Why one Episcopal Rector canceled all her adult education opportunities and midweek services

…the idea of having leisurely conversations about Jesus is just, well, too slow. The only adult formation things that have been in any way successful are sermon podcasts and daily e-mailed bits of wisdom, prayer or scripture.

A mentor once gave me some good advice: stop doing things that aren’t working. This makes all the sense in the world, but it’s hard to do. It is hard to give up the picture I have in my head about what a church is supposed to look like: people sitting around on couches in the parish hall, Bibles open.

But at least in my ministry context, that just isn’t working anymore. And personally, I’m done with the roller coaster of getting seduced by the latest thing that’s supposed to work, putting mountains of energy into making it really good and then getting cranky with people because they don’t come. So we stopped it all.

Read it all.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Adult Education, Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, Episcopal Church (TEC), Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, TEC Parishes

18 comments on “Why one Episcopal Rector canceled all her adult education opportunities and midweek services

  1. Sarah says:

    Heh.

    The reason why folks aren’t coming to the Bible studies/adult education is that she’s got a church made up of libs and they’re not interested in silly things like Bible study: [blockquote]When I ask why people don’t come, the answer almost always is time. They have good intentions, but their lives are so full. So they tend to use their precious free time only for things that they really care about, which tend to be things that offer immediate good feelings. They flock . . . to work for civil rights for LGBT people . . . [/blockquote]
    And the few remaining conservatives have figured out that there’s no substantive content in the adult education from the liberal rector.

    So . . . there we are.

  2. Undergroundpewster says:

    I’m sorry lady, but if you preach it, they will come.

  3. Sarah says:

    From the parish website: “We are a progressive, GLBT welcoming,
    justice oriented, kid friendly, Christian community, in the Merriam Park neighborhood.”

    And yeh . . . judging from the website it’s all gay all the time at that parish. Thank God so few people are attending Bible studies and adult education there! Hopefully even fewer will in the coming years.

  4. Undergroundpewster says:

    Oops, Sarah’s post got in first. I’m referring to the rector when I use the term “Lady”.

  5. deaconjohn25 says:

    The Roman Catholic situation is much different. Most parishes have daily Mass and part of daily mass are 3 scripture readings and a short homily on the readings by the celebrant or the deacon of the Mass. And in most parishes I have visited for Daily Mass I find 15-50 parishoners attending regularly. But no one thinks of what they learn at Mass as “Adult Education.” It helps that many Catholic parishes are large enough to be considered “mega-churches” by Protestant standards but many are quite small.
    Of course, the parishoners are not coming for some sort of academic experience or study, but to worship and consume the flesh of God. This very much confirms what some of the commenters here wrote–the most important component for anything one could consider “Adult Education” is The Faith of the parishoners and clergy. There IS fellowship among those in the “Daily Mass” community, as well as learning about The Word, but the draw is the Faith in the True Presence of Christ among us.

  6. Paul PA says:

    What stood out to me was that she is tired of being “seduced by the latest thing”.. so she is turning to….podcasts and emails.

  7. David Hein says:

    “And they love to eat with friends—the church’s social calendar is filled with dinners, dances and parties.”

    Maybe a local church (Brethren) here in Frederick, MD, has found the answer. It serves an excellent meal at a reduced price (about $7) and then offers many (at least a dozen) different classes for people to go to (if they want) at 7:30pm. They’ve been doing this successfully for years. It is a low-keyed, quite enjoyable, and often enriching event.

    I was surprised this rector hadn’t put these two ideas together.

  8. wvparson says:

    All too often what is offered is anything but bible ‘study’. It involves the reading of a passage, with no context, after which participants are invited to explain how they ‘feel’ about the passage. I am tempted in such a context to reply that I feel bilious. (grin)

  9. Saltmarsh Gal says:

    Leaving aside the question of what ideally should make up the spiritual “diet” of Christian believers, I wonder if this rector assumed she knew what congregants needed and wanted and programmed based on that. If she actually asked folks what would help them grow spiritually, she may have come up with something quite different. I have observed that people generally will make time for what truly nurtures/energizes/blesses them. OTOH, what people may think will enable them to grow spiritually is not necessarily what enables them to grow Christianly which actually may be the real problem here. In any case, it calls for careful diagnosis.

  10. David Keller says:

    #10–I have been an Alpha leader on multiple occasions, but I have never really looked at their webpage. That is one awesome website.

  11. pendennis88 says:

    About 150 ASA with a little growth a couple of years ago, and about 200k in P&P. Social events but no Bible study. Sounds like some of the episcopal churches I have known over the years that essentially functioned as a little neighborhood social club. This one may be steady, but a lot of them have hit the rocks.

  12. Jim the Puritan says:

    We run Alpha twice a year at our church both for seekers and for church attenders / members. I think we have had about 60 non-Christians commit their lives to Christ during the last year as a result of Alpha, not to mention strengthening the faith of a lot of our attenders and members. There are an awful lot of Christians out there who grew up in a nominal Christian background and have never had the faith explained to them, and almost uniformly they say going through this course really changes them. It works. In our last class, we had 180 people who went through it, and each time we do it we get a greater number of people.

  13. MichaelA says:

    Hmmm, interesting and predictable.

  14. sophy0075 says:

    Perhaps a discussion of the Millennium Development Goals and global warming would draw them in.

  15. Bookworm(God keep Snarkster) says:

    “A mentor once gave me some good advice: stop doing things that aren’t working. This makes all the sense in the world, but it’s hard to do. It is hard to give up the picture I have in my head about what a church is supposed to look like: people sitting around on couches in the parish hall, Bibles open”.

    The oxymoron is lost on these people. “Study the Bible”? “Bibles open”? But what for, when you’re going to toss the teachings anyway?

    The Christians either don’t want to hear a false message or have gone somewhere else. And there are plenty out there who split hairs re: worship and teaching. The traditional pew warmers will still attend worship with anyone, but usually won’t attend classes in heresy; or, at best, classes where what is “preached” is not “practiced”.

    We are grateful, but haven’t had any trouble attracting folks for Alpha classes, and the parish has grown well with its traditional Message. From our rector, the masses are not going to get anything else anyway, which is GREAT. If you want any gnostic revisionism, you have to go somewhere else. That’s not on the menu here.

  16. lostdesert says:

    From wvparson
    [b]what is offered is anything but bible ‘study’. It involves the reading of a passage, with no context, after which participants are invited to explain how they ‘feel’ about the passage[/b]
    Yes, that is exactly what they offered in TEC when I attended. I kept thinking, but who cares what I feel about something. Shouldn’t I be learning the context of this narrative of God’s word, shouldn’t I understand at least something about the old testament? I knew nothing about the Bible so to ask my opinion about any given passage was the biggest waste of time. Now in a reformed church and it is all about the Bible which is revered as truly the inspired word of God. Go to classes every Sunday before service and every Sunday night. Pastor is a world class Biblical scholar and a fabulous teacher. He is also a fine human being. He gave me Jesus Christ. Thank you Pastor.

  17. Sarha7nj says:

    My women’s Bible study on Wednesday mornings grows every year and we keep having to add more discussion leaders because instead of one group, we now split into four so that everyone can be heard and ministered to. When it’s the real deal, people will come.