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What's the point of community events?

Published: 23rd September 2021

Amy StokesCalling Young Disciples Mission Enabler, Amy Stokes, has written this blog on the the point of community events and the importance of understanding the long journey to discipleship. 

Back in August, the Brierley Hill team planned and hosted a Picnic in the Park event (read about it here). It was a very successful event in regards to churches working together, the atmosphere on the day, brand new families being engaged through the local primary school, and interest shown in attending church services in picnic in Brierley Hill

The idea for this community event came from a discussion around whether the churches could launch a partnership with Calling Young Discples when they didn’t have many families engaged in church services/activities. So, we decided we had to go back to the beginning and engage families in a new way.

Community events are not new to churches. I have been to masses of church events in my lifetime (before my time as a Mission Enabler and even coming from a non-churched family). They are part and parcel of many church calendars and in the history of the Church of England. But what’s the point?

Often, it’s to raise money for standalone reasons e.g., a new roof or for a missional or charitable cause etc. In my time as a youth worker in London we did many one-off events that brought lots of new people through our doors. As a Mission Enabler I’ve become known as the events planner within my team. The irony being that I’m certainly not known as a planner to my friends and family!

However, for me, the point of events is that they are an opportunity for the community to see the love and hospitality that can be present within churches, which is important before they begin seeing and knowing Jesus and hopefully eventually seeing themselves as part of that church family as a proactive disciple.

The community event itself is stage one of…well how long is a piece of string?

The traps that I’ve noticed churches can fall into with events are:

  1. Seeing the event as the entire whole.
  2. Thinking that people attending their Sunday service is the natural next step/end.
  3. Wanting the glory of hosting a successful event annually.

Now, if the purpose is to raise money, then those reasons are fine. But equally, why stop there if you’re engaging with new people?

The difficulty with this approach is that a one-off successful event doesn’t lead anywhere, even if it happens every year. And the reality is that most people who attend our events may never have been in a service before or even be familiar with the Christian faith (which may seem odd but I have met plenty of people who don’t know why Christmas exists). So how will they possibly find a church service palatable or relatable?

Brierley Hill are at the start of their journey with CYD, and we are now in the process of looking at how the ‘wins’ from the community event can lead people to know and follow Jesus and become active members of the Church. This will take years and years. This is a long-term strategy/mission, not unique to Brierley Hill but to all churches everywhere. For the families we engaged with - attending the harvest service is not going to work for many reasons, but primarily because of the culture we now operate in as a British society (that’s not to say that in 6 or even 20 steps down the line it won’t be). So, it could be Messy Church that is a better fit as a family’s next experience or a café style provision or a toddler group or even just opening a space for mums to drop in for a nice drink and chat.

Even these perhaps more palatable faith-based experiences are not the be all and end all, the point is that church should always have a next step -  keep moving forward and keep inviting and continually assess the needs of the community and its families. The list goes on and being as creative and as mindful as churches can be, will be the key to moving new families and young people from being aliens to being natives.

Page last updated: Thursday 23rd September 2021 9:49 AM
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