enough. Will the crazy golf be staffed by people ready to evangelise? Will players be intentionally invited to come back to a more meaningful event once they’ve finished their round? Will the golf balls play ‘Shine Jesus shine’ when you score a hole in one? (Sorry, I’m being facetious now.)

By all means, Rochester (and other cathedrals), think outside the box in planning events that will attract people into the building. However, I worry that there’s not enough joined-up thinking behind this particular initiative, meaning that many will play and leave without discovering anything about the cathedral or the God who has been worshiped there since 604AD.

Ben Chesworth

is an experienced children’s worker.