Last Sunday's Alive@5 was on the theme of Play, chosen as an expression of the season of Easter. Since our "Interactive Easter" event obviously had sombre elements, this evening was more about celebration.Our minister, Phil, has just started long service leave, so this has been a good prompt to involve others more in the planning and leadership, and to work on some changes that we've talked through prior to him going away.
One key change is to have one or more arrival activities, on the basis that people with children almost never arrive on time. While Messy Church does this, our overall program/approach differs, in that we want people to experience the biblical narrative in some way/s before they explore/respond, for several reasons...
So we started with parachute games (above) as folk arrived, and we have several play activities on tables.
The introduction consisted of a number of short and mainly funny video clips about play - most were TV ads - among them highlighting the need to spend time together and that might mean turning off the "screen" among other things.
Next was an active/action song "We're Gonna Move When Jesus Says Move" - words changed for the occasion. I'm not sure that this had the best theology and would do something different next time... ("We're gonna bat when Jesus says bat"... yeah I know....)
I showed a brief bit of one of the Vintage Jesus videos (without sound) and said that sometimes Jesus is portrayed as being dull and boring and serious. I then showed part of the Gospel of Matthew DVD - chapter 6. This is a word-for-word NIV movie, but it has its good points too. Jesus tips water over Peter's head and everyone has a laugh, and then he does the "seek first the kingdom of God" where he talks about not worrying about tomorrow. So I offered a brief commentary about play being partly about putting off things that needed to be done and living in the "now".
Last time our plenary gathering ran for 30 mins which was never our intention (15 mins max). This time we managed to do the arrival activities and plenary within 30 mins, so we were on time for the first month in ages. Our aim is to allow at least 30 mins for activities. So we meet at 5.00, and by 6.00 we'rte meant to be sharing a meal (stand up, finger food).
We offered five themed activities related to play, and had decided that they would mainly be about playing, not teaching or something else, with the encouragement for adults and children to play together (it's been a constant issue - parents standing back and watching their kids do things).
1. Construct - playing with Lego
2. Challenge - we used the church as a bowling alley (using gear from Yvonne's child care centre) with people bowling under the pews. this was a highlight of the night.
3. Co-operate - more parachute games
4. Create - playing with play-dough
5. Conflict - a prayer space about when we need to say "I'm sorry" and "I forgive you". Large photo images and a printed reflection. An invitation to write or draw on a balloon and then burst it.
The mix of activities worked well. I was worried about age range and some other things. We have the issue of being inclusive of under 3s and over 10s'... Part of the success of the night was that we had leaders at each activity who were excellent at engaging with people, not just running an activity.
Our plan at the end has been to have a brief plenary time with
- a 'show and tell' about the activities
- some kind of 'prayer for others'
- a closing song - the same brief one each time
- a simple blessing that we say together, now written for the occasion
With us running overtime most months this end time has been reduced or cut completely. Part of the problem has been getting people to finish up activities and head back (will work on an audio cue - song to somehow pipe through the building...)
So on Sunday we managed a quick S&T, the song and the blessing. If we can work out how to run to time we'll be able to work on what to do with this gathering... We continue to have new people turn up (this time church folk with their grandkids) but about the same number attending. I'm sure that is a big part of that is the once-a-month thing, both in terms of building community and competing events. So if this thing continues, one of the key things for 2013 will be going fortnightly I think. maybe. I can argue against that too...
May God grant us time to laugh
and time to play
May God grant us time to rest
and time to give
May God grant us time to care
and time to forgive
May we let the God of Life
shape our loving and living
On the way home we agreed that we needed a take-home sheet/resource of some kind related to play at home. We've talked about the take-home thing before but are not there yet in terms of who does what.