Calling All Church Geeks

For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”   Matthew 18:20

In August 2011, Bishop Marc Andrus came to the Executive Council and asked the lay leaders of the Episcopal Diocese of California to take up the challenge of church vitality and find ways to get the church growing again.  For the past four months the Executive Council’s lay-driven Church Growth Program has shined bright light on the issues and implications of the long slow decline in church membership, average Sunday attendance and pledging.

In plain blunt terms, at the current average rate of decline of -3.3% per year, the Episcopal Diocese of California is one-half the size it was in 2000.  Project that same average decline rate forward ten years to 2022 and the Diocese of California would be half the size it is in 2011 with fewer than 5,000 pledge units.

How can we get the church growing?

Embrace the diversity of our Diocese and welcome all who love God and seek Christ in their lives as part of our faith community through prayer, worship and service to others.

Give the people what they want from the 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:

  1. Help me discover Jesus in my life and support me on my personal faith journey.
  2. Help me give my kids a good faith foundation that will guide their lives.
  3. Help me be in community with other faithful who welcome me as I am.
  4. Give me options to pray, worship and serve others to be the Body of Christ.
  5. Be there for me in my times of pain, hurt and need to comfort me, love me, stand up for me and stand by me when I need it most.

Connect and empower the people to be the Body of Christ across the Diocese by making use of social media and technology to make it easy for us to be in community, to collaborate and share, to work together on mission and ministry programs, to find new ways to serve and where the church is our gate opener not our gate keeper.

Love us and support us on our faith journey. The church is more than its ritual; it is our pathway to find Jesus in our lives. What people are saying they want the church to do is offer a menu of the bread of life and cup of salvation in scores of ways, in hundreds of places, with thousands of others who also need Jesus in their lives. To get the church growing again we can’t rely on a one-size-fits-all approach to prayer, worship or service and still be present in people’s lives when they need Jesus most.

The lesson from the church growth program is that the path to growth is connecting with people one-on-one, inviting them to the table and offering bread and wine that satisfies the soul in ways that fit their lives, their labors, their needs.

Finding new ways to do church does not mean abandoning our faith values it means finding new ways to share them in the language of the people.  What we’re learning is there is a hunger for traditional values of prayer, worship, service and community but we want it available in new ways.

Speaking the language of the people also means using the technologies of the people to help us satisfy our hunger to be in community and have Jesus in our midst by connecting and empowering the people to be the Body of Christ that still celebrates traditional values but in new ways.

CHURCH2GO: Calling the Church Geek Faithful to Service

On December 10th 9am to noon at Holy Innocents San Francisco, the Church Growth Program membership growth team will hold a workshop called CHURCH2GO exploring how the church can make better use of technology to help us be in community, empower us to collaborate and share our talents and time productively, and discover new ways to serve others.  We welcome your ideas and participation.

No registration is needed!  Come as you are.

We especially are eager to have people knowledgeable in easy to use, hosted online

  • social networking and social media software to build community,
  • collaboration software for use in area ministry programs
  • database tools to search ministry best practices unstructured data
  • talent software tools to match skills with service needs
  • crm software like for stewardship
  • online learning software for use in lay leadership training
  • crowd-funding, crowd-sourcing tools for outreach and service projects
  • smart phone apps applicable to church work.

Collaboration Ministry: The Dougherty Valley Project

Church Growth Program Workshop # 2

Exploring New Ways to Do Church

Bishop Marc asked St. Clare’s, St. Bartholomew’s and St. Timothy’s to collaborate on mission and ministry needs for the growing area between San Ramon, Pleasanton and Livermore.

  • What are the challenges and how is it going?
  • Will collaboration ministry work for your congregation?
  • Shelton Ensley and the three parish team at work will discuss the issues.

No registration required.  All are Welcome!

October 15th 9am to noon

St. Clare’s Episcopal Church, Pleasanton

3350 Hopyard Rd 94588

The Growth Potential from Social Networking the Church

Social Media Report: Spending Time, Money and Going Mobile

This Social Media Report was released recently by Nielsen.  It provides a fresh look at the growing power of social networking and its potential to bring together groups of many types. 

A key consideration in the the Church Growth Program is how to use social networking to link together church members, give the unchurched access to information and programs that could attract them to the Episcopal Church, and how to use this new disruptive technology to improve collaboration and involvement of church members not just in the Diocese of California but around the world.

I have included linked to the Nielsen study so you can read it yourselves.

Gary Hunt

Social media not only connects consumers with each other, but also with just about every place they go and everything they watch and buy. Nielsen’s new Social Media Report looks at trends and consumption patterns across social media platforms in the U.S. and other major markets, exploring the rising influence of social media on consumer behavior.

Highlights of Nielsen’s “State of the Media: The Social Media Report”

  • Social networks and blogs continue to dominate Americans’ time online, now accounting for nearly a quarter of total time spent on the Internet
  • At over 53 billion total minutes during May 2011, Americans spend more time on Facebook than they do on any other website
  • Tumblr is an emerging player in social media, nearly tripling its audience from a year ago
  • Nearly 40 percent of social media users access social media content from their mobile phone
  • Internet users over the age of 55 are driving the growth of social networking through the Mobile Internet
  • 70 percent of active online adult social networkers shop online, 12 percent more likely than the average adult Internet user
  • Across a sample of 10 global markets, social networks and blogs are the top online destination in each country, accounting for the majority of time spent online and reaching at least 60 percent of active Internet users

For a more in-depth look at the social media landscape and audience, view the complete State of the Media: The Social Media Report.

Membership Growth Team Workshop – September 17th 9am-2pm

Membership Growth Team Workshop #1

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.”

9:45am   BREAK

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?


2:00pm                 Adjourn

Upcoming Meetings:

  • 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

    1. 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.
    2. 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.
    3. 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.

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


  • 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.


  • 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.