Pursue Vitality, Not Growth
A summary of Bishop Brown’s “Congregational Growth and Vitality Workshop” of 2022 by Danny Schweers.
As we look to the future of our church, let us think about how we can encourage vitality and liveliness in our church rather than growth in numbers. If we want our church to thrive, we should invite people to become passionate followers of Jesus. We should create opportunities for personal and corporate transformation. We should empower members to proclaim the Good News, and equip them for their gospel mission in the world.
That, briefly, is the message Bishop Brown gave to us during his “Congregational Growth and Vitality Workshop” held in SsAM’s auditorium on Saturday, February 26, 2022.
Passion! Transformation! Proclamation!
Yes, he was preaching, but by the numbers. Again and again Bishop Brown took us to the spreadsheets, something he did with humor and insight. If you want, you can spend hours with the numbers (but without Bishop Brown’s wit and grace) by following these links.
Three Other Words: Revitalization, Redefinition, and Rebirth.
In the bishop’s eyes, the key to revitalization is for the church to be Jesus-centered first, last, and always. We live in a transformation-hungry world. As a church, we need to offer the world a path to transformation, invite everyone to join us on our way to Easter’s promise of resurrection. We need to show the world the good that we have found.
Here is a quote that might surprise you. “Stability leads to decline.” SsAM has been relatively stable for years. That is dangerous. Bishop Brown recommends creating an Evangelism Ministry, making the proclamation of Jesus a first priority. He suggested hiring a consultant to guide us through redevelopment, a redefinition of our primary mode of operation that focuses on evangelism. “Do a new thing, not the old thing differently.” “Do evangelism like you mean it.”
One observation Bishop Brown made was that society as a whole has become suspicious of institutions. A similar observation is that people are not eager to belong. They will gladly attend an event but may never sign up for regular attendance, make a pledge, or define themselves as “Episcopalian”. They will eagerly work at some ministry, but do not want or expect that ministry to define them. As a church, we should not be marketing membership or the Episcopal brand but telling people about how God is affecting our lives and how the church is part of our transformation.
What is God doing in our church? Let’s look in that direction.
Where is there vitality in our church? Let’s encourage it. Who is showing enthusiasm? Rather than burdening them with new responsibilities, let’s protect their enthusiasm and fan the flames.