A completely unscientific questionnaire which we put out at our Cafe Service a few weeks ago, asking people what they thought was vital, helpful or unhelpful to the church. With about 25 options to choose from, including pews, laughter, coffee and biscuits and Bishops, here are the results:
Vital Vital: over 90% agreed on People (it'd be a funny church without them!), baptising new believers, praying together, Jesus, welcome to all ages, people exploring and growing in their faith, and laughter.
Almost Vital: over half also thought that meeting at least once a week, communion, Bible teaching, singing and music, and service of the commmunity and the needy were vital.
Unvital: the only things which made it into the 'unhelpful' column were hymn books (1), a building, having a church name, an organ, committees, and pews. This possibly reflects the congregation and the setting, given that none of these things were anywhere in sight (the music group doesn't even have a keyboard).
Arguments from silence: whilst a lot of stuff was put as 'helpful', things which might have been 'vital' but weren't included meeting on a Sunday, Sunday school, any form of eating together, and money. A minority of people thought they were vital to the church, with the same score as 'vicar or other appointed leader'.
Steve Croft argues that only 3 things are vital to being the church, with a further 3 essentials for sustaining the life of the church. Follow the link for the list we based our exercise on. It's another way of exploring the question of what in our churches is Gospel, and what is Culture.