Church: high tea or women’s expo?

Alycia Randell

Recently I attended an afternoon high tea event with my mother and grandmother. We all eagerly anticipated a wonderful afternoon together chatting, relaxing and spending quality time together. However, the high tea we attended was anything but what we hoped for…

As we sat down to the high tea in the grand ballroom our hostess took to the stage introducing herself and making the following statement, ‘I have been running these high teas for ten years and we continue to see them increase each year. We ladies are always caring for everyone around us. Today is all about taking time out to relax, spending time with friends, and enjoying doing what ladies love to do.’ Sounds great, right?!

Unfortunately, after ten years of running the event I felt that our organisers had forgotten the basics. For example, as we sat down to the tables the organisers dimmed the lights making it harder to see each other, when the high tea was set before us the top plate was exactly at eye level so you couldn’t make eye contact with the person opposite, the live music was pumped through the speakers so that you couldn’t hear what your friends at the table were saying. Most of all, the live entertainment program was so jam packed with live music, styling tips and a fashion show and was so distracting, there was no space or time for conversation. At the end of the afternoon, we all quietly walked back to the car feeling disappointed and not having enjoyed our time out together.

What went wrong?! There was clear vision. The event overall was well executed. The problem: The vision and the execution did not match. If I want to talk to my friend, I wouldn’t suggest going to movie. Why? because I would be competing for their attention over the movie soundtrack and visual distraction of the screen. Yet this kind of thing happens more often than we realise in ministry.

We run a youth evening service at our church. Over the years we have made a number of changes in the hope of seeing more young people come along to church. One change however, had a huge positive impact. We had noticed that our numbers had dwindled and that we weren’t seeing any growth numerically. We also noticed that, despite having awesome music, those who were coming were not engaging in the songs. Each week our young people seemed to move another row back and participate less and less in the music. Our worship heard only themselves and couldn’t hear the voices of others singing along. We sat down in a meeting and discussed our vision to be united in worship and to encourage participation. Our solution: the band would come off the stage and play acoustically while the front rows of chairs would be replaced by cushions and beanbags to encourage a more intimate space. The result: we are growing! The vision and execution match.

Recently, our church leaders have asked whether the church would like to continue running it’s annual carols by candlelight event. For ages I struggled with whether I was for or against the continuation of this event and I couldn’t decided. Then God asked me, ‘Given the same time, resources and finances would you choose run Carols or try something else.’ God was encouraging me to use my imagination and explore new possibilities. I begun to ask myself is Carols the best way to connect with our community or should we invest in new and different approaches? I realise now, that God has been calling attention to the idea pairing vision and execution. I began to imagine a new future with our church running barn dances, and family camps, and welcome to country events and more. I also realise that such a future can not be explored without being prepared to say farewell to some thing of the past. Our resources are not infinite, a choice has to be made. What do we hope for the future? What do we wish to see? and what is the best way to go about it? These questions lie at the heart of matching vision and execution.

One more example. We are replacing the sign out the front of our church. It will now be an led sign with programmable messages. A leader approached my husband seeking advice on how to involve the youth in the messages that appear on the sign. Upon reflection, some great questions would be, “What kind of things do you think we should we display on the sign? Should it be quotes? should it message with a personal touch like we see on the Zero Hero adds? Should it be information on the daily activities and events at the church?” What does each best achieve? Clever quotes are designed for you to take-away and think upon. Details on events are there to inform in the hope you might attend one.  Again it is question of matching the vision (what do we wish to see?) and the execution (what is the best way of going about it?).

If you’re looking at ministry in your church and noticing that it’s not bearing the kind fruit you were hoping for, consider this: you can have the best vision for something, your activities and services can be well polished masterpieces, but if the vision and the execution don’t match you’ll end up with an All Day Women’s Expo rather than a High Tea Party.

-Leash xox











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