Home > All Is Well (TM), DSO Events, Fisks > “Expert” to illuminate all of us on how to build up our dying parishes (without all that boring History)

“Expert” to illuminate all of us on how to build up our dying parishes (without all that boring History)

18 January 2010
From the January 2010 Interchange, (page 4) :  
Build Your Church:  Attend congregational development retreat
Want to learn proven techniques to grow your church? Interested in new ways to better welcome visitors and build stronger connections?The Diocese of Southern Ohio is hosting a special congregational development retreat Feb. 19-20 at Procter Camp & Conference Center. All are welcome.
The keynote speaker is the Rev. Tom Ehrich, an author, consultant and Episcopal priest. Ehrich directs The Church Wellness Project, which offers insight into building healthy congregations.
Oh, goody.  Bp. Breidenthal is at it again, trying to pull in some “experts” who will tell us how to save us from ourselves, without actually laying the blame where it ought to go.
To Serve Young Adults, Be Prepared for Change
Yup.  I’ve heard this one back when I was a “young adult.”  Experts coming in and saying that the way to save our parish was to bend over backwards for the young folks.  It’s odd though – because I went to church with my parents.  They dictated where I went to church. 
The other odd thing was that when I was college-age, the church I settled down in had lots and lots of young families.  The parents, not the “young adults” had the power to veto with their feet, and the church officers understood that fact. 
Oh, and the parents had their kids the old-fashioned way.  You know, good ol’ (hetero)sexual intercourse within the context of marriage between a man and a woman.  It’s as if .. I dunno – it’s as if a Higher Power designed things that way!
Young Adults Ministry starts in two fundamental decisions:
First, you are so passionate about reaching, serving, loving and embracing young adults that you will make room for them. Anything less than such a passion will leave you unprepared for the disruption that bringing a new generation into a faith community inevitably entails. 
In other words, you can’t go into this vaguely hoping that young adults will solve your membership and financial problems, but not require anything to change.
Second, you are so committed to meeting young adults where they are that you won’t get stymied when they prove to be different.
In other words, you cannot expect young adults to adapt to your ways. Their expectations of a faith community are unlikely to resemble what you yourself know and value. Sunday morning worship, for example, isn’t likely to be the center for today’s young adults, especially if it continues in its present form.
For the late-middle-agers who tend to serve as pastors and lay leaders of mainline congregations, such decisions won’t be easy to make. Let’s be honest about it. Churches don’t change easily, and nothing will change a church more thoroughly than bringing in a new generation. (This would be just as true, by the way, if the new generation were, say, the elderly. The point isn’t age itself but newness in bulk.)
That’s why the passion must be strong. Now, escaping pain can be a decent starting point. Some believe that pain is the driver of all change. Congregational leaders certainly are feeling pain from 45 years of declining membership and at least a decade of desperate finances.
zzzzzZzzzzzzzzzzZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.. chzup!
What’s that you said?
Congregational leaders certainly are feeling pain from 45 years of declining membership…
Forty-five years?
It’s interesting that you mentioned that figure, because I ran across a timeline a while back that went into detail about the history of the Episcopal Church over the past 45 years.
Where is it?  Ah yes, here it is. 
And lookie what it says – in 1965, exactly 45 years ago, the Episcopal Church failed to discipline a heretical bishop.  How about that?  I mean, Fr. Ehrich was just looking at the numbers;  and the numbers just happened to coincide with TEC’s mishandling of one of its most iconoclastic heretics.
And TEC shenanigans just keep occurring with increasing frequency and boldness.   
And TEC’s numbers just keep getting worse.
…for forty-five years. 
Oops.  Sorry for interrupting.  Do continue, please. 
But that pain can be met by welcoming a few young adults and making them visible. A truly viable young adults ministry doesn’t stop at a few. It seeks a major shift in balance, ratcheting the average age downward from early 60s to early 40s, and then lower. In a 400-member congregation with 20 young adults today, it means becoming a 600-member congregation with 200 young adults, plus a growing cadre of children.
Sunday morning might not change all that much, because evidence suggests that young adults aren’t drawn to Sunday worship, but will want alternative pathways to spiritual depth, Christian community and mission. What will change is the budget, as more resources flow to non-Sunday ministries, and the “look-and-feel” of the congregation, as new forms of energy emerge.
This will be too much for many older congregations. They will resist it, and in all likelihood, they will die.
Yes, they likely will die off.  That sentiment is not restricted to traditionalist Episcopalians, either.  Bp. Breidenthal, for example, gave us a heads-up in his latest DSO convention address, that some of us could expect to have to do more with less, in light of DSO belt-tightening.  What’s that he called it – “Common Ministry,” or something like that.
Of course, where we disagree sir, is your assertion that they’ll die off because they weren’t sensitive to young people.  I think they’ll die off because they are part of an organization that is under God’s just judgment.  These are consequences, if you will, of things that happen in recent memory, and of things that happened (or in this case, didn’t happen) forty-five years ago. 
Hopefully, you as an older adult understand the concept of consequences;  because that’s something that “young adults,” do understand. 
You .. do want to communicate effectively with young adults, do you not?  😉
For those that feel a passion for serving a new generation and are willing to let things change, the future is extraordinarily bright. The yearning for faith seems stronger than ever.
Indeed it does.  The numbers in Pentecostal denominations e.g., are extraordinarily bright.  Too bad about mainline denoms like TEC. 
– Elder
PS…For Traditionalist Episcopalians who are wondering how to build up your parishes, save your time and money:  Here, e.g., is an excellent article by Tim Keller.  You don’t have to follow his advice to the letter – I value Keller because he helps me to think about how I might help my own parish to become effective in carrying out The Great Commission. 
For the Revisionist Episcopalians out there, I heartily encourage y’all to attend Ehrich’s event, and do precisely what he says.  😉
  1. 18 January 2010 at 8:30 PM

    It is hard to evangelize the Gospel on the one hand, and then lead a young family into a church where the Gospel is consistantly watered down, or twisted into pretzels with the other hand.

  2. Fr. Theoden
    22 January 2010 at 4:30 PM

    “Young family,” Undergroundpewster? How politically incorrect of you. Don’t you mean, “household?” 🙂

  3. 23 January 2010 at 2:50 AM

    I am sorry. I meant “Age challenged tribal grouping.”

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