Monthly Archives: November 2012

Missional Decision-Making

“We mustn’t do x because it would upset all our longstanding faithful worshippers.”

How often do we make decisions like that in the church? Missional thinker Eric Bryant suggests that’s all wrong. He says,

As church leaders, we need to make decisions based on who is not here yet, rather than on who has been here the longest.

He takes the principle from business, although he wants us to avoid the dangers of consumerism. Essentially, the challenge is this: will we make our decisions based on mission or on maintenance?

What do you think? What is your experience?


Who Wants A Pretty Venue For A Church Wedding?

Victoria Coren has written a piece in today’s Observer marking the publication by the Church of England of their new Church Weddings Handbook. Coren praises this book, which calls on Anglican clergy to welcome those non-church couples who seek a church wedding, even if some of their requests for the ceremony are a little unconventional. Trained owls bringing you the wedding rings? Can’t say I’ve ever had that one.

Coren is delighted that the handbook emphasises the idea that when such couples ask for a church wedding there is probably buried somewhere in their inarticulate language a desire for God to bless their marriage. The strange and elaborate ideas they bring are more likely to come from wedding magazines trying to justify their circulation. Hence vacuous discussions about ‘What’s hot in wedding biscuits right now?’

Behind this is, I’m sure, the thought that those who used simply to seek a church wedding solely because they wanted a pretty venue no longer approach the church. They now have an ample choice of stately homes and castles. And theme parks too, of course. So I’m inclined to agree with Coren and the handbook that there is more likely to be some kind of nascent spiritual desire behind the request, one that needs a sympathetic and gracious response in the name of the Gospel, even if it isn’t all that committed Christians would want it to be.

But there still are couples who want a pretty (read ‘Gothic’ or ‘medieval’) church building for their nuptials. Who are they?

Here’s the shock. In my experience, they tend to be Christian couples. The very people for whom the substance of the service rather than the outward style should matter the most are often those who most desire a beautiful church building.

This isn’t based on widespread research, only on my own experience, and so I’ll be interested to know what other ministers have encountered. For example, in my last appointment I didn’t conduct a single wedding in five years. Two of my three churches were modern buildings (that is, late twentieth century). The one chapel with a traditional appearance was small. Two Christian couples approached me during my time there. Neither couple, it must be said, came from any of my churches: there were certain reasons in each case why they needed to look outside their own usual churches for a wedding venue. However, in both cases, it was the buildings that made them decide not to proceed with me but to find a ‘typical’ Anglican church instead.  I’ve noticed this phenomenon elsewhere, too.

So what’s going on? I’d like to think it’s a postmodern desire to recover the sense of the numinous after the utilitarian worship of modernity, invoked by an appeal to the notion of holy place. Yet what I often hear is that “It’s about the photos.” At best that might be about being part of a visual culture, but it’s hard to avoid the impression that this devotion to image ranks style above substance.

Don’t misunderstand me. I love photography. I enjoy it as a hobby. I am glad we have the albums of our wedding. (Although the pictures I liked the most were those taken by my brother-in-law and by an amateur photographer friend who now rests in peace.) But we could never have made a photogenic location a key question in where we got married. It was far more important for us to marry in a worshipping community of which we were part.

I hope I have misunderstood and that there are better explanations. What do you think?

Schools Fail Left-Handed Children

I have blogged about this before a few years ago, but now my suspicions – no, fears – are confirmed: school teachers are not adequately prepared to support left-handed children. Being left-handed myself and having two left-handed children, I find it monstrous that in a society where computer use is essential, schools don’t even know you can use a PC (Windows, Mac or Linux) left-handed. All three of the schools our children have attended have not known this basic fact. In two of them, they were receptive when we made an approach as parents. In their last school, the Head flatly told us it was impossible to use a computer anything other than right-handed. She didn’t like it when I then threatened to bring in my brother-in-law, who is in management with Microsoft and who is also a school governor elsewhere. She told us: “Left-handed children just have to adapt to living in a right-handed world.”

Will someone please explain to me why this prejudice is acceptable, when we have long rejected the cruel way in which left-handed children were forced to write right-handed, and given corporal punishment if they didn’t comply? Just what is the difference?

I know this isn’t on my usual topics of Christianity and ministry, but I’m angry that children should be let down like this.

Social Media At Work: The Downside has an interesting infographic about the downside of workers and students accessing social media in between tasks. It is US-based, so needs some translation for us Limeys in Blighty. It’s also aimed at the general (‘normal’?) workplace, rather than the peculiar environment of church work. It also seems only to conceive of social media in terms of leisure.

Nevertheless, there are some sobering thoughts here. I guess this is the converse to yesterday’s post. Perhaps I should tell you to get off this blog and get back to work!

Social Media At Work

Stephen Holmes On The Church And Social Media

I’m not sure who I saw refer to this recent video, it might have been Vicky Beeching. This is an interesting seven-minute interview with Dr Stephen Holmes of St Andrew’s University. I’d be interested in your views.

A couple of the points for conversation that struck me were these:

1. Dr Holmes says that the church is often slightly behind the curve when it comes to adopting technology. This is my experience, too. We cannot adopt things as wholeheartedly as people like me would like to, because inevitably several of our older members do not have access, and we don’t want to treat them as second-class. However, that also means we lag further behind in contemporary means of communication. And like it or not, one of the things the Christian church is about is communication.

Furthermore, I even find among many Christians who are connected to the web that they are reluctant to embrace a lot of social media, with the sole general exception of Facebook. Sometimes it seems we are only using electronic technology as a new form of typewriter.

2. What about his point that it’s only in recent times that our culture has been so private? There is a lot of nervousness about the way privacy is broken down in social media, but Dr Holmes suggests near the end of the interview that we are merely reverting to the way society once was, and that such openness is a good thing. What do you think about that?

Here is the video:

What Pastors Don’t Like About Pastoring

Thom Rainer lists a Top 10 of things ministers don’t like about the ministry. It’s only an informal list, not based on a serious, properly researched survey. Ministers will have different perceptions. For example, I love doing weddings (#9 on Rainer’s list) and I also consider it a great privilege to conduct the funerals of non-Christians (#2), because there is a gospel opportunity to show the love and compassion of Christ. But budgets (#10) and business meetings (#1) – oh yes, I’m there every inch of the way.

What do you think of the list? What would you add to it, or remove from it?