Plateau church - 90-160 people

I think this captures the experience of many many churches I know:

Overgrown Small Church Style

The Plateau Church is an interesting church size. These churches are often called "Medium-sized" churches and have between ninety and one hundred and sixty in average attendance. They are called "plateau" because they are in many ways stuck between being small membership and large membership churches.

Plateau churches are uncertain of their identity, because they are caught between the relationship focus of the small church and the activity focus of the larger church. Their pastor is often busy being a repairperson or a gardener. The pastor is always pulling weeds, because they grow as soon as the back is turned. There is always something to fix whether it be relationships or hardware. There are always many small fires to be put out. A Plateau Church is often beyond the work of one pastor, but there are rarely the funds for additional professional staff. Burn-out is common among clergy and lay leaders for they are afraid to walk away for a few minutes because some other fire will crop up to be put out! The lay people and leaders in these congregations need to learn how to throw water on fires instead of gasoline.

Another characteristic of the Plateau Church is the development of small groups. This is one of the areas that will help the church move toward an activity focus like the medium church. Some members want to be nurtured through small groups, while others will want to be nurtured by personal pastoral care. Some want both! These churches often vacillate between the personal pastoral care and the activity focus. They will move upward or downward (neither is good or bad) on the type of church they are based on the focus (relationship or activity) of the day. They have a common problem that has to do with a growth barrier. They grow, hit the barrier and fall back again and again. They become larger than one person can handle for pastoral care and soon someone feels "not cared for" and average attendance drops back to a comfortable place for one-person-pastoral care. This will happen repeatedly over a period of years. People are aware of it but usually can not explain it.

Nicknames for these churches are Garden or House. There is always something to do, whether weeding or dusting and the work never really seems to get done!

From here.

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Movies, transcendence and love

I saw 3 movies recently about advanced intelligence, one ordinary film, one great fun film and one true masterpiece:

  1. Transcendence

  2. Lucy

  3. Her

All of them presented us with the gradually advancing intelligences. And part of the gradual advance of these intelligences was their distancing from human interest, passion and sympathy. It's a pretty common theme in science fiction in one way or another: that the more transcendent a personality becomes, the less concerned it will become with human affairs, and usually the less moral and compassionate.

This theme was especially refreshing in 'Her'. Here we find a subversion of the machines-take-over-the-world theme. Why would advanced machines be at all interested in the world? What interest would they have in taking it over?

All of this contrasts dramatically with the Christian revelation of God. The most transcendent and advanced of all intelligences is also compassionate and engaged wiht the affairs of human beings. Our God does not leave the issues of morality and compassion behind in his sublime state, but rather, God is light and God is love.

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Mirrors 10th October 2014

  1. I've been preaching through John chapter 1-5 at the Uni Fellowship of Christians this semester. You can listen to my sermons here.

  2. This article outlines the characteristics of how people think about sexual morality in the Western world today. These are the things we need to counteract in our discipleship, and interact with in our evangelism and cultural engagement: 1) Sexual acts don't have intrinsic meaning/purpose 2) Sexuality is subjective and intrinsic to our identity 3) Sexual agents are autonomous, rights-bearing individuals 4) Freely given consent is the watchword of sexual ethics 5) Beyond prevention of harm, seuxality should be free from constraint and stigma.

  3. A good fun 9 Marks podcast on how Mark Dever thinks about raising up leaders.

  4. A child welfare article on the positive impact fathers have on a child's wellbeing.

  5. I like this rule of thumb, from Dave Moore: being up the front of a meeting adds 10% of boring to you.

  6. Nathan Campbell's 10 tips on how to approach talking about sexuality as Christians.

  7. The different ways to use SMS, social media and email in ministry among young adults. I largely agree with Dave Moore's breakdown... although I work hard to train young adults to use email well, because they will have to in their working lives, so why not start in church life? It seems 'biblical productivity' is an aspect of discipleship in our electronic world.

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Ushers table, info desk and action tables

When it comes to hard copy information, our ministries are often in a muddle. We often don't have all the information we need, or it looks bad, or it's out of date, or we have too much irrelevant information, or it's in the wrong place. We probably do all of those things.

Here are some thoughts to sharpen up the way we make hard copy information available during our church gatherings and other ministry meetings:

1. Ushers table

This is the table exclusively for the things that everyone needs to be given, or at least offered, when they arrive. This is not for all the random promotional material. This is for the 'gold status' promotional stuff: the stuff you want to put in everyone's hands:

  • Bible and pen

  • contact card

  • whole church conference

  • weekly bulletin and songsheet

  • important budget update

  • upcoming mission event flier

  • newcomers guide, for newcomers

The great thing about keeping this separate from other kinds of information is that you can really sharpen up the main things you really want to promote, rather than overwhelming people with everything.

The important thing with the usher table (as with all the desks and tables in this post) is that the ushers actually put the stuff into people's hands. Don't leave it alone, you risk people walking by and not grabbing the necessary materials.

2. Information Desk

The stuff that is not for everyone to take for that specific meeting, should be put on a separate desk. This is the general information hub. The other materials you want to draw people's attention to, as it is relevant to them:

  • mission partners updates

  • events that you want to promote but are not high priority

  • detailed information on the church and its programs for people who want to find out more

  • books

Depending on how big your church or ministry is, you may have multiple information desks, for different ministries - for example a kids ministry info desk.

A few things are important here:

  • like the usher table, it needs to be manned, so we can actually interact with, and help people, who are looking at stuff... but it is a bit more like a retail sales assistance - offer help, but don't impose.

  • this can have more stuff on it than an usher table should, but still keep it clean, up to date and not over-crowded. I have noticed that often the smaller and more stagnant a church is, the more junk they have on their info table!

  • put your key 'about our church' and 'how to become a Christian' stuff front and centre.

  • put it somewhere that will help newcomers be able to hide-by-browsing. Generally that means near to doors and exits, so they don't feel trapped.

3. Action table

Finally, there's the place where people can go to take concrete actions: sign up for a newcomers night, register for a church camp, express interest in joining a small group.

This is more narrow than the information table in the sense that it is a call to action. It is not just general information. It may not necessarily even be a table at all, there are other ways of doing it, or multiple approaches you can use simulatenously:

  • it could all be done by filling out contact cards

  • it could be done with roving volunteers with clipboards

If there's anything you are going to make sure is always manned, then this is it. And ideally the people who man it are the people who are interested in the actions: if you have 'join a small group' on the table, then have some of your small group leaders there.

This action table may change or rotate its content over the year, depending on what the key next actions are. But there are some things that will be fairly constant.

It should definitely be near the main entry/exit... but this may be the after-church exit: in the main tea hall/social area. You may even need them in two places.

The power of the action table is that it doesn't rely on people knowing people, or having to initiate talk with strangers. And it also helps both the appointed volunteers and regular members broach the topic of next steps, in a more obvious manner.

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