A few times this week I have been caught up in this wonderful feature of French life, la vie associative.
There's various kinds of associations that exist in France.
One is l'association de fait. This is where people meet up and do things together without putting in place the legal framework that one is supposed to have. Some churches are associations de fait, notably brethren assemblies and some immigrant churches.
Another is l'association 1901, l'association culturelle. This is a group of people who agree to do something together and who elect a chairman and a secretary (and a treasurer if money is involved). The name of the association, its officers and its address for correspondance is then registered at the Préfecture, the French Government offices in Bordeaux.
An association 1901 could exist for : playing Scrabble, playing rugby, teaching music, an orchestra, a music group, a walking club, distributing Bibles, famine relief, supporting the Occitan language, helping immigrants find work, whatever...I became a founder member of an association 1901 recently when we created Tubabones - the Bordeaux association for trombonists and tuba players, though I have yet to attend a meeting !
Monday morning started bright and early with a Skype meeting with two friends in the South-East of France to discuss the future of an association that forms the legal framework for a ministry for training pastors in "difficult" countries.
Later in the week I met up with a lady who has started several associations to start little projects for raising chickens in the bush in Burkina Faso. She has also started a different association to put vulnerable women into employment, etc. There are lots of associations like this that link French people with francophone countries in Africa.
Then today I met with another man doing similar things but to house the homeless in France, and we met at an associative restaurant. This restaurant exists to give people on small incomes a good meal, which means that for four euros you get a main course, a dessert, a glass of wine and a cup of coffee. Today the main course was Duck Shepherd Pie (parmentier de canard) and the dessert was a galette à la frangipane. I chatted with various volunteers who work at the restaurant about the Christians in Kabylia etc.
FAC, the student work here, is an Association 1901 as is our local pastors fraternal, CNEF33, and the committee that runs the local Christian Bookshop, La Maison de la Bible..
Another Association 1901 is "Une Bible par Foyer" which is the legal framework for the yellow Bible caddies that you see in markets all over France.
In the church we are in the process of setting up an association 1901 as the framework for youthwork, for outings, for weekends, camps and all that is not "services of worship".
Churches are normally Associations 1905, associations cultuelles. The way money flows from one kind of association to another is strictly defined by law and different types of associations have different rights, privileges and responabilities.