I once heard a teacher say, "People only change when the pain of change is less than the pain of staying the same."
This is true in regards to fitness, health, moving, relationships, etc. There are times when this can be good, but when the change is something which will be a genuine benefit to us (for example losing weight) this inertia (science word alert!) can actually be dangerous.
At Covenant this fall we are making a change. We are changing our two service times dramatically and our second gathering is going to look very different. I've had some people ask more about why we are making these changes so I thought I'd offer a couple of brief bullet point reasons for why we've decided to make this change.
- The work of caring for people in the church was hindered by having two morning services. In this regard, the pain of staying the same - people being missed, not knowing who was attending, not getting to know people well - was too much for the deacons who are tasked with leading congregational care. It was too easy to presume that "they must just be at the other service" or "they must just be regulars at the other service" and miss people who aren't there or those who are. The different times and styles of the services will lead to less overlap and assumption about where people are attending and should make it easier to welcome new people and care for those who are already a part of our Covenant family.
- Development of community was hindered by having two morning services. Some people who have known each other for years aren't as connected because they've been attending different services. Others don't get known as easily because people need to just come and go because we need to just move from one service to the other. Running two services on Sunday mornings gives the implied impression that the worship service is the point of the gathering when really the worship service is only part of the purpose of gathering. Coming together as a community is the primary point. Singing, learning from the Bible, and praying together are just some of the things we do when we're together. We recognize that those who attend our Sunday Service and those who attend The Table won't develop community, but we are trusting that it will be easier for people to find a community within the context of the gathering they attend.
- Adding elements into our gatherings was hindered by having two morning services. Sometimes we had to say no to ideas because of time. Other times, we thought of a creative idea for a service, but it was something we couldn't "reset" after the first service. Still other times, we wanted to do something after the second service but knew that we would miss all those who came to the early service if we did so. In this regard, this change will allow us to do our Sunday Service even better than we have before. We should be able to do what we've been doing only better!
- Having only one style of service limits our effectiveness at reaching different kinds of people. Our community has far more people who are not a part of a church than are. Some of them are spiritually curious, but would never want to come to a gathering like ours. Others simply aren't available on Sunday mornings. By making our second gathering a different time and a different format we are praying that we will be able to create space for more people to become a part of our Covenant family - people who might otherwise never consider the way of Jesus. When the idea of The Table was first brought up there were a lot of questions. There are still a lot of questions. But the more it was considered as something that could help deal with the first three issues above and create space for those who may never attend a Sunday Service it became a lot less painful to consider.
- In consultation with our denominational Community Church leadership, this option was strongly encouraged and supported. Most of our Be In Christ Church of Canada church start-ups are gathering around a communal meal and they are discovering that it is an incredibly positive element for welcoming those who have negative postures towards a traditional-looking church but are willing to consider the way of Jesus. We were encouraged, if we were considering it as an option, to go for it and see how God may use this to reach our community.
We don't know where this will lead. But if we wait until we are hurting so bad that we need to change, it may be too late. We appreciate your prayers for what is to come. Please pray for our Sunday Service, that it will be a vibrant and welcoming environment in which people discover they are beloved by God, find a community in which to belong, and are invited into all they can become in Christ. And please pray for The Table @ Covenant Church, that there will be a critical mass of people participating and creating space so that those who may never come Sunday mornings may find the same love, belonging, and becoming even if the environment looks very different.