“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:
- Help me discover Jesus in my life and support me on my personal faith 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 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 Salesforce.com 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.
- Growing the Church is about Community (discernablefutures.wordpress.com)
- Does Growth = Evangelism? (discernablefutures.wordpress.com)
- Disciples in the Dougherty Valley (discernablefutures.wordpress.com)
- Visualize The Great Commission (churchgrowthprogram.com)