A walled garden is a site or company that offers content only to its subscribers, who have to “come inside the wall” to get the content they want. The old AOL was like that — you had to subscribe to get access to their content. But information wants to be free, and those walled gardens that charged for access were quickly bypassed for the open internet.
Churches face a similar transition. The old church model was the walled garden. People were invited to come inside [join] to get access to all the stuff inside — pastoral care, committee participation, right to vote, name on a membership list, or whatever the “inside” stuff was. The ministry of the church was what happened inside the wall — Bible studies, small groups, worship, fellowship, decision-making, and so on. Success was measured by how many people were inside the walls at any one time.
But all that is changing. Today churches that are walled gardens are being bypassed. Open access, decentralized leadership, participation, collaboration, bridges, and networking are the new order of the day. Walled gardens struggle for survival while new, more open forms of church are emerging. Many of us are trying to at least open the garden gate, if not tear down the garden walls altogether. What’s your church doing?