United Theological College lecturer, Ian Robinson, takes a look at why congregations should care more about street-cred than church-cred when welcoming newcomers.
Congregations who can be hospitable with newcomers will be: Connecting, Relevant, Enjoyable and Disciples.
They care more about street-cred than church-cred. More on each one now.
When people come, they can find their way, not too strange, to the entry and seating. The decor gives powerful first impressions and it speaks of vitality. Church people meet them, not just greet them. They help them connect with the ‘one another’ thing that is happening here. They exercise gracious hospitality – they took more trouble to honour them than opening a pack of sweet biscuits and offering instant coffee.That connecting then operates throughout every part of the church’ s relationships. Its not about socialising. Its about the love, yes?
The language can express all the traditions but only when it translates, in words and issues, to life as it is experienced in the here and now. Connect them with God.The songs, prayers and sermon can all demonstrate this immediately. The kind of activities that they pursue also address important issues with significant inputs, not just opinions.
When I stagger out of a working week, eight hours more work than 30 years ago, I choose carefully whether church is going to be uplifting or further taxing. Deep and meaningful is good, but enjoyable is better. I need help. My tank is low. My body and my face have to move. Newer music isn’t always the answer, but chosen carefully, sources from the last decade or two will be an improvement.
The main reason that is given why people leave church, after trying it, or after decades of service, is the church’s failure to focus around following Jesus as disciples. That’s an own-goal, in soccer terms. Even children’s church could lead, but not by ‘making pipe-cleaner Jesus’, as one former school-teacher told me. Godly play is more creative than its purveyors let on, not least because they put an end to cheesy, painful, ‘Jesus is the answer’ talks. Talk about what worries you. What inspires you. What you love to do.
So much more could be said. This is one of those times when more should be done than said.
Why does Church-cred not help? It makes sense only to well-churched or religious people, 85 percent of today’s population. It references all the past conflicts. It speaks of another time and another place. It is not the music and language of today’s generations. Its theology parses the issues that have divided us. Its thought-forms were the chaplain to colonialism. Its delivery by sermon is educationally poor. Its comfortable. If you have known it for a decade or more, you have picked up the genre. It is a strong and complex tradition, but its a strong foreign curry for those who might walk in this Sunday.
Which cred describes your current practise? Look together at one CRED topic each three months. Do something. Don’t do tiny increments, take leaps.
Ian Robinson lectures at United Theological College