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good thoughts, jonny, Have you read Joe Myers' book "The Search to Belong"? it's on Church and levels of participation. He argues that those who have a low level of participation may have just as strong a sense of belonging, and we shouldnt' assume that people belong more, must because they are more visible, more busy, more constantly present. It ties in well with what you say here.


good to see some theory on this, jonny. its something we instinctively feel about participation. we have been seeing increased engagement of non-church goers on (faith based) social action projects. it usually starts with existing relationships and is a tremendous opportunity for exploring faith with people.(the conversation). its back to the old 'belong-believe-behave' continuum. Like youtube, social action projects provide a space where people can gather together to participate in stuff (God has put) on their hearts to do.

ryan bolger

Great insights -- I read Shirky over the summer and I can't think of a better author to 'think with' right now, in regards to how are communities might function.

Steve Lancaster

Enjoyed this, and Maggi's comment quoting Joe Myer's especially: "those who have a low level of participation may have just as strong a sense of belonging".

Let's push this one step further - "those who have no level of participation may have just as strong a sense of belonging". Possible? Certainly not impossible.

It begs the question, does purpose come with participation or with a sense of belonging? If the former, then we are perhaps right to expend all the effort we can to generate new ways of bringing others into the kingdom. If the latter, and if the hypothesis above is true, then we should perhaps ask "What are those who do not participate in our activities already doing for the Kingdom they sense they belong to? And can we enjoy learning their language, instead of trying to teach them ours?"

It's the logical outcome, as far as I can see, of today's trend towards decentralisation - one pole, the opposite of which is institutional. Modernism marked out these poles in terms of consumer culture and the outsider artist, and postmodernism is learning to negotiate the new terrain. But God, surely, embraces the institutional, the decentralised, and all points between. We, as responsible Christians (!), should start our theology from this point, not end it here. So Church becomes whatever, absolutely whatever, we make it. There you go. A prophecy of the possibility - no, inevitability - of grace.

Caroline Too

This Power Law distribution does raise one interesting issue on the virtual-physical relations continuum...

If you were to use one of the more participative methodologies for organising meetings you would find that you'd get a far higher participation from an even number of participants...

Now, I know that most church meetings aren't like that but I've seen it happen in and equally unpromising workplace scenario.. so what options does this prompt in how we do church?

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