Over the past 15 years or so, my husband and I have been on a journey to find better ways to do church – ways that engage, equip and empower God’s people. We’ve tried to condense some of the “big ideas” we’ve learned over the years into 10 points, which we believe could transform the way God’s people meet, the way they learn and the way they lead.
1. Christ is the centre. We meet in a circle as a strong visual reminder that we have a central theme and focus, and that everything we do should revolve around Jesus. This arrangement also allows us to gather face-to-face, to see and hear one another and minister to one another.
2. One leader, many teachers, no professors. We already have a leader – Jesus. All of us are qualified to teach one another. “Professors” and “experts” shut down dialogue and participation and unintentionally disempower God’s people.
3. Stop performing, start empowering. Get off the stage and start giving people a voice, a value and an impact. Don’t position them as a passive audience, dependent on a professional performer.
4. “The least of these” are the greatest. In Jesus’ upside-down kingdom, the last are first, the foolish shame the wise and weak shame the strong. The most unexpected people have the most to offer the community. When you empower the “least of these”, you empower everybody.
5. Get people talking – unlock them early. Get them talking early on and you won’t have to work hard later in the session. Don’t be tempted to do too much of the talking yourself – push the “ball” out to others. Ask open questions. Look for involvement, not “correct answers”.
6. Create a “no-fail zone”. Accept everyone, as Christ accepted you – and demonstrate that acceptance by affirming people’s answers, opinions and stories. Set up a non-judgemental environment of respect, trust and safety.
7. Laughter leads to learning. Create a fun, active environment for learning together. “Haha” leads to “aha”. When people have fun, it primes the brain for learning and helps the community bond.
8. Discovery is the best teacher. Learning is more powerful when you do it yourself. Don’t spoonfeed people – make them work for their meal. Lectures impart information, but don’t help people think for themselves, change their attitudes and actions. Set up activities which make people think, problem solve and discover insights for themselves.
9. Whole body learning (head, heart & hands). Ears are not the only body part for learning. Engage different senses. Set up learning activities to involve the mind, mouth, emotions and movement.
10. Slow down, shut up and listen. Relax. Get comfortable with long pauses and awkward silences. Never answer your own questions. Have coffee breaks. Don’t try to cover too much ground – “Less is more”. Listen to individuals. Listen to what isn’t being said. Listen to where the group is heading together. Listen to the Holy Spirit – he speaks through the most unexpected people. Trust yourself less and trust God more.