Monthly Archives: June 2017

Is The Church Still Needed Today?

Rev Dr Amy Butler, had a wonderful recent post on the church – she writes,

“Why, you might be wondering, is it even worth our time to think about what we do and who we are here, as the church?

“Some would say that church is becoming less and less important in our increasingly secular society. One in five Americans would call themselves a “none,” meaning they answer “none” on surveys asking for religious affiliation. But incredible sociologist of religion from Boston University, Nancy Ammerman, begs to differ. She says that, even with these shifts in culture, the health of local congregations is more important than ever.”

Read the rest and think on her words. 

02- 9 Actions to Grow Worship and Professions of Faith

This summer I am sharing a list of 9 ideas for Cal-Pac pastors and laity as we live into Bishop Grant’s challenge to increase worship attendance and professions of faith. Here are earlier posts: #1

Idea #2 – Prayer

Are we praying for our churches to reach new people? Are we praying for people who do not know Jesus Christ and do not have a church home? Many of us are but probably just as many of us are not.

Recently a pastor shared his belief that since overall the church was in decline, his church could not be expected to grow. I guess that is one way to look at it. But it isn’t the only way.

First, while it is true many churches are in decline, it is also true our population is growing (especially in the West) and that people continue to be interested in authentic spirituality. It is like that old story of two shoe salesmen who are sent to sell shoes to a community where no one wears shoes. The first salesman calls the main office and says, “I’m coming home. No one here wears shoes.” But the second salesman calls the main office and through his excitement exclaims, “No one here wears shoes! The market for shoes is unlimited.” Perspective matters.

Second, churches, like all institutions, go through cycles – both up and down. During John Wesley’s time the church was also in decline but through his work many were brought to faith. In fact, some might say that the decline of Wesley’s time is what challenged him to grow the number of committed Christians! Times of decline call forth our creativity and our willingness risk and try new things. Wesley’s creativity seen in where he preached, in his constant publishing, and in his meeting people’s needs changed Christianity forever. Who is the next Wesley? Time will tell.

Third, if we are the people of God, saying and believing things that shut the door to growth (“all churches are in decline so why would my church grow?) invites discouragement. Let’s be honest, most of us have been there. Discouragement happens. But discouragement (or cynicism) cannot be our “business as usual.” Our work, regardless of the times in which we live, is to share our faith with new people and generations, and to be partners with God in bringing about God’s kingdom. Being discouraged by decline or distracted by nostalgia isn’t worthy of our calling.

So, back to prayer. If we want to be a vital church, reaching new people and sharing the good news, let us begin with prayer.

Some of us may need prayer for healing, asking to be healed from our cynicism, our discouragement and our belief that the past was somehow better.

Some of us need prayer so we might once again open our hearts to think and to see the world differently. For the church isn’t going back to 1950’s and the future belongs to those who will embrace that.

So, ask: How could you and your church pray in order to embrace the possibilities that the Spirit might have for you and your community?

Action:

  1. Have a discussion about church growth. Do you believe your church can grow? Why or why not?
  2. Pray daily for the Holy Spirit to show you how to open your heart (and church) to new people.

Additional resources:

Articles on spiritual practice

The Wesleyan Means of Grace

Innovative Ways to Encourage  People to Pray

Too busy to Pray? Find More Time in the New Year

Articles on understanding church decline

Coming to Terms with Numerical Decline.

How Big Data Disrupts Narratives of UMC Decline

How Not to React to the Decline of Christianity in America

 

 

01 – 9 Actions to Grow Worship and Professions of Faith

Welcome!  Over the summer I am going to share 9 short blog and video posts on how churches can grow worship attendance and professions of faith.

This series is inspired by Bishop Grant’s challenge at Annual Conference to increase worship and professions of faith in the Cal-Pac Conference.

It’s a great challenge, but how?  How do we grow our congregations in today’s world? That is a great question!

I hope these posts help you think more about this in your context. The ideas shared will be best practices in church vitality but like any practices, you will need to switch things around so they work for you. I look forward to your feedback and your ideas!

Also, my model for increasing Sunday morning attendance and professions of faith comes less from a ‘what will help my church grow?” approach and more from a “what is stopping my church from growing?” approach.

What is the difference? The first question (what will help my church grow?) seems to overwhelm people. It also may play into our belief that our church cannot grow. I see the doubtfulness among our pastors and laity that their churches cannot grow.  And, I wonder if approaching this from a slightly different angle might help give us fresh perspective.

Asking what is stopping my church from growing can encourage curiosity. It invites us to look at what is going on in our ministries that might be getting in the way of reaching new people. As I watch churches grow, I notice many of them are removing barriers and building bridges, not reinventing the wheel. Asking, what is stopping us from growing opens us up to the Holy Spirit who gives us fresh vision.

So, what might be stopping your church from growing?

#1. Your church’s website.

In today’s world most people will stop by your website before they show up on a Sunday morning. So, how does your website look? Is it fresh, updated and a reflection of your community?

Start here when thinking about reaching new people this year.  And, yes, it will take time and money but it will be well spent.  Do not neglect this essential ministry tool.

Here are several examples of website that are up to date (and awesome):

Redondo Beach First UMC

Costa Mesa New Start

The Loft @ Westwood

Want to learn more?

Actions to Take:

  • Need Help? – Contact James Kang, Director of Communications at JKang@calpacumc.org
  • Discuss your church’s website with your Leadership Team/Ad Council.  Update it this summer.
  • Reach out to a church with an awesome website and get their website designer’s information and call him or her.