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No-Fail, Time-Tested Methods

19 Jul


While there are many ways to grow a church numerically, there are no silver bullet approaches that will work everywhere. The same can not be said of decline. There are some no-fail, time-tested methods to make sure your church does not grow. Want to keep your church at its current size or wear it down a bit? Here are my top five ways to chase new folks away as quick as they show up at your doors:

1) Share Parish News
First, be unhappy with you church and then make sure everyone knows it. Pull the excited newcomer aside and fill them in on the backbiting and infighting. Spreading rumors is another tool in the discontented church toolkit. Newcomers are looking for love, joy and hope. They will leave and tell their friends (and even the check out person at the grocery store) to never darken your door if your church tends out to be a hotbed of petty power struggles and pointless infighting. Churches grow by multiplication, not division.

2) Think of the Children
You want to have children’s programs. You just don’t have enough children for Sunday School or teens for a youth group. If enough children show up, you might try something again, but the new family with three kids needs to understand there are just not enough kids for you to bother with yet. If that doesn’t chase them off fast enough, you could give them meaningful stares when the kids make noise in church, while offering neither nursery nor children’s church as options.

3) Stay Friendly
Your church is a friendly place. You have people you know at church and you always enjoy spending the little time you have over coffee after the service with these folks. Part of why you love your church is that you are so friendly. Stay that way, talking one another. Enjoy the coffee and the donuts. It won’t take but two minutes tops before the newcomers wander on.

4) Keep Members Active
All the longtime members have things they like to do, so don’t shake up anything from the Altar Guild and Choir to the core of servers. Don’t make room for new people to serve as readers, Lay Eucharistic Ministers, or vestry members. Take a pass on the ideas new people bring. Keep doing things as you have always done them with the folks who have always taken charge. New folks will take the hint and wander on in hopes of finding a church that welcomes the gifts they bring.

5) Stay Focused
Concentrate on anything but the Gospel. You want folks to catch a the weakest possible strain of the Christian virus to inoculate them against something life-threatening, so don’t challenge them in any way to be transformed. Avoid offering ways someone can deepen and live into their faith. Teaching people to read their Bibles and take on other spiritual disciplines is right out. Folks who get grounded in the Gospel through a local church community will never leave, so don’t let those roots take hold or these new people who have found meaning and purpose through faith in Jesus Christ will invite their friends who aren’t church-broke yet either. This sounds harsh, but if you want to keep you church’s small, family atmosphere, you better stick with religion, or better yet “being Episcopal”. Talk about the church, and steer clear of anything that smacks of being the church.

I might not know any silver-bullet, one-sized fits all approach to growing your church, but I sure know how to help you whittle away at folks until its a size you can control.

peace,
Frank

The Rev. Canon Frank Logue, Canon to the Ordinary

 
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