I left church fairly promptly after the evening service tonight, because I had stuff I needed to do. I was probably one of the first to leave.
As I headed out, a group of youths who were looking across the road at the church with some excitement approached me and asked “excuse me, is that a bouncy castle in there?”
I paused for a moment. No, I had heard them correctly. They asked if there was a bouncy castle in church. It not being a question I am used to being asked, and there being nothing going on after the service that I could imagine being easily mistaken for a bouncy castle party, I wasn’t sure how I should respond.
Should I lie and say “yes” as a way of getting them into church?
Or should I say “no” and disappoint them, leading them to recount in years to come the reason why they never explored faith – there was no bouncy castle in church one night when they were teenagers.
I went for the non-committal and hopefully mysterious “pop in and find out”.
“Are you allowed to go in?” one of them asked. I almost laughed, but managed not to.
Of course, for some people, church is something so off the radar that they wouldn’t have a clue about who can and can’t get in – and such preconceptions are so hard for well-churched folk like me to get their heads around. How appropriate that we heard a bit about the Church Without Walls movement in the service.
“Well,” I replied, “they let me in, so they’ll definitely let you in.”
And so they approached the building. As I continued walking along the road, heading for home, I looked back towards the church myself, and saw through the windows – much as I expected – nothing to suggest any bouncy castle-related activity going on. The three teenagers got close enough to reach the same conclusion themselves, and turned around and ran off up the road in the opposite direction from me.
Now of course, I could have handled that situation better. I could have stayed and talked to them longer. I could have invited them in and shown them round and offered them a tea or coffee (unfortunately we don’t do buckfast after services, or whatever it is kids of that age drink).
I could even have attempted to draw a parallel between jumping on a bouncy castle and our relationship with Jesus, though I imagine even the most creative children’s speaker would struggle with that metaphor.
As it was, I can only hope they come back some other time.
And when they do, there’s a bouncy castle.
In other news, I’m away for work to Thurso and Orkney most of this week, so may not blog until next weekend.