So many Christian communities appear to be in survival mode – the “How do we get people in through our doors? How do we keep them here? How do we get young people?” mentality. [Young people, I promise you, can smell the bait-and-switch approach of many communities a mile away – and stay away]. What if the statistics of numbers-in-the-pews are an alluring distraction from what we are actually meant to be doing? How can we be more out-ward looking? How can we more effectively love within the communities in which we move?

Lay ministry and mission so often degenerates through clericalism into getting people “up the front” in church services doing things that traditionally ordained people used to do. There’s nothing wrong with a lot of that but that is not a lay person’s primary mission and ministry. That 1 hour a week of the service in church is the source and summit of the service in the other 167 hours of the week. Here’s a simple hint: let’s start by acknowledging and recognising the service people from our Christian community do during those 167 hours. Each week or so profile a member of your community on your pew sheet and/or website. Include a photo and the answers to say four or so questions. They can prepare them themselves and hand it in in a digital format – no extra work for anyone. Or someone might volunteer to collate this – it’s a great teenager’s task – they are very quick with such things.

The following questions and some imagined answers is just an example, a starter of the sort of simple profile that could be included regularly in your community’s information to affirm the ministry people are doing and to encourage a more outward-looking focus:

What is your primary ministry during the week?

Tom Johnstone (aged 10): I try and be a good friend at school and…
Anne Smith: I’m an at-home mother of three children under 5. My primary ministry is what I do at home…
John Cook: I’m a shop-assistant at … I sometimes get impatient with customers who… but then I realise that this is not just my job it is part of my ministry. Also my relationship with the other staff…
Mary Scott: I’m a retired nurse. I regularly volunteer at the City Mission and once a week I take library books around housebound…

How does being a member of St. Bruno’s community help you in your ministry?

I sometimes find the stress of my work gets me down, when that happens I always know that I can ring up one of the members of my home-group for a chat that encourages me…
I love catching up with people over coffee after a service and what they have done during the week…
This community helps me to see that what I’m doing isn’t just a job, it’s a vocation. This community has brought meaning into my life…

How does being part of worship at St. Bruno’s help you in your ministry?

I find the sermons always give me concrete ideas I can apply in my life…
During the prayers I think of each of the people I have encountered in my hospital ward and that also encourages me to be more Christ-like towards them in the next week…
Most of my week is spent with elderly people. It is great to be part of an experience with all ages and stages present…

Any other comments?

I would love a group of us to clean up the rubbish on the riverbank – the section in our parish. Anyone interested in joining me, chat to me at refreshments after a service…
Does anyone have a freezer they would be willing to donate? I would like to start a group of us freezing meals once a month that we can bring around to help people…
I would be willing to baby-sit for free one night a week. Does anyone have any ideas how to publicise that in an appropriate way…

Do you have any simple idea for encouraging a Christian community to become more mission-focused, more outward looking? Please include it in the comments.

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