However successful the Back to Church initiative has been, it will never fulfil its potential with church-goers paralysed by fear of rejection.
So said the project’s developer Michael Harvey, author of Creating a Culture of Invitation (Monarch). Over the past 11 years Harvey, who has developed the concept of invitation as a mission tool across 17 countries, carried out hundreds of focus groups and training sessions – asking people why they do not invite their friends and family to church.
‘I found Christians paralysed by anxiety,’ said Harvey. ‘Their sublimated fears, perhaps related to previous rejections, are projected onto the church. Would-be inviters view it as unattractive, not “fit for purpose” and unwelcoming.’
The result is Harvey’s book which explores rejection and acceptance, and looks at some best-practice ideas for establishing a culture of invitation.
‘People are not prepared to invite until their fellow congregational members and church are perfect,’ he said. ‘Perfectionism is riven through the church and this cannot be right. The Bible says where two or three are gathered in my name, I will be present. It does not say where two or three are gathered in my name, doing it perfectly well, I will be present. The church is never going to be perfect.’
It is estimated that one million invitations have been offered and thousands of people have been added to the church through the Back to Church project. However, Harvey points to psychological projection, a theory in psychology, in which humans defend themselves against unpleasant impulses by denying their existence in themselves while attributing them to others.
‘Christians deny the existence of fear within themselves but attribute the real problem to the church,’ he said. ‘They are waiting for the perfect moment, or the right time to invite. If we keep waiting, nothing can go wrong. The name of the game is safety and not the risk of faith. The Apostle Paul warned about timidity. For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.’
Taking themes from the Book of Revelation, the new glasswork at St Thomas’ Church, Telford Park, Streatham is part of an ambitious, high quality and sympathetic programme of works at the church.
‘At seven metres tall my glass artwork forms the centrepiece of the redevelopment, filling the chancel arch and separating the worship space from the newly built meeting rooms,’ explained CRE exhibitor Sarah Galloway.
Dominating the east end of the now foreshortened nave, Sarah’s work provides a backdrop to the altar. At first floor level, the glass cleverly forms a wall in the new community room created by infilling the former chancel.
Taking themes from the Book of Revelation, a key motif of the screen is the river of the water of life, nourishing the tree of life, depicted on the left side of the screen. The imagery of light is also represented, whilst the church as part of a larger city is symbolised through the abstract depiction of high rise buildings. These elements are positioned beneath a cross, which is itself at the front and centre of the screen, symbolically standing above all the other components.
‘Created through combining hand-applied colour and deep sandblasting, I worked very closely with West Scott Architects and the church, ensuring that the aspirations for the artwork were met,’ said Sarah.
The Revd Martin Gordan, vicar of St Thomas with St Stephen, said: ‘Sarah has captured a real sense of who we are as a church and created a vibrant piece of contemporary art that will add to the heritage of the local area. At the same time she has made something beautiful that will help many connect with God.’
As well as making work for churches and sacred buildings, Sarah creates contemporary architectural glass for public and private spaces, both inside and out.
New, cloud-based software takes care of all aspects of managing church rooms.
‘There is no longer any need to use paper or multiple calendars to manage who is using which room or when,’ explained Kyle Cottington of iKnow Church. ‘Our new software saves church administrators a great deal of time every month.’
The room booking module clearly shows you who is using each room and what they require. The module:
• Prevents double booking
• Shows clearly which rooms are being used
• Allows for repeating bookings – with clash warnings
• Manages items such as projectors
• Makes provisional bookings
A recent government report called for assemblies to change from the current legal requirement for a daily ‘act of collective worship’ to a ‘time for reflection’ – but what are the pupils to reflect upon?
CRE exhibitor Ethos Education have launched AssembliesOnline.com inviting pupils to reflect on life issues such as identity, purpose, family, respecting those with different traditions and facing difficult choices.
‘But, crucially, each assembly also provides two additional important features with a well-considered rationale,’ explained Ethos founder Nick Pollard. ‘First, by using extracts from popular feature films the assembly grounds those life issues in the pupil’s contemporary culture. Secondly, by including at the heart of each assembly a relevant passage from the Bible, pupils are enabled to reflect for themselves on what it teaches about the life issue.’
Whilst calling for a ‘time for reflection’ the report also calls for what it calls ‘greater religion and belief literacy’.
‘Our response is to provide schools with assemblies that build pupils’ biblical literacy as they explore important life issues,’ said Nick.
Church-goers still love a good sermon, as long as the preacher stresses content over comedy, a survey of 1800 church-goers has discovered.
Almost nine out of 10 (88 per cent) disagree or strongly disagree that the idea of a sermon being preached in church each week is outdated.
But when asked what they wanted to see most in a sermon, men in particular (49 per cent) most wanted to hear biblical exposition (women 39 per cent). Women wanted to hear even more practical application (44 per cent) than men (36 per cent). A sense of humour is only perceived as important by two per cent and personal anecdotes by one per cent.
The age of the rambling sermon is over, too. The most common sermon lasts between 10 and 20 minutes (44 per cent). Only 15 per cent of sermons last more than 30 minutes and only one in 10 think a sermon should last any longer than that.
‘Christians are hungry to think about their faith and how it relates to life in the 21st Century,’ said Krish Kandiah, president of the London School of Theology. ‘Far from being an outdated concept, in good preaching we hear how the never changing good news about Jesus relates to our ever-changing culture. Despite the militant atheist caricature that Christians are people who believe but don’t think, the survey shows that Christians believe because they think. Christians are keen to grapple with the deep truths of the faith not just be entertained on a Sunday.’
What are you doing at your computer screen when you should be colouring in!
That was illustrator Jacquie Grace’s message to CRE TV.
‘Colouring in has been big in secular circles for quite a while because we lead stressful lives,’ she explains. ‘We need something that will help us unwind and give us time away from computer screens. Lots of research has been conducted on how colouring in and meditation sit side by side. As you slow down and collect your thoughts, your mind is given space to dwell on something. There is nothing better to dwell on than Scripture, so that is what inspired the project. It helps people to take time with God and be creative.’
Some people colour in the verses in Jacquie’s books – and learn them at the same time
‘Jacquie has designed cards for us for many years,’ said Anne Horrobin of Just Cards. ‘She is inspired and anointed by God. We could see there was a need for a Bible-based colouring-in book and we have sold 10000 copies in the first two months – a phenomenal response.
‘People are using them in women’s groups, Bible groups and in outreach situations. There are even colouring-in groups in prisons and hospices.’
Mobile apps can simplify and enrich your church’s communications and help reach and engage new followers.
So says James Dickson, founder of Piota (Put it on the App) who make high quality, affordable mobile apps for schools, churches, charities and local community organisations.
‘Keeping your congregation engaged and in touch is not easy,’ said James, who worked in finance for 20 years before setting up Piota. ‘They want to hear from you but with crowded inboxes, a young adult demographic that doesn’t do email, a website which broadcasts information but can’t personalise it, social media sites which are unfocused and limited in format, and ever-decreasing attention spans and patience levels, even the most inspiring or urgent material goes astray or unread.’
If you are struggling to cover everyone through a mix of emails, texts, Facebook feeds and website announcements, you already know the problem!
‘You need a high-quality mobile app versatile enough to double up as both a messaging centre and information hub for your congregation, volunteers and wider church family,’ he contends. ‘Our church app is your one-stop shop. It speeds up communications in rich formats, directly to everyone with the app or specific sub-groups. It’s a quick reference source with immediate access to everything people might want to know, from meeting timings to last week’s sermon, to how to donate. It is affordable and should even pay for itself in cost and time savings.’
Where is God calling me and what does he want me to do?
These are just some of the questions young people face at key points in their journey of faith.
‘We want to use our hugely diverse ministry to encourage them to discover how they can bless others, lead people closer to Jesus and bring hope to the world,’ said Hope Now’s Jon White. ‘We pray that God would prompt their hearts to pray, go and tell others about what he is doing.’
Hope Now is an international Christian charity striving to share the love of Jesus through giving practical aid and spiritual support for the past 30 years. The organisation currently works in Sri Lanka, Moldova, Myanmar but most of its work is in Ukraine.
‘We work in areas of healthcare, orphans and fostering, prison ministry, education and Bible teaching, evangelism and church planting, summer camps and care for the elderly,’ explained Jon.
‘We are keen to meet youth leaders, introduce them to our work and show them what we can offer their young people. We want to give churches the opportunity to have Hope Now speak at their youth groups about the work of the charity, aiming to inspire them in their faith.’
A game changer for churches struggling with the way their missional life fits their buildings.
That’s how Nigel Walter of Church Build describes Building for Mission. Packed with potential for effective engagement with the whole community, the book covers a wide range of practical issues affecting church buildings, from caring for medieval masonry to installing multimedia electronic systems.
‘We’ve set out to offer essential information and easy-to-follow advice on heating, lighting and energy efficiency, installing a kitchen or toilets, dealing with damp and much more,’ said Walter. Church Build believe the best buildings are created from a close partnership between client and architect.
‘We like to think of our role as being a critical friend,’ said Walter. ‘We’re at your side to support and guide, but we’re also there to question. When choosing an architect, what you are really buying, therefore, is not a product, not even a service but a relationship.’
Making posters that stand out can be creative, easy and fun.
‘All sorts of materials can be used to make posters look interesting and different,’ said Posters Plus founder Yvonne Coppock. ‘Paint can be sprayed or applied with a sponge or spatula instead of a brush. Paper can be torn instead of cut, and 3D effects achieved by sticking crumpled or curled paper, shells, feathers – in fact, anything that will reinforce the message of the poster.
‘Instead of always printing the words from the computer, grab people’s attention by cutting letters out of magazine pictures or corrugated card (or even torn out of newsprint!). These are likely to gain more attention.
‘Trying out different techniques is an effective way of attracting interest, because each poster will be unique. People passing the church will start looking at the poster board, expecting to see something new!’