Farmers Market Casual Evangelism

Danville, California, USA
Life at the foot of Mt Diablo

Showing up is often one of the most important things we can do for the church.  Showing up is also part of the casual evangelism strategy at St. Timothy’s so others can discover us on their own terms.

That is Steve Mason’s idea behind the St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church, Danville, CA card table in the free speech section of the Danville Farmer’s Market each Saturday from 9am to 1pm.  Steve is a member of the Vestry and chair of its Evangelism and Church Growth Ministry.

From my experience at the Saturday Market table it is a great and non-threatening way for unchurched to get to know your church.  I am always surprised at the power of a smile and ‘good morning’—and the questions I get asked:

  • Can I come to your church during the day to pray alone?
  • Do you still allow birds to be buried in your Redwood grove?

Thanks for letting me park my car at your church while I bike up Mt Diablo—your church is such a friendly place one woman said as she handed me a check to put in the plate at church.

That made my day!

I asked Steve Mason to share his thoughts about this comfortable evangelism approach.  Here is what he offered:

Evangelism and Church Growth From an Episcopalian Perspective

What follows are my opinions, experiences and learning’s from three years of service on the Vestry of St Timothy’s Episcopal Church, Danville CA. in a capacity to head evangelism and church growth for that parish.

Steve Mason

Prerequisites

  • A Parish that is welcoming, open and affirming and that is desirous of growth.
  • A belief that evangelism is primarily the following of the path Jesus demonstrated for us to follow and not a method to balance the parish budget.
  • A Clergy that is supportive of “Spreading the Good News” and provides leadership towards that end.
  • A Parish that encourages congregants to actively work on their faith life.

Methods

  • Encourage parishioners to talk about their own faith life with others when asked, rather than attempt to “convert” the questioner.
  • Attend public events such as the Danville Farmer’s Market in the “free speech area”
  • Identify who you are, such as the banner that states Saint Timothy’s Episcopal Church, Danville.
  • If available wear logo wear clothing or the parish name badge.
  • Have printed material that includes the address of the parish, service times, types of ministries, youth activities and a brief profile of the parish.
  • Establish eye contact and greet the public with a friendly, “Good Morning” those that are interested will engage you in conversation.
  • Do not wear sunglasses, your eyes are the most expressive part of your face and will transmit your sincerity as you describe your faith journey and why your parish is an important part of your life.
  • Be genuinely curious about what the person you are talking with is looking for in a faith community.
  • Be honest with your answers.
  • Remember this is NOT a sales pitch!  In fact it is “not about me”, our job is only to describe our faith journey and how we value our parish.  We have a silent partner; the Holy Spirit that will motivate action if the person is ready to act.
  • Because of our silent partner do not internalize your responsibility to bring in new members, or get wrapped up in numbers.  The analogy I like is that our job is to set the table, cook and serve the meal.  It is up to the person you are talking with to join us at the feast
  • Have an active Greeters program so that if someone does try you out they are recognized and made to feel welcome.
  • Find something for the new seeker to do to integrate them into parish live as soon as possible.

Needed help from DioCal

  • Training online and presenter led for Episcopalian Evangelism
  • On going research on what the un-churched are looking for and how we can meet those needs.
  • Become an on-line place where parishes can share ideas on different worship styles that appeal to the un-churched.
  • Provide leadership in getting the word out that the God Episcopalians find every Sunday in their parishes is a loving accepting inclusive God.

Recent Learning’s

  • It takes time to make Evangelism an acceptable word in Episcopalian Parishes
  • With Clergy and Lay leadership, and when the parish begins to see new people in church, enthusiasm will build and this will help in all areas of parish life.
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