St Jude’s uses an analogy to keep us on track towards our community to ensure we retain hospitality in all we do and also try to remain faithful to the Good News we have been given through our faith. We’re often asked about it, so we thought a short blog on some of the basics could help. We call it “Gardens, Dining Rooms and Kitchens”
St Jude’s is a church with a heart for community. We’ve been at the heart of the local community for over a century and we also work hard at maintaining a community within the church too. However, we don’t want to keep the two separate. We love having an opportunity to serve our local community and welcome all as guests to the many things we do.
Well, we’ve come to recognise that it’s what God has done and continues to do for us through Jesus. He acted first and offered us an opportunity to be a part of His family. He didn’t ask us to do something first, instead His heart is a generous offering one. He welcomes all and in time hopes we will begin to transform to become more like his son, Jesus. We also know it’s not our role to persuade or cajole someone into any sort of relationship with Jesus, He does that by his Holy Spirit for any who ask Him to. All we can ever do is offer environments, with ‘signposts’ to other options, that might help anyone at different stages in our walks towards our Creator.
Therefore, we organise St Jude’s around three types of environments that we have called Gardens, Dining Rooms and Kitchens. They are not real gardens or kitchens, but they act as a recognisable and memorable domestic image shorthand so we know why we do what we do each time around. The analogy works best when you think of food – BBQ’s, lovely dinner parties or family food eaten from a kitchen table.
Garden environments are created by us for Guests. Just like anyone is welcomed at a BBQ in a garden and can come and go as they wish, all are also welcomed and served as a family would any guest. At any of these occasions we’re open to any conversation that arises, but we won’t force one. We may have a flyer or poster offering something else, but nothing is pressured in any way. You’re a Guest.
But, if anyone asks to take a small step, then we have what we call Dining Room environments. Just like a small intimate dinner party can enable friendship to grow, again these are places and events where we would serve, but they are closer and a bit more focused on the reason for gathering. Just like we would probably talk about a beautiful meal prepared for us at a dinner party, we might have a church video course where conversation is free and easy – but now focused a little more. Anyone is still a guest, but maybe over time, friendship might happen. (As an example, from Easter 2017 we’re running an informal cafe opportunity for folk to gather easily to maybe watch a video course or have a conversation in a drop in setting – our Dining Room Cafe. Initially open on Tuesday afternoons)
Lastly, if someone wants to take a step into Jesus’ family, then we offer Kitchen environments. Kitchens are where many families eat. They do the washing up and help prepare the food too. This is where family conversations happen. You wouldn’t get into the detail of all your family to a guest at a garden BBQ – so why subject a Guest to that? But when we’re family – well that’s different.
Within our Kitchen spaces – like our Church family Small Groups or special courses, we help people discover what God may be getting them prepared for in Ministry. That’s why in our model we have a Sink in the Kitchen – the place of ministry. The other ‘appliance’ in our Kitchen is an Oven – the place everything in a Kitchen is finished off. We help everyone who wants to, to discover something about mission, so they can share with others when asked.
By far, the greatest aspect of this analogy of Gardens, Dining Rooms and Kitchens is hospitality. It sits at the heart of the Gospel (see our blog on Hospitality here). There will never be pressure applied. If you were to come to a social event, or maybe one of our Church services, you would be our Guest. Just as an example – we don’t take a collection at our services – why would we ask a Guest to contribute?
It’s a very helpful analogy for us as we serve our local community. It removes all the pressure some think exists to ‘convert’ their neighbours and friends. That really isn’t our role. Instead we are called to real relationships, where they change over time as any other friendship develops outside a church setting. We get to know folk as guests, in time maybe becoming friends, to eventually become like family. Those steps can be inspired by God as and when we are ready. Its not up to us to engineer anything, instead just welcome everyone with the same hospitality that God models for all of us.
If you want to read more about the principle of Gardens, Dining Rooms and Kitchens, including the theology behind it and how to put it into practice, there is a book available via Amazon – and optionally and inexpensively via Kindle here.
If you really can’t afford to buy a copy, we would still like you to have access to it. Therefore you can download a free copyright watermarked non distribution pdf version here, but we do ask that you respect the copyright and not distribute it. Thank you.