15 practical ideas for renewing your church

Since February I have been discussing three key areas (theology, community and ecclesiology) in which the church needs to renew itself if it is going to move forward into the future that the Holy Spirit is forming. I tend towards being an idealistic intellectual that likes research, writing and thinking.  To truly renew the church these ideas cannot just sit on blogs, they need to be lived out as part of our church life. In this post, I provide 15 ways of putting a renewed theology, sense of community and ecclesiology into practice.

15 practical ideas for renewing your church

practical ideas for renewing your theology

I encourage you to prioritise the theological renewal of your church as without a deep theological underpinning our churches fall into the trap of superficial relevance or a need to keep up, with the latest trends.  These are practical examples of what I outline in this post

1

Set aside some time (with your preachers and teachers) and reflect on your teaching and preaching over the last 12 months, don’t forget to include the Children’s and Youth programmes.  Together work through the following questions:

Does the preaching and teaching in our church help people understand God’s holistic work in the world, from creation to re-creation?
In what ways do our preaching and teaching decrease or increase the view that the spiritual and physical are separate? 
How could we introduce more preaching and teaching that connects people with our vocation to be stewards of the land and all that is in it?

2

Host a garden (or gardening) party for your church and community, celebrate God’s wonderful creation and talk about the relationship between God, people and the earth, and how we hold hope that God will restore our earth once more.

3

Investigate the resources that A Rocha NZ provides, or invite them to speak at your church.

4

Create a reflective stations service around the theme of “what is the gospel?”  A stations service creates individual areas (or stations) where individuals interact with a variety of content and respond through creative means before they move on to the next station.  People move through the stations individually and then come back together again at the end. Each station could reflect a different way that “the gospel’ or the core message of the Christian faith has been presented (historically or culturally) and get people to think about the ways that that engaged with the thoughts and people of the day.  The final station should be a creative station in which people are encouraged to experiment with different ways that they can tell the gospel as a holistic message of hope for a world without hope. 

5

The church calendar includes useful reminders to include the Holy Spirit in our services.  Celebrate Pentecost on the 4th June (2017), and Trinity Sunday the week after.  Preach about the trinity, and how each member of the trinity is active and involved in our lives.  Start prayers addressing all three members of the trinity.

practical ideas for renewing your community

We are called to do this faith journey together but it can be challenging to live out our beliefs and ideals in our interactions and to create interdependence with each other.  These are practical ideas of what I outline in this post.

6

I think that the most important thing that churches need to address if they are to move forward is the increasing generation gap within churches.  We can’t keep talking past each other and need to find ways of promoting genuine engagement between generations.  To begin making connections between the generations in your church ask an external facilitator to come in and work with your church members in a process of healing, increasing communication, understanding and reconnecting.

7

 Relationships are not built by just seeing people on Sundays.  Encourage your church members to walk together, to have coffee together, to see each other in planned and unplanned ways in between Sundays.

8

Create opportunities for the diverse groups within your church to have fun together, perhaps you could use the garden party (idea 2) for this. I came across a comment recently that said that it can be a powerful thing for different age groups to just have fun together.  But be aware that you may get the diverse groups in your church inhabiting different corners of the venue so you may need to create structured opportunities to get the members to mingle and find ways to build relationships outside of their safe group.

9

Create an environment of psychological safety by ensuring that the preachers and leaders express their own vulnerability.  Set a tone where it is ok to admit mistakes and struggles and try to create an atmosphere of group exploration.  Express the attitude that as we journey together mistakes will happen and that’s ok, we are all learning and growing.

10

Introduce accountability groups, to your church.  Most church small groups would be too large for this, they need to contain under 4 people for authentic, honest sharing to occur.  For accountability to be effective, and safe, it needs to be to peers rather than to leaders and individuals need to choose what they need to be accountable for, within the big idea of growing spiritually and living out Kingdom values. 

practical Ideas for renewing your ecclesiology

We need to seek ways to put into practice the call of the church to be a nurturer of relationships between diverse people, between people and God and between people and the earth. These are practical ideas that relate to what I outline in this post.

11

Make a list of all the activities and programmes that your church is involved in.   Ask the following questions:

Which of these activities are focussed on developing the growth of mature believers?  Which of these activities are focussed on connecting with those outside of the church?
What is the balance between the two like?
Where do you spend your greatest resource?
How effective are your activities at journeying with people outside of church until they become mature believers?
Do your activities and programmes create relationships? 
How effective are your activities at journeying with people outside of church until they become mature believers?
Do your activities and programmes create relationships? 

12

Why does your church have sacraments?  Do your church members understand what they are? Do you talk about them at all or do you just do them from tradition?   Do your church members see them as opportunities for divine grace to connect with the human and physical so breaking down the dualism that is present in so much of our thinking?   Communion is often seen as something between the individual and God.  Instead, try making it something between people in relationship with each other opening themselves to divine grace by sharing the bread and wine around in a circle or in small groups rather than serving from the front.

13

Go and talk to your local hairdresser, buy them a coffee, and ask them lots of questions about the community that your church is located in.   In my experience hairdressers have their pulse on what the concerns, changes and triumphs of a community are.  Read articles like this one from Mike Frost   Think about your community as you are reading it.  What are some other ways that you could get to know it in a deeper way?

14

Fire all your leaders and pastors and replace them with missionaries instead.  Ok, so that might be going a bit far.  But missionaries have a wealth of information about contextualisation that we can draw on, they tend to understand the difference between contextualisation and relevance.   Yet we often don’t realise that that is what we are struggling with, or we don’t make the connection that we could move forward more easily if we see relating to NZ as a cross-cultural scenario.  Next time you have a visiting missionary ask them to talk about how they have contextualised their faith, and how they have changed the way they do church to relate better to the culture around them and to link it to what they can see in your church and community.

15

Create small relational groups (instead of programs) that encourage and develop relationships between diverse people.  Too often we form small groups made up of church people that sometimes do outreach activities to others. Instead, form your groups around interests and include church and non-church people coming together to explore a hobby together.  Include groups that read the bible outside of the church, and groups that work on community service projects with community members.

Please let me know if you have tried or do try any of these ideas and how they go.

Really hoping my vicar doesn’t read this and get ideas she wants me to implement!