I am fresh off the Installation, and now in Chicago for the Conference of Bishops. I'll be posting some updates as the week goes forward. So stay tuned.
But first, I want to deliver another blog post on the Future church, which I am now renaming the NeXt Church. The most frequently asked question I receive on my visits with congregations centers around the future. While I am not a time traveler, I do have some guesses. I confess some help from our friends across the pond.
The churches of the United Kingdom, aka Great Britain, have faced the changing landscape for some time. They're website contains a number of stories that are worth reading. I encourage you to look it over. Maybe a field trip to learn from the people at Fresh Expressions is in order? Can you say "London 2013"? I spent some time this summer digesting what the Brits are doing, and brainstormed some possibilities for us in New England.
NeXt Church ideas
- · A Congregation turns a piece of its grounds into a community garden. Through a separate 501c3, they seek funding, develop a training program for people in the neighborhood to learn how to grow their own vegetables. Later they connect with a nearby Community Health Center, so they can partner on offering a health/diet program
- · Two congregations merge, but rather than sell both properties, they keep one of the original buildings because of its “monastic feel” and turn it into a Christian Meditation Center. The center offers classes and experiences in meditation, iconography, painting and the arts as a form of Christian expression, yoga and forms of liturgical dance. Over time they acquire a national reputation for people to come and learn the ancient/future forms of Christian spirituality.
- · The Barn – A music resource center for young people. A youth center built around music expression and learning. The goal is to Bless the community with creativity. Weekly events/concerts/worship/coffee house events take place with young people as the leaders.
- · The Pub Church –After a couple of churches sell their buildings, they make arrangements with a local bar to hold more traditional worship services on Sunday morning. They also hold a Sunday evening “Table Talk” aka Pub Theology with the Pastor from 5 to 6. Later the owner of the bar, decides to sell the bar, and the church buys the place, turning it into more of a Restaurant/Bar, it even opens an AA group during the week in the restaurant/bar
- · The Walking Church convenes regularly to walk, talk, pray, meditate, sing. Instead of a building, they meet regularly at a starting point and then walk. This gives exercise as well as a public witness. The church ends the walk at a nearby coffee house.
- · X-treme or Shackles Off – A new ministry is birthed in a store front where teens are invited to hang out. The lead lay pastor is a 40 something mother who has a deep love for teens. She hangs out at the store front on couches, and engages teens in conversation. Eventually she developes trust and introduces topics of deep meaning. Teens begin to pray for one another, programs are started to help a local homeless shelter. A once a month coffee house concert starts, as people talk about Jesus in a way that connects to reality of their lives
- Multi campus church. Several churches in a community come together and decide to combine their efforts for mission. They sell two church buildings, and keep two other buildings. One has an excellent facility for a much needed K-6 Lutheran/Christian elementary school. The other building is in an ideal setting to continue offering weekly worship from all those who worshiped at the initial four buildings. They conceive of themselves as a multi-campus congregation.
This summer while with the high school youth from St. Andrew on a mission trip, I caught the glimpse of a NeXt church. The group is called "Nomads of Hope." Essentially, they are a NeXt Church. The group gathers high school youth from both the community at large and several churches to engage in week long mission trips each summer.
In 2012, they went to three different locations. During the school year they gather to plan, raise funds and develop a group bond. The leaders are mostly kids, with the adult supervision of several parents including a key couple from Massachusetts. Is this a traditional church? No, but it has connectivity to several traditional churches. Perhaps these kinds of linkages are also part of the NeXt church. I could envision some of our congregations networking across denominations for something similar. The key to Nomads effectiveness seems to be that they have strong leadership, as well as a fluid structure. They are a ministry partner of a local congregation, but are not subserviant to the structure. Learn more here. Hey, they are local, give 'em a call.
On the local Lutheran front - Talk to Pastor Andrew Borden at Zion Lutheran in Worcester, MA, as he is involved with LIPY, a youth ministry program of several churches in the Central Mass area. This group has figured out ways to do youth ministry together.
I'm just dreaming here, random notes, ya know. What are your ideas? Let's jam on some of these.
As we go forward in this venture, we are going to look to the South, the East and the West for clues. What's happening in Honduras that could teach us something about starting new congregations? That'll be the next topic in this series.