At Renew, we have chosen to meet in one or more homes connected by Zoom. We meet in homes because we love the community this sort of gathering generates. But we are ready to meet in multiple homes, connected by Zoom, because we love having the capacity to invite people and to grow.
Renew is a small church, established in late 2018. When we started, we realised that we had a good-sized space at the Groves' house (the first of our Zoom-connected hubs). Since we could all fit into this space (pre-COVID), we initially met there. Food was an important part of our fellowship, and we often shared lunch.
Quite soon we had the opportunity to meet in a small church building (Salt Mudgeeraba). Because we started by meeting in the afternoons, we could easily fit into this church's schedule. We enjoyed our time there, adapting to sharing afternoon tea, but unfortunately it didn't work very well for kids activities, which were an important focus for us.
And so we moved to the Robina Community Centre, where we could rent two rooms, one for church and one for Sunday School. We shared afternoon tea before our services, and things were moving along normally. Then COVID-19 struck and the community centres were all closed down. We reverted to meeting in homes. As restrictions increased we quickly adapted to Zoom meetings, designating certain homes as "hubs," each hosting the number of visitors permitted at the time.
Once this was over, we moved back to the Groves' home, and decided to look for a more permanent solution in 2021. But no sooner had we made that decision than we found ourselves in a "hotspot" with strict limits on home visitors again. To avoid this problem, we decided to again try the now-reopened community centre. However, restrictions made afternoon tea virtually impossible and killed any sense of community, so we found the experience sterile and lifeless.
We sat down again to think. What did we value about our gatherings? What did we need to make them work? How could we foster a community that thrived even in the uncertainty of COVID-19?
You see, we loved the relaxed nature of meeting in homes, and we wanted to maintain as much of that as possible. Meeting in homes also kept us grounded in the real world, rather than isolated in an industrial backwater. But we couldn't meet in a single house and hope to grow. Even at our existing size, we were stretching the limits of what was possible, especially in COVID-19 conditions. But we had seen how Zoom could work. With proper equipment and careful planning we thought we could make a multi-house church work.
Key distinctives supported by homes
There are several key features to how we do church:
- Fellowship over food
- Intentional sharing of our walk with God
- Solid Biblical preaching
- Weekly Bible Study together (with option to Zoom in)
- Regular, church-wide "connection" activities with all encouraged to be physically present, designed to encourage deep relationships
We don't need a special space to do these things, so we'll be doing them in one anothers' homes.