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Friday, May 18, 2012

what is the "wednesday night experiment?"

In the Fall of 2009, we initiated what I called the Wednesday Night Experiment (original post).  I wrote:

So, on Wednesday nights, instead of traditional church Bible study in the building and on the grounds, we are taking it to the streets.  We are going to take a simple program - conversations with each other about where we see God in our lives during the week, and rather than meet IN the church building, we are going to disperse in 3s and 4s into public gathering places in the neighborhood. We are not going to evangelize per se, but to simply go where people are and be who we are - at Caribou, at the pizza parlor, walking on the sidewalk, at the public library. My prayer is that God will open doors for us to meet our neighbors. It's definitely experimental; I'll let you know how it goes!
In my view, the experiment was a great success with many wonderful surprises (live music, group home ministry, housing project neighbors, prayer needs at the bookstore).  Amazing what can happen when we venture outside of the church walls with the eyes and ears of faith!  It wasn't just going to those places though, because we get coffee and drive through the neighborhood all the time.  It was making the intentional connection between the two worlds of church and life that we so often keep separated.

In subsequent years, we have explored developing the content of the experiment.  That first year all of the groups were given the same set of discussion questions, based on the previous Sunday's sermon.  In the Fall of 2010 we had an organizational night and generated about 12 potential topics or activities and let people gravitate toward ones in which they were interested, while bearing in mind that these would be suited for public settings.

Some of these topics/activities included:

1.  Sermon discussion (like last year)
2.  Book discussion
3.  Movie discussion
4.  Headline news discussion
5.  Service/hands-on group
6.  Games group
7.  Prayer/Accountability group
8.  Scripture study
9.  Prayer walks
10. Video interviews/documentary
11. Live Music
12. Basics of Faith (to be held at church for visitors or newer Christians)

Here are links to four posts suggesting models for the experiment:
We have just completed the third year (Sep 2011 - May 2012) of the experiment, with the following groups: 'inside' book club and 'outside' book club (both involved non-church folks at points); men's group home small group, lectio divina group (met at church), and live music group.  I continued to participate in the live (bluegrass) music group and we've been steadily growing to an average of three musicians, 8-10 church members, and 10-20 neighbors.  It has been a regular and steadily growing crowd.  I hope to write a separate post about that group and some of the dynamics we've experienced there.

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