Orange Sunday is a new observance for the Episcopal Church and it is an outgrowth of the ministry of the group “Bishops United Against Gun Violence”. Started by bishops in Connecticut after the Sandy Hook tragedy, Bishops United Against Gun Violence is a working group of 60+ bishops from across the country. This group came together to speak out against gun violence and the loss of innocent life.
Technology is changing the way we do God’s work by making it faster, easier and more fulfilling to be in community with others who are seeking many of the same things we are. But our experience with technology also is raising our expectations that the church will grow with us as we learn to put new technologies to work to make our lives better, our work easier, and our community more transparent, inclusive, and welcoming.
Technology can Help Us Do Church in new Ways
We want to see the church as our family of faith not a place we go just on Sunday, a safe place where we are loved for who we are and fed spiritual food to sustain us:
- Help me discover Jesus in my life and support me on my spiritual journey.
- Help me give my kids a good faith foundation that will guide their lives.
- Help me be in community with other faithful who welcome me as I am.
- Give me options to pray, worship and serve others to be the Body of Christ.
- Be there for me in my times of need to pray with me, comfort me, love me, stand up for me and stand by me when I need it most.
Teach us the lessons of the Gospels and connect and empower the people to be the Body of Christ. We want to hold up our faith traditions and rituals but we also want the church to do more. By teaching us to pray, helping us learn the lessons of the Gospels and sending us out to do the work God has given us to do we realize that the church must make use of social media and technology to make it easier for us to be in community, to collaborate and share, to work together on mission and ministry programs, to find new ways to serve. The job of the church is to be our gate opener not our gate keeper.
The People of the Church are going Social—shouldn’t the Church join them? Almost every church has a website but few are places we really want to hangout. Like a billboard that rarely changes we just don’t go there. The reasons are most first generation web technology was not designed for two way collaboration and sharing. So while we consume a lot of information from the web, it is only recently that new web collaboration and social networking tools, mobile phone apps and other use of technology is changing the way we do church.
Smart Phone Church Apps
Apples iOS now has scores of Apps useful to Christians. Here are a few suggested by Craig Sturm in his blog Swimming Upstream along with his comments about each. Unless otherwise noted, all of these apps are free.
- Accordance – You can get several of the most essential reference tools here for free: Easton’s Bible Dictionary, Nave’s Topical Bible, some Greek and Hebrew helps, and Matthew Henry’s complete commentary.
- Christian Creeds and Reformed Confessions – Handy for catechesis or reference.
- ESV Bible (free) and ESV Study Bible + ($14.99) – This is my favorite app for Bible reading. You can listen to the ESV audio, too, if you’re online.
- YouVersion – An app version of the popular web site. It offers all kinds of translations and other resources.
- Fighter Verses ($2.99) – From Desiring God.
- Free Bible Study Tools – The BibleStudyTools.com app has an impressive array of resources, including dictionaries, commentaries, and encyclopedias, and the longest list of available Bible translations I’ve seen.
- Grace to You – A nice enough interface to the audio and video on gty.org.
- Ligonier Ministries – An interface to ligonier.org with plenty of audio, video and other resources.
- Husting Pocket Hymnal (formerly Popular Christian Classic Hymns) – This is a decent little app, for all its simplicity. Maybe a little niche, but if it’s a free Christian hymnal you want, this is the best I have for you.
- Logos Bible Software – It tends to be slow, quirky, and unstable, but it syncs with the desktop software—which can also be slow, quirky, and unstable at times! If you just want to read books in your Libronix library, I recommend Vyrso (below) instead, which is basically the same thing without the Bible reader and study tools.
- Olive Tree BibleReader – You can read the Bible on this app, but I use it for the many good free books you can download through it, from such authors as Spurgeon, E. M. Bounds, and John Piper.
- OnePlace.com – A podcast buffet, serving some delicacies and some garbage. (At least they don’t host Joel Osteen anymore!)
- PocketSword – I’m impressed with this little gem! The interface isn’t pretty, but it gives simple access to lots of great free resources—most of all commentaries!
- PrayerMate – Quiet Time Organiser ($2.99) – I use this to organize my prayers. Very useful.
- Reformation Study Bible ($9.99) – Just what the name says. Note that this is licensed to a third-party and is not created by Ligonier.
- Vyrso – This is pretty much the Logos app (above) without the Bible reader and study tools.
- Reeder – The best way to access your Google Reader account and digest all those blogs ($2.99).
- CHURCH2GO: Technology to Help the Church Grow! (churchgrowthprogram.com)
- Which Bible translation to read? (samisaacson.wordpress.com)
- App of the Month: the ESV Study Bible + (worshipadvice.com)
- iOS Apps for Christians | Challies Dot Com (craigsturm.wordpress.com)
- More on choosing a Bible version (arthurandtamie.wordpress.com)
- Bible Audio Pronunciations iPhone App Expands Library (themactrack.com)
Nielsen has a very interesting new study of the attitudes of women. What makes this study useful for our work in the Church Growth Program is the breakdown of the data from the survey results across ethnic and other demographic lines that make it a good resource for planning mission and ministry programs.
We’re learning from the 2010 Census data about the profound changes in demographics reshaping our country. Those changes are not just ethnic they are also being reshaped by the changing role of women in the workplace and in our society. Hispanics are the fastest growing ethnic group and their attitudes about optimism and opportunity will have major impacts on media, retail and manufacturers now and in the years ahead—and provide lessons about of message of hope and opportunity for an optimistic role for woman in the Episcopal Church.
The Nielsen study offers good news for our mission and ministry work in the vineyard over the next year working congregation by congregation to help each devise a church vitality and growth strategy that works for them. Its focus on attitudes about optimism and opportunity are very important benchmarks for our church vitality and growth work ahead.
Headlines from this Nielsen study?
- Optimism was highest among African American and Hispanic women, especially when it came to how they viewed the opportunities they have had compared with those of their mothers.
- Women of today are not only optimistic for themselves, they expect their daughters to have more opportunity than they do.
- American women are heavy users of technology – even if they aren’t early adopters. Women of all ethnicities use media in similar ways, with one key exception: smartphones. Just 33 percent of Caucasian women have a smartphone in their household, compared to penetration rates in the 60s for women of other ethnicities.
I recommend this Nielsen Report to you: Women of Tomorrow: U.S. Multicultural Insights.
- Church Growth and Vitality in East Contra Costa County (churchgrowthprogram.com)
- Study: Indian Women Are the Most Stressed on Earth (newsfeed.time.com)
- Women, African Americans, & Older Americans Watch The Most Video (reelseo.com)
- Nielsen: ‘vast majority’ of those under 44 have smartphones (electronista.com)
- Nielsen Wire: Women of Tomorrow, US Smartphone Surge; Countdown to Product Launch (ynative77.wordpress.com)
Here is the background information we promised:
Every Sunday thousands of people leave church and never come back.
Here in North America, 80% of our churches are not growing.
That means yours is probably one of them.
The reasons are not always simple, but there are solutions.
Grow My Church! is a new church renewal program designed to help stop the slide and rebuild declining congregations. It’s a practical self-assessment tool designed to stimulate introspection and growth by combining sage advice from leading congregational development experts with a practical, easy-to-use format to help you evaluate your ministry and take steps to improve.
Grow My Church! is a low-cost alternative to consulting firms and can help congregations identify their challenges and develop a productive course of action. Once finished, churches usually have a much better idea of where their growing edges lie and are thus better equipped to take further steps to address them.
The course leads your group through key areas of congregational life essential for health and vitality: leadership, purpose, worship, spirituality, service, fellowship, generosity, hospitality and invitation. During the course, your church will develop its own personalized Congregational Growth Plan, which includes attainable goals and realistic expectations.
Grow My Church! is designed for a small group of 6-10 participants. It includes a DVD with 4 hours of teaching, and companion CD featuring course outlines, worksheets, and appendices rich in practical information.
Grow My Church! is written by Chris Yaw, an experienced pastor who has a heart for building healthy congregations. He is the author of several books and articles and holds degrees from Fuller Seminary in Pasadena, California.
Cost: $298 (plus s/h). Money back guarantee
Your church does not have to continue its downward slide. You may be able to bring renewal to your faith community. Learn more at www.thegrowmychurchcourse.com. Then think about it, pray about it, and take a first step towards a healthier congregation.
This is a list of useful resources and views about church growth and decline. It is by no means an exhaustive list. if you know of other resources please ADD A COMMENT with the link and a brief description.