So we were throwing out tradition and convention. We had no formal service structure, liturgy or format that we wanted to adhere to. But what would it actually look like each week? We could go with the flow and see how the Holy Spirit, and each different team member, would take it? But that is actually quite difficult, and although none of us wanted a tight structure, we did want some consistency and a range of a programme, within which people could ‘trust’ that if they liked it one week, it would be roughly similar the week after and that they could safely invite their friends.
A rough format began to emerge with a time frame and elements that would be included each week.
Start time- cake and free filter coffee and tea served from four pm.
A count down on the screens begins at 4.10. The first song by our live band starts playing at 4.15.
A welcome by the leader, with a personal intro, after that and a quick introduction of what to expect. No notices for the team members, just stuff that might be helpful if it is your first time.
Then a media clip that ties in with the theme, or an interview with a local person, skater or supporter. Then perhaps a chance to discuss an interesting question informally for two or three minutes before handing back to the band. Around about half past four the kids are invited to leave the cafe and head off to the ramps with the three leaders for their own activities (more about that next week).
The speaker then shares a short talk- about ten to fifteen minutes. Not really a sermon, and more than an inspirational life coaching session, with a mention of Bible verses or a character and most likely a reference or conclusion that points to Jesus. The ten different team members all take a slightly different approach. One tends to use more news items and refer to contemporary culture or political issues. Another likes to introduce a Bible verse or character with careful and inclusive language. A third likes to use lots of multi media clips and youtube. A fourth prefers a story telling approach. A couple of folk like to break the talk up into two segments and have a discussion time in the middle. Three team members like to introduce and finish up with intriguing questions and thought provoking discussion starters. Each brings their own unique style to the basic formula and the spectrum from a formal expositional sermon to a contemporary chat show has variety and interest but stays within a pendulum that is always interesting and can be trusted.
After the talk, there is a news segment- usually introduced by a teenager, with three or four stories from the current week. Subjects that are topical, interesting, not particularly political and delivered without a bias or necessarily a call to prayer. Often there is something of international interest, then national, then local and somehow it evolved that the last story usually included a cuddly animal!
Questions were invited by text throughout and a mobile phone with its own number was handed around the team, as the number is displayed on the screens overhead. Each week there are two or three questions that are answered at the end. Quite often these questions are texted in by a team member ,but the interest and confidence of the visitors and new comers are growing, with more of their own questions appearing recently . The question will often clarify or deepen something that has been brought up in the talk, and gives the speaker and leader a chance to summarise an important issue.
We try to finish by five pm and then hand out hot pizza and more cake. The discussion, eating, skating and connecting then continues for an hour afterwards.