There has been a post doing the rounds on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and it gets pretty much to the heart of things with the two base needs circled “we are here” and the higher needs circled with “not here”. It sparked a number of questions in my mind about many of the conversations I had been having about the future of church post and resonated deeply with why it had taken so long for my brain to kick in and being to be able to reflect on the current situation and start posting. When I used to teach practical theology and mission I would often use Maslow. One the key pieces of research around Maslow wasn’t just about how hard it was to progress up the pyramid until the base needs were met but also how if you experience a signifiant period or trauma where those base needs are not met (for example living in childhood poverty, or with and abusive parent etc) that this has a long term impact on your ability to actualise in the higher needs even if future you are secure in the more base ones. So whilst the Beyond Broadcast post addressed participation in the liturgy I want to unpack participation in more of the social action type responses. Whilst this may sound dualistic I hope you will see as this post unfolds its not.
People are much more complicated than a simple pyramid and I want to suggest that how we respond to the basic needs also has an impact on the higher needs. I was reflecting on some local conversations where despite the church having had a good presence in meeting peoples base needs (food banks etc) people did not engage in further higher pyramid space conversation and this made people wonder if churches had overestimated in how well the church was really connected to the community. At practical level (if you apply Maslow) this isn’t surprising as it is a basic needs first in a time of difficulty. However perhaps part of the reason for further engagement is in the consumer driven culture and context and HOW the church is seeking to meet these base needs. When reconsider that people are more complicated than pyramids and when we work WITH people to address the basic needs ( think ABCD) rather than doing so as a service provider we are also creating the space for those higher needs to. Part of why I like this approach is that there is no such thing as missional structures just missional people. Missional people understand the breadth of mission and that our future is wrapped up with those around. There has already been much talk of churches gearing up their mission plans with extra foodbanks, debt advice, and undoubtedly this will be key BUT disappointedly too much of this discussion has been as a start point of a pyramid that must be met so we can then sell the gospel or self actualisation. Perhaps part of what we have learnt in this time and in their questions of the “new normal” is that people are more than pyramids, and can actually be in more than one space at one time. Indeed part of what people will need (as well as the practical help) will be to work through the emotional and psychological impact of the situation. So perhaps part of how we need to respond practically is the same as we the issues raised in Beyond Broadcast, and we need to be co-creating our practical responses with people in more wholistic and joined up way. Doing so may well help us and those around us not only cope with the trauma we have seen over the past few months to our base needs (physical and safety) but may also help us work through together any longer term issues caused by this trauma. So if you are are asking questions of your mission strategy maybe the most important place to start is now in building connections with others beyond your usual circles, and inviting the community or work out with you how we support one another after this, and to make sure you invite those first people through the doors to the foodbank or what ever to join in with the process.