Membership Growth Team Workshop #1 Feedback

The first workshop of the Membership Growth Team was held Saturday, September 17, 2011 at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, San Rafael.  Fifteen members attended this first of four action planning workshops to be held during the action planning phase of the Church Growth Program.

Spiritual Foundation of Church Growth Program

Finding Jesus in Our Lives with The Restoration Project.  The Rev. Christopher Martin introduced us to The Restoration Project a decade long initiative, now in place at St. Paul’s-San Rafael, to develop a small group structure that reframes and reworks ancient spiritual wisdom for today’s disciples through Jesus, the image of God in us.  This is a simple but powerful way to find Jesus in our lives each day through a routine of prayer, worship and service to others. Begin your journey at prayworshipserve.com which encourages a 20+1+1 campaign (pray 20 minutes per day + 1 hour of worship per week + 1 day of service per month) based on the Restoration Project.

The Restoration Project offers basic course modules any congregation can use. Each class is about four weeks long with about an hour for each weekly session. They can be offered any time that’s convenient for your community.

  • Basic Anglicanism is like a citizenship class. We learn where we came from, how we make decisions and how we worship. We get to know the particular church community in which we are planted.
  • Basic Bible teaches the skills for reading the Bible intelligently and prayerfully. It combines contemporary scholarship with the traditional four senses of scripture so that we can make the ancient practice of lectio divina our own.
  • Basic Christianity tells the whole story of our faith from the beginning of time until the end. Built on the work of Nicky Gumbel, Carol Anderson and other master teachers, it gives students the narrative framework we all need for a lifetime of growing in faith.
  • Basic Discipleship teaches the essential Christian practices of prayer, financial stewardship and of telling our own story. It encourages students to adopt the Rhythm of Life.

To see how the Restoration Project works in practice, check out the website of St. Paul’s, a community whose mission is ‘following Jesus together in worship, prayer and service.’ Here is an example of a one page format for a bi-weekly meeting of a Discipleship Group, a format inspired by the work of Parker Palmer. Or contact The Rev. Christopher Martin at Christopher@TheRestorationProject.net.

Public Narrative: Telling Stories in Communities in Transition.  Julia McCray-Goldsmith introduced us to a story telling learner’s guide developed for use in training lay leaders.   This leadership program provides a powerful way of using stories to articulate our spiritual yearning and aspirations in the context of our personal journey to know Jesus Christ, our community story of being called to so the mission work of the church and our story of now or the call to action to make it happen.

“So here is what I want you to do.  When you gather for worship, each one you be prepared with something that will be useful for all: Sing a hymn, teach a lesson, tell a story, lead a prayer, provide an insight.” —1 Corinthians 14:26

Stories are the way we have passed down the Word of God for centuries.  They are the way our children learn the values and lessons of life, and they are the way we can embrace each other in communities we value to live into the Great Commission as we put Jesus in our daily lives.

What is the Church Growth Program?

Joe Jennings, of St. Mary the Virgin Episcopal Church, San Francisco, is one of the organizers of the Church Growth Program.  He reviewed how the program came to be, the background on church decline and the Diocesan action plan to do something about it. The church growth program has three action planning teams focused on membership and attendance growth, revenue growth, and Diocesan IT/Communications and organization.  These three teams are tasked with develop an action plan over 120 days to get the church growing again.

Workshop Discussion Group Ideas

We divided the team into two smaller brainstorming groups focused on “walking the talk” of mission and ministry effectiveness to address the issues that prevent church growth and ideas for a new congregations up strategy to facilitate such growth.  Here are the takeaways:

  1. Issues of Struggling Congregations. The Diocese has struggling congregations that have been unable to thrive. We need more than a new learning program. We need a culture change to get the church growing again.  There is no imperative to grow, a fear of change.
  2. Experiment. Experiment, Experiment. The church must try new things and reach out to new people even if they are not like us.
  3. The structures of the church resist change—get out of the way and growth will happen.
  4. We need to be an incubator of new ideas, more entrepreneurial and willing to experiment.
  5. The church began as home church—maybe it can grow again that way.
  6. Get on the Incorporation Fast Track. We need to help people move easily from visiting to belonging to supporting the church. Develop ideas to help congregation go beyond being welcoming to being effective at incorporating new members to be active participants in the work of the church.
  7. We need new ways to do church that are not geography-based.  Many of our ethnic, multicultural and support ministry needs do not fit conveniently in a single congregation.  How do we develop effective programs many congregations can use to meet these needs?
  8. Focus on communities not churches as buildings.  We need more Church2Go solutions that leverage social networking and online communities and collaboration to ‘do church’ together online.
  9. Empower small groups to satisfy the yearning for spiritual growth and put Jesus in our lives.
  10. The power of asking people to help, take on a church ministry and participate. There is nothing more affirming than to ask someone to be part of something you value.  Just do it.
  11. Focus on goals: evangelize, conversion, and commitment.
  12. Be clear about the church’s identity: what do we believe? How do we include others?  How do we incorporate or assimilate others in the work of the church?
  13. Create opportunities for common prayer with integrity.
  14. Speak the language of the people, get rid of the ‘church speak.
  15. The diocese needs a two-way communications social network with the IT and communications tools to encourage collaborations among the faithful and across congregation boundaries.
  16. Encourage collaboration through ministry program modules by offering easy to adapt worship, ministry and faith formation programs as off-the-shelf through the Diocesan Resource Center.
  17. Encourage lay leadership training to raise up new generation of lay leaders across congregations and use area ministry to encourage teamwork on program planning across congregations.
  18. We need big, hairy, audacious goals for growth that engage the people in the pews to help growth the church.
  19. Need to feed the spiritual hunger in each of us and welcome newcomers to the faith community without the ‘baggage’ of church traditions, ritual and language.
  20. Offer many, many faith-filled life and community experiences to engage people in the work of the church.
  21. Give us many, many opportunities to do mission and ministry work with our friends.
  22. Offer challenge grants to leverage DioCal revenue support for programs based upon congregation participation and financial support for those programs.  Ask congregations to put ‘skin in the game’ to encourage a natural focus on program effectiveness. Use Episcopal Charities Action Networks to model and this challenge grant approach instead of allocating money evenly across the Deaneries with no congregational commitment to program success.
  23. Build programs to serve the spiritual needs of individuals:  Not self-improvement, but putting Jesus in my life through prayer, worship and service.
  24. Tell the Story of the Episcopal Church one person at a time by engaging people in telling their personal stories as witness and life lessons of hope, change, faith, perseverance and accepting Jesus in their lives.  Create a YouTube-like channel for telling personal stories of faith to inspire the faithful and give thanks and praise to God for the blessings in our lives.

If you attended the workshop and would like to clarify this feedback report or add your own views to it please use the comments feature and att them to this blog post.

Gary Hunt

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