Building Family Friendly Churches

Mike Bossingham, Inspire, 2004, 113 pp. £12.99 ISBN 1 85582 254 4

Most of us work in churches that have seen a massive decline in the number of children and families worshipping with us regularly. It’s a routine claim that our churches are welcoming but, as the Rev Dr Martyn Atkins says, they are welcoming for the people who stayed. What about the thousands who visited but didn’t come back?

Many of us grumble that something needs to be done. Here is a book from someone who did something about it. Methodist minister Dr Mike Bossingham used his sabbatical to research and write Building Family Friendly Churches and now works virtually full-time for the Family Friendly Churches Trust, helping local congregations unlock their worship potential. Bossingham’s book doesn’t spend ages bemoaning such problems, but encourages us to learn from churches where changes have been made. These may be changes in content, in the style of services, in the sort of music, in technology but principally they are rooted in a change of attitude.

Perhaps many of us have an instinctive ‘feel’ for what needs to happen, but the strength of this book is that is outlines the issues in down-to-earth language. For example it tells us about churches that buck the trend: not by rehearsing how brilliant these places are but by drawing-out principles from his visits. Encouragingly, one of Bossingham’s conclusions is that modest changes can make a huge difference.

It’s easy for churches to become paralysed by the weight of change that is pressing on them, but there are elements of this book that could help even the smallest and most under-resourced fellowship. Also, for those with the money and people to go digital, there are very useful guidelines on how to make technology a servant rather than a master.

Reviewed by the Revd. Gareth Hill, a Methodist Minister in Wadebridge, Cornwall. As part of his ministry, Gareth is also a singer/songwriter and hymn-writer.

Headline Summer 2006 p.30