Tomorrow’s church – Part 2: Participation changes everything.

In my last post, “Welcome to a new era“, I discussed the recent cultural shifts our society is going through. Social media allows people to participate and contribute. The internet gives ordinary people access to extraordinary amounts of information. What does this mean for the church?

There is an often-told story of a real-estate agent who explained to his client the three most important factors in selling a property. “I would say the first thing to consider is location“, he begins, “followed closely by location, and last – but not least – location.” It may be an exaggeration to say nothing else matters in real estate, but this familiar quote drives home a point – location is not something to overlook.

If you were to ask me the most important shifts needed in church today, I would hold up three fingers and say … “participation, participation, participation.” I’m not saying nothing else matters. I am saying participation is a major element that is missing in churches today – and that we are getting ready to embrace once again. Culture has changed, and it’s not going back. The internet has given people an opportunity to connect, interact and get involved. God’s people would like to participate in church, too. But churches will need to accept some shifts from within, because participation changes everything.

Participation changes the way we meet. If we are committed to allowing God’s people to participate, we can no longer line them up in rows and keep them silent during our meetings. We need to rearrange the seating to allow more interaction and involvement. We should share our stories and connect with one another. The time we spend sharing food and drink together will become more than just a coffee break at the end of the service, and take on a greater significance.

Participation changes the way we learn. Neuroscience has shown us that people learn best when they are actively engaged and involved – hands-on learning is more powerful than passive listening. Did you know that most adults are unable to listen effectively for more than 10-15 minutes at the longest? The Vatican has even recommended that sermons should only last around 8 minutes, as this is the ideal length of time for listening without shutting down. We’re discovering better ways of learning, and we should start using them in our churches.

Participation changes the way we lead. No longer should the pastor do all the talking. It’s time to get everyone involved, get everyone teaching each other, and to rediscover Christ’s leadership for the whole community. The payoff is enormous. When we move from performance to facilitation, we empower God’s people to have a voice, a value and an impact. We enable them to discover their spiritual gifts and use them to minister to one another. We release them to change the world around them.

The Bible compares the church to a body, with Jesus as the head, which will grow in maturity “as each part does its work” (Eph 4:16). The goal of church is spiritual maturity, not numbers. Every one of us has a part to play. It’s time for the church to prepare for participation.

This post is part 2 of my 12 part blog series – “Tomorrow’s church: a new formula for a new era“. Subscribe now or follow me on Facebook so you don’t miss any posts. I’d love you to interact and discuss the ideas in these posts, and share your experiences. The next post will be called “Rethinking the seating arrangements”, and encourages churches to allow God’s people to meet face-to-face.

The following posts in the series are now up;

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13 thoughts on “Tomorrow’s church – Part 2: Participation changes everything.

  1. Kathleen, I’m looking forward to seeing this “participation, participation, participation.” concept becoming a reality. It’s yet another example of the need we have for ‘one another’.

    “and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds,”

    • Hebrews 10:24 – one of my favourite verses. I think the “one another” concept is a core part of what church was always intended to be.

      – Kathleen

  2. When Paul compares the Church to a body, it’s in the context of this “everyone matters” and “everyone participates” context. Today we use the term “Body of Christ” to refer to a gathering where only one or two people are participating and everyone else is a spectator.

    The Church is only a Body when/if everyone is participating. Otherwise, it’s not a Body.

  3. Pingback: Tomorrow’s church: Changing the way we meet, the way we learn, and the way we lead. | Church in a Circle

  4. Pingback: A new format for a new era – a new blog series to change church culture from within. | Church in a Circle

  5. Hi Kathleen, good stuff.
    Some reflection.
    The game of football.
    When you get the players of the highest calibre playing, everyone wants to watch. But most people who watch do so because they love to play also. Rows are ok, in their place. Let’s just not replace playing the game with watching others play the game. It depends on the size of the gathering and the purpose of the gathering….and we should not think that meeting together (even in a circle) is actually playing the game – it is maybe training for the game – much of which is played in the 166 hrs per week we are not meeting (even in a circle). Much of what we do (the game) is actually done alone (with Him with us) in hostile territory.
    I agree though that meeting in a circle better facilitates preparing for the game than meeting in rows.

    • Thanks for your comment. I’ve been giving it some thought.

      I do like the analogy of training for the game. Football players do their best training when they get their hands on the ball and physically participate in the training – but there certainly are times when they learn new techniques and get inspiration from watching others play. Like you say, the training session is NOT the real game – but it is a time to prepare for the real game, and the closer it feels to the real thing, the better the techniques learned will transfer.

      On the other hand, I’m not sure whether it’s a biblical picture of church to compare it to “training” or a “practice” session. Church in rows generally does feel like a “pep talk” from a coach; something removed from real life. The Bible portrays church as a family or as a body. Real ministry happens between God’s people when they meet face-to-face, intentionally seeking to love one another as Jesus commanded us to do. That’s just not possible in rows. There may be a place for rows (and many, many times in my life, I have enjoyed church in rows), but it isn’t the only option for gathering together – and it’s often not the best option, either.

      Thanks for your comment and thoughts. Always a pleasure!

      – Kathleen

  6. Pingback: Tomorrow’s Church – Part 1: Welcome to a new era. | Church in a Circle

  7. Pingback: Tomorrow’s church – Part 5: Food and fellowship. | Church in a Circle

  8. Pingback: Tomorrow’s church – Part 7: Learning through shared experiences. | Church in a Circle

  9. Pingback: Tomorrow’s church – Part 10: Hand them the ball – From performance to facilitation. | Church in a Circle

  10. Pingback: Tomorrow’s church – Part 8: Discovery learning in church | Church in a Circle

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