I am interested in effective communication, not as an end in itself, but because if we want to make disciples, we need to train and equip each other effectively. And for this, sermons just don’t cut it.
Talking at people isn’t good for much
There is good evidence, via properly designed surveys and studies, and from people’s experiences, that sitting people in rows and preaching at them is a poor way of communicating, informing and encouraging positive change. Churches are not universities (and these approaches don’t work well there either), but communities on a mission together, and people need to be involved in decision-making, learning and doing if they are going to get involved in the mission.
A growing chorus
There is plenty of support for these observations.
I have blogged before on Why sermons?, Sermons and effective learning and Sunday services vs discipleship. These posts were based on a longer analysis in Sermons – not how we learn best?
I have also linked several times to Felicity Dale’s excellent blog Simply church, which provides good insights into a simpler, more personal, form of church. And there are others saying the same things.
Church in a circle
I have recently started following Church in a Circle blog, with its byline “From monologue to dialogue. From audience to participants. From performance to empowerment.” While authors Kathleen and Kevin-Neil write about many different topics, their main emphasis is on making church an interactive community. As they say:
Church in a circle starts with the seating arrangement, but ultimately changes the way we meet and interact as God’s people. It changes us from consumers into participants. It changes the way we see each other. It changes the way we learn and teach others about God. It’s time to stop filling rows and start forming circles.”
I found the following to be particularly helpful:
- Efficient or effective? Rows vs circles in church – how doing things what seems to be the easiest way (for the ministers at least) ends up achieving the least.
- 10 reasons to stop sermons and use other learning tools – why sermons are ineffective ways to teach, motivate or train.
- Open Space – harnessing the power of circles – a practical way to open up communication.
You mightn’t think there is much that can be said about communication and community in church, but Kathleen and Kevin-Neil keep coming up with good ideas. Check it out.
But wait, there’s more!
Tony Jones is a speaker, writer, theologian and leader in the so-called ’emerging church’ movement in the US. A recent blog post (Fix Denominations by Getting Rid of Management adds another dimension to the discussion of 21st century church – “Bureaucracy is bad for the gospel.”
Christianity is (hopefully) changing!
Photo: Church in a Circle
Thanks Eric, I’m chuffed that you read our posts – I enjoy your thoughts so much.
Thanks for mentioning my blog too. I always read yours with interest.
Thanks to both of you. There are now estimated to be about 200 million blogs worldwide. It is nice to find fellow bloggers with similar interests and useful things to say!
Two weeks ago, our Minister was away so one of the elders took the sermon latter the readings, she asked us to turn to someone near us (luckily I knew my seat ate well because I HATE this sort of thing usually!) and discuss a few topics. I can’t remember them exactly but it was along the lines of where we experience God, and how we practise the presence of God. It was unlike anything I’ve done before and was fantastic. I’d like to do it more often.
I think relating personally in church can be shocking for some people, initially difficult for others, and only easy for some. I’m glad it worked out well. I think it shows that the most efficient communication (monologue) is not always the most satisfying or the most effective. Thanks.
Perhaps current churches should model themselves on the earliest church. Just a thought 🙂
After all, a building is not The Church, no matter how fine a building it is. The Church is the body of believers themselves
But then again, this is like saying perhaps I should model myself on the earliest church, and since I do not do that, really I am in no position to judge.
Actually I am really in no position to judge anyway 🙂
I don’t think we can model exactly on the early church because we live in a very different culture. But I agree that we should be trying to follow the same principles.
I think the Simple Church that Felicity advocates tries to do exactly that! But I doubt many denominational churches can plausibly claim that, though I agree with you that they should.