New challenges constantly arise and for many the way technology has developed has impacted how they view events and commitments. About 15 years ago we noted that, in youth ministry, young people were reluctant to sign-up to stuff in advance in case they got a better offer at the last minute via the social networks on their phones. Obviously those people are now adults and generally we are seeing a decline in face-to-face attendance and particularly in signing-up to events in advance.
Recently a Fresh Expression was doing a farm trip with the children and families’ group and two days before only 2 families had signed up, but on the day 70 people attended. Not helpful for the BBQ if you’re doing the catering! Yet it was an amazing illustration of how in our highly networked communities, things can come together when there is the right energy and relationship at the core.
However in a lot of church settings, we quite like things to be organised and it definitely helps to know with more than 24 hours’ notice how many burgers or communion wafers you’re going to need.
This year Kendal Calling is charging an extra £20 for parking on the day if you haven’t booked parking in advance, to try and get people to plan ahead. I don’t think up-front fees are the way to go for churches but how do you balance the relational, organised chaos at that is often the energy at the heart of many community initiatives with the organisation needed when trying to plan events, services, campaigns and specific projects?
Do we need to rethink how we hold events, lead-in times and late deadlines? Sometimes it’s simply because people are busy and so we need new ways of communicating, What’s App groups can be great if you have a committed core and can leave planning numbers pretty last-minute. Maybe there’s something we can learn from the Parable of the Lost Sheep, which we often use as the story as to why just one person is important. In the economy of the day when Jesus told this parable it made no financial sense to leave the 99 to go after the one. People would have laughed at the idea and the potential loss of 99. Maybe we need to think differently about events and how entrenched in the economics of the current culture we are. Perhaps we need to recognise that the number or balance sheet might not be the important thing and that those people who come are the people who are meant to be there. Can we trust enough that if we have genuinely invested and gone to where we see the energy is and where of the Holy Spirit moving, that that’s enough – even if we do have to freeze a load of burgers?
Northern Mission Centre Director