Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Advice needed: focus of newcomers' course

St Barnabas' Anglican Church, Broadway (a.k.a. Barneys) in Sydney is where Jessica and I were members for over six years after getting married. I served as a catechist for four years while studying at MTC. One of my good friends in my year at college, Michael Paget, has recently been appointed the new Barneys rector, an exciting piece of news I neglected to mention a few weeks ago (mainly because most of those interested would already know about this from other sources). Michael has asked me to post this question and he'd love to hear any feedback in the comments.
"St Barnabas' Broadway in Sydney is an urban church with a substantial body of uni students. Every year we know the ebb and flow of semesters. On the one hand, this makes things far more simple: our mission field is clearly visible. On the other, it means there are certain seasons when we have a rush of visitors to integrate into the life of the community.

"We've decided to once again run a short course/community group at various times, in order to introduce newcomers to our identity, passions and purpose. For various reasons, 5 weeks seems an appropriate length. So here's a shout-out to all our friends (and any interested strangers) out there: what would/do you do with 5 weeks of membership or partnership course? What topics would you cover? And, most of all, why?"


Mike Baines said...

Jesus' Mission (Gospel + Church Vision)
Jesus' God (Core non-negotiable theology)
Jesus' Disciples (Cross-bearing living)
Jesus' Community (Membership expectations)
Jesus' World (Society, politics, environment, entertainment etc.)

Glad for this discussion opportunity, because I may have to come up with something similar next year. This is just a brainstorm - I'd love for it to be critiqued, and I'd love to hear other ideas.

Mike W said...

Great list Mike!

I might include some stuff that is more unique to Barneys itself. And given the high turnover, encouraging the newcomers that they ARE the church. Though that might be squeezing out no5.
integrated into this I would like to see it as a two way street, not just for the newbies to get to know Barnies, but for Barnies to get to know its newest members a bit (and for them to know each other)

Mike Baines said...

Thanks dude,

Cf. telling newcomers that they ARE the church, I'd incorporate that in 'Community'. Cf. '2 way street', I'd have that as a paradigm for how the whole program is run (i.e. not just lectures, but dinner too).

A friend today suggested an alternative - a 5 week foundational doctrine course (e.g. 2 ways to live, 1 box at a time). The emphasis would be not only (a) explaining beliefs, but also (b) showing newcomers how to explain and model their beliefs to others.

I still like mine better, but it's good to consider multiple alternatives, I think.

byron smith said...

Some good ideas here, keep them coming!

Perhaps it would be possible to include Mike W's thought on Barneys-specific content within each week along lines similar to how Mike B has suggested. That is, when discussing each topic, it could be applied to show how Barneys lives out that aspect and where the newcomers can join in the service of God and neighbour at and with Barneys in that area.

St Barnabas Broadway (Barneys) said...

As the Michael Paget in question, I thought I'd chip in with some of my own initial thoughts, to be pulled and tugged into shape.

Our plan is to invite all newcomers to a weekly (Feb-Amr & Aug) or monthly (rest of the year) lunch at my house. We'd welcome them and give a very brief overview of who we are in the light of Jesus. Then we would invite them to do one of two things:

1) Join a small community working its way through Simply Christianity for 5 weeks, if they aren't certain of the gospel and what to know more about Jesus; or if they are Christian:

2) Encourage them to find out whether Barneys is the local church with whom they should partner through a 5 week partnership course.

Obviously, our hope is that (1) will in God's timing lead to (2). The partnership course I was thinking of in draft form might look like:

Week 1: The gospel (life to the dead) - creation, fall, promise, cross, resurrection, recreation, salvation etc.
Week 2: The church (life in common) - the church as object and means of God's love, saved into community, edification, gifts of the Holy Spirit, authority of Word, Anglican and Barneys distinctives
Week 3: The mission (life overflowing in the city) - mission (local, global), serving and caring the city, training and sending, the nature of cities & inner Sydney
Week 4: The Christian life - living in grace, sanctification, spiritual disciplines and growth, mutual exhortation and accountability
Week 5: The partnership (life in partnership) - prayer, perseverance, pastoral care, stewardship of time, love, gifts, wealth, world, the nature of making commitments

You'll notice that I've put mission after church because of my fundamental position that our (as opposed to God's) mission depends on church, not the other way around. Mission belongs to God's people; God's people don't band together in order to create a missional org called church. Over-simplified, I know, but you get the drift.


Mike Baines said...

Hi Mike P, welcome to club Mike (Byron can be an honorary Mike if he wants),

I think your (1) --> (2) plan is cool. Your course outline too, although I'm wondering if (and this isn't a strong opinion) 5 & 2 are too close to be separated (i.e. why isn't 5 just the application of 2)?

Also, for what it's worth, I think it would be worth using an integrating theme (e.g. my Jesus' xyz stuff). Yours could be like:

1. Jesus' Achievement
2. Jesus' Body


Let us know what you go with - I'm subscribed to the comments for this post because I'm really interested in this topic.

byron smith said...

I think it would be worth using an integrating theme
Looks like Mike P already has an integrating theme of "life" (although I did like yours - hard to go wrong when the answer is "Jesus"!)

byron smith said...

I've been granted numerous honorary statuses before, but have never before entered the lofty rank of Mike-dom...

Mike Baines said...

Oh wow you're right Byron - sorry about that Mike P, I guess my head somehow relegated the stuff in brackets to secondary status.