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A question for Christians - what is the key to building a supportive church?

(15 Posts)
Smithagain Tue 13-Oct-09 15:39:05

And I am not talking about strong brickwork! (Nor am I interested in starting any kind of Christian vs atheist debate, in this instance, please.)

I've been thinking a lot recently about how a church can (should) nurture and support its members. I am one year into a three year post as a family and children's worker. There are quite a few families going through tricky times in our church at the moment. There are others who only manage to come on Sunday mornings very occasionally, due to having manically hectic lives. I'm concerned that these are the very people who need to feel loved and supported, but we are not as good at it as we should be. And although I have the job of being concerned about this, it is only a two day per week post and I have another job as well, so it is simply not feasible for me to run round visiting everyone very often!

So - if you go to a church (or, indeed a synagogue/mosque etc) which is good at offering support in your day to day life - and making you feel loved - how is it done?! Is there a "system" they use - or are they just naturally lovely people? How do they make sure that people don't just drift away because they are having a tough time and no-one has noticed sad.

I'm particularly interested in how you strike the balance between staying in touch & expressing concern, without getting heavy-handed and pestering people that want to be left alone! I don't think we are very good at getting it right. We are also in a community where people tend to have a very strong sense of privacy and I'm wary of being intrusive. But in reality, I suspect we are going too far the other way.

Any thoughts?

tigerbear Tue 13-Oct-09 16:01:16

Smithagain - does your church have a weekly email?
Our vicar sends a weekly email to those who have signed up for it, including an overview of the upcoming sermon, details of particular sections of the Bible we should be looking at in preparation, general news, and prayers for those in the church family. It is very inclusive, as also mentions things like birth announcements from couples within the congregation, or details of events which might be of interest. Perhaps you or your vicar could do something similar?

You mentioned that many families are going through tricky times - is there access to an independent Christian counsellor or relationships advisor?

How often does your church hold family oriented events, such as parent groups, lunches, or informal get togethers?

Also at our church we have a 'welcome point' at the front of the church, whereupon anyone new is greeted by a designated person, chatted to, and offered a drink.

Hope this helps...

Smithagain Tue 13-Oct-09 17:38:19

Thanks Tigerbear - that's exactly the sort of thing I was looking for!

Weekly email is genius. I've been trying to figure out a way of improving communication - especially as we have lots of stuff that runs on a monthly cycle, so people can never remember when the next one is! A weekly email would be ideal for that - and for keeping in touch with those who can't make it so often. I'm going to do it. Do you want a credit grin.

We have a welcome area, but could improve on the manning, so that there is always someone who knows it's their job. And our Minister does have access to Christian Counselling etc, so I think that is OK - it's more the informal, "how are things" contact that's a bit sporadic.

And I must admit I've been wary of social events that are specifically for families, because I don't want to alienate single/childless people. But I'm beginning to feel I need to be more bullish about that. Have got a ladies' night out coming up in the hope of getting a mixture of old-timers and newcomers together and having more of a chance to chat than we can manage after a service.

Any more, anyone?

tigerbear Tue 13-Oct-09 18:20:16

No problem, glad to help!

Our church is very proactive, sometimes too much so - but here are a couple of things we do which could be useful:

A puppet club for kids - most of the kids clubs and activities are run by people who don't yet have kids, which encourages interaction between the families and singles / child free couples.

A Bright Party - an alternative to Halloween for Christian children. Same as above - ask many members of the congregation to help out.

A Church Day Out or Picnic - obv better in the summer months!

Homegroups - Meetings of a group of people who are at a similar level of understanding of their faith. Our groups meet on a weekly basis and take it in turns to meet at each other's houses for bible study and to share a meal (cheap, such as pasta, and others bring dessert or drinks). A good informal way of people getting to know each other better, and building support networks.

BetsyBoop Tue 13-Oct-09 21:26:53

Our Church has recently introduced a "Messy Church" session for families on the first Saturday of the month. It's in church but very informal & lots of crafts/songs/a story etc for the kids, follows by an easy "meal" for the kids (eg hot dogs) Quite a few of the older members of the congregation help out too (ranging from those with older teenagers to one great granny ) so it isn't just families there. I'm not sure if it's because it's
a)always 1st Sat so easy to remember
b) Sat teatime, so less likely to clash with other things
c) really relaxed/informal
d) really fun for the kids
e) another reason
but it's been really well attended & enjoyed by everyone & for some families the only time they get to church at this point in their lives. I know I've met other parents I possibly otherwise wouldn't have met. In time I can see it developing into a good support network as friendships blossom

We are also doing a Bright Party too

The weekly email is a fab idea, I might have to suggest that

Smithagain Thu 15-Oct-09 15:11:01

Thanks Besty... I've heard about Messy Church and it does seem to be a great formula. Interesting that Saturdays are working for you. I've always tended to avoid Saturdays on the assumption people will be doing other things, but you are obviously drawing people in.

We are doing occasional "Breakfast Praise" services in partnership with a couple of other churches. Similar to Messy Church, but on a Sunday morning, with a nice yummy breakfast alongside the crafts etc and a short service after. It's proving to be a great chance for families from different churches and from the local toddler groups etc to get together. So I guess that is working as a way of fostering friendships, without being too obvious about it.

tvaerialmagpiebin Thu 15-Oct-09 15:26:13

I wish you could come to my church- you are doing all the right things and what is more important you have your heart inv the right place. So much "family service" stuff is basically about getting bums on seats and not actually dealing with the issues facing families. No-one wants to think they are being encouraged to come to church to "get saved". Churches should be the community focus open all week as a community resource, not great hulking behemoths open only on a Sunday morning.

I love the idea of an email, but you would have to make it available to those without PCs. I like the Bright Party too.

Christmas is a good opportunity to show that the church cares about people. Get the toddlers together as well as other church groups.

There is me, with ds, and one other family with small dcs at my church regularly. So I am a bit envious, but well done you!

BetsyBoop Thu 15-Oct-09 17:11:39

just thinking about the email thing again. Our Church do a "week sheet" which covers most of the things you mention, but obviously you only get one if you were in church, if not you don't know what's coming up. So perhaps for us they could email out the week sheet, that way it would be not much extra work for anyone, but a great way of keeping in touch if you happen to miss going to church for whatever reason

We are also starting sessions for 0-5s alongside the main Sunday service once a month, starting this week. Sort of "Sunday school" but aimed at the younger ones (our current SS only caters for 5+) I know from personal experience that it's too much like hard work to bring kids from about 9months-reception age to a "normal" service as they won't sit still-ish/be reasonably quiet for that long & as a parent I just found it too stressful to bring them.

I guess it's about providing ways that people can still be included within the church family, even if it's only once a month, and making it easy for them, especially when they have younger kids, as that age range & normal services just don't mix too well, no matter how hard you try... Like you say otherwise folks just drift away because it gets too "hard" & often don't come back.

(I should add that we've had a p/t children & families worker for the past 18months & much of what I've mentioned is her doing & has certainly helped me get back into the church "loop" too. I gather that before she was appointed the bulk of activities were aimed at the 50+ type age range & then everyone was scratching their heads wondering why no families/children were involved!)

tvaerialmagpiebin Thu 15-Oct-09 18:29:57

Yup, been to too many barn dances, beetles drives, croquet afternoons, gardening slideshows.

Churches want young families and couples because they know that the church will not survive without them. Then when the families come the "oldies" tut and moan about the noise, and the families feel uncomfortable, so they leave. Back to square one.

Smithagain Thu 15-Oct-09 18:45:27

LOL lankyalto - too, too true!

The way I'm seeing my job is to build up a community where everyone feels welcome and part of things - and if they learn to explore their spirituality and deepen their faith along the way, that's great. (Which it's why it's very, very nice to hear that someone with a similar idea has helped BetsyBoop get back in the loop!!!)

Also, I'm fed up of being the youngest person at any social event. Time for the few of us that are left to build up our own way of doing church, I think.

tvaerialmagpiebin Thu 15-Oct-09 19:04:19

Ooh yes, at said barn dances etc. I was usually the youngest (apart from the vicar) by ooh, thirty years? Poss even forty.

it does get wearing after a while.

LittleSilver Thu 15-Oct-09 19:50:54

Our church organises a rota for the first week after you have a baby for meals. I've had it twice and I tell you, not having to cook for seven nights and having lovely home made meals dropped off at your door each night is bliss!

tvaerialmagpiebin Thu 15-Oct-09 19:56:07

what a lovely idea.

lou031205 Thu 15-Oct-09 20:49:47

Definitely agree with some others here. I have been in my church for 13 years, joined when I was 17. I now have 3 children under 4, one with SN, and actually attending church can be tricky, which is a huge shock after 12 years of solid commitment.

Home group is vital. If I can't get to church on Sunday, I still get support/spiritual input on Tuesday.

A good sunday morning provision for children is also a must.

moocowme Wed 21-Oct-09 21:33:30

i found Larry Crabbs books to be very good on this sort of thing. One book on connecting was particularly good.

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