Joining in rather than joining up

Stewart’s recent running training (and fundraising success) has led him to think about running with others from time to time. It got me thinking about how we might use the ‘Park Life’ concept within the mission of the church. We are often quick to create events where we expect people to turn up. Whether that is a ‘back to church Sunday’ day or a revival rally in the local park, there is the expectation that people will come because it’s an event and therefore ‘special’ or even ‘worth it’. And it seems to me that we then have trouble sustaining the ‘special’ quality of the event thereafter in the ordinariness of our faith life and in our mission work.

But what if rather than expecting people to ‘join up’ we simply made it possible for them to ‘join in’? Being a Christian is not about being a Christian on Sunday morning between 11 and 12 (or whenever). I know it’s about that faith ‘ethos’ infusing all that we do, but often that’s not too visible. If Christians were seen to be at work or play in their community, not doing Christian things, but simply doing things, is that a way of enabling people to join in?

It would, I think, need to be something that was done regularly to avoid becoming that one-off event. And it would need to be something that wasn’t already happening otherwise you end up competing and setting a tone of ‘joining up’ rather than joining in. And it would need to be something that facilitated relationships rather than just doing the ‘thing’, whatever that might be. And it would need to have, I think, some sort of Christian ‘context’, otherwise you’re just doing stuff that is no different from the stuff that everyone else does.

So what sort of thing might work in this context? Some sort of regular ‘clean-up’ walk around a community? A bunch of families meeting up in the park to play games? I don’t know, but there’s got to be something that enables joining in as a means to establishing relationships and relevance between a church and the community.

4 responses to “Joining in rather than joining up”

  1. […] John Orr took the thought and expanded it to church. I like when that happens. His question was ‘How can we create opportunities for people to join in without having to join up?’. I think that’s a great question and it strikes to the very heart of some of the conversations the church (almost all of them) is having. […]

  2. Mrs Gerbil and I have been discussing the idea of using a church garden to grow fruit and veg.  There’s plenty of scope to get the gardeners involved in the growing, the cooks in making stuff, and for the produce to be distributed in the community.  Age is no barrier, as even the youngest can get involved in planting something.  There’s no obligation for anyone to have a Sunday morning church connection, so you can have joining in without joining up. 
    So far, it’s just the embryo of an idea, and it isn’t going to be suitable everywhere. 

  3. One of my placement congregations toyed with the idea of using some of the church grounds or even some of the local gardens to create such an enterprise. In the right situation it can work well. There is the caveat that you may be taking business from small local shops though.

    But yes, it’s those sort of things that can engage with a community in a way that speaks of what the church is about beyond the perception of four walls and a steeple, and poring over an old book on a Sunday morning.

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