“Will Churches Go the Way of Bookstores?” (this is a live link to the article referred to in this post)
This fascinating essay speaks for itself, but be sure to read all the way down into the comments section, where one reader, a pastor, talks about the difficulties she has had in organizing her congregants to attend a regular Bible-study group:
“We have managed one small group … that meets … at Starbucks (we call it The Dialogue at St. Arbucks) and we have group-led discussions around faith/life issues. It’s proven to be popular, enjoyable, generation-crossing and enlightening. This Sunday we’re tackling what we’ve called ‘The Divide and Conquer Project’ — dividing up a stack of books the preacher doesn’t have time to read (that would be me) and conquering the issue of church shrinkage / church growth and media / marketing. I love that this group of adults will be (mostly) voluntarily doing book reports over supper!”
Not only is the “St. Arbucks” moniker delightful, but I love the idea of sharing the joyful karma yoga of reading a bunch of church growth books.
When I started serving South Fraser Unitarian Congregation in Surrey, BC, a few months ago, I was amazed to see that a group was meeting to discuss Robert Latham’s Moving On from Church Folly Lane.
It wasn’t so much the fact that some members were trying to educate themselves about church mission and growth issues that amazed me, as the fact that about half the adult members of this small congregation were involved – giving rise to a lively and transformative discussion about the concept of mission.
The “Divide and Conquer Project” is such a great idea. It wouldn’t even have to be entire books, but a chapter or an article or even a good blog post or two could be divvied up among a group of interested folks, seeding these ideas throughout the congregation, having the reader select highlights that relate to the specific church in order to increase the relevance of the readings, and relieving the minister of sole responsibility – (I mean, honoring our devotion to the concept of the prophethood of all believers) – for learning and teaching about church growth initiatives. I’m going to try worshiping at the shrine of “St. Arbucks” myself.
The Rev. Amanda Aikman is bi-national (she serves in Canada and lives in the U.S.) and bi-vocational (she is a parish minister and a spiritual director). She lives in Everett, WA with her partner, Nancy and cat, Mousehole. Her website can be found here.