Seeing The Other

Activate is all about reaching the lost and telling people about Jesus. But what about the lost at home? What about the people who are disengaged right here in the church? For a moment, I want us to take stock and look around. Who’s missing? Who was with us in the race and has fallen to the side?

In primary schools, teachers realise that they can fall into the habit of picking the same child every time.  They ask the same child to do jobs, or they ask the same child a question. Normally, its because they know that if they ask that child it will be done and done well, and with little fuss. However, choosing the same child, again and again, prevents other children from learning how to do things.

Choosing the same child develops just one leader in the group rather than a class where everyone has the chance to shine. I know this can happen in a family as well. I know if I ask one child to do the dishwasher it will be done with no fuss quickly and efficiently. If I ask another, there could be moaning, complaints, and out-and-out protests that they do a rubbish job. So it’s easier to ask the one who’s jumping up and down with their hand in the air rather than the one who’s sitting at the back and looking at the exit sign, totally disengaged.

In school, they have found ways of combatting this by making job charts. Every child has a job.  Another idea I’ve seen is where lolly sticks are labelled with every child’s name. Instead of getting pupils to raise their hands, the teacher picks from the jar.  One by one, the lolly sticks get moved to an empty jar. This ensures everyone is asked and everyone gets to participate.

The more we are asked to be involved in an activity, the more we feel valued and the more we do; the more we feel a sense of ownership and the more we invest in it.  But when we’re not asked, we can feel like our contribution is not valid or we have nothing to offer. Even though we believed in the activity, we can soon slip away and do less, and engage less.  Putting out a general request for volunteers is just like the primary teacher asking for the correct answer. Only the confident will apply.

Recently, I was doing an event and I said to one of the other leaders, “I want to use other people who are on the edges and people we don’t usually use.” I wanted to get them connected in. I wanted people on the edge of church to engage or re-engage. This is far harder than choosing the person with his/her hand up.

How many people do you know who were once involved in church but have stepped back for a number of reasons? Hurt, pain, rejection busyness… to name but a few.  How can we love these people back to God and back to the church? I’ve come up with three things I think will help us be more aware of The Other.

  1. Seeing and noticing – Who is leaving early, arriving late? Who is more negative and critical?
  2. Acknowledging and caring  – Give time to listen to their journey and understand their position.
  3. Investing and inviting  – Draw them back mentally and physically by taking the time for a meal or coffee together.

Did you read our last article? Rachel challenged us to stop being a professional cynic and have hope. Believe things will change.  I’ve been challenged so much over the last couple of months to look for the lost at home 🏠.  Let’s not get drawn into critical thinking, let’s not give up on people who feel like giving up.  We can draw them in and build new leaders and teams.

I’m all for new ventures, but let’s rediscover old friends and bring them along too.

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