Category Archives: planning

Principles and Process

Working Towards the Ideal Congregation

NYNO is very much an idea as much as it is anything else. It’s an idea inspired by Scripture, by the situation that the Church and society finds itself in at this point in time in the UK.

Briefly, the idea is that full expressions of church can exist that recognize the needs of its older members and therefore places them at the centre of their congregations. We believe doing this can be good for every generation that participates in such a congregation. We hope as well that any church that lives in this way will be better equipped to witness to the world, living in a way that speaks against the separation of old and young and that points to the wisdom of Christ centred community in the present and the hope of the redemption of all things in the future.

This idea can be both inspiring and intimidating. Again and again, we have seen people respond with enthusiasm when we describe what we hope to do and why we are doing it. Equally, we have encountered uncertainty as to how such a ‘perfect’ idea could ever become a practical reality. How, for instance, could a church survive without a dedicated minister; where will the youth come from; is there enough teaching?

There are one hundred and one practical questions that are unresolved by the simple idea and most of these issues will need to be resolved in the unique location and community in which you hope to see a church grow.

And yet, we’re not worried and we don’t think you should be either. Church planting with NYNO will be a process. The ideal, diverse aged, autonomous congregation, a spiritual home for all involved, will not spring into life immediately. It will require patient leadership, that holds onto the ideals of NYNO while making one change at a time, at each stage inviting the congregation to participate. That leadership (a team, I would expect) will have to be stubbornly singled minded when it comes to the ideas, the principles of NYNO. At the same time, it will have to be gracious and patient, recognizing that people will take time to understand the what we are aiming for. It will also have to have faith, realizing that there will be problems that won’t have an immediate solution that needs to communicated gently to the congregation. Together we will have to pray our way forward, always holding onto the end goal believing that God has given us this, even while the path that leads there remains bewilderingly winding.

Where will they come from?

At this stage in the project, some questions haunt me.

Concerning the elderly, we’re probably wrongly complacent although I’m not going to fret about it unnecessarily.

No, the question that haunts is the one about the young, or even just those who aren’t elderly. Where will they come from? How will we attract them?

It’s part of the basis of the project, that we recognise that the elderly can find themselves segregated from the rest of society, from the rest of the church. But, why do we think our church will be different? If a handful of us locate a church in the context of the elderly, why would anyone join us, from the rest of society or from the rest of the church. We’re asking people to do something that is, apparently, unattractive to the majority of us.

One response might be to come up with lots of the schemes and plans to attract people,  to organise a grans, parents and toddlers morning, to try to bring in the local school. We could try to make our church attractive, enjoyable, surprisingly so. Things like this could prove useful, but not yet.

The primary problem with responding in this way is that it’s back to front. We need to attract people, not primarily because we’ve created something attractive (doubly difficult for us) but because there is an authenticity to what we do, who we are, who we understand ourselves to be. If we are the Church, if God is present amongst us, if we are connect by the Spirit to Christ we will therefore offer something that is unexpected, strange, weird, a genuine alternative to what is available in this world. If this proves to be the case, people will join us because they find Christ here and therefore the challenge of a church that is – in some respects – unappealing can be overcome.

In other words, the Word of God needs to be heard in this place, in this time, amongst these people. We need to be a community of witnesses to God’s Word and a community that this a witness to God’s Word.

Starting a New NYNO Congregation

There will be heaps more to it than this, but one of the keys tasks will be forging a group’s own sense of its identity.

To this end, a standard worship service needs to be written. This is not necessarily a set liturgy in which the congregation takes part but rather a description of each part of the meeting in terms of its spiritual significance: what do we hope to happen here or there. This will also include set phrases and prayers that express this theology and that are used week in, week out.

As a whole, the service should encapsulate the theology of the group, which of course should be the Gospel. Every week we repeat the core statements of our understanding of the Gospel and why that makes us who we are.

Next, each week we take a portion of the service – a portion of what we do – and we preach on a Scripture that grounds this act.

Remember, whenever you think you’re repeating yourself you probably need to repeat it another two/three times before anyone will remember it!

Science …

In the the last post I began to pull together some thoughts with regard to NYNO’s form of worship.

But worship is only aspect of NYNO’s identity.

Worship, community, discipleship, spirituality and mission – and maybe others too – are all areas in which we need to experiment and monitor and report.

It’s going to be helpful – for ourselves but also for speaking to funders – to be a little more structured in our planning for our research. And research is a good word to describe what we will be doing: introducing new ideas or ways of being church, practising them and evaluating them. We want to be able to say at the end of a period of experimentation, ‘We wanted to achieve this end, so we tried this and it worked/didn’t work for the following reason.’

So perhaps I need to return to my first year aims and objectives document and begin to split out some of the different tasks that lie ahead. We can’t do them all at once, but to choose the best one to start with we need to have thought what the others might be.