An Idea For Church Growth
Submitted by St_Clinton on Fri, 09/16/2011 - 00:31
The diocese that I live had a webinar last night and something came up that peeked my mind. It was something that was so simple for congregations to do that I am surprised that many of them don't do it. Now I don't know how well it would work, but it is something that we need to do.
The webinar dealt with a number of different topics, but the topic that interest me the most had to do with something that I have been trying to figure out how to do and to do over the last decade, that being the growth of congregations, not just in the Episcopal Church, but in all churches that serve the Holy Triune.
About 6 weeks ago, my pastor (my congregation doesn't have a rector/Vicar/Priest In Charge) said that he and I needed to sit and talk, as he feels that I hate him. I have no clue as to where that came from, as it is so far from the truth that it isn't funny. Yes I do dislike ad disagree with man of his actions, but hate him I do not do. Why do I mention this, because in at times he will do something that I notice in so many congregations and people (including myself) do, and that is to make excuses as to why something can't/isn't happening. Many congregations do this when it comes to growth and looking for new members. Now some congregations are good at it and are active in trying to get people into the pews each Sunday, but I think that many find excuse after excuse not to really try. Let's go through some of them.
“But if we get more people, it will mean that the leaders of the congregation will have a lot more work to do, and they don't have the time now.” - It could be that some of those new people that you gain will be leaders and make things easier for everybody.
“But we have tried in the past, even bringing people to help us.” - So I am guessing that you don't mind watching the congregation just vanish into history over time. Why not just shut the doors now?
“People come, but they don't come back.” - Next time that someone comes and visits, watch who welcomes them during the Peace and after the service. Was it someone other than a clergy person who approached them after the service? Were they invited to “Coffee Hour” and then just stood there alone while the “cliques” gathered to gossip? Walk up to them and introduce yourself, then engage with them in conversation and listen to them as they speak, as they may be looking for something in a congregation which your congregation currently doesn't have, but is something that you want to do. They could be the person to help in that area.
“But the area doesn't have that many people of my denomination living in it?” - Are you really sure? Have you talked with each and every person who lives within 25 square blocks? It is not unusual for congregations to have people drive by other congregations to go to the one that they attend. Despite what fiction television wants to tell us, many people don't know who the person is who lives right next door to me.
Oh I could go on and on with the excuses that I have heard, but let me mention the idea that came to mind while I was listening to the webinar, and some of the other ideas that have come into my mind.
“The congregation has shrunk because people have moved away.” - You know, there is a very simple thing that you can do when it comes to this. Why not create a “Welcome to the Neighborhood” letter that you send to the former address to the person that has moved? Now you should send it 10 minutes after “Bob” has moved, but give it a month. In this letter, you inform them about your congregation and the things that it has to offer. Now “Joe” may not come for service, but you may have some activities that “Joe” might be interested in getting involved in or might become the oh so well loved Sr. Warden in 5 years.
“We have a lot of renters in our area, and people are always moving in an out.” - Craigslist and other sites are great for finding out what is available in your area. Now it would be easier with houses, but why not send that letter to those addresses also. No don't do it the day that you see the advertisement, but keep a listing of those addresses and on the last Saturday or Sunday of each month, you send that letter out to the addresses of the previous month. Now some of those places will still be empty, but a lot of them will have someone living in them now.
But we must also do more than get people into the pews, as we must teach and work with them to become apart of the family of the Holy Trinity. We must help each other remember that we too are also amongst the family of the Holy Trinity. We each must remember that in the things that we represent and live in the family of the Holy Trinity. Remember that the Holy Trinity loves you.
So what ideas do you have for church growth?