Is your church a walled garden?


A walled garden is a site or companygarden-wall.jpg 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?

2 thoughts on “Is your church a walled garden?”

  1. We are just beginning the transition from being a “walled garden” church to a more “open access” church. We are slowly beginning to get out into our community to get our hands dirty and we are slowly beginning to become a place where our community feels comfortable coming. This transition has had and will continue to have its bumps along the way but I am excited as I see God working in and amonst us.

  2. I agree with your “Walled Garden” definition. We began a new ministry in September 2004 with the sub-heading words “Real, Simple, Relevant.” Our focus on one of the three, “Simple,” has been refreshing for some, but frustrating for the “traditional” mindset. Our prayer weekly is that God would empower and challenge the “church that meets in this building,” because the church is not a place to go, but people who are in Christ and serving Him. As a pastor, I am passionate about getting people involved in ministry outside of the walls instead of focused on an event Sunday morning. Even in the middle of “We have to have a nursery and children’s church and…” there is progress, although slow.

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