July 26, 2007

18 ideas to renew and redefine the church

Many people visit the church primarily at Christmas time. Unfortunately, many churches are rather empty the rest of the year. In other words, few members of the church actually use the church during the year. In addition, the church is losing members – and thereby also money. An example is Denmark: In 1990, 89.3% of the people in Denmark were members of the church. In 2006, only 83% of the people in Denmark were members of the church.
Sources:
* http://www.km.dk/545.html
* http://www.km.dk/579.html

Below, I have listed some ideas to renew and redefine the church:

Idea # 1: To priests: How about moving around in the church among the guests instead of speaking to people from above
I’ve experienced that several priests speak down to the people coming to church from a chair raised a couple of metres above the ground. Instead of pursuing this rather authoritarian way of communicating, how about moving to the same level as the people/the guests? One way to do it could be to walk around in the church between the chairs/benches while speaking to and with the people. Another way to get on the same level as the people could be to use normal clothes instead of a uniform.

Idea # 2: To priests: Show messages to your guests on the wall using your LapTop and a beamer
The price of beamers is much lower than just a few years ago and the white walls in the church seem to be quite good for using a beamer. So priests, how about bringing your LapTops to the Sunday mass and showing the most important of your messages on a wall in the church – using for example words, pictures, and video clips?

Idea # 3: To priests: How about facilitating dialogues among visitors/guests about everyday topics?
To help visitors/guests/people who come to church better, present concrete advice that people can use directly in their everyday lives. Then facilitate dialogues between visitors/guests in the church, so the people can, in a very practical way, digest the topics you have presented. Here’s a concrete way of involving people: After having spoken for 8-10 minutes about a particular topic, ask the guests/visitors the following question: What, in particular, did you find interesting concerning what I presented?

Idea # 4: To priests: Invite people to talk about their relation to the church during Sunday mass
Could you imagine that the priest focuses more on project management – for example managing the mass on Sunday – rather than on being the primary in focus point? Here’s an idea for the priests: Invite elderly and/or young people who have managed to successfully get on with a new life after having recovered from an illness or another difficult situation in their lives. By delegating assignments to people, the priest involves people – and thereby motivates them.

Idea # 5: To priests: How about teaching people about differences in religions?
We live in increasingly multicultural environments. In addition, we are, not least through the Internet, bombarded with information from all around the world. In other words, people need to understand the different religions that the people, we work and live with, belong to.
Sihlcity Church, a church placed in a new and fascinating complex in Zurich, Switzerland, is open to everyone - regardless of religion. If you don’t belong to any religion, you’re also welcome. Opening hours for the church are from 9 AM to 9 PM every day - except Sunday.. Read more about this interesting innovation here.

Idea # 6: Let artists and children show their paintings/drawings in the church
In many churches, the walls are completely white. How about bringing in some colours in the church? Try this out: Get in contact with local schools and/or artists. Ask those, who are interested, to put up - on the walls inside the church - drawings/paintings, that they have created.

Idea # 7: Make the furniture in the church more comfortable
In many churches people sit on long, hard benches. How about asking the elderly people who come to church to make some pillows that people can sit on? I'm sure that many of the elderly would be more than happy to do that. In addition, what about pulling some of the benches out of the church - and putting in chairs like the ones at Starbucks. Then, people might feel more comfortable going to church.

Idea # 8: Invite people for a cup of coffee before, during and/or after Sunday mass
At Christianskirken in Aarhus, Denmark, children and their parents are invited to eat spaghetti after the mass. Another idea could be to simply place a full automatic coffee machine at the entrance of the church – with different kinds of coffee sorts to satisfy guests from many different cultures.

Idea # 9: Offer an Internet funeral service
Funeral directors S. Clarke & Sons have adapted to the global village by offering what they call “online services”. In other words, the company offers to make arrangements that allow friends or relatives to view a service online from anywhere in the world.

Idea # 10: Individualize faith by meeting people where they are - instead of waiting for people to come to church
The bank Nordea in Roskilde, Denmark, have hired a company priest. See and listen to this video clip.
There are other possibilities for priests and priest assistants to work outside the church and help individuals Here is one: How about showing up at hospitals and talking to the people who are dying, for example because they have cancer? Also, it would probably also be very valuable to talk to their relatives and friends who are losing persons they love.

Idea # 11: To priests: How about communicating with people through personal blogs and/or by using podcasts
Regarding the blog initiative, get some inspiration from Switzerland here. Another possibility of offering an Internet church service is podcasting. Here’s a concrete example: Every day, Max McLain reads approximately one minute from the bible. You can listen to Mr. McLain here.

Idea # 12: Do priests have to live next to the church?
Due to, for example, advances in as well as price reductions in the use of internet and communication technology, it becomes less relevant where the priests live. Try reading here about the changes that Mr. Niels Henrik Arendt, a bishop in Southern Denmark, sees for the future of priest housing.

Idea # 13: How about letting the ministry of the church be a part of other relevant ministries?
Would the church become a more integrated part of people’s lives by letting the ministry of the church become a part of, for example, the ministry of education, the ministry of culture, or the ministry of social affairs?

Idea # 14: How about selling churches that have a very small number of visitors/guests and investing money in renewing / redefining the remaining churches to satisfy demands of people who live in 2007?
Is the physical building, i.e. the physical church including tower and bells, important for people’s faith? Could people live just as well or better without physical churches?

How about responding to people’s lacking interest in the church by selling some of the churches throughout the country? This might happen in Denmark: The minister of the church supports a recent proposal of closing several churches in Copenhagen.
Source.

By the way, wouldn’t you think that the churches, which are used by only a very small part of the population, would be relatively easy to sell / use for other activities that are more valuable for the individual citizen? The following ideas are some suggestions to what the sold churches could be used for – in order to better satisfy the needs of the population:

Idea # 15: Transform the church into a Wellness Center for people who suffer from illnesses
The church “Vesterø Havnekirke” is transforming into “Læsø Kur & Helsecenter”, a wellness specializing in helping patients suffering from psoriasis. In this innovative way, the church situated on the island of Læsø, which has fine salt resources, redefines itself - helping, in a more innovative way, people who need help to cure a disease they suffer from.

Read more about the turnaround initiative here:
* http://www.saltkur.dk/00005/
* http://www.realdania.dk/Fundsproject/Flagship/Byprojekter/L%C3%A6s%C3%B8+Kur+,-a-,+Helse.aspx

Idea # 16: Transform the church into a restaurant
Several churches are located in the centre of cities, i.e. in the cultural centres. How about letting churches that are used very little become restaurants? That way, the dining experience for guests will be increased considerably.

Idea # 17: The church as a dance studio
The church “St. Jakob am Stauffacher” in Zurich regularly turns into a dance studio. Have a look at the different dance courses here. http://www.offener-st-jakob.ch/tanz.php. By the way, If you need the church for an event, you can rent it here: http://www.offener-st-jakob.ch/raummiete.php

Idea # 18: The church as a music house
Music unites people and singing often makes people happy. Due to the extraordinary acoustical quality in the room made of huge stones, the church is a brilliant place to sing songs as well as play music on various instruments.
In Zurich, I have experienced some extraordinary musical events during the past year. For example, I have attended a couple of gospel choir concerts. These musical events were extremely popular. The churches, where the concerts were held, were full of people wanting to listen to the music and hear the gospel choirs sing. In addition, I have heard brilliant musicians play on many different instruments in the church – at Sunday mass as well as at events during the week.

To get inspired – try listening to some gospel music here:

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