Preparing to Prepare
One day the disciples of John the Baptist came to Jesus and asked him, “Why don’t your disciples fast like we do and the Pharisees do?” Jesus replied, “Do wedding guests mourn while celebrating with the groom? Of course not. But someday the groom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast. Besides, who would patch old clothing with new cloth? For the new patch would shrink and rip away from the old cloth, leaving an even bigger tear than before. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. For the old skins would burst from the pressure, spilling the wine and ruining the skins. New wine is stored in new wineskins so that both are preserved.”
– Matthew 9:14-17
Well, it is November. That means the end of one Liturgical Year, and the beginning of another. We are preparing to both end a journey and then, to turn, and begin a new journey. And as we prepare to step into Advent, and a new year of faith, we will do so with some new understandings, some new heartbreak, and maybe some new dreams. The start of a new year is the time to unpack the new wineskins. Wineskins that will hold the new wine of what the Holy Spirit is doing in our midst – the new ministries, the new spiritual practices, the new community, as well as the renewal and restoration of things we thought perhaps we had lost. Things like hope, trust, commitment, or even a sense of purpose in our ministry.
This month’s newsletter is all about new wine and new wineskins in perhaps unlikely places – Christmas Eve services, our 65+ congregants, and in the actual wild. As you wind down one Liturgical Year and prepare to begin another, I invite you to take some time to meditate on Matthew 9:14-17, and to open yourself up to whatever unlikely newness might just lie ahead.
With much gratitude,
Staff officer for evangelism
Evangelism Learnings: A story from the field and an invitation
We believe it is crucial to the work of sharing the Good News of God in Christ to share stories and learnings from across the work, and this month we are excited to share both some learnings and an invitation to an experiment, from our friends at TryTank.
This past fall TryTank ran a “Blessing of the Animals as Evangelism” experiment. The question they posed to potential partners was this:
Would you like to introduce your church to more people in your community? Think about the great opportunity your annual blessing of the animals provides! We know that some churches have had success this way, and we want to see if this is replicable.
Ken Kroohs served as the experiment coordinator, and here, according to Ken and Lorenzo Libreja, Director of TryTank is what they learned:
The first four (of 12) churches experienced greater results than we dreamed. Together they welcomed over 200 guests and received contact information from over 150 new people.
We are still collecting information, but from both an evangelistic and an experimental perspective I am very excited. From an experimental perspective we have seen results that are very high, and a church that had zero guests. We never want zero — but we learn from that too.
Here are a few preliminary results: (1) social media is a very effective way to invite people, (2) non-social media (signs, flyers) is much less effective (3) unchurched people are interested and willing to connect with a church, (4) not surprising, but important, the more ‘permeable’ an event is, the better chance a skeptical person will attend. But that we mean, the event must be such that a person can ‘safely’ drop in without the feeling they are trapped, clearly identified, and asked to commit. In other words, inviting a skeptic to enter the church and sit for an hour is unlikely to work. You have to build a relationship first.
Another takeaway – looking at the photographs in our experiment group, it is fascinating to see the number of children and young adults who attended.
Maybe the most important findings for me (Ken) are (1) there are Episcopal Churches enthusiastic about evangelism, and (2) we really can work together!
We are still collecting information, but from both an evangelistic and an experimental perspective TryTank is very excited.
Of course, the key experiment remains: if we keep in touch with these people can we build a long lasting, spiritual relationship with some of them? Participating churches have been provided with a possible schedule for contacts and possible topics.
Now for the invitation… If you missed the BOTA experiment, no worries—you can join the Christmas as Evangelism experiment now:
Are you frustrated your church overflows Christmas Eve, but your ASA drops for the months following? Or maybe frustrated your church does NOT overflow on Christmas Eve and your ASA continues dropping? Following the success of the Blessing of the Animals experiment, TryTank is offering a three-step process: tips on improving how we invite, specific ideas about how to get guest contact information (the most important step), and detailed communication suggestions for after Christmas. Everything will be presented acknowledging the uncertainty around COVID. You can find our more information and apply to participate here.
Episcopal Evangelism Huddle – Let’s Talk!
November 17, 12 p.m. ET
Based on the data, around 75% of TEC is over the age of 65. And we know that community, storytelling and storysharing are integral to our practice of evangelism -both inside our church communities, and beyond our walls. So, as we begin to enter the holiday season, is there a way engage our wisdom members in the practice of evangelism through storytelling, and inviting them to share their stories – with us, with their families, and with the wider community? Let’s talk about that and more!
Join our November mentors, Marna Franson and Dorothy Linthicum to chat about this topic and learn together.
In this episode host Forrest Inlee talks with author Victoria Loorz, cofounder of the Wild Church Network, about her new book, Church of the Wild: How Nature Invites Us into the Sacred. Victoria also helped start the Seminary of the Wild, an experiential education and formation program for spiritual leaders seeking to pioneer new earth-centered faith practices. All of which are very much “new wine skins.” As you listen, consider – what ideas, questions, or pushbacks does Victoria’s approach bring up for you. What might the Holy Spirit be saying through those reactions?
“Let yourself fall open to Advent, to anticipation, to the belief that what is empty will be filled, what is broken will be repaired, and what is lost can always be found, no matter how many times it’s been lost.” -Shauna Niequist
If you would like to download a shareable image of this quote, please click here.
Advent is coming, and as we prepare to prepare, here are a few favorite Advent resources that you can use to guide your Advent journey or invite others to guide theirs.
Additional Evangelism and Discipleship Resources
My Way of Love – For Individuals and Small Gathered Communities
A resource for personal spiritual growth—on your own or in community.
A church that looks, acts and loves like Jesus
New graphics and printable regarding Rule of Life and Small Gathered Communities inspired by Bishop Curry’s word to the church. Find them and more here.
Evangelist Leader Training – Jan. 9 – Feb. 19, online
If you are looking to dive deeper into what it means to lead an evangelism ministry, or if you are looking for a way to meet the requirements for an Evangelism Leader License, check out the next course on evangelism from Bexley-Seabury’s Pathways for Lifelong Learning program. Find more info here.
Want to offer this course to your diocese? Contact Julie Lytle at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you would like to contribute to the Evangelism Blog or Newsletter or would like more information on Episcopal evangelism, click here to email us.
This was originally shared in The Episcopal Church’s November Evangelism Newsletter. We invite you to subscribe to The Episcopal Church’s monthly newsletter to receive prayers, resources, news about upcoming events, and more. View past issues of the newsletter and join the mailing list here.