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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

2010 Lenten Study 3

The Purpose Driven Church
Section 3 of the book takes in chapters 9 to 11 and speaks of "Reaching out to your community." The chapters address the topics, "Who is your target?", Knowing whom you can best reach and Developing Your strategy.

QUESTION: Keeping in mind the metaphor of catching fish as it applies to reaching the unchurched, what is the perceived target audience for St. James and what do we need to do to reach them?


  1. We raised the following questions:
    Should we target young people, because we don’t have them at church?
    Would that be “reinventing the church” (see p. 180) and would that drive people away?
    Do we need to reinvent ourselves, given that our attendance is 50 or fewer?
    Should we target the over-fifties because that is the group we currently attract?
    We did not come to any definite answers.

    We also have an uncomfortable feeling about the word “target.” “It sounds like a business, or advertising,” said one. Someone else pointed out that in some respects the church has to be run like a business, but we should be careful not to import the troubling aspects of business. Church management has to be transparent and avoid small group politicking. We decided we would prefer “potential membership” to “target group.”

    We noted that some of us had, ourselves, a mixed life-story with regard to church membership. We talked about patterns of membership, falling away, and return, and what these patterns mean. We talked about personal contact and how important such friendships are for encouraging return to church. Families with children appear to be more interested in church membership that those without. Older people often return to church after even decades of non-attendance. It seemed important to recognize that yes, there are groups to “target”, but there are also individuals to encourage.

    We returned to defining what group we really should be focusing on. We agreed on the following:

    1. We should continue to develop programs and practices that speak to our existing population, who are very loyal and hard working. We should be concerned with their possible burn-out and continue to consider their changing needs.
    2. We should be thinking of the young families who are part of the parish and do come out on occasions planned particularly for them, such as Christmas with the Rector and the Rector’s Lenten Fair. We should be thinking of their need for child care at the church, a good space for such child care, learning groups that would support parenting, drop-in programs for parents with children. If we need leadership personnel for this expansion, we should go to them and ask their assistance.
    3. We should think of the families with teen-aged children, and make sure support is offered to them in terms of parenting teen-agers, and their own personal middle-age life management. We felt that people in their late forties and fifties are a very important group to draw in, both in terms of their numbers (according to the 2006 census it is the largest population group, both in Winnipeg and St. James) and energy and influence for the future, as our aging population may dwindle from natural causes.
    4. We should make sure we continue to recognize the small groups associated with our church, such as the Lighthouse program, Happy Mike’s, AA Membership, etc. We should have a very visible (but no pressure) open-door policy, using our imagination to create points of entry for them.
    5. We must work to bring the young people to church. We listened with fascination as the choir director described the background for the Young People’s Seeker Service for May 2. It was suggested that perhaps the group might liaise with such groups in other churches, and thus be able to offer an on-going series of services.

    We agreed that a meaningful survey of the whole community would be necessary to reach new membership. We liked the survey on page 190, though many said they could not go door-to-door. We reiterate our idea of a block party/ bar-b-q to bring people to the church to chat with us about what they want from us.

    Finding the right times for church activities is important, especially for working people who might not like to come out in the evenings. Some felt we must make the building a more welcoming space, not only more physically accessible, but opening up the chancel area so that there can be more interaction between the choir and congregation, and so that church drama and other interactive events are more feasible.

  2. Great comments once again. I am appreciating the depth of conversations we are having as a parish around Church growth. In response:

    I totally agree with the discussion of the use of the word "target." I want to emphasize the Church is NOT a business, it is the Body of Christ. Having said that, there are those we can appeal to and this can include all ages.

    For the youth, we have seen an example of potential in the youth concert/fundraiser. The church candles were lit, a prayer was said to start and finish, and in between was a concert. This is not unlike the approach at Springs.

    For the children, more activities like the Rector's Christmas party and the Lenten Fair. We have a talented group of committed laborers willing to help. A deliberate look at the nursery and building will help as we make it even more attractive. A group visited over Lent and was impressed with the windows.

    For the 50+ more fun and fellowship, like social gatherings.

    For seniors, perhaps a return to the familiar, like the bridge tournaments of past. Provision of rides is a key.

    For the small and existing groups, I have mused about a possible Rector's Community Fair," which basically showcases the various programs who make use of the building. You set up booths for children, ask AA and Lighthouse and Happy Mike's to design booths, have something for St. James, especially Sunday School sign up, and perhaps link this in with the Street BBQ.

    Whatever we do to tackle church growth, we need to understand the main component of our community, its Sunday worship does not have to change dramatically. Moving to one service time is a possibility, as well as ensuring we have good liturgy using both the contemporary, the BAS page 230 and the BCP Morning Prayer. This will appeal to many.

    We have the potential and the opportunity and more importantly, God is on our side as we partner with Him. Let us commit as a community to holding our church growth at the centre of our prayers.

    I look forward to bringing your suggestions to the wider congregation and especially to Program and Planning.