“Do you believe that God is inviting your church to grow? What are some signs of this call?” On Saturday September 21 a murmur of voices filled the Trendell Lounge at the Synod office. Members of seven parishes gathered in groups of three and four to share their thoughts and feelings about why now is the time to focus on membership growth. Some signs were a feeling of optimism through the parish, more visitors, life-giving community partnerships, and neighbours expressing support for building projects. This was the opening session of Groundwork, the workshop series on membership growth for small and mid-sized parishes.
Our first day included a bit of theory, a lot of discussion, and some practical pointers. We explored how it’s possible to make changes, only to find that they don’t stick because of the culture of the organization: “culture eats strategy for breakfast.” We talked about what we love about our parishes, our values, and the best things about our places. We heard words like faithfulness, optimism, peaceful atmosphere, commitment, modern wisdom, open culture, and steadfastness. We told stories about the difference our parishes make in people’s lives. And late into the afternoon, groups analyzed each other’s websites, looking for important information, striking visuals, and engaging content.
The three facilitators, Director for Mission and Ministry, the Reverend Tellison Glover, All Saint’s Ladner’s interim priest-in-charge, the Reverend Liz Hamel and I (Missioner for Parish Development) kept people moving all day, fueled by new ideas and ample snacks. We endeavoured to model a team teaching approach.
Over the four Groundwork workshops, participants become increasingly comfortable and confident talking about how their faith and church community make a difference in their lives. We examine how we invite people to join us and who we might invite. We learn about effective greeting and a newcomer-friendly coffee hour. We take a day to look at worship through the lens of a visitor or newcomer. And finally we look at how we follow up with visitors.
On that Saturday, parish teams went away with homework. Each parish is planning a special service over Advent and Christmas. Most Anglican churches see an increase in visitors over these seasons, and the hope is that parish leaders will be encouraged to implement their learnings so that they can connect meaningfully with these visitors. Teams return to their homes and parishes feeling inspired by the stories, ideas and experiences of new friends from other parishes, ready to roll up their sleeves and get to work.
PHOTOS illustrating the first day of the 2019 fall Groundwork series by Wayne Chose