last Wednesday night i led a session at the Adelaide Mission-Shaped Ministry course. it was their second last night of about 14 weeks, my first time with the material, and I'd had limited time to prepare. they were very gracious! and as you do after running a training session for the first time, my brain has been going overtime about how I'd do it differently next time. not surprisingly, i had a bunch of stuff with me that i didnt even use.
i spoke a bit about our Alive@5 experiment and how that is evolving. there are some things that i didnt get around to saying, so i thought i'd give a bit of a summary of our journey here in case it's of interest to the participants or others.
a couple of years ago our church started playgroups, based on both evidence that 'young families' were moving into the area, and this need being expressed by people associated with our community. we took a 'leap of faith' and employed a new member of the congregation with great gifts in this area as a part time worker. i don't know the exact stats but our playgroup expanded from one day to two, and then a babies day, and we ended up with about 100 families connected. incredibly successful and meeting a need. i applaud our minister Phil and the church council in seeing this opportunity and running with it.
of course several (but not many) 'church families' were involved in the playgroup and formed friendships. not surprisingly, only a very small number of play group families made the extra step of attending Sunday morning worship. some, not many, saw the church as the place in which their kids might be baptised. sometime last year, some of the 'church families' decided to start a Sunday afternoon social gathering about once a month as a way of both enjoying time together and getting to know the playgroup families as well. i wasnt a part of any of this, so my knowledge is second hand. but my understanding is that a number of playgroup families starting coming along to this.
the story, as I am told, is that while it was a nice time socially, the playgroup families who started coming along were actually looking for and expecting something more from the church. they didnt necessarily need another social group in their lives. I'm not sure if they knew what they wanted, but they were expecting something with some explicit Christian faith aspect, as least for the sake of their kids. at least thats how the story has been told to me.
so we planned to try something in 2011, not a 'worship service' but a community gathering with a simple meal and some kind of worship/learning/sharing aspect. Late Sunday afternoon, monthly. largely as a way of demonstrating something of this nature we ran 'Interactive Easter' on Palm Sunday this year. we had about 16 activities - music, drama, craft, art, prayer, stories. it ran 5-7 pm and I reckon about 80 people turned up, half of whom I didnt know. we had playgroup families, church members bringing friends and grandkids. it was lively, varied and felt very energising. lots of positive feedback.
so after that, in May we started Alive@5 (I seriously thought that I made up the name - it was me who suggested it. i found out 2 weeks ago that a church down the road from our house has a program with this name and I've been driving past it for years! subliminal advertising!). we looked at the 'Messy Church' books and concept and found that helpful, but decided to shape our own thing for several reasons. the key things were to be community & faith exploration, with food as an important, although informal part of the gathering.
we didnt want to use the church 'sanctuary', as we saw it as foreign and inflexible for newcomers. we started in rooms at the back of the church, but realised after the first time that we were hidden away. so now we meet in the "morning tea" area which has lots of light, and people can see us when they arrive. we have a circle of chairs and cushions on the floor.
our basic pattern has been an informal, interactive worship/learning time for about 60 mins followed by a simple shared meal which the church provides. 5.00-6.30 pm.
more to come...