I had chances, on holiday recently, to reflect on the way that different church communities engage with visitors and newcomers. [I have already put up one post from my holiday about engaging with children in the Eucharist].
I think with NZ house prices now at such extreme unafordability that, if we had a NZ version of Monopoly, it would have to be going round and round the board getting income and paying rent but never being able to buy any property, and, with Christchurch’s building of our new city squeezing every last dollar out of every last square metre (I fear our vision of “a city in a garden” is being reduced to “a city in a planter box”), I’m very conscious when I come across a church complex on prime land and the sign indicates it is only used for an hour or two a week. At least, please, have the church building open daily for prayer and quiet reflection. Why are you not offering daily morning and evening prayer? And a period of quiet meditation together? Mindfulness is in, people! So, yes, on my travels I saw too many church buildings declaring they were used at most a couple of hours a week – and my guess would be by very few people. Can we justify this? And what is the message to the community?
One church building, on absolutely prime real estate in a city, had no indication whether it was open or closed until you got close to the front door where there was a printed sign giving opening times but, to get in during these opening times, you had to ring a doorbell. I’ve never seen this before. You can guess the end of the story: I was there during opening times, but when I rang the bell… nothing happened.
Your signs must be 100% accurate. A friend of mine, during this summer period, twice (for two different church communities) went to a service as advertised (including on the large notice board) to find that there was no such service.
Pretty much universally, in backpackers, motels, and camp grounds, my experience is that there is no information about the local church. There will be cards, leaflets, etc. about everything local (from paid events, free worthwhile things to go to, to doctors etc) but nothing about church, where it is, what time it is, what sort of a welcome and experience you might find. Still pretty regularly, there will be a Gideons-placed Bible. But a welcome to a local Christian community… No. Why?! One suspicion of mine, within an Anglican context, is that we are now so congregational minded, so lacking in any sense of being part of large body (with whom we share, almost franchise-like, in common prayer) that reaching out to visitors is not perceived as benefiting our local community. Sure, they might put a few dollars onto the collection plate that one time they visit, but, if from a visit to our church they end up becoming regular churchgoers, these visitors will do so elsewhere – and how does that benefit us? It won’t be thought through this crassly, and certainly never articulated – but tell me that a lot of our evangelism and outreach isn’t motivated by the concern that our local little club will die out. And then who will look after our pretty, expensive, valuable clubhouse that’s only open a couple of hours a week…
What do you think?