The groups who use our church buildings
Are we interacting with them as much as we can, asks Sally Claydon?
I recently had the opportunity to visit a Girls’ Brigade (GB) group that has been a vibrant part of the church to which it’s attached for many years. The hall bustled with girls and young women of all ages engaging with a variety of activities from rounders and skipping to learning new skills and exploring how the stories of Jesus can relate to their lives.
The girls chatted excitedly telling me about a recent sleepover and all the fun they’d had. The evening concluded with a trip to the tuck shop and dozens of girls went home happy.
When I returned home I thought it would be nice to write to the pastor of the church and let him know what a great ministry he has there in the shape of GB. Imagine my bewilderment when the GB leader later told me that the letter had been passed to her unread – they’d seen the GB branding and presumed it was for her. She expressed what many feel – that they’re seen as merely hirers of the hall and not, as they should be, an integral part of the body of Christ in that place.
Now my church is great at encouraging my GB group, but it has got me wondering about how the secular groups that hire our halls feel. It’s also made me consider whether we’re missing a trick in our outreach to the local community. Our church is the venue for a baby massage group, a running club, a bereavement support group and various children’s parties. Some of them hold keys to the premises enabling them to come and go, week by week, with little interaction with the church family.
I wonder how many of our church mums go along to the baby massage group. I wonder whether the baby massage group know about our church toddler group. I wonder whether any of our church members are members of the running club.
Wouldn’t it be great to deliberately plan a church meeting at the same time and offer to share refreshments together? How lovely it would be for church members to just be present while the bereavement support group meets. We could just simply make ourselves available - available to chat, available to offer a cuppa and a friendly face. And while we’re normally told to steer clear of the building while the children’s parties are in progress, wouldn’t it be great if folk were around to help clear up at the end?
I think that sometimes when churches think about mission, they think about ‘them out there…’ and forget to get involved in the lives of the people right under their noses.
Sally Claydon is Girls’ Brigade team leader at 1st Hawkwell group, based at Hawkwell Baptist Church, Rochford, Essex, and a GB Development Worker in London. She writes a regular column about the Girls’ Brigade for The Baptist Times.