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.
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”
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
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.
The study used data drawn from the General Social Survey and the National Survey of Family Growth. The study focused narrowly on changes in patterns of church attendance between the 1970’s and the 2000’s for white people 25 to 44 years old in three categories to assess their propensity to attend church. This study focused on whites only because the professors said their research found black and Latino churchgoing is less affected by income and education in those groups.
The bottom line of the study results is that attendance has fallen for all white Americans over the last generation, but it has fallen twice as fast for the less-educated.
Here are findings:
46% vs 51%: college educated white Americans attended church in the 2000s but vs 1970’s
37% vs 50%: moderately educated people surveyed attending church regularly 2000s vs 1970s.
23% vs 38%: church attendance drops for the least educated in 2000s vs 1970s.
The research authors say economics and a feeling of social marginalization among the least educated may be the factors explaining the survey results. Lower-income and less-educated people are also less likely to embrace the work ethics and “familial values” such as marriage promoted by churches, the study says.
The links to related stories and resources below provide different perspectives on this presentation and study findings. Click on the link in my post above to reach the full report yourself.
If the church is to grow by attracting the unchurched and disaffected we must better understand the factors that bring people to attend or not attend. Some factors we may be able to influence. Some changes might be warranted at church to make attendance more welcoming, friendly and helpful for those seeking renewal and spiritual growth in their lives. We’re also learning that there is no one reason or answer to the question of why people go to church. So it follows that one solution or one strategy also is not likely to be effective for all.
Intuitively we understand that individual choices are driven by individual reasons and factors but it is good to see research results that offer clues to how church can be more effective, more receptive, more hopeful.
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.
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.
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.