Doubling up at church – filling our week with extra programs because Sunday isn’t meeting our spiritual needs.

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We go to church to be with each other. We go to meet with God’s people, and worship God in community. Church is all about relationships – our relationship with God, and our relationship with his people. The most precious resource we have as a church is each other. We are God’s people, called to live out his story through our lives and in our neighbourhoods, and we need each other for support, encouragement and accountability. And yet our weekly meetings are structured to serve us an individual worship experience, not connect us as a community.

Churches are doubling up on programs because meeting in rows isn’t meeting people’s core spiritual needs. We’re running Bible study groups on Wednesday nights (so people can engage directly with God’s Word in a group setting), social groups on Friday nights (so people can get to know each other better), and mission groups on Saturday afternoons (so people can find ways to apply God’s Word in real life) – all for the same people who attend on Sunday mornings. Why? Because the Sunday morning church service isn’t effectively connecting, engaging and empowering God people. We’re tying God’s people up in multiple meetings, taking them out of the world and using up all their free time, because the format we’re using for “church” isn’t allowing people to connect, learn or grow.

Seating people in rows, week after week, doesn’t make sense anymore. If we want people to listen to great speakers, let’s send them a link to some online sermons. If we want them to hear great music, give them a CD. But if we’re going to get a group of people together who share the same goals and vision, who want to know God more and serve him on earth, lets not waste the opportunity for them to speak face-to-face with one another, share their knowledge and experience of God’s story, and have an impact in each others’ lives.

Circles allow us to connect. Circles help us to engage with God’s message. And circles empower people to grow and to act. Let’s seriously consider changing the seating in order to change the culture.

6 thoughts on “Doubling up at church – filling our week with extra programs because Sunday isn’t meeting our spiritual needs.

  1. Amen. If I want to teach, be taught, pray, sing, encourage others, serve others, and share a meal with others… I shouldn’t have to go to 5 different gatherings. Why can’t we let all these things happen whenever we get together with other believers. The singing or the teaching may not be as polished in a non-structured setting, but it may be more authentic.

    • I completely agree Jon.

      You are right when you say “the singing or teaching may not be as polished in a non-structured setting”. Isn’t it interesting that young people these days are perfectly happy to watch unpolished, non-professional YouTube videos for amusement, in a time when they have 24/7 access to the best of Hollywood and CGI? We seem to have an overload of “polished” performances. If anything, we’re attracted to less rehearsed, more authentic and connected experiences. I think this is a pretty recent swing – YouTube and social media have only been around a few years, but they’re having a huge impact on culture and communication!

      Always nice to connect, thanks for “stopping by”.

      Kathleen

  2. I wholeheartedly agree that, if people aren’t “getting” what they need out of Sunday morning services, churches should seriously reconsider how they do things. Unfortunately, many church leaders are quick on the defense, disavowing any responsibility to change by making it out to be the member’s problem of the heart or something like that. In addition, many leaders and older members treat the norm, whether the type of songs sung or how the seating is arranged, as if it were biblically commanded. Any attempt to change, even if there’s strong evidence that to do so would be more in line with what the Early Church practiced, is usually stonewalled fairly quickly as heretical teaching. What’s one to do?

    • “What is one to do?” Great question, Jenny, and not one with an easy answer.

      Nobody really likes change. Anyone who says otherwise hasn’t had to make significant changes. Change is only welcome when the alternative is too painful. People need to become aware of the need for change before they will embrace it – and even then, it can be a long and slow process. Google “Kotter’s stages of change” for some more theory and discussion.

      However, there are certain points in history when change is inevitable. Certain time periods are associated with broad scale social change, which trickles down into every institution (eventually). I’m convinced we are living in one of those time periods. The impact of the internet on our society is huge. Nobody has to be a passive consumer anymore. We are never turning back from that. Once people are given a voice, and an opportunity to express it, they won’t ever give it up. Businesses, media, schools, governments and churches are going to have to deal with this creatively and sensitively – and many already are.

      None of that probably has trickled down in your church yet. We’re in the same boat – we attend a wonderful local church on Sundays, and I would love to see systemic change happen from within, but I can tell it’s going to take a while for people to “get it”. Our pastor is reading the draft of my book at the moment, and I look forward to see how he deals with it (a great guy, open to change and willing to try lots of new things). There’s a world of difference between an established church, and the ministry my husband is doing with drug addicts, homeless people and Jesus-followers, which is the basis for our book and our blog. Much easier convincing “unchurched” people that the time is ripe for change!

      Good luck in your journey,

      Kathleen

  3. The current standard set up in churches dates back to the 12th century, where literacy was limited to a few clergy and so the priest was the font of all knowledge. Most teaching was in Latin and people’s knowledge mostly came from two sources, the stain glass murals in the church building and a strong oral tradition. As centuries passed the influence of the sole teacher grew, stain glass windows lost much of their meaning (in England last year I saw a 14th century window that wasn’t much more than an ad for a blacksmith) and when the printing press came around in the 17th century the Written word almost obliterated the oral tradition over night. So the rows and the authoritative teacher remain but the oral tradition in which the stories of the Bible were passed from one generation has been lost. While having the written word is important, the oral tradition meant that every member of the community was familiar with the stories and passed it onto the next generation and if a mistake was made while it was passed on the rest of the community would correct it. The community through oral tradition developed connection, and discipline. The idea of church in a circle is great especially if it encourages a greater dialogue about and with the word of God. In our little community we’ve been operating in a circle for years, and have recently been exploring what does an oral tradition look like in the 21st century.

    • Great points, Paul. I’ve touched on some of this history in my post; “How media shaped the church” http://wp.me/p2hkrb-33 but you’ve fleshed it out nicely.

      I’m glad to hear you guys are meeting in a circle. More and more of God’s people are finding this is a relevant way to meet together today. I’m also really excited to hear you are exploring oral traditions as a teaching tool – I plan to blog a lot more about that in the future. We use the “Simply the Story” technique to explore God’s Word together, and it is so much more powerful when we don’t distract people with written text.

      Thanks for commenting, nice to stay in touch,

      Kathleen

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