Census 2010 clues for Growing the Church

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A key issue facing the Episcopal Church, the Diocese of California and St. Timothy’s is the long, slow decline in the membership of the mainline Protestant religions. The Episcopal Church of the US has about 2 million members, down 3% or 50,000 members from 2008 to 2009.

Average Sunday Attendance in the Diocese of California has declined since 1988

In January 2000, parishes of the Diocese of California had average Sunday attendance of 10, 994 people and 9,686 pledge units.  By January 2011 average Sunday attendance (ASA) has fallen to 8,169 people and pledge units were down to 7,047.  Despite these declines, total Diocesan pledge income grew from $14.0 million in 2000 to $18.2 million in 2008 before the recession but since has fallen to $16.4 million in 2011.  The growth in the average pledge across the Diocese, just as at St. Timothy’s masked the big problem—the Episcopal Church is not growing!

If these trends of ASA decline of -3.3% per year and average pledge income decline of -2.6% per year continue, by 2020 ASA will fall to 6,096 people (down 45% from 2000), 5,259 pledge units (down 46% from 2000) and total expected pledges of $13.1 million (down 28% from 2008 and 6% lower than 2000 levels).

St. Timothy’s 20/20 Vision Goal is to Buck the Trend and Grow the Church

Our 20/20 Vision goals to be a welcoming parish open to all and to live into the mission work of the church by doubling the parish pledge base and participation by the year 2020 are serious challenges to these long term membership trends. To buck the trend requires that St. Timothy’s and other congregations reach out to the unchurched and underserved, collaborate with the Diocese and work with other congregations to attract the faithful in order to achieving the 20/20 Vision goals.

Growing the Church is one of the biggest challenges awaiting our new Rector.

The 2010 census results have profound implications for the church and powerfully align with the 20/20 Vision goals St. Timothy’s Vestry has set. In 2003 during the 50th anniversary year, the Vestry affirmed our unbroken chain of faith in the call in 1953 by Bishop Shires to ‘plant a mission congregation down the road in the San Ramon Valley. Rector Hodgkin of St. Paul’s Walnut Creek responded to that call and one month later formed St. Timothy’s mission and a Vicar was named. Surely God’s hand was at work in that speedy response to the call.

What does the 2010 Census mean for church growth?

  • Census 2010 tells the story of our growing cultural diversity. Our best opportunities for growth are to welcome our neighbors to worship with us. Both Hispanic and Asian segments of the population are the fastest growing over the past ten years and in California no one racial group will be the majority in our shared future. If the Episcopal Church is to grow it must find ways to welcome and incorporate people of many cultures here at home just as the church does across the Anglican Communion.
  • Census 2010 tells us our population is getting older, having fewer kids and Bay Area growth has slowed and not just because of the recession. The 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. Danville is the heart of the fastest growing county in the Bay Area. We should continue to be attractive as a place to live, work and worship especially with continued change in the demographic make-up of our market service area.
  • But Contra Costa County grew10.6%–faster than any of the nine Bay Area counties and is now the ninth largest county in California with over 1 million people out of a total Bay Area population of 7.15 million with a 5.4 percent growth since 2000.  San Francisco grew by 3.7 percent.
  • Who will serve the new growth in our Dougherty Valley backyard if not us?  Bishop Marc Andrus asked St. Timothy’s to work with St. Clare’s in Dublin Pleasanton and St. Bartholomew’s in Livermore to assess the mission and ministry needs of the Dougherty Valley area all three parishes serve. More than 25,000 homes will be built in the area and between our three churches we can welcome many families seeking a new parish home. Our job is to help them discover us.

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 social networking, communications and marketing strategy as diverse as the communities we have the opportunity to serve.

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