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Member since: Mon Jan 3, 2005, 01:52 PM
Number of posts: 23,340

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Here is something not to do. A tale of two churches.

We left one church, the one we had been married in, due to a small core of lifer members who wished to control everything. They stated they wanted change, but refused everything but their own wishes. The pastor was a gifted homilist, but had no administrative ability, and no wish to truly lead the congregation. We had been there six years, but lifetime members, the head of church ministries, were leaving the church. The church had declined by about 20%.

We moved to a different church that was thriving, one of the largest in the diocese. Two weeks after we returned, the pastor announced his retirement. He left, they searched for a new rector, and hired a gifted homilist, with no administrative ability. Very poor people skills, too. He fired the popular Sunday School administrator, and lost 30% of the church, and learned nothing from the experience. In that time our daughter arrived in our lives, and we were looking for a good children's program. This rector had hired an assistant for her organizational skills, but this was a person without children and without any affinity for children. A large Sunday School dwindled down to nothing. Half of the adult attendance was gone.

In looking for a new church with a good children's program we discovered .... our old church, which had a dynamic new rector, a new choir director, a children's choir that had 80 kids in it. A great adult choir, too. This church is now a powerhouse. A fabulous, welcoming community. They have increased 40% in the past five years, and completed a $600,000 capital campaign for major renovations to our 60 year-old church.

What I learned from this ten-year experience:

1) What makes a church thrive is programming for families with young children. They build a church, and the parents are the most able and willing volunteers. In our case it was a great music program, as the Episcopal church is famous for. Without this demographic, the church will gradually wither and die. From this flows youth groups and life-long involvement.

2) The pastor must be a leader. The pastor must have strong people and political skills. The pastor must be a cheerleader. The pastor must have logical, rational management skills. Many people attracted to the ministry are very spiritual people, but lack these specific skills, and they are not taught in seminary. These skills are more important than stirring sermons.

3) In our denomination, a great music program is vital, due to the heritage of the church. We have not only the standard Hymnal with melodies going back to the middle ages, we also have LEVAS, Lift Every Voice and Sing, that contains many classic American hymns, particularly African-American hymns, as our church is extremely diverse. A great director of music is as important as the minister, and I've seen this in several very successful churches.

Those are the basics. The total story is much more complicated, I could write a major novel on all that has happened, and all that I have learned.

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