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I have just finished reading a new book by Jason Gardner, Youth Project Researcher of the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity (and a member of my extended family), I enjoyed reading it and would recommend it to any Christian as the issues it covers relate to the whole of the church body and the relationships within it, but particularly to those wishing to change and shape church leadership. Below are a few comments;
Jason Gardner begins by carefully examines society and in particular the nature of young people and their relationship to adults over the last 100 years and looks at the changes that have occurred in a measured rather than in a sensational or rose-spectacled way.
He then looks at how the church has mirrored society in its treatment of the young, the contradiction of expectations and the polarisation of church communities. Not just in terms of youth congregations and ageing churches, but in terms of how churches create niche groups by age and how leadership delegates youth management responsibilities (appoint an underpaid, under respected youth pastor to reach and deal with ‘youth’, so the leadership does not have to).
I won’t spell out all the recommendations, but to say that the proposals that Jason Gardner outlines are challenging to the church but necessary to avoid a greater distancing of the generations and ultimately the breakdown of the church. With the external challenges faced by young people in particular, and different role that the church fills in society it is so important that churches can be the one place that generations can be side by side working together for Christ and the Kingdom. Through analysis, practical examples and suggestions, this book makes a positive contribution to achieving this aim.
On a side note, of particular interest to me were his points on parenting, one of which suggested that as parents feel guilty about spending inadequate time with their offspring, the time that they do spend becomes child-focused which does ring true. This can lead to the parent-child relationship being about fulfilling a child’s needs rather that the parent preparing the child for adult life. Maybe I should feel like it isn’t such poor parenting by getting my son to help with the DIY rather than doing something he would choose to do. This isn’t a parenting book, it is just one point that I found interesting.
Mend the Gap by Jason Gardner is available through IVP.
So I’m going to the Echo Conference in Dallas, TX (USA) next week. It’s for leaders that use media, the internet, and other forms of technology as a tool for the church. I get paid to go to conferences like this for my work and I’ve participated in these kinds of conferences or trade shows (yes they have trade shows for churches too).
There are a lot of conferences and training events out there that compete for the attention of the church staff. There are denominational events, those put on by the church’s affiliation or events surrounding a subject like worship or leadership in church. And the staff person must decide which events are most valuable while remaining a good steward of the church’s budget.
We are called to come together and meet as Christians and we also understand that iron sharpens iron. And when thousands of people commit to coming to these events year after year, it also becomes a place of commerce for many vendors. Is that ok? I happen to work for a vendor like this but I also know my own heart and I pray often about my motivations. At what point are these vendors and event organizers trying to create revenue rather than equipping leaders? My answer is: the vendors wouldn’t come if there wasn’t money to be made. My bosses wouldn’t let me attend or buy booth space if the end goal was to spread love.
It’s obvious that the makers of technology like projectors, video cameras, and computers are interested in sales. It wouldn’t make sense for them to give their products away, would it? And before technology was heavily involved in the church did we have the same scrutiny of stain glass makers and the people who make wooden pews? We are called to be IN the world not OF the world. So even though we participate in events that are consumer related and we’re treated like businesses by vendors we are still the church.
What are your experiences and what is your feedback?
We recently left the church we had been attending for a number of years as we moved out of the area and felt it was right to find a new church rather than to make the trek back. Since then we have been looking at a number of options for a new church. We have been led to join the local baptist church, which is similar in style and substance as the church we were attending but with a much larger youth and children’s work, which suits our growing family.
In order for us to join we need to accept the rules of membership and enter a process of interviews and presentation in front of the church meeting. This is all pretty daunting, and not something we are used to, but we guess is normal in medium to large churches which need to be well-managed. The rules are long and overly detailed but it was a relief to read that, ‘membership ceases upon death’, because the thought of having to continue to attend church meetings while deceased was worrying us.
We are regular long-time Christians who are used to the ways of the church and still find this process of acceptance hard. Have you ever found the organisation or setup of your church a barrier to new people? For instance a Salvation Army church that I visited one summer on a project had a captain and a handful of members but most regular attenders did not enter into membership because it would have meant accepting the rules of that particular denomination which would have meant being tee-total. The setup was a barrier to some people, though it did not appear to matter in this case, as the church was one of the most community active churches I have ever seen.
One purpose of a church website is to allow people to easily contact the church with queries, especially if they have had no previous contact.
We might prefer potential guests to use the phone, but people find email useful simple queries that they can submit anytime. And as churches, we want to encourage a connection every way we can.
When you list the email address on the church website though, there is a problem. This is because, spammers can then see it and add it to their databases. They can do this either manually or more likely in an automated fashion. When a church contact email receives many spam, it becomes harder to deal with and busy staff can mean that false positives are not checked on a regular basis.
A List Apart has an article called Graceful E-Mail Obfuscation, which looks at the history of techniques to fox spammers and what can be done now.
The article particularly looks at the issue of user-friendliness, because adding ‘REMOVE-ME’ to an email address is at best inconvenient for a user. And as churches, we do want to encourage people to contact us as much as possible.