Posts Tagged “Emerging Church”

Following up on my only two choices post, I thought it would be worth posting the video Jonathan mentioned in his comment:

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Two choices… inward or outward.

Which are you choosing and how is it working out for your church?

(HT Johnny Laird and Jonathan Blundell for the video)

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Chaos Theory

This week I’ve been learning about Appreciative Inquiry (excuse the American spelling).  It’s a way of helping organisations discover what they value and how they can build on that.  It appeals because it doesn’t talk about what went wrong or who is to blame, just that things have changed.

Part of the course focused on a model of organisational life which suggested that for an organisation facing crisis to survive it has to consciously embrace the chaos of the wilderness.  For most established organisations this kind of step is difficult.  We like certainty and structure.  After all, what kind of organisation isn’t organised?

Well… I can think of two.  Youth Work and Emerging Church.

By not being organised I don’t mean without any rules or structure.  The rules and structures are small, limited to that particular group.  It’s not that they don’t relate to something bigger, they do, but they are not controlled by that bigger organisation.

This lack structure means that they can be creative and adaptive.

That kind of group needs a particular kind of leadership.  The kind that works collaberatively, values and develops other’s talents and gifts and isn’t too precious about who’s idea it is.

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In his comment on part 1 of this little series of posts John grasps on of the key criticisms of both Emerging Church and of Youth Work… lack of substance.

I often hear that both are prone to style over content.  Both suffer from a tendancy towards the flash and attractive.  I’ve seen it and can hold my hand up and say that I’ve also done it.

But I’m not sure that lack of substance is a fair criticism of either Emerging Church or Youth Work done well.

At the heart of both seems to be a desire for relationship.

Youth work has struggled to get past the attractional model where we put on some big fancy event that lots of young people will come to and hope that for some strange reason that will be enough to get them to stay for the rather naff games and poor attempts at bible study where we tell them what the Bible should mean to them.

Emerging Church is informed by a similar process where big church for grown ups had a go at being all interesting and attractive.  It was called ‘Alternative Worship’.  Churches discovered that presentation mattered and that people wanted to be involved but many of the ‘Alternative Worship’ experiments were little more than a reformatted version of the standard church service.  People saw through it and discovered that, like attractional youth work, all that glitters is not gold.

Substance is the goal for both.  Depth of relationship, participation, learning, sharing and growing together seem to be the key factors in youth work… and in emerging church.

The cycle has been the same.  Attractional followed by a move to deeper more substantial communities.

I wonder if that is because those who now inhabit leadership positions in the church and experienced the attractional youth work model are now being joined by a younger generation of leaders who have grown up on incarnational youth work and who experienced youth groups where they were loved and valued and experienced opportunities to know God?

It seems to me that both areas are rediscovering something that has been lost.  Both youth work and emerging church are pursuing models where stillness, spiritual practices, relationship building and learning in a collaborative manner are all valued.

These seem to me to be the practices that grow from the values of community work I outlined in part 2.

It also grows from a sense of disconnection.  I heard Mark Lau Branson talk about how he has abandoned the lectionary because the people in his church don’t understand the context of these weekly fragments of scripture as they jump around the highlights of the Christian story.  That seems to bear out my own experience and those of many worship leaders I meet.

I think that’s partly the fault of the attractional youth work model which focused on highlights, particularly from the Gospel because that was the most important bit and the rest didn’t matter much.

Church has been the same.  Scotland has never been big on Bible Study for adults.  The 15 minute sermon on a Sunday morning has been the main teaching for the majority of adults.  In any other context 15 minutes a week would be laughable.  Can you imagine trying to learn a language, to play an instrument or to build a relationship by spending 15 minutes a week on it?

Youth work is about building community.  Church should be too.  Emerging Church seems to be up for going deeper… but still needs to guard against the ‘cool for the sake of it’ phenomena which happens when any group of creative people get together… apparently.emerging

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In part 1 I suggested that the church is full of ‘bored adults’, a product of the phenomena of  having once been ‘teenagers’.

Principles and Values

Youth Work is based on some principles.  Different places have different core principles or core values.  In Scotland the core values outlined by Community Education Validation and Endorsement (CeVe) are:

  • Respects the individual and the right to self-determination;
  • Respects and values pluralism;
  • Values equality and develops anti-discriminatory practice;
  • Encourages collective action and collaborative working relationships;
  • Promotes learning as a lifelong process;
  • Encourages a participating democracy.

Of course these values apply to the full range of community work activity but within that they cover youth work.  I’d like to suggest that if we were to try to write a similar list of core values for the Emerging Church the list would not be very different.

The Emerging Church seems to me to be:

  • respecting of the individual, placing strong emphasis on our own story or faith journey
  • and the right to draw from different traditions and experiences to form our future
  • based in a theology which values all and challenges inequality
  • all about working together in all kinds of ways
  • engaging people in worship, projects and experiences that are steeped in learning
  • centred on people being involved in the life of the community

I wonder if these values that Emerging Churches seem to display are at least partly a product of the people driving new forms of church having been involved in youth work, either as young people or as leaders?

Youth Work and the Emerging Church seem to share a value base.  Is that coincidence?  I don’t think so.

People, these ‘bored adults’, have in many cases had a good experience of church as young people.  They have been encouraged to participate, to learn, to value and respect each other and to be responsible for planning and delivering their own activities.  Imagine their shock when they are faced with ‘church’.  Sit there, be quiet and listen…

Is it any wonder that people are seeking out ‘new’ ways to be church?  But then I suspect that many of these ‘new’ ways aren’t new at all… they were born in youth work.

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on church, mission, worship + culture with Jonny Baker (CMS)
Friday 27th November – 5pm
The Crypt, Wellington Church, University Avenue, Glasgow

Jonny Baker is one of the best known Christian bloggers in the English speaking world. He brings a wealth of experience in Youth Work, Worship Leading/Curating, and Mission Support.

A prolific networker, over the years his blog has become a point of connection for many thousands of people involved in debates around emerging church, alternative worship and mission in the contemporary West.
This one-off blah/blether (named after similar events Jonny runs in England) begins with chat over curry + beer/irn bru, after which Jonny will speak and there will be time for responses and discussion.

All welcome, but booking essential by 26th Nov.
Cost £3 (£1 unwaged, £2 student) includes food – BYOB
Contact douggay [at] mac [dot] com

This event is also on Facebook

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Yesterday thePROJECT became a reality, a meeting In The Flesh.  It was a great day with some brilliant speakers, inspiring worship and superb music.

ThePROJECT has grown from conversations between those who travel south from Scotland to Greenbelt Festival each year.  I’ve been to Greenbelt fairly often over the years, although not for a while, but it has always struck me how many people I know when I get there.  The same thought struck others and they got together and decided that Scotland could have it’s own event, inspired by Greenbelt, but not copying it.

Yesterday was a step in that direction.  A city based event in a church, a pub and a theatre.

So… thePROJECT3… the next step… Why not come along for the ride?

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Bishop Graham Cray’s excellent address on Fresh Expressions to the evening session of the Church of Scotland’s General Assembly is now available to watch on the Church of Scotland website.  Well worth a look, listen, copious notes and lots of thought.

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