We’ve been going through a funny season in my church. Since our previous leader left, we’ve been in ‘interregnum’, which is the fancy word for ‘our minister has left and we haven’t quite found someone else yet’. We are very small, and there’s a certain amount of leg work that has to be done every week: putting out chairs, getting the tea and coffee sorted, making rotas… you know the drill.
The church keys have become like hot potatoes. If you have the keys, then you have to unlock and lock up, so you must avoid acquiring them at all costs. Woe betide you if someone surreptitiously slips them into your bag during the service, or when ‘praying’ for you. The key (ha!) is to identify the current key holders, and make sure never to have any contact with them ever again.
I jest, of course, and it’s always good to challenge yourself to love and serve the lord in the mundane things (as well as the exciting things). But this season has thrown up all sorts of questions about who we are as a church, and what it really means to be the Church in our local area. Because the fact is that we spend a lot of time and expend a lot of energy simply making ‘church’ happen each week; having no employed members of staff means that everything rests on the shoulders of full-time working people, in a voluntary capacity. As a church we’ve been wondering if we really need to meet together in our rented community centre hall on a Sunday, or if there are other ways of meeting that would require less logistics. We’ve also questioned the format – do we need a PA system for such a small gathering? Can we implement more allage activities to lift the pressure on the kid’s workers? Do we really need chairs every week? I mean... surely we can stand?
These are all very practical ponderings, but tap into the question at the very core: what does it actually mean to be Church, and what could that look like?
This month we wanted to explore this more fully, and asked pioneer minister and former youth worker Steve Leach to share his thoughts. The fact is that young people at large are not engaging with the traditional structures and models of Church. Their beef is not with Jesus or even the Church itself, but the way of doing church that has been inherited – be it the style of meeting or the institution. This offers us as youth ministers (and often pioneers) an opportunity: to explore with young people what Church really is, and discover what it could look like in our context. Check out the first part of our meeting guide series on reimagining church.
In our case, the practical situation has necessitated this exploration. It’s sad that it took people feeling overstretched for us to get to this point, but it has also precipitated a real openness and humility among this wonderful gaggle of Christians, about what the future might hold for us. I hope that you are able - even if things are thriving and rotas are jam-packed and structures are running smoothly – to dream what church could look like with your young people. Because teenagers (as we all know) have relentless energy, and the resources to reach others like them, in ways that we simply don’t; there are stories up and down the country of young people shaking things up, and churches engaging with young people in a whole new way. I hope too that your church or role gives you the capacity to grow and explore, can capture a vision of what could be, and will walk with you and your young people, achieving the glorious symbiotic relationship of blessing we all desire: where the church shapes the young people and the young people shape the church.
That’s my prayer for our shambling little ‘group of people who meet together on a Sunday and try to love God and each other, and build the kingdom’ (aka church). And that, this month, is my prayer for you too.