Tuesday, January 04, 2005

BCP & Church Growth - how to grow


What are the principles by which - in reasonably normal circumstances - a church using the 1662, 1928 or 1962 (Canada) Book of Common Prayer will grow slowly and surely?

Since I circulated my piece entitled, "Dignified & simple worship [in the Anglican Way] leading to mission and ministries of compassion in the U S A" on December 31, 2004, several Ministers have called me from the USA or written to me to express their belief that I was on the right lines and to keep at it. In that piece, I set out a set of basics which it seems to me must be in place if a church desires to and will grow in a healthy and consistent way. Of course, it was only a starter. It is clear to me that what works in the USA will not work in Canada or Britain in the same way for the mindset and cultures of Canada and Britain require different strategy to that of the USA.

There are plenty of books on Church Growth based on principles which have worked in the USA in terms of creating large congregations; but they require in one way or another too much compromise with the Faith received, too much submission to modern forms of marketing & communication and too little genuine adoration and worship of God as the LORD our God.

Evidence is now available to suggest that this slick form of creating church growth has reached its end and new ways are being sought to attract a new generation. Apparently what seems to be working for the new generation are principles and means which are much nearer to traditional ways than has been the case in church growth teaching and practice in the last decade or two. Traditional churches, which desire to grow in numbers and in maturity, should take heart from the latest evidence of how churches grow amongst the under 30s.

Wayland Coe of the PBS Board has suggested that the PBS itself or via another publisher should look to creating an attractive small paperback book wherein is the collective wisdom of those who have been engaged in such mission/evangelization and who have learnt by experience what appears to work. This is a splendid idea.

I can think of two ways of doing this --- by interviewing up to 12 leaders or groups of leaders from six traditional churches that have seen some growth and printing these interviews in a dialogue form. Then, closing the book with an essay wherein the information they supply in what may be called basic lessons and principles are discussed and commended.

The other way is to do the same research but do not include the interviews - rather print a "How to" book based upon the practical experience of the persons interviewed and upon what we know of how the church has grown and should grow from Bible and history and also what has happened both to extra-mural Anglican Churches and ECUSA parishes since the 1970s in terms of both growth and schism.


The Rev'd Dr Peter Toon January 4, 2005

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