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Congregational Culture

Ministers' letters


Last week, some of the pastoral staff were at our regional ministry conference, organised by Bishop Peter Hayward and his Assistant, Tony Willis. We are grateful for their work serving the Anglican churches and ministries of the Wollongong region.

One of the presenters was Peter Mayrick, from Moore College’s Centre for Ministry Development. He talked about the importance of culture. I immediately thought of the high culture of State of Origin rugby league! But seriously, he explained that in non-technical terms, culture is “the way we do things round here”. And he asked what cultural norms would we like to see in our churches?

This was the “off the top of my head” list for St Michael’s:

  • We talk about things that matter when we’re with others.
  • We often discuss the word of God and actually pray together.
  • We speak with people from different ages or backgrounds, newcomers and the unfamiliar, not just your familiar friends.
  • We sometimes bring people to church as guests.
  • We talk openly, here and beyond, about God, Christ and being a Christian.
  • We are personally investing in someone younger for their good.

You could jot down a couple of cultural norms you’d like to see on a Connection Card!

But here’s some research that was shared. Did you know that churches with the highest percentage of newcomers (itself a measure of vitality) was correlated to…

  • Locations that give them a high level of ‘walk ins’. The example given was St Matthew’s Manly, on the Corso! But we do quite well with this too.
  • A higher percentage of members who reports actually having invited someone to church in the last 12 months. (Not just willingness, but actual invitations!)

Research also suggests 1 in 4 former attenders would accept an invitation to come to church. Likewise over 3 in 10 never before attended might accept! So you can expect a few refusals. But if you get over that and keep asking, there’s a very good chance someone will accept.

Christians worry about what their friends might think, but research shows 2/3rds of newcomers’ first visit was to an ordinary church service, and the majority were pleasantly surprised. The ‘church shopping’ consumer demand for everything to be impressive affects Christian ‘switchers’ much more than those who have long been away from church or have never tried it. They are just glad if it’s not as boring as they expected!

And what makes them feel welcome? 28% said it was if a Minister spoke to them. But 48% said it was when another attender spoke to them. Note well.

One last insight: those who report growing much in faith are twice as likely to have invited someone in the last 12 months. And such growth correlates with daily Bible study. So there’s another reason to keep going with the Bible reading challenge too!

Warmly in Christ,

Sandy Grant
Senior Minister

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