Fixing our broken bikes

Sydney needs new churches to be planted. It really does.

To keep up with a growing population, let alone reaching more people, we need to plant churches.

So I’m pleased that New Churches is up and running.

It’s good that so many are putting so much time, sweat, prayer, people, and money into seeing new churches established.

Sydney also needs to see good churches grow big, not sit on their laurels, and reform to reach more people.

Again, much effort is being done on this front.

Some of our larger churches are looking over the fence at charismatic churches, and looking at American ministries to see how to grow big.

If that kind of gospel growth happens then praise God.

But the greater need Sydney Anglicans have is that of reforming and renewing dead or dying congregations.

There are plenty of churches that have plateaued or are in decline. 

Maybe we should be fixing all the broken bikes instead of buying new ones or making the good ones flashier.

But church renewal and reform doesn’t look as sexy as church planting or big platform church.

We don’t get international speakers coming out calling young hairy chested men to go and serve in dead or dying churches.

We don’t do much as a diocese to encourage and equip these struggling churches or those serving in them.

Sometimes we even speak against this strategy: ‘There is a reason they are dead’ or ‘It’s easier to bring about new life than raise the dead’.

And this counsel has some wisdom.

New churches don’t have the same baggage.

Some old churches would fight against changes that may be vital to see new life.

Renewing a church may mean years of conflict, much time dealing with run down properties, and constant financial challenges.

So why do it?

1. This is a good mission strategy to reach Sydney.There are plenty of ‘broken bike‘ churches that could, in God’s kindness, be brought back onto a mission footing. It’s been done before, and others are doing it now. Churches really can make a comeback.

2. Dead and dying churches are sitting on property we could never afford to buy. Letting them continue like this is burying a treasure in a field, instead of seeing it used for gospel ministry.

3. Ministry like this can be the answer to the prayers of the faithful old saints who long to see the pews filled again. We should be slow to write off these churches and start afresh down the road. It is a tremendous encouragement for them to be part of God’s work of renewal.

4. New churches will quickly build their own baggage. Maybe its better to go the path of renewal and apply the gospel to the baggage?

5. Decayed churches can sometimes have a sense of urgency for change. (Where they don’t they can sometimes be persuaded that the situation is more urgent than they realise.) They can therefore be far more flexible and nimble than the ‘succesful’ church that is set in its ways.

6. Renewing churches can grow faster than trying to grow good existing churches. Churches in need of renewal will typically have space to grow. Add the spark of new work being done there and locals are able to join at the ground floor rather than having to force their way into a busy place.  I’m not aware of any Sydney Anglican church that draws 1000 people on a Sunday. I can’t count how many draw 200. Maybe rather than trying to grow bigger churches we should content ourselves with smaller churches and look to see more of them grow. If the church of 600-800 wants to go beyond 1000 the easy way would be to link up with a couple of struggling little churches of 40 and grow them to 200.

7. When a church is revitalized a gospel witness is established and a bad witness can be removed. (Mike McKinley writes about this in his book Church Planting is for Wimps)

Don’t misunderstand me. We do need new churches. We do need bigger churches. But I’m also persuaded we need dead and dying churches renewed.

Michael Kellahan is senior minister at St Barnabas Anglican Church Roseville East

 

The Rev Michael Kellahan has experienced the highs and lows of church planting. He also understands ministering in a less well-resourced context, and is currently rector of St Barnabas, Roseville East in Sydney's north.

Comments (37)

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  • Sandy Grant
    March 15, 11 - 9:41pm
    Michael, good article and I agree. Often there is lots of latent potential. Previous ministries, where there's been decline, have rarely been all bad. Sometimes they have done some hard and faithful work, to prepare/improve bad soil etc. (Resisting further metaphors).

    So you've given us the 'why' do it. But do you have some thoughts on the 'how?' given you've said there's not much training or support in this area. (I'll see if anything comes to mind myself too, but more interested in your thoughts.)
  • Michael Kellahan
    March 15, 11 - 10:12pm
    Previous ministries, where there's been decline, have rarely been all bad.

    Absolutely.

    How to encourage ministry like this?
    1. persuade young men of the gospel opportunities of going to dead & dying churches rather than big and new ones.
    2. make these guys rectors younger than we do
    3. invest money in training the new rectors in networks - Andrew Katay & Rob Forsyth are doing this with the Sauerkraut stuff
    4. help the guys who are in churches like this now - some have been parachuted in & left to fend for themselves. They've worked hard, not seen much fruit, and some feel 'stuck' where they are. Nominators aren't looking at the 50something faithful guys in the broken bike churches.
    5. deliberately network with others who are doing this kind of ministry - that'd be far more helpful than the Big Conference Big Preacher Big Church that is supposed to encourage and equip. Anyone got the time & energy to set up a network or conference to do this?
    6. Develop gospel partnerships between big and renewing churches. I know big churches have tighter budgets than anyone and struggle to do the ministry in-house. I'm not talking about charity giving but strategic spreading of resources to see kingdom growth

    How to actually see a church turnaround?
    That might be a blog for another day...
  • Philip Griffin
    March 15, 11 - 10:29pm
    Some old churches would fight against changes that may be vital to see new life.

    Renewing a church may mean years of conflict, much time dealing with run down properties, and constant financial challenges.


    This means that the diocesan leaders will need to be willing to back men who take on such conflicts. That hasn't always happened, resulting in some feeling abandoned. Those who fight a godly rector in such parishes sometimes make the conflict very personal, and they are often politically shrewd.

    All this means that we need to support rectors in such parishes to the hilt. Sadly, that has not always been the case.
  • Colin Murdoch
    March 16, 11 - 12:20am
    Michael said:"Some of our larger churches are looking over the fence at charismatic churches, and looking at American ministries to see how to grow big." This can be helpful to see the ministry strategies of other churches, but we also need to allow God to work with the leaders and those within each Parish to bring about His purposes.

    Michael said:"New churches don’t have the same baggage." No, but many new churches bring together a number of people with a truckload of baggage that would sink a ship, that has to be pastorally worked through.

    Michael noted:"Decayed churches can sometimes have a sense of urgency for change." Yes, sadly some have a high pain threshold, but people and churches will often only change, when the pain of not changing is worse than doing nothing.

    Indeed Michael,"Churches really can make a comeback." The question is whether those who make up the leadership and various Parish ministries of the Sydney Diocese are prepared to not only count the cost of change, but can become so excited about the need for somthing special to happen, that it registers more than 4 on the richter scale; and in a systematic methodical prayerful action packed way, makes more than a comeback, but sees God touch and refresh the lives of leaders and laity, as together, they transform the lives of new converts who in a new season; some will be the KOG's future leaders!
  • Craig Schwarze
    March 16, 11 - 1:41am
    Good article Michael. Perhaps we need a department of church renewal (gosh, sounds Orwellian).

    Still, for all that some churches have been turned around, I've heard plenty of stories of good men being burnt out, even when the final result i...s a success.

    One thing I would suggest is that this is a ministry best undertaken by the middle-aged and older rather than by the young. The enthusiastic young rector is no match for the wily old warden who has seen young men come and go and is quite determined that nothing should change, thank you very much.
  • Sandy Grant
    March 16, 11 - 1:50am
    6. Develop gospel partnerships between big and renewing churches. I know big churches have tighter budgets than anyone and struggle to do the ministry in-house. I'm not talking about charity giving but strategic spreading of resources to see kingdom growth
    It's certainly been our privilege at St Michael's to have this sort of partnership with Corrimal Anglican. There had been a good ministry there, but things had perhaps stalled, and only marginally viable (financially). A new deacon (although already an experienced stipendiary lay minister) became the effective minister-in-charge, with me as Acting Rector, but really just a mentor for the new bloke. Much more importantly, a couple of our very best families, who lived up that way, took up the challenge to move to Corrimal to reinforce the reinvigoration that was being attempted there. That cost us, but it also benefitted us, as people remaining here realised there was a need for them to get more involved and could see where there were gaps they could fill... More recently, several people from St Michael's went and ran the children's program during a Saturday, while Corrimal had its first 'teach in' in quite some years, I believe, (which they went for instead of a weekend away).
  • Michael Kellahan
    March 16, 11 - 2:04am
    Craig
    you said
    One thing I would suggest is that this is a ministry best undertaken by the middle-aged and older rather than by the young.

    There's arguments both ways on this one Craig but I reckon we should be pitching for the same guys that are being attracted to church planting. Ultimately both have the same goal of seeing new places of gospel witness established
    But sure, sometimes it takes an older thicker skulled
    Younger or older, we can certainly look to do more to train & equip
  • Michael Kellahan
    March 16, 11 - 2:08am
    Sandy
    Cathedral/Corrimal is just the kind of thing I meant.
    You could also look to what North Sydney has done over the years again and again
    Christ Church St Ives was remarkably generous to us at Barneys, Roseville East
    You wouldn't pay these kind of costs from a big church unless you were persuaded that: 1. it was more important to see the gospel grow than your own church 2. the small venture was worth backing to see growth
    I'm sure there must be other examples...
  • Robert James Elliott
    March 16, 11 - 2:16am
    Hmmm ... I agree with Craig. Some wise heads are needed here. Youth and enthusiasm are no match for age and obstructionism. It is too easy to keep doing what we have been doing even if that "doing" has failed.
  • Craig Schwarze
    March 16, 11 - 2:16am
    but I reckon we should be pitching for the same guys that are being attracted to church planting.

    I imagine there is a different skill set and set of problems to be addressed with renewal vs planting. But others know more about that than I do.

    I have, however, seen young guys struggle big time when coming up against a crusty older congregation. There are plenty of things that are a young man's game, but in this instance, I think older heads will do a better job (and there will be exceptions, of course).
  • Philip Griffin
    March 16, 11 - 3:18am
    Michael, all the examples you have given are of parishes where the degree of opposition was not relatively intense. With you I rejoice in what the Lord has done in those places, including Roseville East.

    The harder places are where there is entrenched opposition to change. We must ensure that those who go there will be properly supported, for they have not always been, and the results have been just appalling.
  • Michael Kellahan
    March 16, 11 - 4:36am
    Phillip,
    I don't think lack of support from diocesan leaders is such a big problem we have in leading change in the context of opposition.
    Without wanting to minimize what may have happened in particular places in the past (& I don't want comments to head down that track), Anglican rectors are generally pretty well protected in cases where conflict does arise.
    Maybe I say this because I've grown up in Baptist churches where the pastor can be removed by a congregational vote at a church meeting. No bishop to call on either!
    And yes, most of the churches I mentioned weren't those of intense conflict (though some were much harder than you suggest)
    In some cases, the degree of opposition to change may make it a stupid thing to even attempt. Maybe then we go through a death and resurrection strategy over a number of years. Not much fun for those there at the time though!
  • Michael Kellahan
    March 16, 11 - 4:38am
    Craig
    you said:
    I imagine there is a different skill set and set of problems to be addressed with renewal vs planting. But others know more about that than I do.

    I think that's right but that's precisely why we need to equip and network those trying it who haven't got much of a clue & are learning as they go. We've been good at networking to recruit, enthuse and train planters. Maybe we do need your Orwellian Church Renewal team to do just that...
  • Philip Griffin
    March 16, 11 - 4:48am
    n some cases, the degree of opposition to change may make it a stupid thing to even attempt. Maybe then we go through a death and resurrection strategy over a number of years. Not much fun for those there at the time though!


    I agree entirely about not raising specific examples here- that would be plain wrong and unfair to everyone involved. But I think there is wisdom in the comment you made that I have quoted.

    Let's pray that the number of these diminishes.
  • Peter Kirsop
    March 16, 11 - 5:40am
    Mr Grant is quite right in suggesting existing thriving churches need to support struggling ones. But its more than that. There are it seems lots of strong churches on the Northern Beaches, the North Shore, the Hills and round Eastwood and Epping (and probably lots of other places too for that matter). But where to me it seems there are struggling churches are in the western suburbs.

    May I suggest that ministers of those strong churches need to encourage some of their young people to move to those areas and join the churches there.
  • Robert Denham
    March 16, 11 - 10:02am
    FIRST I am convinced that we do not train our clergy well enough on how to bring change. It is not a problem with our college, but it is a flow on effect of our instant world. If we have to wait a few moments let alone several years in order to see new tendrils of growth, or cracks in a hardened heart, then we are all too eager to shake the dust off our feet and move on to a different site, town or plant.
    I have heard the call for urgency in gospel ministry for all my years in ministry. Occasionally, when the dust settles from the feet running to that call, I hear men like Philip Jensen, John Gray & others say that it takes time to grow. We all want growth yesterday, & church plants seems to offer hope for bigger ones sooner. And don't forget that many church plants fail.
    We need to be wise in handling people who have seen enormous change in their lives. Their faith & church are some of the constants. When we run in & change their last remaining areas of stability, we offend unnecessarily. How much better to get alongside, work with them, help them to understand more of what we believe is a better way to sow and water in God's kingdom, while understanding better what they have been doing.
    Great ships can turn with a small rudder. Dying vines respond to water and fertilizer and tender care.
    And existing church buildings don't need as many things set out & packed away each Sunday.
  • Robert Denham
    March 16, 11 - 10:11am
    SECOND I am convinced that we do not train our clergy well enough on how to be thick skinned.
    We get offended too quickly, and give offense too quickly.
    Established churches are not evil or filled with dead people. There is a variety of life in each church. Sometimes a group or individual dominates, and sometimes that group or individual is not the rector or his cronies.
    Part of the reason we are not thick skinned enough is that we do not listen well enough to what is being said. We are taught to be teachers, & we love to teach.
    We need to be taught to listen better, so we can teach more appropriately and not just with the simple answer.
    Part of the reason we are not thick skinned enough is that we do not love the people well enough.
    We love the Lord, we love his word, but we often find it very difficult to love people.
    Part of the reason we are not thick skinned enough is that we are prone to depression, especially when we are in churches that we are told should be growing faster than they may be, and we are told we should be seeing more spiritual growth in God's people, & we see the growing church plants around that seem to be scooping up the people we have been praying for for many years.

    It is very complex. I hope my ramblings trigger a few ideas.
  • Richard Blight
    March 16, 11 - 10:36am
    Hi Michael, lots of good ideas here! In particular I concur with your point that in many churches that need revitalisation there are people of good-will who would be happy for changes if it will mean growth.

    I have been reflecting on this issue and, in trying to detect patterns, I have noticed that some of the stronger churches in the St George area have been 'revitalisations' - I think particularly of Beverly Hills (now with Kingsgrove) and St George North (formerly Carlton + Bexley + Bexley North).

    In both cases the transformation included dynamic new leadership (Tony Galea and Zac Veron respectively), significant diocesan support (including probably hundreds of thousands of dollars of grants for assistant ministers at each place), mergers with neighbouring parishes and (at least initially), some transfer growth of key people. No doubt there were other things needed for growing churches (check Zac's book: "Leadership on the Front Foot" for details), but I believe these things were key.

    I'm not suggesting these are the only 'revitalised' churches in the area - but others have generally involved new Asian (Chinese) ministries. Perhaps others have more stories? I know some revitalisations are also happening in the Inner West.

    It is interesting to note that a reasonably successful church plant in the same area (Christ Church, St George) is likely to join with St George North this year after about 10 years holding meetings in a local High School.
  • Richard Blight
    March 16, 11 - 10:48am
    Some implications of my previous post:

    (1) Leadership and faithfulness are important and necessary.

    (2) Transfers of key lay people may be vital in the early years.

    (3) Money for additional ministry can make a huge difference. (But we are talking about significant amounts of money over perhaps a 10 year period. Given our financial crisis we could give up - or we could look for new ways to find the money.)

    (4) Mergers can provide additional resources.

    (5) We have people who are experienced in doing this (but are our diocesan leaders listening to them?).
  • Michael Kellahan
    March 16, 11 - 12:09pm
    Richard
    thanks for these observations - it's be great to check out hunches against the diocesan data - maybe mission leaders are looking at this?
    Interesting that a few people Sandy & Peter also mention sending of key lay people from stronger churches.
    Don't be too hard on diocesan leaders - I don't know many rectors who'd be led anyway;-)
  • Michael Kellahan
    March 16, 11 - 12:18pm
    Robert
    yep - some good thoughts.
    we do want instant results in our instant world and can be slow to be faithful & patient.
    But I think that kind of instant thinking can be the very thing stopping some attempting church renewal at all. I can think of friends who've gone to very difficult situations whose whole ministry has really been just to prepare the way for potential growth under the next rector. Vital and unrecognised (by most).
    And yes, leading change is complicated and calls for great pastoral skill.
  • Michael Canaris
    March 16, 11 - 1:08pm
    Interesting that a few people Sandy & Peter also mention sending of key lay people from stronger churches.
    In doing so, though, one might be advised to avoid too strong an initial concentration from particular churches. While I've got well and truly used to them by now, when Andrew Katay first arrived at Ashfield I had a wary apprehension of being "Parish stacked" by "the Barney Bunch."
  • Michael Canaris
    March 16, 11 - 2:24pm
    Addendum: finding sufficient heterogeneity for practical purposes amongst "Katay's gang" helped ease my initial apprehensions.
  • Marshall Ballantine-Jones
    March 16, 11 - 10:18pm
    Thanks for your thoughts Michael. I couldn’t agree more!

    My sincere opinion is that most young ministers will not have the comprehensive skills needed to salvage a near dead church. The skills and strategies required are broad, complex, and daunting! I succeeded, under God and with great help, after 4 years at Earlwood – but I can tell you that unless someone has the right guidance, or extraordinary leadership skills (that’s not me), it’s generally a lost cause. I owe a lot to Zac Veron, whom I worked for during college years – his years of church leadership study were applied to Carlton Parish (now St George North).

    All young ministers, and students, ought to read his book “Leadership on the Front Foot”. It’s not the silver bullet everyone wants, but it’s full of practical essentials needed to get a renovation project off first base (whilst avoiding critical pitfalls)!! If any of you want to grab a book for a minister, church leader, or theology student – call CEP! I shall arrange a super discount for anyone involved in Sydney ministry (this is a deal for friends – not a public offer!!). Say 20%!

    I’ll see if I can set that deal up with my sales guys to last for a week. I really believe in church renovations – but without the wisdom of successful practitioners, our young guns will fail more often than not.
  • Michael Kellahan
    March 17, 11 - 12:54am
    Thanks Marshall.
    Zac's book is gold. Be a great graduation present for anyone graduating Moore tonight!

    The challenge we keep coming to is - how do we equip young ministers to salvage a dead or dying church? There will be the brilliant few who can lead anything. But what about the rest of us? Ministry Training & Developement tries to do some of this. I suspect it faces a few challenges though: 1. funding is tight 2. they don't train rectors 3. compulsory training for assistant ministers on skills they may not immediately need can feel like a hoop to jump through
    Probably more significant is the kind of thing you learnt under Zac - on the job, in relationship, doing ministry together
  • Sandy Grant
    March 17, 11 - 1:22am
    Zac's book is very relevant for this topic. I think it is good and worth buying, but not 100% pure gold at every single point. So I take this chance to refer to my series of seven blog posts reviewing the book and its principles in detail. (I link to the last one, which itself links to the previous six posts in that strange way of blog series!)

    I think Rob and Richard have had some good things to say.

    I agree with the need to be thick skinned in ministry; not insensitive to others, rather not so sensitive to criticism yourself.

    I also think blokes like many of us, who hold to our theological (and often also ministry model) convictions very strongly, often tend to be very dogmatic on pragmatic decisions, and make too many decisions "no compromise" ones. Sometimes that is needed, but I very much doubt it is needed on almost every possible change issue in your parish. It should generally be a rare strategy.

    We need to work with persuasion as much as possible, rather than "crash or crash through".

    The more diplomatic you can be on indifferent matters, the more you show genuine willingness to listen to feedback (even without promising to necessarily agree with it all), and to ask yourself if there's a kernel of truth (even amongt the unfair or shortsighted chaff to blow away), then the more they will respect you when you do stand firm on an important matter of doctrine or practice.
  • Richard Blight
    March 17, 11 - 7:18am
    Michael said:

    How to encourage ministry like this? ...
    5. deliberately network with others who are doing this kind of ministry - that'd be far more helpful than the Big Conference Big Preacher Big Church that is supposed to encourage and equip. Anyone got the time & energy to set up a network or conference to do this?


    I'd love to be part of a team that was trying to do this . . . but who would come? The danger might be that you'd get a bunch of people together who would just moan about what's not happening!

    On the other hand, the time may have come to set up the "Sydney Missionary Society"! This would be a group which was committed to raising up workers (both volunteers and paid), raising support and liasing with diocesan leadership on how we do this. . . A conference working out how best we do this would be worth having!
  • Robert Denham
    March 17, 11 - 11:31am
    Hi there,
    I knew I was rambling last night... however I was trying to say that being impatient is a problem for re-igniting established churches that are living in the shadow of their glory days. We need more patience and great wisdom to flame God's fire back into a burning flame, without snuffing people on the way.
  • Peter Kirsop
    March 17, 11 - 9:28pm
    Mr Blight,
    am I to understand that the two strong churches you mention (Beverley Hills and St George's North) are each made from uniting smaller churches? If so has there been any real growth, or simply concerntation of worshippers.
  • Colin Murdoch
    March 18, 11 - 3:14am
    On the issue of change, choosing the most approrpiate minister, and perhaps encouraging some lay people to join you let me throw this into the mix...

    For years it has been said, perhaps wrongly, that ministers\leaders like change and are out there paving the way, and followers dislike change, that they are the drag and the resistance to it. However, is that really the case?

    Perhaps most ministers\leaders dislike change as much as followers do, unless it is their idea. In fact I think when change does not occur in a church or organisation, it is not because all the followers resist the change, it is because many leaders resist the change.

    Followers by and large have no influence and pretty much rubber stamp what everyone else is going to do anyway. So when change doesn't occur it's almost always because it was sabotaged. There is a minister\leader to sabotage change, not a follower.Ministers, by and large, do not need to worry about people. The minister\leader needs to have an honest date with themselves.When churches don't change it is not a follower problem, it's a minister\leader problem almost always.

    Having said that, I think growth, true, legitimate growth,necessitates change.
    You can't grow over a period of time without making major changes.So I think growth means change. I don't think change means growth.

    What I discovered during a period of phenomenal growth at Wesley Mission change was received much more positively...So,let's grow, change, renew!
  • Robert Denham
    March 19, 11 - 2:19am
    But we must be careful what is changed. All growth is not good (just ask any cancer patient). Some growth in churches is not good growth. Some change is not good change (like when the baby goes flying not just swimming in the changing bath water).
    Change for change sake is not always good. Growth for growth sake is not always good.
    Part of the reviews that have been happening over the past few years apparently have seen that church growth is more like church swapping. I know of many cases where non-Christians have been converted and where lapsed attenders have come back, but church-swapping is still apparent (& I hear anecdotes still of direct sheep stealing).
    Re-invigorating churches is a hard but not joyless ministry.
    It is absolutely fabulous to watch people who for years have been thorns in ministers' sides, begin to understand and be more godly.
  • Robert Denham
    March 19, 11 - 3:28am
    (Continued after a short break due to a visitor)...
    It is also absolutely fabulous to watch ministers begin to understand the ethos of a church, and then wisely bring the people with him to where they believe God is leading them. Parishioners will joke about how long it has taken them to break their minister in, but those jokes mean that there has been a real connection made & the people are happy to be led by that minister (sometimes it can be a worrying sign, especially if the people who say it are not very godly).
    However, one of the hardest things for people involved in ministering in churches needing re-invigoration is the tainted tongue from the Christians in other churches/church plants, who do not realise that things are beginning to flicker into stronger flame. Some Christians may not be as loving as they could be, and the ill-informed opinions can be very painful.

    I know of several ministers who hurt greatly when their church is described as "Oh that church!" whether it be plateaued, dying, charismatic, high, middle, rich or had a major scandal in the past.
    We need to be much more charitable towards each other & stop the scathing comments.
    Also, a few years ago, the diocese unfortunately did an exercise to find the most underutilized buildings in the diocese. I say "unfortunately" because it was not designed to find the places which needed help & encouragement, but rather it was designed to see what assets could be channeled from there to other places. ...
  • Robert Denham
    March 19, 11 - 3:34am
    ...dig up those lists & work out which churches need the help. Don't go in & tell the minister & parish what to do, but get someone to go in quietly & chat with the minister, wardens & parish council. Listen to their concerns. Pray with them. Help in the ways that will actually help them. It may be money, it may be staff, it may be ideas. It may be relationship counselling... whatever it is, help them so that those churches will grow again without the need to plant one just down the road in rented accommodation.
    This is an area where minister's feel very threatened, yet at the same time, ministers feel very isolated & alone. It is basic pastoral care for the pastors who are struggling in the, what was your turn of phrase Michael "broken bike" churches... I'm not sure if that is helpful either.

    Let's keep chatting about this very important aspect of Sydney Anglican life.
  • Ernest Burgess
    March 19, 11 - 4:48am
    speaking from a lay perspective here are some statistics on the Anglican church in Sydney 1919(taken from Dr Davies book the church and the plain man 1) church accommodation provided for only 1 fifth of the nominal population 2) regular worshippers form only ten percent 3) 70% are baptised 4) 80% leakage from churches. The plain man is time wide and world wide. modern civilization is at cross purposes with the church) Richard spoke of Tony's work at Beverly Hills Tony to do what he did worked well beyond a "normal work hour week" and it was infectious to the members of the congregation. Davies point's out in another section (that the ministers job is the toughest job in the world because of the demands of people and because he does his own thing where he is) parishes rise and fall (on the gifts, personality of senior minister) and some teeter like Beverly Hills post Tony. Perhaps the answer lies in what I see my current boss doing He is a member of parliament of NSW there is an election next week by the time that comes he will have visited all the streets in his electorate within a month. Surely the gospel is more value.Our current model seems to be plant new churches and the people will come (sounds like an old kevin coster movie) Maybe it's time to start walking the streets meeting the people who live there of our own parishes, healing the wounds of those who have left the local church community for one reason or another showing we care by the way we use our time.
  • Robert Denham
    March 19, 11 - 6:21am
    One of the bonuses of beginning again in an established church is that you have historical contacts within the parish. So instead of going door to door to begin with, you can look up old lists of confirmees, baptisms, weddings, funerals etc as well as old lists of parishioners, & you can seek out those with some contact with the church.
    If people complain about the previous minister, then listen to what their gripe is about, & invite them to church with the new minister. You may even be able to sensitively address the issues of the complaint, but the warm welcome back to church might be what is needed to begin with.
    Personally, I find door knocking too threatening for me and the people knocked on. I know I don't like cold-turkey salesmen at the door. So I look for ways to get to know the community such as sporting groups, school P&C, chaplaincy to various clubs etc. Then I can build the relationships.
    The best advertising for church is someone who comes telling a friend that they enjoy going there, & maybe even asking them. A happy church is a much better place to visit than a fighting church. That has also helped me to be patient in bringing on changes that aren't essential yesterday.
    I know of churches where great changes have occurred because the people feel loved & cared for, & they trust their minister. Isn't it good when ministers build good relationships with the people they are meant to be in relationship with?!
  • Ernest Burgess
    March 19, 11 - 11:26am
    Well said Rob, re door knocking never do it alone, pre Chappo in Geoff Fletcher's day the plan was to do a prior letter box drop letting people know you are coming on a certain day and stick to that day. Remember we don't have to worry about an election day every 4 years so you can plan it over time perhaps with a small team as well.The day we look forward to has been fixed.
  • Richard Blight
    March 20, 11 - 3:13am
    Dear Peter K., please call me Richard.

    Parishes in the area are very close together. The parishes I mentioned eventually were combined with other struggling parishes, but that was only after they had already begun to grow. At that point the growing churches were able to breathe new life into the churches with which they merged.

    My informed hunch is that mergers of struggling parishes usually results in the combined attendance after the merger being smaller than the combined total attendance before the merger!