If I hear of one more “newcomer’s lunch” at a church … I think I’m gonna scream.

Now that’s going to upset a few pastors!  What’s wrong with a newcomer’s lunch? Well – in my view, pretty much everything!

If we were new to a church, would we want to be branded and herded off to lunch?

It seems to me that in many churches the program has supplanted a sense of spontaneous community. I had one person suggest on a recent blog post that maybe it’s because we’ve lost our social skills – we’ve forgotten how to be a community … so we start manufacturing it.

That’s certainly part of it. Add to that the industrious pastor who, spurred on by the board of elders (or whatever they’re called) wants to “reach out”, to “integrate people”, to “grow disciples”, to “increase home group participation rates” and to hit other equally laudable KPIs … and there you have fertile ground for the victory of the program, over spontaneous, organic, natural, rich, loving, relational community.

Now – do we need to be organised? Do we need rosters and discipleship courses and mothers’ groups and greeters and … all those other things? Of course we do! Absolutely. Otherwise we’d be a disorganised rabble. Ministry would be a shambles.

But – I don’t know – at some point, the program became more important than the people.  At some point we put the organisational stuff front and centre, and we decided to start processing people through the system.  At some point we decided we would need more than a few sausages, a bottle of tomato sauce, a half dozen bread rolls and some coleslaw to invite someone home for a BBQ after church.

When you arrive at a new church, do you want to be labelled a “newcomer” and herded into the quarterly “newcomers’ lunch” in 11 weeks time, or would you rather have someone around your own age invite you home for a BBQ, or out for a coffee on about the second or third week after you showed up?

Do we want to be labelled “elderly” and invited to a special morning tea for “the older folk”? Do we want to be identified as a “single” to be invited to a “singles function” … or do we just want someone to take an interest in us and discover who we are, where we’ve been and what we have to offer?

There’s an organisational theorem that goes something like this: the more meetings you have in an organisation, the less genuine communication is actually going on. Let’s morph that just a little into the church context.

The more that we are a church made up by and defined through our programs, the less we are a loving community in Christ.

You know what I hunger for?

A church where people actually know their giftings; where, with a minimum of fuss and with the fewest possible number of rosters and programs, each person finds their place to exercise their giftings and bless the rest of the church; where our sense of community is natural and organic; where programs are necessary but secondary; where the newcomes’ lunch is a thing of the past.

I guess what I’m rambling on about is something that functions more like a body … than a machine.