I found this a very interesting post from the rector of St. Margaret's. It encapsulates so many of the issues currently at play in the mainline denominations, from the declining (relative to the area's growth), older congregation to the desire to hire someone from the outside to start the program on evangelism to the inherent structural plan that outlines so much before that evanglism even begins.
From St. Margaret's Anglican in Edmonton, Alberta [boldface mine]:
The area around our church has been growing rapidly, but for the last few years attendance at St. Margaret’s has pretty much stayed the same. Also, according to the most recent census figures our church demographics are wildly out of sync with the demographics for our neighbourhoods, in which 40-45% of the population are between the ages of 20-40.
As a congregation we are very good at reaching out to the poor and needy, around the world and in our city, but we have not yet found the secret of connecting with the people in our own neighbourhoods.
Thanks to a generous legacy from a former member, this congregation currently has a lot of money in the bank. We have explored the idea of using it to expand the building, but there does not seem to be the energy to see that task through. I therefore propose (with the support of Bishop Jane) that we shift our focus from growing the building and concentrate on growing the church community through evangelism.
I would therefore propose that St. Margaret’s hire a community evangelist for a two-year term period. The goal of this position would be to share the gospel with the people of our immediate neighbourhoods, with the aim that people come to faith in Jesus Christ and to participation in the life of our parish.
Specific aspects of the job description would include:
- Finding creative ways to connect with the people in our neighbourhoods in order to share the gospel with them, to make new disciples for Jesus, and to help them find a home in our church.
- Mobilising members of our congregation, and motivating and equipping them to take part in this evangelistic task.
- Assisting St. Margaret’s to identify the necessary changes to our life as a congregation which would enable a younger demographic to feel more at home with us (which might include, but not be limited to, changes to the way we do worship, or the addition of another service specifically targeted at a different demographic).
- Planning for the future, including the raising up and training of people in the congregation, so that this work does not end at the conclusion of this two-year term position.
- This position should not include any ‘in-house’ administrative responsibilities and should include only a limited liturgical responsibility with existing Sunday services. The community evangelist should be set free to do the specific work we need him or her to do, without being distracted by in-house tasks.
- It is anticipated that, after a reasonable period of time to familiarize him or herself with our neighbourhood, the community evangelist would develop specific plans for outreach, in consultation with the rector and vestry. It is also anticipated that at regular intervals during the two-year term progress would be evaluated and any necessary adjustments made.
Salary and benefits for 2009/10 (Diocesan pay scale): $149,927
Program costs (guess): $20,000
Office rental if necessary: $8000
We currently have sufficient money in the bank to fund this proposal, and may also be able to access some money from the diocesan ‘Neighbourworks’ fund to cut down a little on our own expenses.
The projected start date for this position would be January 1st 2009.