01 November 2017

The God who challenges....

One of the many challenges we wrestle with as a church is finding new ways of encouraging families on the 'periphery' to explore faith further and to develop a sense of belonging.  With busy lives and a never-ending list of children's clubs to compete with at weekends, it would seem that now more than ever we need to be looking for creative and relevant events to achieve this.

Last September our outreach journey took on a different direction as we launched a new monthly service, called '4th Sunday'.  We were hoping to create a new service specifically designed for all ages and experiences of Christian faith and worship with Junior Church, crèche and the traditional and contemporary services all coming together once a month.

Relaxed but fast-paced, we wanted to offer a service which would attract some of the many families who have strong links to the Church, but who have not necessarily found a way into Sunday worship.

Making '4th Sunday' informal and fun was top of the priority list as we started to plan.  One of the many ideas we came up with was to split the service into short, child-friendly 'chunks' which would also provide plenty of Biblical teaching.  Bean bags, books and games and a broadcast feed have all been made available in the 'chill out' area in the entrance of the building, for anyone with children who might be needing a change of scenery during the service! As one family has said to me, "We have found that with our son being able to play and ask questions during the service it has enabled his learning about the Christian faith and enabled us to relax as it is accepted there will be a level of noise."

With the start of Lent just a few days away, the theme for February's '4thSunday Service' was 'The God who challenges'.  We looked at the way in which Jesus was tested and challenged during his time in the desert and how we use Lent to set our own challenges to remember this period of his life.  For me, one of the main highlights of these services is congregational participation as we encourage anyone of any age to get involved in a fun activity. This time, and with a clock ticking over the AV system, we invited three or four volunteers to find a way of creating a 'doorway', large enough to step through, using a piece of A4 paper.  With shreds of paper scattered across the floor, we put them out of their misery and showed how it was done - it's definitely worth googling if you fancy giving it a go sometime!

Listening to people's stories and how faith plays a role in their everyday lives is another key aspect of 4th Sunday services.  In February we heard from one dad who talked about how he is constantly challenged to create space for God amongst all the busyness of work and family life.  As a member of the congregation commented, "just listening to this powerful story made the service for me!"

Although it's still early days, it has been really encouraging to welcome a number of families, who don't normally attend church on a Sunday morning, to '4th Sunday'.  By getting to know them and listening to how they would like these services to develop, I am hopeful that we will see an increasing number of people joining us at future '4th Sunday' services.

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