That is the nickname given to my presentation and talks about use of social media, mobile apps and other collaboration technology in the work of the church. Often, I hear a familiar retort:
“We can’t use technologies like that because our [clients or congregation members–or fill in any constituency] don’t have access to it.”
The truth is—you might be very surprised to find out that they not only DO HAVE ACCESS but they are using it a lot more than you think to gain access to the information and services that are important in their lives. The real truth is that it is the church and not those we minister to who are not making use of technology that better connect us with the faithful.
“In the U.S., Hispanic consumers’ usage rates of smartphones, television, online video, social networking and other forms of entertainment make this group one of today’s most engaged and dynamic populations in the digital space, according to Nielsen’s recent State of the Hispanic Consumer: The Hispanic Market Imperative report. Mobile presents a significant avenue of opportunity for marketers looking to reach Hispanic consumers – Hispanic mobile users send or receive 941 SMS (text) messages a month, more than any other ethnic group. They also make 13 phone calls per day, 40 percent more than the average U.S. mobile user.
Social is another platform where Latinos are especially active and rising in numbers. During February 2012, Hispanics increased their visits to Social Networks/Blogs by 14 percent compared to February 2011. Not only are Latinos the fastest growing U.S. ethnic group on Facebook and WordPress.com from a year ago, but also Hispanic adults are 25 percent more likely to follow a brand and 18 percent more likely to follow a celebrity than the general online population.”
So the long slow decline in church participation, membership and pledging might have more to do with making the church more accessible and relevant to those it seeks to serve and responding to their needs with information, connections and support when they need, how they need it, where they need it most. Sometimes that is NOT Sunday morning at 10am.
A key finding of the Church Growth Program Action Planning Process was that the single most empowering action the church could take to stop the decline in participation was to throw open the doors to the church in a virtual as well as real sense to make the mission, ministry, programs and services of the church more accessible.
We will have another CHURCH2GO workshop presentation June 2nd 12:30pm to 2:00pm as part of the ordination day events at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco. ALL ARE WELCOME.
Guest presenters for the workshop will be:
Dr. Pascal Kaplan, President, iCohere, a social collaboration software solution widely used in business, educational and nonprofit settings.
Gary Hunt, Member of the Diocesan Executive Counciland convener of the Membership Growth Team of the church Vitality and Growth Project.
We’re preparing a presentation on how such technology can be adapted and used to create a Social Network for the Episcopal Diocese of California that would throw open the doors of the church and create a virtual community accessible to all. Bring your questions and come try out some CHURCH2GO technology you can use today.
St Aidan’s will be hosting two seminars with Ian Mobsby from the Church of England on
Fresh & Missional Expressions of Church
Wednesday, February 29th 10:30am to 3:30pm
101 Gold Mine Drive, San Francisco.
Building Fresh expressions of church & Small missional communities in a culture of post-‐secular spirituality.
Saturday March 3rd 10.30-‐3.30pm
New Monasticism As an expression of small missional community. For clergy, pastors, ministry teams, youth workers, small missional communities, evangelists, parish workers, ordinands, students, researchers, enthusiasts and those interested in missiology.
Costs & Booking Places
Attending Both seminars $50 (employed) $45 (student/unwaged).
Attending One seminar $35 (employed) $30 (student/unwaged).
All are Welcome! No registration required. Come as you are!
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. The Church Growth Program has given us an opportunity to study the research and review the surveys and listen to the aspirations of faithful people speaking from their hearts.
What are we looking for when we go to church?
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.
We expect the church not only to teach us the lessons of the Gospels but also to 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.
Do We Need a Social Network for the Diocese of California?
A key discussion item for our Church2Go workshop is our need for better communications, transparency and collaboration tools for doing God’s work in the vineyard in ways that allow other to participate and learn from our experience.
Our discussion will focus on identifying the areas where social network collaboration tools may be useful and discuss some options for making them available.
Experience the Bible with Others. It could be a local small group Bible study. We all know how that works, but this version of Bible Study is done in a big community of faith. I’m talking about YouVersion, and online collaboration site that allows individuals to participate in Bible Study groups. YouVersion is an online community of LifeChurch.tv that uses social networking technology to ‘engage people into relationships with God as they discover the relevance the Bible has for their lives.’ The site offers different versions of the Bible to fit every faith tradition. It offers the Bible in five languages. It offers Bible Apps for your smart phone. Any YouVersion user can join groups that are organized by churches, Bible study groups, and other organizations. You can do church online not just on Sunday mornings but on your time and participate in YouVersion Live events that group is hosting. You can belong to multiple groups at the same time. In short, YouVersion is Church2Go in real terms, in real time.
Nonprofits are using Salesforce CRM and the Force.com platform for fundraising, program management, volunteer management and other uses to:
Work smarter – innovate in the field while driving operational efficiencies
Stand out – improving constituent loyalty in an increasingly competitive environment
Prove impact – gain visibility into operations and outcomes to drive greater success
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.
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.
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!
The 162nd Convention of the Diocese of California held October 21-22 heard Bishop Marc Andrus call for a new spirit of renewal, hope and vitality for the church in a call to action to get the church growing again.
Church vitality has been front and center as as a major issue for the church.
For many years the long slow decline in average Sunday attendance, membership and pledging has reduced the size of the Episcopal Church and other mainline denominations.
Earlier this year at Bishop Marc’s request the Executive Council of the Diocese of California launched a church growth program to expand lay participation in the church and open its doors to new members. This is a companion to the ongoing work of the Diocese staff on mission effectiveness and church vitality.
Over the past three months, the church growth program has held workshops, made presentations at each of the six deaneries, and created a website to gather resources to help congregations with growing ideas.
Next Step: Working in the Vineyard
With the convention endorsement, the next stage of this church growth and vitality initiative is beginning by inviting congregations eager to take a fresh look at new ideas to grow, new programs to meet the needs of the faithful, and help in assessing their needs to take action.
GROWING IDEAS. The catalog of program ideas continues to grow as congregations offer them. Check out the list in the Growing Ideas category on this website. If you have a program that has worked well to help your congregation grow we’d love to hear about it.
CONGREGATION ACTION PLANNING. The Church Growth Program team will gladly meet with any congregation to provide a presentation on our work, facilitate discussion of ideas appropriate to your congregation needs and help your Vestry develop a Growing Ideas action plan of your own. Contact Gary Hunt at email@example.com to set up a meeting.
CHURCH GROWTH PROGRAM WORKSHOPS. We will hold two more action planning workshops and you are welcome to participate. No registration is required.
NOVEMBER 12th 9am to Noon. St. Alban’s Brentwood. EAST CONTRA COSTA COUNTY CHURCH GROWTH NEEDS ASSESSMENT. We will hear representatives from area congregations describe the issues they face and the needs they have to bring the Good News to the people of this fast growing and fast changing part of the Diocese of California.
DECEMBER 10TH 9am to Noon. Holy Innocent’s San Francisco. CHURCH2GO! How New Technology can Help Your Congregation build Community and Flourish.From new tools for online giving, using software to make stewardship easy, to social networking technology is helping the church connect with people and support their personal faith journey as well as their service to others.
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.
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:
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.
Experiment. Experiment, Experiment. The church must try new things and reach out to new people even if they are not like us.
The structures of the church resist change—get out of the way and growth will happen.
We need to be an incubator of new ideas, more entrepreneurial and willing to experiment.
The church began as home church—maybe it can grow again that way.
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.
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?
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.
Empower small groups to satisfy the yearning for spiritual growth and put Jesus in our lives.
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.
Focus on goals: evangelize, conversion, and commitment.
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?
Create opportunities for common prayer with integrity.
Speak the language of the people, get rid of the ‘church speak.
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.
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.
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.
We need big, hairy, audacious goals for growth that engage the people in the pews to help growth the church.
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.
Offer many, many faith-filled life and community experiences to engage people in the work of the church.
Give us many, many opportunities to do mission and ministry work with our friends.
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.
Build programs to serve the spiritual needs of individuals: Not self-improvement, but putting Jesus in my life through prayer, worship and service.
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.
September 17, 2011 – St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, San Rafael
ALL ARE WELCOME! This will be the first meeting of this action planning task force. The workshop is designed to frame the issues of declining church attendance and membership and identify opportunities to use the changing regional demographics to renew church participation and membership and reach out to the unchurched and underserved.
9:00am Welcome by The Rev Christopher Martin, Rector, St. Paul’s
Introductions around the room
9:15am What is the Church Growth Program?Gary Hunt
Setting the Stage for Change Presentation: Why are we doing this?
Three Action Planning Teams: Membership Growth, Revenue Growth, DioCal Ops
Membership Growth Action Planning Process:
Focus attention on the need for growth and renewal
Gather Ideas that work from Congregations
Reinforce our spiritual foundation for church growth
9:20am The Restoration Project (Rev. Christopher Martin)
“A decade long effort to develop a structure that reframes and reworks ancient spiritual wisdom for today’s disciples. The Restoration Project provides a loving structure for the restoration through Jesus, of the image of God in us.”
10:00am Engaging the Faithful in our Church Growth Journey (Julia McCray-Goldsmith)
Encouraging public narrative on ways to offer “testimony” (Episcopal-style) as to why church matters to us and why others would wan to join. Its based in personal story but also includes a very direct “ask,” (to join in, give, commit) which is something we generally don’t do well.
10:20am Roundtable: Framing the Issues of Decline, Renewal and Sustainable Growth
What is the growth problem with the Episcopal church? Are we alone in this? Why is this happening?
How is our DioCal community changing? Census 2010: Living into our new demographic realities
Identifying implications of these changes and options for the future
BREAK OUT #1:‘Walking the Talk’ of Mission Effectiveness and the issues of Struggling Congregations
BREAK OUT #2:Creating a ‘Congregations Up’ Support System for Church Vitality and Growth
Thinking about Big Hairy Bold and Audacious goals and ideas for growth!
Noon-1:00pm LUNCH on our own in downtown San Rafael
1:00pm New Ideas and Ideas that Work
Celebrate what is working! Gather ideas at work today across the congregations.
Encourage collaboration to meet shared needs through area ministry programs
New ideas to close the gaps in unmet congregation needs to encourage growth
Strategies to help struggling congregations make the transition?
Strategies to target DioCal resources to congregations for growth initiatives?
New technologies to create strong Episcopal social network across DioCal?
October 15th St Clare’s, Pleasanton
November 12th St Alban’s, Brentwood
December 10th or 17th TBD
Church Growth Lab Experiments Exploring New Ways to do Church
OCTOBER:Three Saints Collaboration: St Bartholomew, St. Clare, St. Timothy collaboration to growth the church by serving the Dougherty Valley. Exploring ideas to create shared mission and ministry programs.
NOVEMBER:East Contra County: How does the Episcopal Church respond to the explosive growth, changing demographics, negative impacts of recession and the resource constrained capacity of small congregations (St. Albans-Brentwood, St. George’s Antioch, St. Michael and All Angels Concord) to meet the needs of the faithful.
DECEMBER:Church2Go: Growth Models for Beloved Community. Engaging the faithful in doing the work of the church in our diverse, rapidly changing, multicultural communities requires new ways to ‘do church’, new technologies to connect our social network, new ways to reach out and welcome the unchurched, under-served and expand our membership base.