St. Mary’s is experiencing some new trends which are worth noting.
Membership is in a plateau, holding steady at around 400-425 heartbeats. Every year new people join or are born. Every year people leave, some because they move, or die, but some leave because of other reasons. A few left because they didn’t like the change of the service time from 10:30 to 11:00. Some because they don’t like the increasingly active and progressive role we are taking in issues of the day. Some because the 11am service attendance is down, Bjorn is gone, and it doesn’t feel like it used to.
People are joining for many of the same reasons people are leaving. They like the progressive role we are taking in issues of the day. They like that we are LGBTQ friendly, they like the sermons, they like the 9am worship, and they like the programs for our children.
What is noticeable is our attendance is lower than it used to be. This is because an increasing number of people attend church only about every 4-6 weeks. This is a cultural shift happening all over, and it brings with it special challenges, mostly: How do we build a Christian Community when we aren’t regularly with each other every Sunday? By and large churches haven’t figured this out, but we are trying. We have increased our online presence, and increased face to face opportunities throughout the week. (in fact, we have much more going on each week than churches twice our size, such as St. Mark’s Cathedral and St. John the Evangelist.) And we have done all this without a volunteer coordinator or an administrator, that’s really something.
Our finances are in good shape, in that we have cut staff expenses so we are living more within our means. We continue to have very high percentages of members who pledge, and the average pledge is high compared with other Episcopal pledges (around $1700 per household), and our income continues to stay steady at just shy of $300,000 per year, between investments, building use, occasional grants, and pledge income.
To begin to examine these trends lets begin with some theology. God has always existed, always will. The Spirit has been creating with God since the beginning of time, and is still spinning her energy now and will be into the future. There will always be people who need community, and hope, and to be connected to something larger than themselves. There will always be a need for ritual at life’s passages. There will always need to organize for charity and justice. All of those things are Church, and so yes, there will always be church.
What we have been experiencing for the last 20 years or so is a new Reformation, not unlike the other one the church went through in the 1500s. This new Reformation took a while to ramp up, and so it was easy for much of the church, mainline Protestants like us in particular, to ignore what is happening, to keep doing what we’ve always done. But that time is past. We are entering the most painful time of the transition, the time that is impossible to ignore, and we are feeling anxiety and grief. That is certainly true at the 11am service at St. Mary’s, but the loss is also being felt in other Episcopal churches in Minnesota and around the country, and in all the other mainlines as well.
So in order to understand what is happening, so we can be led by the Spirit in transformation, this document is intended to give some context.
Episcopal Church in Decline (it’s not just us)
The Episcopal Church has lost roughly half its membership since the late 1950s.
Excerpt from The Living Church 2018: The church deserves congratulation for the detail, accuracy, and especially candor it shows in sharing its data. Beyond that, it has to be said that the news is bad. The church is a movement, and the Episcopal Church is moving downward. The data from 2016 showed decline, but some optimists hoped the decline was slowing. This is not borne out by the data from 2017, when membership and attendance continued to drop at the same rate as in 2016 or, in some instances, at a sharper rate.
|Year||Baptized Membership||Average Sunday Attendance|
There are always individual churches and dioceses that buck the trend, but the trend is clear. Baptized membership dropped in domestic dioceses by 19.1 percent in the decade up to 2017 and this continues, with a drop of 1.9 percent in 2016-17.
The Episcopal Church shrank in the 1980s and ’90s by a number of measures, but the pace picked up from around 2000. The pace of decline increased markedly again between 2005 and 2010. Since 2010, it has continued to decline: at a slower pace than 2005-10, but faster than 2000-05. In other words, things are not be quite as bad as they were in 2005-10, but they are bad. Baptized membership and Sunday attendance has been dropping at a roughly even rate since 2010.
The steady fall in the number of parishes and missions has slightly slowed in the last couple of years, but continues and is large over time. There was a net fall of 753 between 2004 and 2017, a drop of over 10 percent in total number of parishes and missions..
The latest report, released in August 2018, on overall membership, stewardship, and average Sunday attendance, tells a story of modest decline in relation to the recent past, a story of radical decline when compared to the post- World-War-II heyday of the 1950s and early 1960s, and a profound and shocking decline when compared to the growth in population of the United States.
In 1960, the population of the United States was 180 million. It is now 326 million. The parochial report data, when compared to the population of the United States which grows by one 1 person every fifteen 15 seconds, tells us that we are roughly 0.5% of the population of the United States in 2016.
A loss of 13,709 attendees to a total of 556,744 resulted in a 2.4% decline in average Sunday attendance (ASA), despite occurring in a year when Christmas Eve occurred on a Sunday, which typically boosts attendance figures.
The mean ASA is 55 persons, down from 57 in 2016.
Which means, St. Mary’s is twice has much attendance on a Sunday morning as does the average Episcopal congregation.
Link to the data from the 2017 Census (called Parochial Report)
Anglophile geeks can buy the whole 2016 study here
Why is the Episcopal church (and other mainline Protestants) shrinking? Are we terrible? Are we too conservative? Too liberal? Actually, it’s birthrate. In summary:
Birth rates. Changes in the mainline church membership denominations, including the Episcopal Church, track extremely closely to the birth rate for white Americans who make up the primary constituency of mainline denominations. In statistical terms, 88% of the year to year variation in mainline membership can be explained by the birth rate.” This study was from 2002.
Sobering fact: the average age of an Episcopalian in 2011 was 57. in 2017, it is closer to 64. What this means is that roughly 3/5 of the Church’s membership will be dead in the 15 years.
Add to this the decline in audiences for classical music, a mainstay of Episcopal churches.
So, we are experiencing changes in the whole society, it’s not just a St. Mary’s thing or an Episcopal thing, or even a mainline Protestant thing. It’s just a thing.
Big Moment at House of Bishops
Episcopal Church officials have been aware of the negative trend lines for some time. In March of 2017, Bishop Mariann Budde of the Diocese of Washington gave a sermon at the spring House of Bishops meeting in which she broached the subject of ongoing decline.
“I live in a perpetual state of holy urgency about the spiritual health and ministry capacity of the congregations I serve and those I hope to establish on my watch,” Budde shared with her Episcopal colleagues. “Looking deeply at the trends and internal realities of each [congregation], only 12 of them, at most, are on a path of sustainability and growth; another 12-15, at the other extreme, are in precipitous decline—most of them in our most vulnerable or rapidly transitioning neighborhoods or communities. The rest, despite working as hard as they can, will most likely be, without some intervention or significant change, almost exactly where they are now 10 years from now in terms of size and capacity for ministry–this in a part of the country that is experiencing significant population growth and where other expressions of the Christian faith are thriving. I can’t bring myself to count the number of congregations I cannot, in good conscience, recommend to those who are seeking a vibrant expression of Christian community.”
It was one of those ‘mic-drop’ truth-telling moments people are still talking about.
Let’s Talk About: What Measurement We Should Pay Attention To?
It used to be that Baptized Membership was the most accurate assessment. That was when most people attended church regularly and people didn’t move around a lot. Then in the late 90s we switched our focus to Average Sunday Attendance, which for a while worked too, as people would consider themselves members but never actually show up. But lately that measure has some flaws too, as people increasingly consider ‘active’ membership to be attending church once every 4-6 weeks. It is also flawed because it doesn’t count non-Sunday worship or engagement in church activity, including digital engagement. And, it undervalues many of our Latino communities who tend to worship at times other than Sunday, and doesn’t count the high attendance at special feast days or rites of passage. And, most of our First Nations congregations gather primarily around funerals, not around Sunday morning worship.
So what is the best way to gauge the ‘touch’ of St. Mary’s? Podcast reach? (haven’t looked lately but it used to be that the podcasted sermons had an audience 3x that of Sunday morning attendance. Is that church?) Pledge cards turned in? Number of recipients of the weekly news? What do we do about the kids in youth group who never come to church, and neither do their parents? Ok, no good answers . . . we just need to recognize that the definition of church is changing and so is how we measure our ‘reach’.
At St. Mary’s we count a person as a member if they declare themselves a member and attend Sunday morning church at least 3x per year.
St. Mary’s is worshipping about 110 per Sunday, so already we are double the average Sunday attendance of the whole Episcopal Church, which is 55.
Chart: Very latest St. Mary’s attendance numbers
Saint Mary’s ASA by service time till fall 2018 (blue is 7:45, red is 9am, purple is 10:30, green is summer)
As you can see, our largest service continues to be the 9am, but even that service is seeing attendance shrinkage.
Interestingly, at St. Mary’s ¾ of the congregation has joined in the last 7 years.
Chart: Comings and Goings of Membership
What about other Mainline Protestant Churchs (Lutheran, Presbyterian, Methodist, etc)? What are the nationwide trends?
Within the Presbyterian family, the “mainline” Presbyterian Church (USA) is shrinking while the “evangelical” Presbyterian Church of America is growing. Within the Lutheran family, the “mainline” Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (yes, the “Evangelical Lutherans” are mainline, not evangelical; one of many absurdities in religious verbiage) is shrinking rapidly while “evangelical” Wisconsin or Missouri Synod Lutherans are either holding steady or shrinking slowly. Within the Methodist family, “mainline” United Methodists are shrinking while “evangelical” Free Methodists are holding steady. Both sides of the Baptist family tree are shrinking, but the mainline side is shrinking faster. Link here
The Pew Research Center just published this study, which said that among those who call themselves Christian, 4 in 10 say they do not attend church because they “practice their faith in other ways”. Question for us – so how can we be church for them? Support them?
Chart of Who is Not Going to Church from Pew Research Study
Chart of Who How Often People are Going to Mainline Protestant Churches – Pew Research link here
Chart: Geography Matters Pew Research Forum link here
Chart: Church Attendance by Age Distribution – Pew Research link here.
Let’s Talk About the Episcopal Church in Minnesota
Chart: Episcopal Church website, link here. blue is memeberhip, red is attendance, green is $
Ok, Let’s Talk about Clergy Leadership
In the olden days a man who wanted to be an Episcopal priest was most likely a single white male in his early 20s. Piece of cake to pick up and move to one of our 11 residential seminaries, where you lived in a dorm, had your health care paid for and seminary fees picked up by the diocese that sent you there.
Excerpt from the Living Church, Aug 2017, by Cameron Nations: According to the report, there are about 5,000 full-time parochial and non-parochial clergy in the Episcopal Church. (there are many more clergy if you count those who are “active,” but not necessarily full-time stipendiary clergy). Of this number, 63.1% are male and only 36.9% are female. Breaking those numbers down demographically by age reveals even more.
Of all full-time clergy in the Episcopal Church, more than half are older than 55, and almost 80 percent of all full-time clergy in the Episcopal Church are older than 45. Particularly noteworthy are the figures for Millennial clergy, which, depending on where you want to place the cutoff in your definition of Millennial, comprise roughly 6 percent of all full-time clergy.
Only 20 percent of full-time clergy younger than 45 equals 100 percent of a problem for a denomination struggling to grow and thrive in the decades to come.
If you were to think, Well, at least we have experience going for us, you would be a little off target. The average age of ordinands has held pretty steady at about 50 years of age according to recent Church Pension’s Annual Reports. That means that a significant amount of those in the older age brackets are no more seasoned in ministry than many of their younger colleagues; they were ordained later in life.
The text and pretty charts below come from a 2014 Episcopal study called FACTS.
Chart on Relationship Between Age of Cleric and Church Growth – from FACTS
Although it is increasingly difficult for smaller churches to support a solo full-time priest, a part-time priest or supply priest is likely to lead to further decline.
The median Episcopal rector, vicar, dean or priest-in-charge (not counting interims, supply priests, curates or associates) is 59 years of age. The age of a congregation’s priest is strongly related to growth and decline. Churches with priests age 49 and younger are most likely to grow, followed by churches with priests age 50-59.
Decline is most likely when a congregation has no priest or only uses supply clergy (including long-term supply situations). Decline is also widespread among churches with interim priests and among churches where the new priest has been there one year or less. The likelihood of growth increases with tenure through four years. After four years of tenure, fewer congregations are growing and more are declining. In churches where the priest has led the congregation for 11 years or more, 39% of congregations are declining and only 9% are growing. As compared to churches with an interim or a new priest, the percentage of churches in decline is lower among congregations with long-tenured clergy, but the percentage growing is also quite low. That is because so many churches with long- tenured priests are on stable plateaus— neither growing nor declining very much.
Priests lead congregations in a variety of ways. Gifts vary, as does the focus of ministry and the ability to provide leadership. Unfortunately, it is not possible to create truly objective ratings of ministerial performance using a survey of this type. But a number of subjective questions were asked that were completed by either the priest or another church leader. Although prone to self- depreciation or exaggeration, the fact that relatively strong correlations exist between the ratings and growth, suggests that they have some validity and that most priests are answering the questions honestly. A large number of characteristics were tested. The characteristics most strongly related to growth and decline (in descending order of strength) were: “generates enthusiasm;” “has a clear vision for the congregation;” “is a charismatic leader;” and “knows how to get people to work together.” Lower, but still significant correlations with growth were found for “effective preacher,” “evangelistic,” “hard worker,” “knows how to get things done.”
The lowest correlations with growth were found for “knows the Bible and theology,” “cares about people,” “good liturgist/worship leader,” and “is a person of deep faith.” Lest one assume that it doesn’t matter whether or not a priest knows the Bible or is a person of faith, such characteristics are basic to being a priest and lack much variation. Indeed, the four items with the lowest correlation with growth were among the characteristics that nearly all priests said fit them “very well” or “quite well.” But the characteristics that are most strongly correlated with growth are different. Not all priests are able to generate enthusiasm, get people to work together or have a clear vision for the congregation. Even fewer describe themselves as “charismatic leaders.” These are leadership skills and many church leaders lack them or fail to use them. The ratings that were widespread among priests and that also significantly related to growth were being an “effective preacher,” and “is friendly and engaging.” Only 5% of Episcopal parish priests say that they are just “somewhat” friendly and engaging and 6% say that being “an effective preacher” describes them “somewhat” or “slightly.”
Chart: The ideal tenure of a priest for church growth
Shall We Talk about Age?
St Mary’s has 28% of membership being aged 0-18, that’s a very high percentage in comparison with both Episcopal and mainline protestant stats, and definitely one of our strengths.
Almost 7% of us are in our 20s.
Most of us (almost 48%) are between 30-70. Usually the largest age demographic mirrors the age of the priest, and as LeeAnne has gotten older, so has our average age.
14.3% of us are over 70.
Chart: Demographics and forecast for a 2 mile radius of St. Mary’s link here
Shall We Talk about Race?
Chart: Racial makeup of a 2 mile radius of St. Mary’s link here
According to our 2017 census, St. Mary’s has 25 people of color, or 6.2% of us. So, our demographics don’t represent our neighborhood.
Nationside, according to Pew Research, 9/10 Episcopalians are white.
Shall We Talk about Gender Identity?
St. Mary’s has more than doubled our LGBTQ membership, from 2.9% in 201 to 7.6% in 2017.
We currently have 3 self identified transgender members.
Interesting news from our Mothership, the Church of England:
According to the latest data from the British Social Attitudes survey, released last month, the proportion of the population identifying as C of E has fallen to a record low of 14%. Among adults under the age of 24, it is 2%. A majority of the population say they have no religion.
Shall We Talk about the Liberal/Conservative Divide?
From the FACTS (2014) study: Within conservative evangelical denominations, the minority moderate and somewhat liberal churches are actually more likely to grow than very conservative congregations. Among most mainline denominations there is a “curvilinear” relationship between conservatism and church growth; with more conservative and more liberal churches growing and moderate churches most likely to decline. Interestingly, the Episcopal pattern in 2014 is more similar to the conservative evangelical pattern. Conservative Episcopal congregations are least likely to grow average worship was (particularly those that are “somewhat conservative”); whereas the most liberal churches are most likely to grow and least likely to decline. It should be added that this is not one of the strongest relationships with growth—as can be seen in the relatively small differences between several categories in terms of percent growing. Nevertheless, the correlation is significant and may also seem counter-intuitive.
Shall We Talk about Worship Style?
From the FACTS 2014 study
Number of services:
In general, the more worship services a congregation has, the more likely it is to have grown. Only 15% of churches with one Sunday service grew between 2009 and 2013, as compared to 38% of congregations with four or more services. Since very few churches have four or more services and the vast majority of Episcopal congregations have one or two services, the key finding here is that churches with only one service are very unlikely to grow, but churches with two or more services are more likely to experience growth.
Type of services
A stronger relationship between services and attendance growth deals with the type of services a congregation has, in addition to simply its number of services.
Churches that have Morning Prayer on Sunday, a combination of Morning Prayer and Rite I or Rite II, or only Rite I, are very unlikely to have experienced any growth and most are declining in worship attendance.
Growth is a bit more likely (but still infrequent) among churches that have a combination of Rite I and Rite II services. This includes churches with only one service which alternates its rites weekly and churches that have more than one Sunday service.
The proportion of churches growing increases among Episcopal congregations that have only Rite II services.
Chart: Types of Services and Growth
Chart: Do growing church services feel ‘reverent’?
For Episcopal churches, characterizing worship as “reverent” is related to decline, as is always or nearly always using kneelers. It is not that churches with vibrant, engaging worship lack any sense of reverence. But if being reverent and all the word implies is what characterizes worship rather than vibrancy and joy, the result is not likely to be growth.
What are some Non-Traditional Services?
In some cases these non- typical services were traditional services such as compline, evensong, Taizé, candlelight services with chant and meditation, or “family oriented” services followed by a meal.
In other cases, the services were more “contemporary” or were “imaginative” in some way. Many churches feature contemporary or blended music. Other churches have a folk Eucharist, gospel Eucharist or Jazz Vespers. Some churches also are featuring a “named” service, such as Celebrate! (a liturgy for young children and their parents), Messy Church Family Eucharist, Family Table, Out of the Box, Welcome Table (with discussion and food), Pray and Play, Summer Worker’s Service and “S6” (Super Speedy Summer Sunday Service with Supper).
Churches with either one or two non-typical services are similar in their growth profile, but churches with two or more non-typical services are less likely to be declining.
Chart: Weird statistically significant discovery
From the FACTS study: Growing churches tend to have at least one service that is non-typical. Partly this is about the use of music. Drums and other percussion instruments, for instance, are strongly related to growth. Drums do not necessarily imply a praise band with a drum set. But sometimes it does. In other cases drums mean African or Native American drums, timpani, tambourines, and so forth. For Episcopal churches the use of drums, other percussion instruments and acoustic instruments is more strongly related to growth than electric guitars and other instruments typically associated with contemporary worship.
Having a non-typical, contemporary or imaginative service usually means that a church has changed its worship service or added a new service with a different character. Churches that have added a different type of service or that changed an existing service “a lot” in the past three years were much more likely to grow than churches which did not change their services or only changed them somewhat.
Let’s Talk About Children in Worship
From the FACTS study: One of the more interesting relationships with growth and decline concerns the participation of children and youth in worship. Congregations that involved children in worship leadership roles (beyond the typical acolyte role) were more likely to experience growth and congregations that did not were much more likely to experience decline.
Only 28% of churches that “often” involve children and 27% of those which “always” involve children in worship were growing. But among churches that never involve children, only 11% were growing and 74% were declining. Of course, in order to involve children and youth in worship a congregation must have children present—and some congregations have few, if any children.
Chart: Current and forecasted numbers of children in our neighborhood link here
So for St. Mary’s, there are 60 grade school children, or 14.8% of us, and the projections for our neighborhood show that there will be more arriving. How to be a resource to those households?
Let’s Talk Christian Formation of Children and Youth
From the FACTS study: Other strong correlates of growth include the emphasis on Children’s activities (other than Sunday school), youth activities and programs, young adult activities and programs, and parenting or marriage enrichment activities. Still, among these various program activities, an emphasis on Sunday school has the strongest independent effect on the likelihood for growth.
Let’s Talk Christian Formation of Adults
From the FACTS study: One of the strongest correlates of growth comes from the emphasis a congregation places on adult religious formation. For churches where this activity is a specialty of the congregation, 36% are growing, as compared to only 6% of churches which do not have adult religious formation classes.
St. Mary’s has not had an emphasis on Adult Formation until this fall 2018. We have had good attendance at our new 10am ed hour, and our Tuesday night book study.
Let’s Talk Social Justice and Advocacy
From the FACTS survay: In our survey of the Church, (FACTS 2014) we discovered that definitions and understandings of “social justice” vary broadly.y:
We heard from many congregations with ministries that would traditionally be called “charity” as compared to “justice;” we defined justice work as acts to address and heal the root cause of the injustice which prompted our need for charity in the first place. This distinction caused anxiety for some who filled out the survey, both in terms of trying to define charity work as “justice” and from some who do not believe the Church should be doing justice work.
In preaching, teaching and praying, we use prophetic language about doing God’s work of justice; yet responses to our social justice survey suggest that our actions across the Church tend to fall more often into the realm of alleviation of suffering and the work of charity than the work of justice.
Speaking about justice work, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said, “Stick to God, we are told. So we do, and we find not only the passages I have mentioned, but Jesus saying: Love God, love neighbor…The common good of the community and justice are absolutely central to what it means to be a Christian.” And furthermore, “We don’t speak about common good and justice because we think we have some automatic right to be heard,” he said, “but because loving our neighbor places responsibilities upon us. We have responsibilities to speak, even when it might be easier to stay quiet, to point to injustice and to challenge others to join us in righting it.”
Some felt that social justice preaching should not advocate a particular view on reform or that the emphasis should be on “outreach ministry” but not social justice. We heard concerns that social justice is “only about politics.”
In our Church wide discussions, we talk about justice in terms of promoting social change and responding to long-term needs in combination with work to alleviate the suffering before us.
32% percent reported social justice ministries in their congregations. The vast majority of churches reported on charitable ministries such as food pantries, thrift shops and shelter ministries. Justice ministries included advocacy work for immigrants, refugees, and the homeless; advocacy centers to assist with public benefits, health care, and wage reform; yoking with public schools and a focus on education reform; and work to reduce mass incarceration.
Our social justice ministries tend to be lay-created and lay-led; very few were reported as having been created by clergy.
Chart: Actually, Liberal Episcopal Churches are Growing the Most link here
Let’s Talk about Activities Throughout the Week and Growth
St. Mary’s offers such events at least 3 times per week. (Pod dinners, Thursday night dinners, book studies, choir practice, and youth group are all weekly activities).
Chart: Churches with weekly activities grow the most link here
Let’s Talk about the Episcopal Context Near Us
Looking at our sister churches near us.
Of the 13 churches listed, including us:
6 have full time clergy
All offer traditional liturgy
3 offer experimental liturgy
6 (I think) have paid children’s/youth ministers
6 have more than 100 Average Sunday Attendance
Churches that are larger than us:
St. John the Evangelist – largest in our region, very healthy, 2 full time clergy, children and youth ministries, Taize compline, traditional liturgy, full choir, organ, traditional liturgy, significant outreach
St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral
St John the Baptist – full time clergy, traditional and experimental liturgy (the latter being their largest service), children’s and youth minister, organ and choir
Messiah – most conservative in the diocese, large Karen population, full time clergy
Churches about the same size as us:
St Clements – traditional liturgy, part time clergy, organ and choir, more introverted
St. Matthews – traditional and experimental liturgy, full time clergy, lots of bible study
Churches that are smaller than us:
Holy Trinity – traditional liturgy, African American, part time clergy
St. James – traditional liturgy, part time clergy, aging shrinking population, building in significant disrepair
Gethsemane – traditional liturgy. Part time clergy
St. Christopher – traditional liturgy, solar panels
All Saints – part time clergy, First Nations Kitchen
St Andrews – part time clergy, primarily Liberian
St Anne’s – part time clergy
St Paul’s Lake of the Isles – part time clergy
Interesting – most of the churches with slim attendance also have buildings with more deferred maintenance than the congregation can fundraise to fix.
So, lots – too many – Episcopal churches. Our future lies in closing some buildings, and each congregation going deep into its unique ‘charisms’, personality, worship style, etc.
Let’s Talk About What’s Going Well: After looking at the nationwide Mainline Protestant trends, the Episcopal Church trends, what can we say about how St Mary’s is doing? Hint: Pretty darn well.
So, according to people who study what makes churches grow, St. Mary’s has these factors:
Experimental liturgy, with percussion
High percentage of children
Incorporation of children and youth in worship leadership
Children’s ministries a ‘specialty’ of the congregation
Very liberal/progressive stance on issues of the day
Weekly activities for fellowship and learning
Worship not experienced as ‘reverent’
What we lack:
A young clergy (50 or younger) who has been here 4 years or less
Non-English speaking service
In summary/LeeAnne’s take-aways
Best things St Mary’s ever did:
- invest in children and youth
- 9am service
- LGBT friendly
- increase pledge participation rates
- unafraid to be liberal/progressive
- maintain building, including Sanctuary Upgrade
- increase Sunday Morning Formation time (although was difficult and painful)
- add a contemplative service
The churches that are shrinking/dying
Didn’t invest in children/youth
Didn’t maintain their building
Don’t have a full time clergy
Are shy about engaging issues of the day
Mainline churches are shrinking and therefore being forced to evolve or die.
We have way too many Episcopal Church buildings in a 3 mile radius.
The old financial and ministry models of how to do church aren’t working anymore. Working harder at the old models won’t help. Reformation is required.
This reformation isn’t happening in a coordinated way. Another way to say it is there is no parent organization/diocese that is going to figure this out or point the way, it is up to each congregation’s imagination and ability to partner with others. If all our energy is spent struggling to make the old models function, we will never have energy to imagine a different future.
My (LeeAnne’s) Vision so far
There will always be a traditional BCP/hymnal service at St. Mary’s, but we will never be able to compete with our Episcopal neighbors such as St Clements, St John the Evangelist, or the Cathedral.
We have 4 primary strengths: 9am service, Children, Progressiveness, and Building. We should be investing more in these.
We need to stabilize our finances by shifting our identity from a church that gives up space we don’t need to building tenants, to the stewards of a neighborhood community building that also houses a church
We need to expand our thinking about how to build community outside of Sunday morning attendance.
We talk. We pray. We experiment. We evaluate. We celebrate. We adapt. We talk. We pray. Over and over again, generation to generation.