Speed Golf? What’s Next … Speed Church?

I’m not the kind of person you’d ever catch wearing golf shorts and gloves, pulling out my nine-iron to tee off on the 7th hole. My fast-moving, often scattered brain can’t imagine spending a Saturday afternoon this way; much less why anyone would sit at home and watch such a tedious thing on television. Early on a recent Sunday morning, I found myself entranced by a National Public Radio story about an unorthodox approach to playing this very traditional game. And, it wasn’t just the sleep deprivation or lack of coffee that pulled me in.

The story profiled Christopher Smith, a golf pro in Portland, Oregon. A number of years ago, Smith decided to combine his recreational running with golf – playing 18 holes in under an hour (rather than a more typical leisurely five-hour game.) That sounded like some golf I could get excited about!

What he discovered was that he played better when he played faster. “We tend to get in our own way when we play golf over analyzing,” he says. “Really what … playing speed golf does is it forces you to play in more of a reactive, reactionary sort of way. You simply see the shot, and create it. That’s what we’re all trying to move toward, is being more present.”

Church, like golf, is steeped in tradition and tends to move very slowly. Just try to suggest a change, even a small one, and see how fast it gets implemented, if at all.

Could we benefit from thinking like a speed golfer? What if we just saw our shot and created it, rather than enduring endless discussions and planning? Would we more easily be able to adapt to changing preferences in worship? Could we more easily be present to the neighborhood and find immediate, impactful opportunities for service and ministry?

Do you have a story of when you saw your shot and created it? Or was there a situation in which you could have been more present and just acted rather than psych yourself out?

Nicole Havelka, Associate Conference Minister

4 Responses to Speed Golf? What’s Next … Speed Church?

  1. Steve Jewett says:

    Hi Nicole,
    At New Horizons UCC in Akron we have done just what you have described. In September our ACT, All Church Team, recognized the need for a louder and faster service; they authorized the purchase of electronic equipment, laptop, projector, screen and software, for our “Next” service which began on October 7. This Celebration of Worship begins just thirty minutes after our 9:00 Celebration of Worship so there is an opportunity for attendees of each service to share in a time of fellowship. The response to this change has been very positive. Every week we see new attendees at our “Next” service with more members attending both services. Soon we will incorporate electronic media into both services at the request of those who have attended both Celebrations of Worship.

  2. Nadine says:

    You wrote your response about “speed church” so fast – I can’t catch up with it! Sounds intriguing. Say more and just a bit more slowly for this should-be white hair!

    • Steve Jewett says:

      Hi Nadine,
      Normally I do not respond to replies; however after your description of yourself as a “should-be white hair”, I am proud that I am becoming a “soon to be total white hair”. I believe that because of the challenges that I have met during my time as a parent of three children, who are now employed tax payers, twenty six years in licensed ministry and also as an independent business man for twenty eight years I have earned, and proudly display, every gray or white hair that I now have.
      New Horizons is the newest new church start in the Northwestern Association of the Iowa Conference. We began celebrating worship around a kitchen table in a farm house in rural Akron in January of 2006. Soon the Holy Spirit called us to start a new church with the founding tenants of: church should be fun, church should be a safe place to worship and church must be mission driven. On 29 January 2006 we began celebrating worship in the community room of a local bank. Since that time we have celebrated worship in the community room, the chapel of the local funeral home and in God’s glorious sunshine in the Akron city park. In our first year we completed forty two mission projects and continue to meet our goal of completing at least one mission project every fourteen days. Each time that we were in the park we had perfect weather. In August of 2008 we had the opportunity to find a temporary sacred space on the ground floor of the Akron Opera House. We continued to grow and an opportunity to expand to a space beside us became available in February of 2010. On February 29, 2010 we had a “Leap Day” Celebration as we actually leaped across a threshold into our new worship space that had been totally remodeled from a six room retail space into a totally open worship center. Since that time we have continued to grow in numbers and in spirit. We currently support two new church starts, one in Massachusetts, one in Alabama and a church revitalization here in Iowa.
      Because of our growth we are now offering two celebrations of worship every Sunday of the month except the last Sunday when we host a potluck meal for everyone. The 9:00 service may be considered as a traditional service while our “Next” service at 10:30 is a louder and faster service that is electronically driven by a laptop, a projector and a screen. Thanks to our younger tech driven members all I have to do is supply an idea and they format the service. Very exciting and challenging. We no longer “think outside the box”, because now we have no box.
      If you have any further questions or comments please contact me at the above email address or by phone at 712.259.4575, if I have reception I will answer, if not I will return your call as soon as I am able.

      Keep growing those white hairs, they are a sign of your success in your life’s journey,

      Steve Jewett, Pastor
      New Horizons United Church of Christ

  3. Nicole Havelka says:

    Perhaps I was a little hasty myself. :-) I’m suggesting that church leaders might benefit from simply moving forward and reacting to changing circumstances rather than spending a lot of time pondering and “pysching ourselves out” before acting. For example, we might see a need for after school care in the community and simply open our doors from 3-5 p.m. rather than go to seemingly endless meeting to make plans for an after school program. Or we might see that people have new preferences in worship and try to adapt to that rather than getting stuck in “we’ve never done it that way before.” Does that help?

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