20/20 Vision Goals and our Changing Parish Future

CENSUS 2010 Population % Change

As we think about what St. Timothy’s will be like and whom will we serve in the year 2020, we have a lot to consider with change and uncertainty the only two constants in our calculus.

Forecasting our parish future is not a simple straight line projection with a few more people in the pews each year.

The early results of the 2010 Census are out and they offer insight and uncertainty for St. Timothy’s 20/20 Vision process, our parish profile being developed by the selection committee to help call a new rector, and they challenge the mission work of the church from the national church level to the Diocese of California to our parish here in Danville.

What do I mean challenge?

Census data across the nation tell a story of a nation on the move. The populations of the Southern and Southwestern states are growing faster and at the expense of the Northeast and Midwest states.

The great American melting pot is alive and well with a rich diversity widespread across the nation. Both Hispanic and Asian segments of the population are growing and in some states including California the traditional “minorities” are in the aggregate now he majority of the population.

The largest California counties have continued to grow since the last 2000 Census with Los Angeles growing by 2.6 percent, San Diego by 6.9 percent, San Jose by 5.7 percent, San Francisco by 3.7 percent, and Fresno by 15.7 percent.  Our own Contra Costa County grew by 10.6% faster than any of the other nine Bay Area counties and is the ninth largest county in California with a little over 1 million people out of a total Bay Area nine county population of 7.15 million for a 5.4 percent growth since 2000.

But growth has slowed dramatically and not just because of the recession. This 5.4 percent Bay Area growth is the smallest net growth since the 1930’s. Oakland lost 2.2 percent of its population since 2000 as people voted with their feet in search of better, more affordable housing, safer streets, better schools and a desire to live closer to where they work.  Business sometimes pulled them but just as often followed its employees to the suburbs according for the disproportionate growth in Contra Costa County.

The Good, Bad and Different in the 2010 Census

The good news is our parish “market area” here in Danville is in the heart of the fastest growing county in the Bay Area.  For that reason we should continue to be attractive as a place to live, work and—we hope—worship.  The bad news is growth has slowed to a trickle, job creation in this weak recovery is an agonizing long slog and housing prices are weakened by the high foreclosure rates in East Contra Costa County leaving many locked into underwater mortgages or without the equity to refinance or move. The uncertainties of the job market will surely bear down hard on the parish goals of growing the pledge basis and restoring pledge income to pre-recession levels.

The other factor that is different is the continued change in the demographic make-up of our market service area. The characteristics will sound familiar in many communities as he population gets older, has fewer kids, is more Hispanic or Latino, more Asian with more spread in income levels from lower to higher reflecting the trends in many suburban communities of rounding out the community diversification profile.

What does this mean for the church?

St. Timothy’s is well positioned for growth. Our parish is in the “sweet spot” of growth in the nine county Bay Area and we have a solid, thriving parish foundation from which to grow for the future.
But we must have a clear, persistent, effective strategy of living into our goals (Welcoming all to worship, investing in our kids faith foundation and living into the mission work of the church) that speaks to the unchurched and underserved in our community and is attractive to the increasingly diverse ethnic and cultural make-up of our population.
The 20/20 Vision goal of doubling the parish pledge base is achievable but not assured. To get there we must reach out to introduce new people to the parish, to sell our programs and ministries and be a welcoming place that attracts people across the age cohorts from youth to seniors, singles to young married with kids to empty nesters.  We must offer ministry and support across a wide range of spiritual formation, transforming lives and offering sustenance and renewal in times of need that span the range of life experiences of our congregation and community.
The lesson of 20/20 vision is that we are a community with ever widening horizons. We must have a capacity to serve the whole church, but we do not have to do it all ourselves.  St. Timothy’s is neither an isolated island nor self-sufficient.  We do not have the resources to meet every need well, but we have every need that still cries out for help.  We have learned from our work in the Contra Costa Deanery that other parishes have the same needs, same goals, and same uncertainties. We have learned that in Outreach we often share support for the same programs and ministries yet we almost never talk to each other about coordinated efforts.  At St. Timothy’s we are learning how to collaborate with others to meet our 20/20 vision goals and really do the mission work of the church.
The Diocese of California faces an area ministry trinity of challenges requiring our active participation.  Collaboration starts with more active participation by people from St. Timothy’s in the work of the Diocese of California and the Contra Costa Deanery.  The diocese just as its parishes faces stark realities difficult to accept including the need to focus the congregational development work of the Diocese on both the alpha and omega of the parish lifecycle to address the decline of congregations whose demographics are conspiring against them while simultaneously investing in the congregational growth in the fastest growing parts of the Diocese (East Contra Costa County) and still support the work of the thriving congregations (including St. Timothy’s) in reaching out to an ever more diverse community of faithful to grow the church by doing the mission and ministry work of the church.

How Can we help St. Timothy’s?

Encourage the Search Committee to reflect these changing census realities in the parish profile along with the opportunities and risks they present so that candidates for rector can understand them, pray about them and help us identify ways to address them that empower us to live into our 20/20 Vision goals.

We can be actively involved in the work of the broader church through outreach, through the contra Costa Deanery programs and ministry and the work of the Diocese and its committees.

We can each live into our parish family goals of being that welcoming parish open to all, investing in our kids’ faith foundation, and volunteering to do the mission and ministry work of the church in our parish lives.

God has given us everything including this rainbow of good fortune and plentiful opportunities to love and serve Him—what is our response?

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