There was so much information to digest these past three days. In fact, having just sat down and looking over my notes from the course I cannot believe how much could be squeezed into that short period of time.
The course was called “Raising the Roof.” Its focus was on congregations that are growing from pastoral to program size. (Pastoral size parishes have an average weekly attendance of 50-150, program is 150 – 400 in average attendance). This course is designed to help clergy assist parishes in the transition. At an average attendance of 160, St. Mark’s by-the-Lake is in that transition. We have experienced growth and can no doubt experience even more. In the book and the course “Raising the Roof,” Alice Mann states that congregations like ours see ourselves as open and welcoming – we in fact are. But she goes on to say that reluctance to “expand capacity in ways that would permit net growth….is to post and effective ‘no vacancy’ sign” over the door. She makes clear that many newcomers will get the message and go away. Some of the obstacles include 80 % of seating taken up on a regular basis – we are there. How about this quote – “Parking is filled up if there is no convenient space obvious to the newcomer who arrives five minutes before the service starts.” Does this sound familiar to you? If you are a member of St. Mark’s by-the-Lake it probably sounds very familiar.
What was very encouraging in these past couple of days was learning about parishes success in overcoming these barriers and others. But the greatest part of the course was being in a room with 35 clergy all of them a part of successful and growing congregations. It was helpful to have formal and social time with clergy who are facing many of the same issues that I face in a growing congregation.
We now have a committee of 12 people named Markus and another 25 or so people who will make subcommittees of Markus. How exciting that we have engaged on a process of learning about ourselves this year. It is our hope that by January 2007 we will have looked seriously at who we are and how we serve the community around us. I now know that we have already begun to do that which church growth experts like Alice Mann encourage congregations to do. We hope that we can identify our “no vacancy” signs and remove them where possible.
I am looking forward to June 1st when we have a significant meeting of Markus and all of its subcommittees. Times are exciting at St. Mark’s by-the-Lake. I’m also looking forward to getting to bed tonight.