Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Why Am I Still Afraid To Invite You to My Church?

I've been re-reading Michael Durall's new book The Almost Church Revitalized. It is much better than his previous Almost book. In fact, his arguments make a lot of sense to me.

On pages 33-34, Durall outlines "What Membership Should Mean":

Attending Sunday services regularly
Participating in one program each year that deepens your faith
Participating in one outreach or mission project each year
Reaching the 5 to 10% giving level as soon as possible
Telling others about the church

From my perspective, it is easy to accomplish the first four items. It interests me that there is nothing here about "volunteering" to help run the church in any way: no expectation to join a committee, become an usher or any other of the myriad of jobs to do at any church. Maybe this reflects Durall's understanding that members everywhere naturally find a niche where their greatest gift meets the congregation's greatest need.

I have a heck of a time with that last one: Telling others about the church. Lately, I've been telling folks about participating with our Standing on the Side of Love banner in the LGBTQ Pride Parade. Half the time, I've been telling people who would not attend or even watch a Pride Parade. Frankly, I don't want people who are uncomfortable with this to join my congregation! What I don't do well is any kind of "targeted marketing" (so to speak), where I seek out folks who seem to have certain values and tell them about my church. I almost did this recently, but chickened out. My thought was: what if you come but you don't like it? It would be my fault. Clearly, I need to get over this. How do you tell people about your church, society, congregation or fellowship?

Monday, August 24, 2009

What if 3% of the Members speak for All Members?

At my huuge congregation of 1,565 members, a "quorum" is 50 -- as long as fifty members sign in at a Parish Meeting, all the decisions made are valid. Fifty has been the quorum for the last 60 years at least, while the congregation has grown steadily from 175 all the way up to 1500 adult book-signed members.

Well, I decided that it is high time to have a discussion about increasing the quorum or, even better, making the number a percentage of our membership. I floated the idea of 10% -- 150 members. Someone immediately mentioned that we would never be able to make a decision if we required that many people! In reality, ever since 300 of us voted to fund our building addition, we've easily had 150 and more at our Parish Meetings. Part of this is just getting smart about scheduling a PM: serving lunch after the second service, then going right into the meeting. None of this 5 pm Sunday-potluck-and-meeting crap. Hardly anyone went to those; in fact, several members of the Board of Trustees didn't even attend.

What do other very large congregations do about this? Many of the decisions at my congregation aren't even put before the membership because we have policy governance. As a matter of fact, our mission changed last year, after needing to be improved for many years. Finally, a whole group of lay leaders collectively brought up the issue of revising our mission two years ago, but it was changed by one person: our senior minister. That's right: he re-wrote it by himself. Mission accomplished!

We members still call ministers and vote for the yearly slate of officers, council chairs and committee chairs. And we would be the ones to amend the by-laws and the Bond of Union.