Monday, 1 February 1999
The Shape of Things to Come
Churches come in all different shapes and sizes, and so do people. What shape are you are and how is it changing with time!
Shape fascinates us when we are young – trying to find the right shaped piece to complete the puzzle; looking through the right shaped window to see the story unfold ... Maybe we tend to take shapes more for granted as we get older but they are vital nonetheless. If you buy shoes that are the wrong shape you soon know about it; if your key is not cut to just the right shape you’ll end up locked out of the house; if you get ‘out of shape’ its very hard to get back in again.
The Diocese of Sheffield is working on a strategy for the next five years. In it there are lots of recommendations. Surprisingly, only one of them relates directly to church members: “That all church members seek so to shape their living and worship together as to attract at least one new person to their faith community over the next 5 years.”
How does that sound to you? I think it is vital. It needs to be worked at and needs our careful thought. To those who have been to church regularly and have done so all their lives, church might seem to have a comfortable shape – perhaps too comfortable and easily leading to sleep! To those who come in for the first time I think it appears very different. It probably seems to be a spiky shape that is not very welcoming or easy to understand. We need to learn to put ourselves in the shoes of these people and find out what it’s like for them. All churches are different but our church-life must be shaped in way that attracts people and makes them want to come. We must get on and do this instead of bemoaning the fact that people don’t come. It applies in the same way to us as individuals (and it’s got nothing to do with fitness of fatness). Do people look at us and think “That person goes to church – it obviously doesn’t work!” or “That person goes to church … could there be something in it after all?”.
Anyway, we’ve got nothing to lose by taking the recommendation seriously. One person in five years – it doesn’t sound over ambitious – but think of the difference if it actually happened.