Monday, September 2, 2013

Doing Church Differently: Cowboy Churches and Improv Groups

If you've been reading this blog, you know that I'm interested in groups that are doing church differently, like the emergence of "cowboy churches."  This story on NPR intrigued me.

Of course, this piece doesn't delve deeply into the theology of the groups.  The surface stuff is mildly interesting, but I care less about what people wear to church than what they're taught once they're there.

My church, too, has been experimenting.  Yesterday we returned to one of my favorite approaches, improv and skits as a way to learn the Bible stories.  Yesterday, we dove into the story of Paul and Silas in the jail.

We divided into 3 groups, and each group took a part of the story.  Most of us entered into the process enthusiastically.  Many of us have had a past life as drama club geek.

We even have costume and prop boxes.  With less than 15 minutes to get our assignments and get ready, we put on a pretty good show.

When we do improv, we don't have a traditional sermon.  I'm not sure it's needed, really.  What we should want, as a church group, is to get people involved with the story, both the individual story and the overarching narrative.  Drama and improv do that beautifully.  It's something that Vacation Bible School and church camps have known for some time.

In fact, Vacation Bible School and church camps have been noted as a leading indicator as to whether or not people will stay with church or return to church when they're grown.  With that in mind, perhaps we should focus on making weekly church more like VBS and camp.

Our experimental service often feels like camp, which means that I sometimes feel like I haven't been to church.  But then I go to a more traditional service, and I'm bored--there aren't enough opportunities to get involved.  I get frustrated with the idea of congregation as audience.

I wonder if those cowboy services have the congregations getting involved.  Do they rope sheep to learn about what it means to be a shepherd?  It would be a powerful metaphor.

How can we inject more of these powerful experiences into our churches?

1 comment:

Wendy said...

When thinking about making church more like VBS or camp--something I, too, think about--I wonder how much of the VBS/Camp experience is about the 5-days-in-a-row aspect? We once did VBS once a week for 5 weeks and it did not seem nearly as powerful. I wonder if there is any evidence (anecdotal or otherwise) that looks at this? (Have been going back and catching up on blogs. Great stuff!!)