What Would Google Do

The Distributed Church: What Would Google Do?

I snagged a free copy of Jeff Jarvis’s “What Would Google Do?” at the Theology After Google event earlier this week. I want to interact with some of the main ideas in the book and extend them into church life and practice.

One of the major things that Jarvis praises about Google is its distribution. Google makes 1/3 of it’s revenue from sources completely away from Google.com. The company puts itself in the middle of lots of other networks and lets its users to its work for it. That’s by way of contrast to the AOL’s and Yahoo’s of the media landscape who still spend lots of advertising dollars trying to persuade consumers to come to them, to their sites and their products. Google just goes to them.

So church isn’t a business (let that be the last time I say that). But Jarvis quite consciously includes “religious organizations” alongside businesses, schools, and other cultural entities that should take a cue from the red-green-yellow-and blue. What does Google-style distribution look like in churches?

For starters, if we’re looking for it in churches, we won’t find it. That’s the point: distribution is away from whatever is doing the distributing.Β  So how about this: the parent of a middle school youth tells the Youth Pastor that his daughter has said she “never wants to go back” to the youth group. The last time she came she brought some friends to an advertised “game night,” carrying her own board games with her. Only, game night turned out to be physical running/tagging/throwing games, and she and her friends just aren’t into that sort of thing. She was embarrassed.

If the Youth Pastor is like Yahoo, he will hone his publicity of events and make sure that future game nights include both athletic and non-athletic games. Those are important changes to make.

Only, if the Youth Pastor is at all like Google, he’ll also want to know about this middle schooler and her community of friends. He’ll ask how he and the church can participate in that community. Perhaps he reaches out to this student and asks her to organize her own kind of game night with her friends (and their friends . . . ).

There’s a whole host of objections that should be raised here: the middle schooler doesn’t need the church’s permission to play games with her friends. And youth pastors shouldn’t go nosing around kids’ social lives in order to influence them to come to “regular” church youth events.

But Jarvis’s whole point is that communities are already out there doing what they want to do. Google has invested itself not in influencing those communities to come to Google, but in going to those communities itself.

Surface, you have been scratched.


27 thoughts on “The Distributed Church: What Would Google Do?

  1. Pingback: WWGD? (Part II) « YoRocko!

  2. I just read about a woman with a jewelry business. Instead of buying advertising, she contacts people within her social media networks and offers to give them a piece of jewelry if they will write up a review, post it to their network and provide a link to her site.

    In April, the United Church of Christ is “spiralling” a new “television” ad by making it available on the web and encouraging all UCC members to post links to the ad on their facebook pages, in email messages to their contact list, in tweets etc. They expect to have 2,000,000 viewers within the first 2 hours of its release. For free.

    I think this is all coming together for me. I think I knew this instinctively anyway, but now its all kind of congealing. This “distributed” business model is organic and natural. Its the way humans work. And I think that’s why its so successful.

    What does it look like for the church? Well, if Jarvis used the three layered analogy – bottom level is the “platform”, second level is innovation, and the top level is networks of people that organize around the innovation, perhaps that’s a way to get at it.

    Maybe we could say the “platform” level for the church is our mission. Lets say a church sees itself as a platform for combating poverty, or racism or whatever. Innovation – the second tier – takes place when those in the church create things that do that. The “platform” has to enable that, so the “code” of the platform needs to encourage bottom up, creative freedom, but the innovation doesn’t come from the platform itself, but from a members response to and use of the platform. What gets created, then, interacts with the community and becomes an organizing force around, first the innovation, but secondly, the platform.

    So an example. Lets say a church wants to be a church that tends to the needs of youth. That church enables its members to create “ministries” that tend to the needs of the youth in some way. One of its members decides – upon seeing teams of teens skateboarding on church property – to build a halfpipe for them to skate on. The “platform” enables it, supports it and nurtures it. The “innovation” reaches out to an existing community and becomes an organizing force for them and creates a more cohesive network (the third layer).

    And I think each “innovation” needs to be a fractal of the platform. The “skateboarding ministry” needs to also have “meeting the needs of youth” as its platform and also encourages and equips for innovation. So perhaps one of those youth decide that the way they wan to “meet the needs of youth in the community” is to use the halfpipe for a competition to raise money for the local family shelter so they can buy clothes for their teen clients. Then a network forms around that…

    If you mapped that out on paper, it would look like an expanding web of connections, with the original platform at the center. And I think you have just described church growth.

    Of course, we will need to rethink what membership looks like in that model. The youth that skate on the halfpipe might not ever attend worship, but if they are engaged in ministry (raising funds for a homeless shelter in the name of the church qualifies as ministry, doesn’t it?) – hell, they might be more engaged in ministry than some who have been faithfully coming to church for 40 years.

    We will also have to rethink how we do finances. How does the church get the necessary funds for operations in this model? I think the answer to those two questions relate to how we organize the “fractals”, making sure they stay firmly connected with the identity of the church even if we don’t expect them to drink the kool aid or show up on Sunday morning.

    Thinking out loud, but I think I’m going to experiment some more with this…now about flash worship…

    • Of course, there are also some radical implications for what the role of ordained clergy is in this model. We will have to cease to function as “conservators” and become more willing to invest in what is working and let what isn’t working die. Some of us will be able to do that, some of us won’t. Some congregations will let us, some won’t. I suspect, though, that the ones who won’t or don’t will be closed churches and in different careers by the end of this decade.

    • Jonathan, you hit on something I’ve been hesitant about: if the church is conceived of as a platform that enables communities to do what they want to, how do we protect the church’s ability to critique that thing? The church doesn’t want to give a platform to hate groups, for example. Plus, the church can’t just meet the needs of people and their communities; the gospel gives us some sense of what humanity needs, no? Grace? Communion?

      • Actually, I think one of the questioners during Jarvis’ talk raised this issue. It was the guy who critiqued Google’s data mining practices by asking whether the church should mine our members for information in the same way. Jarvis responded by citing Google’s “don’t be evil” motto, noting that if big banks or Wall Street investment firms had that kind of motto, perhaps the economy wouldn’t be in the shape its in.

        So, for the church, we have similar “marching orders”. The Great Commandment, perhaps? Love God, neighbor, self. The golden rule? That’s part of the “code” of a Christian “platform.”

        So the church “platform” functions like facebook, lets say, that prevents certain kinds of communication while trying to enable other kinds. Some apps get taken down because they violate TOS. So in the “distributed church” model, a member trying to innovate on the second tier would be constrained from creating certain kinds of things based on the platforms “code”.

        And, of course, the platform is going to be different at different churches. At our kind of churches, the platform wouldn’t allow hate groups to form on that second tier. The “code” wouldn’t allow it. At some, unfortunately, the code would actually encouraage it. Which argues for careful code writing – and, like facebook – probably constant vigilance and reformation as problems arise.

        Which also brings up something else Jarvis talked about – that “culture of perfectionism”. In this distributed model, we have to let go of that. We have to take the risk that someone is going to try to innovate something at that second level that is NOT where we want to be going and to have ways to re-direct them. ’cause what gets innovated at the second level is what people get organized around at the third level.

        I don’t see this so much as giving people what they need. I see “distributed church” as a delivery mechanism rather than a research tool. We don’t “go out and find people” and then tailor our programs around what they say they want. We go out and see what people are doing and bring what we have to them.

        So, like in my example, the purpose of building the halfpipe for those kids isn’t so they can skate, its so we can nurture that community of kids that’s already there – and influence it in a way that as it gets more cohesive and organized it reflects the value system of the “platform” rather than some other platform (drugs, graffiti, gangs, what have you).

        When that community is organized in that way, it is actually the church, not something the church might be called on to critique. Or, if it is, its a moment of reformation within the church rather than a critique of something outside the church.

        Maybe. πŸ™‚

      • You have to trust the community, right? This is another thing Jarvis says about the Google ethic, that when you trust your community of users and relinquish control of your product, you win. Trying to control the content doesn’t help anybody. That’s some scary stuff for church folk. Even if we see polity as a content delivery mechanism, we still feel an ultimate responsibility to protect the content. This is where the Google analogy runs aground, because Google doesn’t have a “message” or a “canon” or a “tradition” to which it owes some measure of fidelity. Google only has market share to gobble up in the service of shareholders.

      • I liked how he pointed out that when you open things up like this, some “bozo” is going to say something you would rather not be said. Someone is going to innovate something stupid. Its inevitable. (It might even be me!) I think the solution to the anxiety this creates (apart from just having the personality for it) is cutting away everything that isn’t essential. The church has way too much stuff in the “essential” column. I would say that worship styles are not essential. Hymnody is not essential. Confessions aren’t essential (with apologies to Westminster). Specific types of church programming (Sunday school, bible study) are not essential. What is? Well, what is the Good News? Its not the New Century Hymnal or TULIP.

        I think if we cut away all accretions that have gotten lumped into the “essential” category, the “content” we need to distribute and organize networks around is really simple. God loves you.

        All the rest of our “content” (baggage?) can be communicated later when the network exists. I suspect, however, that our concern for all that will melt away in the glow of the community we find ourselves immersed in.

      • Re: trusting in community/”bozo” statements, I think that the western followers of Jesus also struggle in trusting the Holy Spirit. There’s been an extreme overemphasis in being sure we “believe rightly” and not enough allowance for the Spirit to guide the body of Christ. Perhaps we’ve become so myopic that we really believe that unless we stand guard over “the word”, that someone will go rogue and screw up the story and truth of God. Perhaps all our efforts have really been more part of the problem than the solution in the safe keeping God’s integrity or truth (however one defines that!).

        Also, I think you’re onto something jonathonedwards, in the bit about being sensitive or responsive to our host community. If a twelve year old comes to a game night with the wrong equipment from an ill-informed structure, we can’t go pursuing she and her friends with abandon.

        However, I think that my behavior around this as an individual is less significant and been far too long the focus of these dilemmas. What if we began with the posture “our calling”, vis a vis the local body of Jesus, instead of “my calling”? Although we are a group of individuals pursuing faithfulness, perhaps we have spent far too long aggregating and discussing as a group of individuals what our individual mission/s actually is.

        What if our response was something along the lines of “we see a great need to be connected to- and to love the young people of our community. I know Big Brothers/Big Sisters is struggling to find mentors, and that the after school program needs tutors.” The church could invest itself, per those with the gifts that meet the surface and identified needs, by mentoring and tutoring kids. As the church continues to love folks in that context, the community begins to see that this group of Jesus-folk truly invested in the broken places and loving those outside themselves. Questions get asked, meals are shared, people from church and community become connected to one another because they love each other, not because they are part of an outreach program (that standard platform of centralized distribution we’re so accustomed to). In this way we must trust in the Holy Spirit while risking, and the community of those around us to know their gifts and wirings while they offer them in the focused effort of communal mission. As the effort grows to include more unique meetings of needs as they become apparent from the host community, gifts not needed at first become more significant. That’s been my experience any way…

      • Brian, that description of what might be vis-a-vis the Boys and Girls Club is really wonderful. It’s akin to something Jarvis said in the Skype talk at TAG. Someone asked what advice he’d give to a dying church, and he said, “Just go out and start serving the needs of the community and see what happens” (paraphrase).
        Here’s a trick, though. Our church hosts a mentoring non-profit three days a week, and some church members are volunteers. Recently, people in worship were asked to write down things they felt the church ought to be doing, and more than a few people said, “mentoring young people.” somehow, even as the work is being done and a collaboration is happening, folks aren’t aware of it.
        What do we do with that?
        You guys are awesome, by the way.

      • I like the description you give, Brian. I really think that’s “how it works”. This is what I have been “preaching” since before my ordination. Bring people together (or go to where they are already together) and just be in relationship with them and through attraction they become a part of the church.

        I would say that the “what are we called to” is what should be taking place at the “platform” level. The platform/church is encoded with that question. What are we for? Then individuals innovate using the platform which is encoded with the “we”. But the question always has to include a “what should I do?” component. We’re not cylons. πŸ™‚ That’s what the innovation level is, in my mind. Where the “we” of the platform interacts with the “I” of the user to create something new around which to build a network.

        And I totally agree vis a vis the west’s mistrust of the Holy Spirit in favor of systems of control and regulation. I think that’s a huge part of why the church in the west is flagging (to put it mildly). We have closed the tap and stopped the water from flowing. I’m hoping that the pipes burst. Soon.

        With regards to the members of the church not knowing what’s going on in other parts of the church I have two responses. I think, first, that there are a whole lot of folks with the label “member” who aren’t actually members. They’re essentially just observers. Those folks aren’t gonna know because they aren’t really engaged. The other part is related to that shift in clergy roles I mentioned. In this distributed model of church, the pastor needs to be functioning at the platform level, making sure that the innovators and their networks remain connected via the platform. So pastor’s have to preach and teach using stuff from all over the distributed church. Talk about the mentoring program, talk about the halfpipe, talk about the pet food bank. Use them as examples of gospel witness. Of course, to do that, the pastor has to actually be connected to the network, too. And in some cases that I know of, that might actually be a problem.

        Yeah. This is fun. Now. I wonder if I can just use my last few posts as my sermon…

      • Ah, hell. That last post was intended as reply to Jonathon’s last one. Sorry ’bout that.
        But since I’m writing again, let me add a big ‘amen’ to the “there are a whole lot of folks with the label ‘member’ who aren’t actually members” idea. They are indeed essentially “just observers.”

        And I know I’m the 42billionth person to say this, but on those days that it seems like an observer is all most folks want to be, I want to say screw it, I’ll find a way to work only with the 12-17% who really want to be transformed for the purpose of transforming the world into the justice-filled place God intends.

      • Dave, I hear ya. And what I want to say is: that’s exactly what you should do. If the 12-17% of the congregation who are actually members, engaging in ministry, get all your attention and they grow and are equipped for ministry and start doing things that help the church grow, they will be a powerful witness to the benchwarmers and that might actually turn some of them into actual members. Or it might drive them out or the church, a refiner’s fire kinda phenomenon. ‘course that means you have to be prepared for the possibility that someone’s gonna get mad at you….but are we managing successful careers or are we answering God’s call to lead the church? That probably takes us away from this thread, so I’ll leave that alone here. Maybe that’s what I’ll write about over at my place. πŸ™‚

      • Ahh, but here’s another thing that WWGD brings to light about networks: not everyone has to contribute to make it work. In Wikipedia’s case (and I don’t have the numbers at my right hand), it’s a very small number of participants who do the lion’s share of the contributing and, especially, editing. That’s not a slight on the rest who are just observers; that’s just how networks operate. We’ve known for a long time about the 80/20 rule: 80% of the work gets done by 20% of the people. We cite that usually as a complaint, but I’m starting to wonder if that’s just the nature of the thing.

      • Agreed. I think the transition required is in our thinking rather than any expectation that somehow the church will suddenly be filled with Spirit filled disciples. Some theologian noted, correctly I think, that the church is filled with functional atheists. Rather than expend a lot of energy trying to change them, increasingly I’m just going where the Spirit is and praying for where she isn’t. Really, isn’t “conversion” above our paygrade anyway? Not my job. That’s God’s job. I think my job is to equip, support and nurture the converted and proclaim the good news to anyone who’ll listen. If God wants them converted then she needs to get on it. It is his damn church, after all. πŸ™‚

      • So much to respond to…
        Rocky, I think you’re right about 80/20 rule simply being the nature of an organization. For sure the church as currently composed. But isn’t it ok – and maybe even part of our calling – to dream for it to be more and better than that? Or even to expect it to be more&better? What does it mean to belong to a community? I want it to mean that all participate, that 80/20 isn’t acceptable b/c it’s arrogant and rude. If I’m in the 80, isn’t that a way of saying to the 20, I want all the benefits of this community (e.g. good programs for my children & youth; clean worship space; lights/heat/ac; staff that shows up when I’m in hospital. Or my mom is. Or my friend who came to this church once 30 yrs ago is, or…) but I want YOU to work/pay for them?
        This really is the subject of current debate in my congregation.

        Jonathon, I’d love to truly just concentrate on my 12% in just the manner you suggest, hoping for the result just as you describe it. But I’m intuiting that we both know it just can’t happen that way. Though that 80 group may be mere observers, that doesn’t stop them from needing and expecting attention. E.g. an observer family with a sick child or dying spouse. Can’t just ignore them.
        And it now occurs to me that I may well be taking this too far OT…sorry.
        So let me try to bring it back on topic: if WWGD tells us not all need contribute to make it work, how is that different than what we’re already doing (80/20 again)? I feel like I’m missing something. Or does it help by circumventing the frustration of 80/20 by acknowledging that it just IS so stop fighting it?

        Finally, how do you know we’re not cylons, hmmmm? (All along the watchtower…)

      • No glowing backs during hanky panky…said the joker to the thief…

        I don’t really know how to describe this with any precision. This is where the “artist” language came from above. Pastoral ministry as an artistic endeavor. Of course, if a benchwarmer is in the hospital and wants a visit (I don’t assume they do), I will certainly visit. But every other hour of that day will be spent working on things that the engaged members are bringing forward. So my energy’s are 80/20 – the 20% who are engaged get 80% of my attention and focus.

        I don’t plan this our or track with a spreadsheet or anything. I just kinda “go where the energy is”. That may not change the 80/20 divide but it will mean that the 20% who are engaged (“innovating at second level”) have more support and resources and a better chance at success (creating networks around their innovation at the third level). If that happens, you may go from a church of 50 people with 10 engaged members to a church with 100 people with 20 engaged members – who now exist in a model of church capable of growth.

      • Diana Butler Bass has this bit about Traditions vs traditions. Traditions ( big “T”) are things like worship, Christian formation, and serving the poor. Little “t” traditions are how the big “T” Traditions get done by a particular church: Sunday school at 9:00; a contemporary and a traditional service; the Walk for the Hungry.

        Confusing Traditions with traditions keeps us stuck.

  3. Rocky, I’ve read over your post a couple of times to digest it and kick ’round my head. There is quite a tension, no?, as you mentioned in the metaphor that Jarvis leans on that includes the church among business institutions. Although you’ve made clear that the church is not a business (does Jarvis do the same? Haven’t read this book…), the analogy draws some hesitation and question for me. For instance, what is that the church is distributing? Further, is the church in a role of distribution at all? I’ve waffled back and forth between “this Google analogy could really help the church see itself differently in a more faithful ecclesiology”. Then I swing back and think “it’s the wrong question. The question should begin with the purpose of the church”.

    This is the question I struggled with at TAG, and continue to wonder about. The Google platform structure could have great value and much to offer, but is it the right starting point? Google may indeed be shaping our culture in profound ways, and we as followers of Jesus need to be aware of our context. We further need to embody our culture in our ecclesiological and communal structures.

    Perhaps my external processing (sorry about that!) comes to this: can we place the bride of Christ any and all of it’s manifestations, next to a business or Google analogy with any faithfulness? How does a communal life of breaking bread and drinking wine in the hope and work towards a of freedom of the oppressed, prisoner, poor, etc. compare with a product or distribution model? Are either of these faithful comparisons with the body of Christ?

    These are some of the tensions I have struggled with the church and some of the offerings at TAG…

    • Brian, thanks for reading and engaging. The things you’re struggling with are mighty, and the rest of us are fools if we don’t heed your concerns. I haven’t settled it all yet, but I have settled some things: first, the church distributes itself. That is, Jesus sent men and women out to be Jesus’ witnesses “in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1). Doing that means being embodied in a particular place, or rather in particular places, as followers find themselves situated. The church’s life is a distributed one by nature.

      Second, the church has always had to choose between available models of social organization after which to model itself. In the first decades of its life, the church patterned itself after the synagogue, and it has had to make a similar decision in every time and place; there is no “original” church structure model. Now, I’m fully aware that Google is a business. I have no illusions about the bias of a corporation: it exists to increase value for its shareholders. Full stop. It is in many ways an undesirable model for the church to emulate. But let’s not kid ourselves about the debt owed to an outdated business model in the structure of most mainline denominational churches. The national denomination is a replica of the mid 20th-century model of corporate bureaucracy, and our committee-populated churches owe most of their structure to the businessman’s civic organization. Looking to Google for an organizational model in the 21st century networked world isn’t a move from a faithful non-businesslike model to unholy corporate alliance.

      You’re dead on with this question, though. It occurred to me at TAG: was there a similar conference back in 1950 called “Theology after GE” or “Theology after Ford?” Are we not critical are the ways American churches took on the assumptions of businesses and civic organizations? The distinction is this: Jarvis is not saying, “Be like Google.” He’s using Google (and Facebook, and MySpace, and a whole host of other social media companies) to illustrate something about how people today are interacting with one another, with their communities, and with institutions.

      I hope you’ll continue to be a part of the conversation here about what this looks like.

  4. Rocky and Jonathon, I think this is a fascinating discussion. Now, admittedly, I’m not so well-versed in tech part so I have to read the whole “platform-innovation-network” part multiple times slowly and with my lips moving…but I love this image for the church!
    I just can’t quite conceive of how to begin to bring it to life. Whether it’s the game-playing girl or the skaters or the neighborhood boys who play stick ball in our church parking lot, when I envision asking them “how can the church participate in this” I see only blank stares back at me. And, worse, as you hint at in the original post, Rocky, I feel like creeper old guy b/c what right do I have to go “nosing around in their social lives?”
    It seems like I’d need to already have an answer to the “how can we participate” question for the conversation to go anywhere, but then am I just forcing my idea rather than seeking true dialogue and community with them…
    Then there’s the whole question about how to get a highly structured church to see itself in this new way…
    Anyway, you’ve given me a lot to think about, thanks!

    • Dave, this is precisely where I’m getting stuck too. What should I do with the game-playing girl? Ask if I can come play games with her friends? Uh, nope. Invite her to put on a board game night for her friends at the church? Maybe, but then that’s not distributed, since it asks them to come to the church. Maybe it means paying attention to things we haven’t been paying attention to. The game-playing girl has a community of friends, doing what it is they want to do. I’m confident that there are ways the church can help them do that, and that doing so will mediate the good news of the gospel to them and will bring the church closer to what God wants it to be. Maybe we just need to be on the lookout for those opportunities when they come along. Maybe we need to be in conversation with one another about them to help one another discern the good from the bad.

      • This is where discipline and freedom at the innovation level enters the picture, in my mind.

        The discipline I think that needs to take place at the innovation level is to resist the temptation to try to innovate something just because we see a “market”. The question isn’t “where can I sell stuff” but “what am I called to”. So, in the case of the game-playing little girl, even though I see a need, that’s not what I’m called to. So…nice idea, not going to happen, next idea.

        The freedom in innovation is that when that 12 year old girl who comes to your church every now and then with her parents says “I want to start a game night for my classmates and I want to use the church’s sound equipment and bingo machine” and she is encouraged and supported to do so.

        So, at the innovation level, one disciple (me) sees something that needs to get done but realizes that its not my calling. Another disciple sees something that needs to get done and it IS her calling and she’s allowed to go for it.

        Which gets us to the “willingness to fail” part of letting go of perfectionism. Right now, I find myself in the unexpected role of junior high boys club leader. And what the boys want to do is play rough. We tried movies. Didn’t work. Tried board games. Didn’t work. They want to play dodge ball in the church dining room and run laps around the sanctuary. So far it feels good, but at some point is this going to be a “fail”? Maybe. So the “innovation” is in the development stage. It might wind up on the shelf and it might wind up being a success. The boys are inviting their friends – a community that already exists, so “distributed” even though physically taking place at the church. Maybe what I will learn next is that what we ought to be doing is going to the bowling alley or skating rink twice a month. (I think I just had an idea!)

        So, as you would expect, there’s a lot of experimentation that needs to be going on at the innovation level. If the platform is “built” right, the content that will be distributed through innovations at the second level will create the kind of networks “we” want (ideally, that means what the “Holy Spirit” wants).

        Wants headache inducing for many people is that this implies a very sloppy, creative process more like creating a work of art than building a business. But if we’re the Body of Christ….and “in the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God”…and all things came into being through the Word…shouldn’t the church reflect the creative nature of God, the artist, not God, the manager?

  5. Gentlemen, I have to say, this is a seriously incredible discussion. All three of you are so insightful. (Brian, sorry I didn’t name you in my first comment, yours just hadn’t appeared yet when I was writing mine).
    My congregation has also really struggled with both ‘telling our story’ thing, including telling it to ourselves and with partnering with what’s already happening in our community. And the latter is really strange b/c we have all kinds of groups using our building, basically every day of the week, but we can’t seem to get beyond thinking of them as ‘renters’ rather than potential partners, meeting needs together.
    E.g. We have a Muslim group that meets in our Fellowship Hall each week to share a meal, prayers and a teaching time. What a great opportunity to learn from each other, for inter-faith dialogue, right? We just can’t seem to make it happen.

    Or, and I think this goes to the ‘T v. t’ thought, we’ve been doing an afterschool program for elementary school kids for 12 or 13 years. A hallmark has been that, for whatever reasons, the program has always consisted of about 50% from our church and 50% from the neighborhood. But the previous 2 years interest and attendance from both groups has waned dramatically. Yet we can’t seem to quit doing this and instead try filling needs at the nearby resource center which does afterschool programs everyday.

    Which, I guess, is another way of me saying I agree with you guys about the need to let the Spirit work in us as we “just be in relationship with them” and also how out of our control and scary that feels to most people. Maybe to pastors more so even than to parishioners.

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