Lately I have been contemplating the structure of churches.This whole line of thought started when I had a conversation with my good friend, Kate. When talking about the church, Kate said we’ve made an environment where you don’t actually get to know people in the church during church time. Instead we sit and listen to a teacher/pastor. Since we don’t get to know each other on any intimate level, it’s easy for people to put on masks and portray that they are living the Christian lifestyle they should be. Sure, we might have 10 minutes of mingling before and after church, but it’s hardly enough to build intimate relationships. You go, you greet people, and you tell a few people “I’m doing fine, how are you?” because what difference will it make
The great commission tells us to go make disciples. The disciplining process naturally implies something more substantial than surface level conversations and interactions. For some people it is deathly scary, but I think there is nothing more refining than being completely honest with another person who is stronger in their faith than you are and I think that is the kind of relationships we are meant to find within the church; a reflection of how Jesus spent time with His disciples.
What if church services were less about going, sitting and listening and more about sharing, praying and mentoring? Most people would say this is what small groups are for. Yet, many small groups take the same form of a church service, just with less people. Again, the structure tends to be a little mingling and a lot of listening to a teacher. There is absolutely nothing wrong with going and listening to a sermon but when it’s at the sacrifice of the intense relationship building it takes to form disciples, I think it becomes an issue.
This afternoon I had the opportunity to lead a training seminar for our new youth mentoring staff. As a way to introduce ourselves, we played a game commonly played in youth groups. It’s called two truths and a lie. Basically, you say three things about yourself, two them being the truth and one being a lie to people who know nothing to very little about you and let them guess which is the lie. Although incredibly awkward, it’s a way to get to know someone better. As one leader I know puts it, awkward is awesome. Could the staff just have come in, listened to me and left? Sure. But what kind of team would we be? Most people would say not a very close one especially not for co-workers laboring together towards a goal. Then why do we expect it to be effective in the church?
There is another get-to-know-you game I like to play called, “whoonu.” This game is played by a small group of people who get several cards each which say random things such as “potatoes,” “swimming” or “drawing.” One person takes a turn being ‘it’ while the others have to guess what that person would like best out of their available cards. This was one of the first games I ever played with my first youth group and a game I commonly use to get to know the youth I mentor now.
Another basic simple get to know you activity is show and tell. When I first took on a youth group I asked my students to bring in three things that meant something to them with an explanation of it’s meaning. Awkward? You bet. Beneficial? Immensely.
So what am I suggesting? Am I really suggesting that we show and tell in church?
If that’s the starting line we need for having more intimate relationships then I say let’s go for it
Instead of just going and sitting and listening, whether it be in the main service, small group or Sunday school and forming a minimal bond with the church and a minor understanding of our role in it, what if we had more team building activities? More experiences of achieving a goal together? More time praying one on one? More time being instead of always doing?
I read a study showing teenagers are more deviant, more stressed and depressed when they don’t have a strong bond with their school and their school peers. Perhaps congregants feel the same way when churches don’t create an enviorment of intimate bonding.