Written by:
Rori Blakeney (SEJ)

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Small Strategies for Building Critical Mass

By Rori Francis Blakeney and Chris Wilterdink

Rori and I have spoken a lot about baptism and its role in the church and in the life of a family of faith. When it was time to baptize my daughter, we had to sit in a different place in the Sanctuary. Normally, we sit near the back on an aisle, so we can make a quick getaway if either kid gets restless! On Baptism day, we had to sit up front for easier access to the pastor for the ceremony. There we sit, in a familiar sanctuary but in unfamiliar seats, all dressed up and ready to go. Before the service starts, I get a tap on my shoulder. “Excuse me, you are sitting in my regular seat.”

Part of seeing all the people is changing up our regular habits and ruts that we can fall into at church. Am I guilty of usually sitting in the same seat and looking at the same faces from the same angles in worship? YES! Should I intentionally change it up and talk to some new people around me? YES! Does my pattern of putting myself in the same place and seeing people from the same angle happen in my life outside of the church building? YES! Should I change that up too? YES!

Changing can be tough, for individuals and for cultures within a congregation. This is true for churches of any size. Rori’s history in professional ministry has mainly taken place at smaller membership churches, and he reflects on where to sit in the Sanctuary in the blog posts in the sidebar on the right. I encourage you to check it out, and then read on for some thoughts from Stephanie Caro and Brad Fiscus about building momentum in smaller church youth ministries. Two blog posts that highlight part of their recent book, Small(er) Church Youth Ministry: No staff, no money, no problem!

  • Is there an unofficial (or official!) seating area for youth in your Sanctuary?
  • How do youth interact with other age groups while in worship? While in other parts of the life of your church?
  • How do adult groups of your church interact with young people not affiliated with your worship service or church?
  • Recall someone who served as a mentor for you. Share stories around the mothers and fathers of your faith.
  • Look at your youth ministry and church through the eyes of a newcomer. What would a newbie to your church say or experience?