Life is a gift!

Life is a gift.

The greatest gift you have ever been given is your life. Life is good, God made it to be good. Every breath we take and every day we live, is a gift from the creator of the universe. Who desires nothing more than to know us, to love us bless us and use us.

Life is a gift, but many of us are absorbed in our day to day existence and somewhere along the way forget that we have been blessed for a reason. Life is not only ours for the taking, but for the giving.

remi-walle-UOwvwZ9Dy6w-unsplashOur talents, our ideas, our resources, our time and our very hands and feet – God will use them all for His glory if we just give them to Him. We all have something to offer. Rich, poor, young, old, every one of us has something we can offer.

So why do Christians give away so little? What if our perspective changed a little? If we realise, or even remember, that we have been given the greatest gift ever. Life. And the bible tells us we’ve been given an ABUNDANT life.

“The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly”. John 10v10

Take a look around. What have you got that God hasn’t given you? Every heartbeat, every breath, every good and perfect gift comes from God. He is the ultimate giver. He literally gives us gifts we can’t comprehend. Think about this, there are more electrical impulses generated in one day by a single human brain cell than by all the telephones in the world.

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God gave us our senses, and good tasting food! Food didn’t have to taste good, it could have all tasted like Kale, but God wanted us to have good tasting food we will enjoy as a gift from Him.

Once we remember this then we begin to see everything around us as if it actually belongs to God. And we are free to give back to God, and why wouldn’t we when he has given us the very breath in our lungs?

God has always given to me knowing He would get little in return. He is a father who enjoys giving good gifts to his children. I’ve heard it say that it’s possible to give without loving, but you can never love without giving. And that is God’s example. For God so loved the world that he gave.

Like most people I’m often driven by what I don’t have, when I should be driven to seek the heart of God, because God’s heart is revealed in his generosity. Maybe our hearts are too.

tim-marshall-cAtzHUz7Z8g-unsplash.jpgWhat does your level of generosity say about your heart?

It’s time to change the world through lots of small acts of generosity.

By giving radically to others. By giving sacrificially to others, and even giving cheerfully to others. We can change the world.

Imagine if everyone chose to hold nothing back, to give freely of their time, their money and their talents. If we place everything in God’s hands, then He in turn will bless others, who will bless others, who will bless others. We could change the world by starting a ripple of generosity. We could flood the nations with God’s blessings that just keeps on going and spreading.

 

A Journey of Generosity

Life is a journey that is not meant to be travelled alone. A Journey of Generosity retreat reflects this shared journey. We find a comfortable setting and explore God’s Word, watch stories of other inspirational givers, enjoy meals together, and ask God’s Spirit to show us how to use the money that He’s entrusted to us.

A CONVERSATION WITH NEW FRIENDS
We don’t lecture, we discuss. We don’t fill out spreadsheets or financial plans; we work to discern God’s will. We strive to understand and offer wise support at the right times. We listen a lot as we learn together to think faithfully and biblically.

A SAFE ENVIRONMENT
Most people who want to talk about money are after something: your money. Where can people gather without fear to discuss how money shapes our hearts? Our gatherings happen in a place of trust. We are privately funded by a group of Christian givers. We will never ask you for money. We simply want to share the joy that we find in generosity in the hope that you will taste it too.

The retreat on 13th September has been postponed. Please check back here for details of future ‘Journey of Generosity’ events!

If you are interesting in attending a retreat as an individual, or hosting one for friends or your church, please do get in touch with Katie: katie.wilson@covcofe.org

Whole Life Worship

‘So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: take your everyday, ordinary life – your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life – and place it before God as an offering.’ – Romans 12:1 (The Message)

It’s Sunday morning.  Maybe we’ve struggled to drag ourselves out of bed after a late shift, arrived at church in a hurry and the minister is saying the words of welcome as we wonder whether we remembered to shut the bathroom window.  Maybe we’ve been up since 5am, entertaining a child that has developed an aversion to sleeping and we’ve just been waiting for the moment we can hand them to a friendly face at church and have Just.  One.  Moment.  Of.  Peace.  Or maybe we’re simply sat there, half distracted by the busyness of the rest of our lives, already thinking about the meeting we have tomorrow, the fact that we still need to get the dog booked into kennels next weekend and we can’t work out how to respond to that colleague who sent a snippy email last Wednesday and whom we’ve successfully avoided since then.

How do we worship from these places?  How do we bring our busy, messy, awkward lives as an offering to God that is authentic, heart-felt and invites him to meet us as we are?

The nature and purpose of worship is to bring “worth” to God.  To respond to his goodness and mercy from a place of gratitude, adoration and honesty.  It is a sacrificial offering of our time, talents, priorities and focus, in honour of the God who loves us.  Why do we worship?  Because the Bible tells us to.  Because we were created to.  Because if we don’t, then the rocks and mountains will cry out on our behalf.  Because God deserves it.

But God also knows us.  He knows when we’re coming to church slightly late and frustrated with the parking.  He knows when we’re praying with our eyes open to stop us nodding off in intercession (I speak from personal experience here…), he knows when we’re sat there in the church building but when our mind is in the office, the school, the Doctor’s surgery, the supermarket or the football stadium…  And God is available for worship in all of those places too.

The concept of “whole-life worship” is that we need to stop compartmentalising our lives into “holy” and “un-holy”, “sacred” and “profane”, “church” and “normal” life.  We need to learn to recognise all aspects of our lives as being part of God’s interaction with us and learn to worship him in the “gathered” fellowship of Sunday services and the “scattered” elements of our Monday – Saturday life.  He cares about those too.

By bringing in recognition of the dual nature of our lives as Christians to our Sunday services, we empower, equip, commission and disciple one another to be 24/7 followers of God.

How do we do it?

  • Maybe our words of welcome could reflect the events of the previous week in the church, community or country as a whole, drawing people from work and leisure in the outside world and into God’s presence.
  • Maybe our closing prayer or words of dismissal could more clearly commission people to live out lives of service and worship in the other 6 days of the week – making specific reference to the lives and experiences of our congregations.
  • Maybe the songs we sing could have a specific relevance to a current situation we are facing as a church, the images on the projected slides could be of our local community or the hymn introduced by a member of the congregation for whom it has a wider “whole life” significance.
  • Maybe we could invite a different person each week to share what they will be doing “This Time Tomorrow” and commit to praying for them (and others in similar situations) supporting them and celebrating the fact that God will be with them in that meeting/exam/hospital appointment/playgroup/interview/conversation.
  • Maybe we could have people offering thanksgiving for something specific that God has done that week (I have used Psalm 136: 1-4 as the starting point for this and had some wonderful spontaneous examples of God’s love at work in ordinary life, with the whole congregation responding “his love endures forever” after each one).
  • Maybe we could adapt our language so, instead of saying “we will now have a time of worship…”, as if what we were doing before was irrelevant, we recognise the “gathered” nature, with words like “as we meet together in God’s presence to bring our worship into his church today…” or “let’s continue our living worship of God by…(singing, reading, listening, receiving etc.…”)
  • Maybe we could acknowledge the fact that everyone is coming from different places, recognising the light and shade in our congregation’s livesFather God, as we gather today from our scattered lives, we bring joys and frustrations, hopes and disappointments, celebration and sadness and lay them all before you…”

We don’t need to make radical changes or upset the stalwarts on whom the church has been faithfully built.  We simply need to recognise that our Sunday worship should be a rekindling of our spirits and a re-commissioning to do what we should be doing in every aspect of our lives – living, loving, working and serving in Jesus’ name.

“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” – Colossians 3:17

If you would like to know more about this area of Whole Life Worship, why not book for the Whole Life Worship Training Day being held in Banbury on 5th October 2019 (I attended earlier this year and found it hugely inspiring!).

Details can be found at https://www.engageworship.org/events/whole-life-worship-saturday-banbury

Alternatively, you can search the resources and ideas at LICC for ideas: https://www.licc.org.uk/ourresources/

Called: Mission, Ministry & Me

We are all called by God.

Vocation, (from the Latin vocare meaning ‘to call’) is for all God’s people and is about working out who we are supposed to be and what we are supposed to be doing. We are called in many different ways and to many different things. Working out what this calling looks and feels like takes discernment and time. One of the ways in which you can explore this is through the Called: Mission, Ministry & Me’ events which create space to explore, wonder and listen to God.

On Saturday 15 June we will gather at The Hope Centre in Coventry for a day of teaching, discussion, reflection and prayer to seek together God’s call for us as part of the Body of Christ. There will be the opportunity to hear vocation stories from those in different roles in the Diocese, both lay and ordained, and to imagine how God might be inviting us, each with our own unique shape, to join in with God’s mission. Bookings are now open for this event; click here to find out more.

In order to make the events more accessible, these Called events will run in three different formats across the year:

  • One day conference format
    Next dates: Saturday 15 June 2019
  • Two day weekend retreat
    Next dates: Winter term (dates tbc)
  • Five week evening course

Next dates: March 2020

The new course ran for the first time in January this year. Here are some comments from those who attended:

“Extremely helpful to explore vocation options”

“It was an extremely well- thought out course. The pace was good and met the needs of a diverse group of people, all of whom were made to feel welcomed and valued. There was a clear structure, but scope for fluidity; the Holy Spirit was definitely at work.”

“Offered people the opportunity to hear from and talk to people who have been through this and are actively following their individual vocations”

“I realised that vocation is a lifetime journey not a specific end point to be striving for”

“It reminded me of the need to find time to just be with and listen to God. If I don’t stop and listen, it’s a lot harder to hear.”

If you are interested in attending or would like a conversation about how you can discover more about your part in God’s mission, go to the Vocation pages on the Diocese website or contact DDO & Vocations Adviser, The Rev’d Ellie Clack, on ellie.clack@covcofe.org or Serving Christ Learning Mentor, Jen Thornton, on jen.thornton@covcofe.org

How to fundraise for your church using Facebook

Facebook is fast becoming one of the most popular ways for charities to fundraise. Make sure your church is able to receive donations and for your supporters to run fundraising drives on your behalf. Unlike many online giving platforms, Facebook donate passes on 100% of the donations to the charity, there is no fee for using the service at all!

If your church doesn’t have a Facebook page already, it’s really quick and easy to set one up. You’ll need a page, not a group, to fundraise using Facebook tools.

Using Facebook to fundraise empowers more people in your church to raise money. Facebook now gives you a reminder when your birthday is near, asking if you want to run a fundraiser for a charity for your birthday, and then notifies your friends you’re raising money for charity. The picture below shows you what it looks like when a supporter runs a fundraiser for you.

Another benefit of using Facebook fundraisers is it brings awareness to what your Church is doing. With the reach that Facebook offers, by people in your church sharing about this fundraising option, you are bringing awareness of what your Church is doing and might cause more people to want to help out and support the Church (in more ways than just financial).

Once your page is set up, you can request the fundraising tools by going to this link:

Charitable Giving Tools

You’ll need 3 things to complete an application to receive donations on Facebook.
  1. A PDF copy of a bank statement from the last 3 months.
  2. The name and date of birth of your organization’s CEO or Executive Director.
  3. Your organisation’s tax ID number (EIN or VAT number), which verifies your charitable tax exemption status.

Once you start the application, you cannot save your progress, so make sure you have all three to hand before starting.

Now you’re set up, you can add a donate button to your page and to any new post, and anyone can start a fundraiser for you and collect donations on your behalf. Payments are processed by Facebook every two weeks and you’ll get a statement from them telling you what you’ve received when each payment run is made.

I’d love to hear how you get on and if this has been a big fundraising success for you! Please do get in touch.

 

Five ways to Love

You may or may not be familiar with Gary Chapman’s ‘Five Love Languages’. If you are, you have probably come across it in relation to romantic relationships and what we want and need to feel loved. But, its use goes far beyond just romance and can help us in almost any relationship we are in, including in our churches.

Gary speaks of five languages of love:

  • Words of affirmation – Is written or verbal words that show value. It’s not just ‘You’re great’ but shares what that person does or is that makes them valued. 
  • Touch – Is about physical contact. Everyone has a different level of comfort; it can be a hug, a pat on the shoulder, sitting next to someone rather than alone etc.
  • Quality time – Is not about the length of time you spend together but the quality. It is about not being distracted, being able to relax and to really talk or do something together.
  • Gifts – Is not about how much money is spent, but about the thought that has gone into it. It is knowing that you have been remembered and shows that the other person really knows you.
  • Acts of service – Is about practical help that is needed. It’s delivering a meal during a stressful week, giving a lift to someone can’t drive.

Each of these explores and shares a different part of a relationship: wanting to spend time with someone, to help them out and to show how much you value them. They are all important. However, we have a natural inclination to show and receive love in different ways. 

Someone may show their love through sharing kind, thoughtful and encouraging words, but most feel loved when someone chooses to spend time with them.

Love your neighbour as your neighbour would like to be loved.

We know that we are called to love others as we love ourselves. Most of us would desire people to get to know us and what we need, not simply to assume our needs are the same. Jesus is not telling us to love everyone identically to ourselves, but to take the time and effort to really love the other in the way that they need.

January is a time of quiet after the busyness of December. It is often a time when there is less planned, less time spent together and less to look forward to. It is a time when many of us can feel lonely, even if we are not alone. It’s a perfect time to reflect on our own Christmas and what made us feel most loved (chances are it fits into one of the five languages) and talk to others about what made them feel most loved. And of course, to those around you, show them that you care in a way that they will recognise and be aware of how they might be showing you love in their own way.

What is ‘good fruit’ when you are a leader?

In the natural order of things, plants produce fruit containing seeds. The fruit falls to the ground, rots away and leaves the seed surrounded by nutrients to grow up into a new plant which produces more fruit and thus the survival of the species is assured. The part we call fruit is merely the vessel for the precious seed.

Over time, we have bred some fruit in such a way that they contain no seeds at all, or only few, small seeds. These fruits are far easier and more convenient to eat, as anyone trying to decide how to politely spit out the pips from an orange, or feed their child grapes will know.

However, these fruits bred for convenience often mean no new plant can grow from that produce. The seedless fruit may be good for eating, but it makes no contribution to the survival of its species – it has no seed of future life in it.

If you have an orchard, what do you need? Good, tasty fruit to sell and eat now, but also fruit containing seeds that you can then plant and nurture to grow more apple trees and secure the future of your orchard.

In some ways, leadership can be likened to these trees within the orchard. Does our style of leadership produce good fruit for now, which is tasty and convenient, but then rot away leaving no seed for future growth? Or does the fruit we produce contain the seeds of the future?

As leaders, how do we find the balance between producing great outcomes now, and investing in and nurturing others in order to secure the future sustainability of our cause or organisation?

How do we find the balance between producing great outcomes now, and investing in and nurturing others for the future?

In a previous role, I managed a team of volunteers to run a charity shop. In my time there I met many other great managers whose shops were successful and had a reliable group of dedicated volunteers supporting them. Over time, many of these managers moved on to pastures new and I began to notice a pattern in the shops they left behind. Whilst they waited for a new manager, the team dwindled and the shop was often closed, sometimes due to lack of volunteers, sometimes because the volunteers they had did not know how to do essential tasks. I knew how much the managers cared about their shops and how heart-breaking it must be to see their shops struggling after their departure and I resolved that I didn’t want to see my shop do the same.

So how would I ensure my team of volunteers could continue to flourish and keep the shop open without me?

I changed my job title in my head from ‘manager’ to ‘facilitator’. Instead of managing the team to run my shop, I would facilitate the team to run their shop. I sought to train up the volunteers to do as many different tasks as possible, so that on any one shift multiple people could do each role. I looked for the natural leaders within the team and gave them extra input, giving them authority to look after certain areas and encouraging them to try new things. I gave them all the information I had as the manager so they could make good decisions together. My goal was that they could run the shop without me and also that by the time I left, someone else within the team would be equipped and competent to take on the role of ‘facilitator’ after me.

 

 

I changed my job title in my head from ‘manager’ to ‘facilitator’

To do this was hard work. Some days it would have been a lot easier to do the tasks myself. It would have been quicker too, and I confess to thinking sometimes the results might have been better – they were still learning after all! It also meant that I rarely got to take credit for work myself as I always had someone else to redirect it to – and for someone who tends to depend on praise to maintain her self-esteem this was a particular challenge!

However, then there were the days when the shop ran like clockwork and I stood in the middle of the room twiddling my thumbs wondering what to do with myself, as every task I thought of was already being proficiently completed by a volunteer. There was the reward of seeing someone who previously thought of themselves as fairly dispensable begin to flourish and develop new skills and confidence within a supportive community. There was the odd mix of delight and mild panic when you came back from your holiday and the volunteers proudly told you the shop had made more money in your absence than it usually did when you were there… delight for the team, mild panic because did that mean they didn’t need you anymore?! 

We often think of a successful leader as someone who is confident and competent; getting all the different tasks done and getting great results. We think that as the leader, we need to be able to do everything; hold it all together, and that by passing on tasks to others we are abdicating our responsibility.

However, the long term impact of a leader tells us more about their ‘successes’. What happens when they retire, change roles, or move away? Do the results continue to be great? Do the teams continue to function well? Is the culture and atmosphere of positivity sustained? If we are the type of leader who coordinates everything, a leader whom every task and team member depends on, then when we leave, how will the team continue to function at the standard we achieved?

We need to be leaders who invest in the future and we do this by investing in and empowering those around us; in equipping the next generations to lead; in passing on our authority to make decisions, in creating an environment that encourages learning (often by allowing people to make mistakes). 

It takes more energy to bear fruit containing the seeds of the future, but the future of our ministry depends upon it.

 

If you’re interested in exploring how to empower others, do get in touch for a chat.

So this is Christmas

I can’t quite believe we are approaching yet another Christmas. I know that I must be getting on a bit as time is starting to feel like it is progressively getting faster. Each year feels shorter than the last, and the gap between hearing Wizard’s, ‘I wish it could be Christmas’ blaring out in shops is getting ever smaller. I’ve even starting saying phrases like my Grandad such as, ‘where have those months gone’. Bah humbug!

But as we approach this time of year it is easy to get caught up in the madness of buying gifts, making family arrangements and planning the Christmas meal. So much so that we miss the opportunities that Christmas brings us as a church to be a positive message to the communities we live in.

It is a time to reflect on the greatest gift ever given to the world! It is time to reflect on a missional God, who, in His love sends His only Son to come down to Earth to redeem a lost and broken world. As a follower of Jesus I am humbled and overwhelmed when I think of the lengths God went to so that I may have relationship with Him. I am overwhelmed at the difference He has made to my life in the years that I have known Him, and I am relieved to know that my future is secured. But I am also reminded that there are so many people who are yet to truly discover Jesus.

“the Word became flesh and blood and moved into the neighbourhood.”

John 1:14

Jesus became flesh and was sent to dwell amongst us, or as The Message beautifully puts it “the Word became flesh and blood and moved into the neighbourhood.” Today, empowered by His Holy Spirit we are called to reflect God’s presence on Earth; we are called to be the hands and feet of Jesus in our neighbourhoods.

So as we approach this Christmas let us ask ourselves: How can we be the good news of Jesus to our communities? How can we be good news to the vulnerable, the isolated, to the lonely, the immigrant, the orphan, the single parents, and those living in our streets and neighbourhoods? How can we be Jesus to those who do not yet know Him?

We can be good news in many ways: we can open our house to those who have no one to spend Christmas with, we can visit the local care home to spend an hour making someone feel special, we can donate our Christmas money to charity and help our at our local homeless shelter. So many opportunities, of which all are good! However as followers of Jesus we are called to address not only the present needs of our world, (injustice, poverty, etc…) but also the eternal needs of our world. If we fail to invite people to hear and respond to the gospel message and give them the opportunity to respond we are short-changing the ones we are called to love!

In 2 Peter 3:9 we read that God doesn’t want anyone to perish but for all to come to repentance. We must not lose sight of this. So here is my challenge to you this Christmas – do at least one thing to:

1.       Positively change someone’s present needs. For example: Help out at a homeless shelter!

2.   Give somebody the opportunity to respond to the Gospel message. For example Invite a friend to your Carol service and share your story about how Jesus changed your life

How amazing would it be to give somebody the chance to receive the greatest present the world has ever received?

I pray that you will have a great Christmas and that God will use you powerfully to grow His kingdom in this special season.

Making Space To Be With God in Advent

As Advent approaches, it can be easy to get swept up in the frantic search for presents, the battle to get the food shopping done, the endless list of chores before the family visits…

 

Yet at the same time, it’s a season when we’re looking to increase our time with God.  We want to study the Bible, spend time in prayer, meditate on those well-know prophesies of old and just be still in the midst of the crowds and contemplate the meaning of the season.

Advent is a time of waiting, of anticipation.  This season, just as Lent, is a time when we prepare ourselves to embrace the full meaning of Word becoming flesh, arriving as a tiny baby, dying as a Saviour.  Advent draws our eye back to the promises of God and gives us time and space to consider the riches of God’s plans for his people.

Maybe, then, we need to give ourselves a break and seek God in the simplicity of everyday life.  Maybe it’s quality, not quantity, God wants…

Grab the moments of stillness or quiet

Each day, there will be certain moments where you find yourself with a few minutes in which there’s nothing to do.  It could be whilst you’re waiting for the kettle to boil.  It could be putting the TV on mute during the adverts in a TV show.  Perhaps it’s at that moment where the kids/dog/spouse have gone to sleep and you can just pause momentarily.  At this time of year, standing in the queue at the shops, or waiting under a shelter while the rain stops can all be very practical (and regular) opportunities to take a breath and remember the presence of God among his people.

You could:

  • Have one short verse each day.  You can quickly re-read it through the day in the quiet minutes.
  • Have an email/app on your phone with an Advent reading or prayer timed to your lunch or coffee break
  • Use study notes that give you a brief 5-10 min reflection that can be squeezed in before bed/over breakfast/while dinner cooks
  • Choose a certain place in your house/office and start a habit of pausing there each time you pass and recalling something to thank God for this Advent
  • Recite a simple breath prayer at those quiet moments

Find chances to multi-task

“Liturgy of the Ordinary” by Tish Harrison Warren, suggests lots of everyday activities you could use to reflect on God’s presence:

  • Brushing your teeth
  • Making beds
  • Drinking tea
  • Eating a meal

It’s both practical and thought-provoking!

Another simple thing that can be done is to take an ordinary daily task and practice doing it with God.  A classic example is a commute – perhaps listen to worship music, an audio Bible or podcast.  The “Christmas in Ordinary Time” series here http://contemplativeathome.com/page/5/ is a lovely one.

Walking the dog, going for a run, cleaning or doing the gardening are other things that can be done in God’s company.

Diary some extra time in

Think about taking opportunities to spend longer with God, even if it can only be occasional.  Look at your diary for the next few months for a day where there’s less happening –a group you belong to isn’t meeting, your partner/child/ housemate is going to be away, you’ve got an afternoon off work etc.  Book in an appointment with God at that time (give him a code name if needed – he won’t mind!).  Looking for these times can be a great way of setting aside time to go deeper. 

Why not take some time out:

  • Take yourself to a coffee shop and have a festive treat whilst reading a book/Advent study (Paula Gooder’s “The Meaning is in the Waiting” and “Walking Backwards to Christmas” by Stephen Cottrell are both fantastic!)
  • Go for a walk in the park and chat to God about what’s on your mind as you do
  • Book into a retreat centre for an Advent quiet day or prayer meeting
  • Visit a church service or event that you wouldn’t normally attend

Find the thing that makes you tick

  • Gary Thomas has written a great book – Sacred Pathways – which is widely available
  • NCD has produced a survey which can be accessed online: https://3colourworld.org/en/etests
  • David Csinos has researched this area – The Church of Scotland has a really helpful summary of his ideas.  It’s applied to children but makes an awful lot of sense for adults too

Work out when and where you feel most alive with God – your preferred spiritual style.  For some it might be formal worship in church, for others it may be getting outdoors in God’s creation, for others creative arts, quiet contemplation, acts of service, times of prayer/fasting.  This Advent, make an effort to find the things that get your heart racing or touch your spirit, and make time to do it.  If it’s something you enjoy, it won’t feel like a chore and will help you reflect with passion on this season of promise and anticipation.

The Apple Festival

This week we decided to go to an ‘Apple Festival’. I have not been to such a festival before and neither am I a connoisseur of apples. But, we decided it was a little different and there were lots of things going on, so why not. I know I’ll pick up braeburns if I’m in the shop, but that’s as far as it goes.

 

It was definitely a good choice, there was honey and fudge to try, music playing outside, outdoor games for children, people whittling, animals to view and a miniature train ride. And, to top it off it was sunny and warm, despite the wind blowing our hair.

 

The main attraction was a barn with hundreds of apples on display. Then a whole wall with apples you could try and buy. We decided to make the most of it and joined the queue, bought our empty bag and started working down the row reading about the different varieties and aiming to try every apple slice we could. It was clear the people behind us actually knew about apples, they discussed the russet and the flesh and knew the names of the ones coming up. 

I did not expect part way down to announce that I could taste the promised ‘buttery’ taste and was not a fan or to be surprised at the slight pineappley taste of one whose name began with ‘ananas’. My favourite was clear at the end, the Odin. However, unfortunately this is not available in normal shops and I may need to find an orchard to try one again.

odin apple

The leftover braeburn I ate on the the next day paled in comparison and although I am still no connoisseur, I left far more knowledgeable about apples and my desire to eat them.

 

So how does this link with small group? A good question!

 

Driving home I wondered how I had gone because it looked fun, but returned clutching a bag of carefully selected favourites and understanding that russet apples are apples with a rough patch of green/brown and their skin among other things. I found myself drawing parallels between the characteristics of the day with those our small groups should have:

 

  • The draw may not be to learn more, but for the fun, the community and the food, which is openly and willingly shared. And means, you cannot help but absorb the enthusiasm for the core reason people have gathered.
  • You can come as an ‘outsider’ and find yourself surrounded by people with far more knowledge and understanding. Those people do not withhold the knowledge and look down on your lack of knowledge, but seek to hear your questions and share their knowledge. This means you cannot help but leave with more than you came with.
  • You can come without any real investment but can leave with a passion and desire to know more and be more involved.

What would you need to do to reflect these characteristics more within your group?

A small group that reflects these characteristics, becomes a safe space for people to be drawn into a community where they are loved, where they can explore and they can grow closer to God.