More Like a Park, Less Like a Lecture Hall

I took my daughter to the park across the street from our house yesterday to play. She’s been cooped up to machines all week long (emergency rooms, doctors, treatments), so she needed to run wild and spin around on what one good friend called The Vomiting Machine (T)*.

And while she was running and sharing spins and slides and climbs with new friends, I was busy thinking about how church is performed and why and how cold and callous and sterile it can be. And then I tweeted this:

Church needs to be more like a playground/park, and less like a lecture hall.

Churches tend to be places where we come and sit down and listen. Where knowledge is imbued upon us. Where we study textual revealed knowledge with our ears and eyes. And being a life-long lover of all things scholarly, this is something that I actually kind of enjoy. But it may not be the best.
What if, though, church were more like parks? What if church were more like a place:
to play, to discover, to run
to meet new friends and introduce new friends to old friends and be introduced to new-old friends
to wonder and breathe in nature
to hear children laugh and scream and know that life is happening
to be filled with awe
to picnic
to scratch from the mosquitoes and pests
where all the goodies of experience are accessible to all
to sit and reflect
to lean against and climb trees
to try to figure out how sharing works
to learn, as my daughter did, to walk
to get sprayed, doused, soaked, fish in, be refreshed, swim in the water
to bench
to commune
to count the bugs and fauna
to breathe deep
to hug and kiss like lovers and brothers and sisters do
to scrape, bruise, bleed
to jog and chat
to meditate
to center
to find God among terrible, wonderful, wonderous creation like children do
Park benches in Central Parkphoto © 2008 David Joyce | more info (via: Wylio)
In what ways can your church be like a park?
*The Facebook status that introduced that term must have gotten some mileage. As we went to the carnival with a group of friends and they were all asking which of the rides is The Puking One. Alas, it is not a roller coaster, but a simple stand-up merry-go-round for one or two (but sometimes four) kids (sometimes teens or adventurous parents feeling adventurous).

4 thoughts on “More Like a Park, Less Like a Lecture Hall

  1. OMG, I literally spent the entirety of last service contemplating this same thing. Honestly, my attention span can't sit still, stare straight ahead and capture information for any longer that 20 minutes at a time, regardless of the content. Plus, I feel like I don't really contribute on Sunday mornings. I mean, seriously, why go when I'm not capturing the message, not interacting meaningfully with the saints, and not bringing anything to the table. If it weren't for Hebs 10:24, I'd totally sleep in til noon on Sundays.#1) Instead of having auditorium style chairs (block formation, all facing forward) we should have a series of semi-circles with the openings facing forward. #2) Instead of having someone talk at the crowd for 45-60 minutes straight, the preaching should be punctuated by opportunities for the small groups to reflect/share/process/learn together within their semi-circles. #3) Instead of the final altar call for prayer, a closing time of prayer should take place within the semi-circle, and any specific prayer requests should be prayed for in that context as well.I have a thousand more thoughts on this to add as well, but I need to call it a night for now.

  2. This is something that has been on my mind for quite some time now. The church isn't supposed to be a building where people go once a week to listen to a guy read one verse of scripture then talk for 45 minutes about how that scripture effects them. The church is supposed to be a community of people who love God and grow together in that love. The first churches didn't meet once a week to hear someone talk about a passage in Romans because that's what they were supposed to do. They met as much as they could (sometimes it was a month or more before they could)and had dinner as a group and laughed and loved one another and debated scripture, because they had an overwhelming desire to. One of the main problems with Christians, in my opinion, is a lack of devotion to their faith. I think the biggest reason for this is the fact that the way church is done as a whole is to focus on Sunday and hope the rest of the work gets done somehow or, in many churches' cases, by someone else. This isn't what Jesus called us to do and in fact is what Paul was preaching about in Ephesians. We have to stop doing church and preaching the gospel and start being a church and living the gospel.**steps down from soap box**

  3. Interesting. I'm currently in between churches and as I sat in one for my second visit, I couldn't help but think that I'm bored with church. Not to be insensitive to those who are excited about the work that they do, but it's hard for me to get excited about things that seem new to people that I've been talking about for years. I guess I'm just hurt and jaded by my last church experience. But it was refreshing after the service to sit out in the church's courtyard and enjoy a conversation with the pastor and a few members about the previous week's sermon and to reflect on the scripture and what it means for our lives. It was a beautiful morning, not too hot yet and just nice to be in a setting where I could reflect on scripture with others and share honestly without fear of being pegged. I think my next venture may be something more akin to this group setting than a traditional church. I guess what I want more than ever and need is a supportive group of people with whom I can talk and share and be nurtured and loved. In fact, as I type this I'm crying because I just received a call from the superintendent from my last church who left a very warm and sincere message on my voice mail. Why can't we all be more like that? Well, I already know the answer. We're fallen human beings who wait until someone is hurt and leaves our midst before we express how much we love and care for them. But isn't that what we're supposed to do WHEN we're in community??

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