Friday, February 19, 2010

New Evening Congregation brainstorm...

Our Evening Service met last week.

We gathered in the front of our church. The lights were dimmed. We sat in the round. Lots of anticipation. Good Gandevia coffee and fruit and chocolate. (see my iPhone pic)

And we then spent about an hour discussing how we could be sensitive to the newcomer. We brainstormed, and prayed, and discussed what we thought may work for someone who does not know God, especially for someone who lives within 15 minutes walk, drive or public transport from POSTCODE 2000.

This is the upshot of our discussion:


People felt the current lighting was adequate, but would prefer spotlights on main areas – on preacher and band, less yellow light, and other mood lighting. A few commented that the lighting was potentially too dim. One comment was to have mood lighting illuminating the bell ringing area.


Our people identified food as hospitality, either inside or outside the church. The thought is that we should have food where possible served before and after service, but it needs to be good, otherwise not worth doing at all. Universal support for good coffee to be served, either by a barista or good quality plunger.

Food after church was broken down to those wanting to share a meal in church as a witness of community, and those wanting more casual but open welcoming to going elsewhere for food after the service. It was felt that cost, accessibility from the church (no more than 5-10 minutes), ability to cater for large groups, noise and variety of food options were most important. Some felt like they would like a venue where they could opt of either a full meal, or just a drink.

Venues for food after church included Jacksons on George, The Glenmore, The Australian, Cargo Bar and the two Japanese places on York St opposite the church.


People felt like the Chancel (front of Church) worked for the short term, and preferred the orientation as it was set up. They suggested maybe that the band stand in the middle, but were soon at risk of overcrowding the area. Others wanted the musicians to the side, and the preacher facing the main area of the church as to not make latecomers feel embarrassed. Most people did not like the use of the communion table in the middle. They felt it was either ritualistic (high church) or cultish.

If using the existing pew setup, people were universally against the use of the pulpit (seen as high church). Suggestion then for greater visibility of the musicians and preacher was that the chancel should get a raised platform of about 1 foot, but needed to be done tastefully.


Universal support for direct debit and credit card giving. Felt that plate passing was uncomfortable to seekers and new people. Felt there needs to be a box in the back to give, but (naturally) it needed the accountability of how that money was to be handled.


One point that was raised: we should be potentially more thoughtful about where our church sits relative to our culture. Should it match or be different to our cumulative backgrounds? Thought needs to be given on how the space can let us anticipate an encounter with God, with silent spaces, and not being too formal, ordered or predictable.

It's the right discussion to be having.

Has your church thought through all this?

We have a long way to go, but I'm keen to see where God takes us.

Pic of the food on Sunday taken on an iPhone


byron smith said...

and not being too formal, ordered or predictable.
Why are some Christians so scared of formality or of order and predictability? Is this simply "spontaneity is authenticity"? Is it an Australian thing? Is it neutral or something that needs to be addressed?

Most people did not like the use of the communion table in the middle. They felt it was either ritualistic (high church) or cultish.
By "in the middle", do you mean in the middle against a back wall, or in the middle of the congregation? Ironically, moving the table out from the wall and/or further into the middle of the congregation often arises from a solid evangelical instinct to emphasise that it is a table for a meal, not an altar for a sacrifice. Therefore, is this feeling about not being high church or more because we're often not sure what to think about communion?

Andrew + Jessica said...

J - I am all for avoiding the "plate" but direct debit and credit card are not the way to go...

B-Pay is the better than Direct Debit, it places the control and the responsibility with the giver + its so easy and flexible = much less admin for the church.

Credit Card is a bad idea... The Sydney Anglicans need to learn a debt lesson - they just lost over $100mill because of their "gearing" strategy - why do you borrow to invest? Why would you borrow to give?

Ahhh... "we aren't borrowing, we pay it off every month" - some do, some don't... this line of thinking needs to take into account 2 things:

1. what is it costing to facilitate credit card giving... if you give by credit card you need to come to terms with the fact that around 2% of your gift goes to the Big Banks and Visa and MasterCard - why would anyone want to voluntarily give money to the banks and credit card companies - it makes no sense... that money is better off in the givers account or the churches...

2. I am all about racking up the frequent flyer points on the credit card - I have flown along way on those points! But not if I have to pay extra to do so (point 1), plus there seems to be an ulterior motive in giving here...


Andrew + Jessica said...

I have been out of Australia for too long...
forget B-Pay, use "Pay Anyone" through internet banking - then there is no B-Pay set-up fee and no transactional costs - its free for the congregation and the church... and the congregation has all the control - they can make one-off gifts or set-up recurring offerings - too easy... and it avoids all the other costs.

The USA is so far behind Australia in regards to convenient banking... they still make me drive to the bank to deposit these antiquated things called "cheques"... Pay anyone all the way...

annie said...

...and not being too formal, ordered or predictable.

Why are some Christians so scared of formality or of order and predictability? Is this simply "spontaneity is authenticity"? Is it an Australian thing? Is it neutral or something that needs to be addressed?

@byron, I think it *is* an Australian thing! In my short time in Sydney (1 year so far), I think the most startling cultural observation I've made is that to be CASUAL seems to be the prime virtue in Australian society. Anything that smacks of formality or tradition is disdained. I've noted this in the academic context as well as in church, where people seem to feel the need to apologise for anything remotely formal or traditional.

Am I on-target?

I can see how an informal style of 'doing church', along with Coldplay-esque music, really suits the culture well. It seems to me that people respond well to a living-room-style of doing church.

The more formal, hymn-singing-in-4-part-harmony of my experience in churches in other countries would just be too weird here.

Maybe the test to apply is: if it can't be done at a barbecue, don't do it!

Mike W said...

There is a difference between formaility and stuffiness though, just as there is a difference between casual and sloppy. Personally I think either (formal or casual) can be welcoming or unwelcoming., depending on whether it is genuine for the community and understandable for the new comer.
Whichever St Phills decides, the beauty is that you are having the conversation.
On the meeting for meals, consider throwing money in one pool so the poor can attend. (maybe institute a culture of tipping the community 10%)

@byron. The only church I have ever seen with the communion table in the middle of the people is St Patricks catholic cathedral in parramatta. It made me chuckle

Jonathan said...

I was going to make Byron's point about the table. It sounds like your consensus involves both the Lord's Supper and a meal, but not together, and neither emphasised in the "service". This decision is ritualised in its own way - helpful or not?

Formality, order and predictability are separate things. (In)formality seems simply about culture to me. Order sounds like a definitely good thing, even where rigidity may not be. Predictability is more of a mixed bag - IMHO it puts more onus on the participants to participate in a real sense (Australians are possibly less keen on this than some); without being relevant of itself, it can be correlated to whether those responsible have a single method (formal or otherwise), or have put thought into something specifically helpful; it makes things familiar, but can make unfamiliarity more disturbing for the outsider; and it is good or at least inevitable so far as the gospel is the same today as it was yesterday.

Ruth Chapman said...

Has anyone given any thought on how to use (or not to use) name tags in an new service? We are in a church plant and are not using name tags at all. We have rationalised that if the regular members have one kind, and new people have stick on labels we immediately make them feel like outsiders. The alternative is for everyone to have hand written stick on labels. Any ideas and suggestions ???
Ruth ( Trinity Mount Barker South Aust)

annie said...

I think name tags are a GREAT idea. Have everybody wear them! It will help newcomers to put names with faces as they meet people. And it will also help those who've been around long enough that they really should know people's names... but probably don't! Highly recommended.

We're in the church-hunting phase now and we really notice when churches use them and when they don't.