One important feature of missional parishes is that they put themselves in the shoes of those who do not go to church. They endeavour to create a deep and meaningful connection between the Church and the people God wants to reach.
Now in order for ourselves to better understand the unchurched, let’s do an exercise that allows us to walk in their shoes. This exercise is best completed while walking. If you can, print off this post or take your phone with you (ideally, you can do this with your parish council). As you go through the sections below, record your answers using a recording device on your phone. The results will be fairly striking. If you aren’t able to go for a walk, no worries! Browse through the following sections and let your imagination soar.
1) Imagine you are unchurched, walking down the street. What kind of clothes do you have on? Where are you now? What does your environment look like? What are you in the midst of doing? Where are you walking to? Describe the scene in as much detail as possible.
2) Imagine now that you have a specific challenge or a need and you think a parish might assist you. Where will you look to find it? Would you pull out your phone and google it? Would you walk over to a church that you’ve seen or drive to a parish that a friend has told you about? What is it specifically that attracts you to this church compared to others? Was there anything that caught your eye? Describe the scene in as much detail as possible.
3) Now think about the fact that, due to your contact with this parish, you have been profoundly touched and are feeling very grateful. How did the people there make you feel that way? What impressed you? Describe the scene in as much detail as possible.
4) Feeling good? Imagine now going out to lunch with friends the next day. What do you enthusiastically tell your friends about your experience with that parish? Is there anything that stands out in your mind? Describe the scene in as much detail as possible.
This exercise should have provided you with many transformational ideas. It can be used for other aspects of your parish as well (youth ministry, the weekend service, etc.). By embracing the unchurched reality and synchronizing with their situation and challenges, we can create a church experience that will attract them, answer their needs and draw them to Jesus.
(Adapted from the article “Put Yourself in Their Shoes” posted on the Seesaw design website).
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