In technology, the 1.0 release sounds like the first iteration, but often it is really the release of a product at the deadline, whether or not is done. The new idea is offered to the public and the users report back their experience: what works and what does not. This may or may not be a good idea in technology, you want the app you paid for to work, right?
But I'm beginning to think that it is a great idea for church. Too often we spend our time trying to perfect a new idea before we've even gotten input as to whether others want what we have to offer.
Why not get started, and then find out from the users what should be different? Let them tell us, and let us listen, to what works and what doesn't, and make adjustments accordingly. Why do we presume that we know all of what others want from this new program we are creating? If it is meant to serve others (and I hope what we are doing is meant to serve others) then we need to know what those "others" are looking for. "They" probably know more about their needs than we do.
We should be involving others in all of the new programs we are creating, but it seems good to also go ahead and release some of our great ideas into the wild. Lets get started, and then get feedback, and make changes.
In fact, wouldn't it be cool if the church always was version 1.0? What would it mean if we assumed that changes are needed, fixes are required, that the whole church organization would benefit from being renovated? We say this sometimes, but usually not until our structures are so entrenched it would be destructive to make even small changes. Church 1.0 would be open to constant adjustment.
What if tweaking is forever?
It is popular in the church circles I hang with, to talk about the future of church as church 2.0. Someone will invariably reply, no we should get to 3.0. The idea they are trying to express is that we need completely new forms of church for this time and place. This is true.
But do churchy folk have any idea how old version 3.0 is? Most computer programs are long past version 2 or 3. It makes me think of the pastor who talked about covid bringing churches into the twentieth century. It was great that we finally learned how to use (some) technology, but the rest of the world is already in the twenty-first century. Church 2.0 was created in the year 300. We should surely be up to version 10, or 28, or 593 by now? Right?
Instead of looking for the right version of updated church we should be, what if we imagined church that is never finished. What if we asked what need to change every time a new person walks in the door, and again every time a person leaves. What if we changed when the neighborhood changes? What if we spoke the language of our neighbors, of young people, of the newest ideas of our culture?
To be church 1.0, to be a beta version of church, we have to be trying something new. For small churches, one new thing at a time, but certainly one and then another. When we start a new dinner, or pantry, or moving ministry, or education series, or community conversations, whatever new ministry, we should start it with the idea that we don't know yet what it should look like.
Get started! And then meet the people who come and ask them how it should be changed. Change it up next week with the fixes offered by those present. Heck, ask those attending to come and help with the fixes. Ask what should be for dinner, and are you meeting at the right time, and should the tables be set up like this, or like that. Is the serving line in the right order? Are you advertising in the right places? Assume all your planning is just to find the starting point. Most of it will need to change.
And then change it!
Church 1.0 has some foundational beliefs--that everyone is loved by God--and some foundational practices--we listen for Christ's good news in our lives. Everything else can be changed.
Here are some things you might change: Sunday worship. Hymns. Organ and Piano. Choir. What music the choir sings. Sunday school. Coffee hour. Council meetings! The treasurer's report. When you gather, how you gather.
Welcome to church 1.0. Open for editing.
For my organized thoughts, see my book Five Loaves, Two Fish, Twelve Volunteers: Developing Relational Food Ministries. In this spot are thoughts that appear for a moment--about food programs, mission, church, building community, writing, and whatever else pops into my head.