Struggling to come up with a practical way to love people? Use these thought-starters to fire up your imagination.
Struggling to come up with an idea?
Maybe your imagination is limited by your experience.
If so, don’t be constrained by the walled garden of what you know. Break out and explore the possibilities beyond.
- The ideas, dreams and longings of the people round you
- What works well outside the church
- What other Christians have done.
And don’t just imitate one idea. Mix the ideas up and open the door to a whole new world.
A place to meet
Often people long to hang out – to meet other families, get to know their neighbours, make friends or chat longer with workmates.
Why not respond to that need?
For example, a young adult made soup and invited the neighbours to connect.
A couple hosted a monthly community breakfast in their home for people in nearby streets.
Parents formed Thirst by meeting weekly in the school staff room for coffee, croissants, laughter, and chat.
A couple offered lemonade and cookies at the front of their home for latchkey kids after school.
Why not download Meetup or a similar app to hook up with people near you? (https://www.meetup.com/apps/)
Many new Christian communities are “third spaces.” The “first space” is home, the second is work and the third is a space where you relax with others.
Take your passion a step further
You could form a group round your interest or hobby, such as Knit and Natter among people knitting together.
New Christian communities have begun to emerge among walkers, card makers, felt makers and people using a gym.
If you go walking with friends, take a picnic or go out for a meal when you return. Eat together and get to know each other.
If you coach a sports team, you could team up with friends to provide food when the session is over.
Do you enjoy repairing bikes? Why not teach local teenagers to repair theirs and chat with them while doing so?
People on the edge of society
Saturday Gathering started among clients of a Saturday morning food bank. People eat together in the same venue on Saturday evenings, share their experiences and explore the Bible.
In West London, homeless people and others gather for Sunday afternoon tea and then sit round tables for worship.
Do you have a passion for vulnerable people, asylum seekers, unemployed young adults, or residents on a tough housing estate? Ask how you can support or add to existing initiatives among them.
Or might you share a skill or interest – perhaps teach photography to unemployed teenagers? Or run a language cafe? Recent migrants could practice their English over afternoon tea.
Social and environmental justice
Are you passionate about global poverty, modern slavery or climate change?
If so, why not use social media to find others who are too? Arrange a get together to share ideas, plan some action, and explore spirituality to resource the group.
Just Church began with people writing letters on behalf of Amnesty International. These letters were their enacted prayers.
One person gathered a group of men to clean up and improve the neighbourhood. They met in the pub afterwards and discussed how to “improve” as fathers, partners, and at work.
Something at work
Communities are emerging among patients of a medical practice (Google “Coffee in the Living Room Christ Church Bayston Hill”), children at school, and as “spirituality at work.”
Gather people into:
- A Christian meditation group during the lunch hour
- A community choir
- A film club (watch a film one week, discuss it over a drink the next)
- A CPD group to discuss articles relevant to your professional development (and count it toward your points!).
If you own a business, might you offer a voluntary course on Christian mindfulness to your staff in company time?
Give away free cakes in your neighbourhood, as mentioned in the animated video in 7. Starting.
When asked why you do this, reply: “If you want to know, come to our planning meetings. We eat cake, drink wine, have fun and explore spirituality.”
Anyone can do this, whatever their tradition and however little they think they know about the Christian faith!
An existing initiative or project
Maybe you’re involved in a Christian outreach project.
No need to think up something new. You are already engaged in practical love.
Maybe the idea you need is how to introduce an opportunity for people to explore Jesus.
- A luncheon club, bereavement group or drop-in centre might invite guests to a short spiritual reflection immediately beforehand or afterwards.
- A Christian leader of a uniformed organisation might invite those who attend to a separate “pizza and share” event. Following Laura’s example in 1. Love/Guide, young people would share what was going on for each of them and someone would pray after each person had shared.
- A church-run coffee shop might invite customers to a weekly discussion evening on a news topic with a spiritual angle.
Study the units in the Share Jesus part of the app and ask what ideas might be relevant to your initiative.
Caution. Remember: you can’t impose your Christian agenda if the group is meeting for a different purpose. But you may be able to do something alongside the group. Only introduce something into the main meeting if you have the group’s permission.
Still can’t think of something?
Why not gather some people, have a drink and ask them, “What needs improving round here?”
Don’t come up with ideas for the people you know. Generate ideas with them!
Struggling to come up with an idea? Nick describes where ideas come from.
Jonathan shares ideas to help you break out of the walled garden of what you know.
Prayerfully read Matthew 25.31-46 (Jesus identifies himself with the weakest and most vulnerable).
Who are the weakest among the people you are seeking to serve – whether at work, in your network, in your apartment block, or those who share your passion?
For you, what would be the equivalent of feeding them, inviting them in, clothing them, looking after them, and coming to them in their own particular “prisons”?
What weaknesses might you share with them so that they can help you?
Choose one or more of the following:
1. If you are not sure what form of “loving” to try, consult the Guide.
- What ideas are sparked by re-reading the Guide?
- Which one(s) might work best in your situation?
- Who might you discuss the idea with outside your team/core group?
- One of those you are called to serve?
- Others with experience of your context?
- Someone with experience of new Christian communities?
- Someone who has worked with a similar demographic group.
- Those who are praying for you? (Have you asked others to provide prayer support?)
- A trusted Christian friend or leader?
- Your mentor/coach? (Might you find a mentor/coach?)
- From people on the fresh expressions-stories app (from Apple or Google Play)? Why not post a question?
2. Imagine that while you are asleep a miracle happens and your wildest dream for your context is fulfilled.
- Who would be first to notice?
- What would they see, hear, and feel that would tell them that the miracle had happened?
- If 10 represents the day after the miracle and 1 is the furthest away from the miracle you could be, where would you rate things now?
- If you put the number one point higher up the scale, what would be happening differently?
- What’s happening now that would help you move to that point?
3. Stuck for an idea? Don’t be discouraged! Wait patiently for the Spirit, and use events in your everyday life to trigger ideas. For example:
- Imagine your team/core group envisages an initiative among teenagers. Later you are on a bus. “What if we used a bus to reach young people?” you might think.
- Then you go out for a meal. “What if we held curry evenings for teenagers?”
- You return home and find the family watching football. “What if we start a soccer team?”
- The next day you enter the office. “What if we developed work experience opportunities?”
Might your team/core group prayerfully do something like this?
People could bring their favourite “What ifs?” to the next meeting and pool their ideas.
As you sift ideas, make a list of ‘Why nots?’ and ‘What’s good?’ (“’Why not this idea?” “What’s good about it?”)
Then ask what themes emerge from these lists. Do these themes begin to clarify what you are looking for?
Try repeating the process over several meetings.
4. Post a question on the fresh expressions-stories app (download it from Apple or from Google Play) and discuss the replies. For example, “We’re thinking of starting a new Christian community among (teenagers, at work or whatever). Any ideas for what works?”
When you begin to love others:
- Will you ask them for their feedback, so that you can improve what you do? How keen are you to learn from those you lovingly serve?
- Will you encourage people to volunteer to help? Or will you go further and invite some of them to help lead the initiative?
How far will this be your project and how far will it be theirs? Where will power lie?
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are used here with permission from fxresourcing.