Not a formula – instead, a rhythm
One former church leader discussed how they had strategically considered the use of their sessions. Rather than seeing this as a standalone ministry, they thought of them as a platform. If you’re reading this article and you’re from a small or even a large church without a volunteer culture, read through to the end because we don’t want you to feel overwhelmed with expectations. There aren’t expectations for any faith community, new, established, well-resourced or otherwise.
Underpinning their plans was Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 5. You are the salt of the earth. They understood this to be ‘flowing, scattering salt’ rather than salt in a shaker that hits you on the head after you accidently move an item you can’t see on a high shelf. ‘Flowing, scattering salt’ covers more ground. A bang on the head is just sore and uncomfortable.
Firstly, they considered Kingdom values. They wanted families to enjoy family time, of just being together. Being located near a beach, they would arrange games of cricket at the beach with a picnic meal. Families brought their own meals but appreciated the provision of games and the chance to connect with friends, old and new alike. Other times, they provided family movie nights. The events either required people to bring their own food or the catering was paid for by each family covering the ticket price. Everything was designed to be easily organised and easily attended.
Secondly, they considered how else Jesus could be revealed. They were already using the Time to talk resource so the interest in matters of faith had been showing as ‘we’d like to know more’. At the time, the only ‘off the shelf’ option they knew about for families to explore faith together was Messy Church. Families were appreciative of the chance to join together with people they’d played cricket with on the beach, to learn more about what the Bible had to offer their family.
Adults, as a result, began questioning aspects of faith and it became evident that there was a need for adults to have both the time and space to further explore issues around faith. Instead of asking families to find child minding, they launched Alpha as ‘Family Alpha’. Parents were able to watch the Alpha material and enter the discussion groups, whilst their children were involved in 4-5 crafts and a story. The children’s portion was timed so there was one craft was waiting for adult involvement. Parents were reunited with their children to become involved with the craft and to hear the story. The session was wrapped up with a family learning moment.
Later it became apparent that families were hungry for parenting help. The team decided to use Toolbox for Parents because it catered for families with pre-schoolers and primary aged children.
Families became involved in the place they most felt comfortable. Family gatherings on the beach or with a movie continued throughout this time. It wasn’t a case of requiring families to enter a vortex that had a pre-determined result. Families enjoyed family time. Families explored faith. Families loved attending the activities and sessions.
Realise that these activities took several years to develop because relationships take time. Focusing on ensuring that Kingdom values were being established was key to their next steps.
If your church has less resources, consider what could be achieved rather than what can’t. Perhaps this is an opportunity to combine with other fellowships in your town or suburb and work together.