Seems as though the church is doing all it can in at least some place to bring people inside their doors. An interesting story fro the Guardian on September 25 outlined plans for a big push in the UK this past week. The headline reads Church mission to get people back to pews. This past Sunday in the UK was billed as Back to Church Sunday. This initiative endorsed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, was a basic ask a friend to come to church. To folks at St. Mark’s by-the-Lake this may sound a little familiar. On November 4, 2007 we will have our version known as Bring a Friend Sunday. This undertaking of the Leadership Team at St Mark’s was designed to introduce people to our great community and it works! Some of you reading this may have come to St. Mark’s for the first time on Bring a Friend Sunday. Are we to assume that word got oversees of the success of our day?
In England the Bishops involved sent some clergy to “customer service courses, run by department store John Lewis, to learn how to be more welcoming and create an experience worth returning for.” This is most interesting considering that each year we have taken on Bring a friend Sunday using such things as welcome packs and we work extra hard at being the welcoming community that we are famous for.
This novel, concept is basic evangelism – ask someone else to join you in a place where you feel your life is being transformed. Or at least one hopes that is what is advertised. I fear that the issue in the UK as it is in most of North America is that lives are not necessarily being transformed and the message of transformation is not being proclaimed. In fact in many cases the church is all about membership – and there is very little discipleship. Jonathan Bartley who is a member of a religious think tank is quoted in the Guardian. He contends that the project is a good one but offers a cautious note. "A church that appears at worst bigoted and at best unable to agree on issues of private morality is not going to hold on to new communicants for long.” I hope that the Church of England heeds those words as I hope that the Anglican Church of Canada might heed those words.
I believe that the success of the St. Mark’s by-the-Lake Bring a Friend Campaign is rooted in the fact that the place to which we bring our friends is indeed working to be a transformative force in people’s lives and in the life of the community around it as well as a transformative force in the global village. So start thinking about how your life is transformed by St. Mark’s (Or which ever church community you belong to) and begin to plan to be an evangelist by praying about who might benefit from that transforming force. Once you have decided – invite them for Bring a Friend Sunday on November 4, 2007. Perhaps you might even offer a ride.
On a Different Note
We are Pleased to Announce that ED SMITH will be visiting our Parish on October 23. If you would like a copy of Ed’s Book From the Ashes of My Dreams please email me at email@example.com as I can obtain the book for you. In addition you might be interested in the fact that we will be hosting a Markus Book Club to discuss this book on October 10 (Wednesday) October 14 (Sunday) October 18 (Thursday) all from 7:30 – 9 PM. If you want to join us let us know.
It is interesting that they mention customer service training. You may remember that our bring a friend was modeled on a casino program. We were encouraging customers to bring a friend to the casino offering incentives to the customer and gifts to the guest. I don\’t know why we as church are so afraid to market ourselves like other service industries do. If we believe our product is a benefit to society and better than other forms of being community such as a golf club or social club than we should be a little less shy about promoting ourselves. If we feel we are a welcoming warm community that is relevant we ought to shout it out, or put it on a billboard or newspaper. The Church seems to think it is somehow wrong to advertise the benefit of membership but rather wait quietly until they need us. This seems to me to be a shame.