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Sigh. Another Non-Denominational Church...

Christos3

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in town and growing. Meanwhile, we, like every Orthodox church is in the slow growth mode. Any ideas on how to grow the church?
 

hecma925

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Put in comfy chairs, have a coffee shop in the narthex, have tons of programs, classes, and groups; then relax fasting and prayer, do a "traditional" liturgy once a month, but have contemporary worship on other Sundays so the kids will like it. You will have exponential growth. Is it the type of Christian the parish needs or is it the type of parish such a Christian wants?
 

Christos3

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I'm amazed they have the money to build these churches. We (as Orthodox) have done a terrible job in church building. We tend to keep investing in the same church instead of building new churches.
 

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Is the question strictly related to the means to build a new shiny church building by bringing in " tithing units" or are you asking how we can better evangelize the lost around us? To bring hope, joy, salvation of Our Lord Jesus Christ to a dying world who aches?
Yes, church growth through large families may have been the only option in the past with suppression and opression. In many places around the world we are free now to share the Hope we have in within us. How does an orthodox evangelize? Share the Gospel, our Hope? Do we "let" the Light shine? Do we sign up for social programs to ease the suffering of the poor? Are we active, engaging, drawing? Do we hand out literature at events or door to door? Do we bring the conversation around to God at the casual conversation with society? Do we invite? Are we concerned for the souls around us or are we bogged down with our own salvation, forgetting to rejoice always and in all things give thanks? Is our salvation private and guarded? Do we guard the mysteries by not offering anyone to come and see?
When some lost soul stumbles into one of our churches, do we cringe at their lack? Their stupid comments and ignorance of All things Orthodox? Are we too tired and hurried to spend time with the lost ones whom God hurls through our church doors? Do we expect the priest or another more spiritual to do the work: Hospitality. Do we embrace and lead along? Are we too busy in our own lives to add one more to the table?
How do we grow? With love. Love within first. Like a family. Love without will be a natural outcome. Love will spill out and draw the crowds. "See how they love one another." In an abundance of love, growth will be the consequence but not the driving force like a secular business.
Love conquers all. Love never fails.
 
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I think our hierarchy should promote the basics of faith that are found in the Didache & the scriptures that it derives from. Perhaps a modern explanation of what is entailed in this could also be provided. The commandments, alms giving, prayer, fasting etc. is all there. Studying patristics, hesychasm, icons etc. is fine but I bet many people do not have a good grasp of the necessary ( & ultimate) basics.

I have suggested this to a couple clergy & not that they individually have to do it but talk to others & get a commitee formed or something. The first English pocket prayer book had an adaptation of the short catechism of St. Philaret ( only about 20 pp,) in it.
 

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I think our hierarchy should promote the basics of faith that are found in the Didache & the scriptures that it derives from. Perhaps a modern explanation of what is entailed in this could also be provided. The commandments, alms giving, prayer, fasting etc. is all there. Studying patristics, hesychasm, icons etc. is fine but I bet many people do not have a good grasp of the necessary ( & ultimate) basics.

I have suggested this to a couple clergy & not that they individually have to do it but talk to others & get a commitee formed or something. The first English pocket prayer book had an adaptation of the short catechism of St. Philaret ( only about 20 pp,) in it.
It doesn't have to be promoted by bishops or endlessly useless committees. If people want to learn, their are plenty of resources about the basics of the Way. These two, along with St. Philaret's catechism, are good.



But, more importantly, going to Church for the divine services is the greatest educational opportunity that is missed by most inquirers wanting to read into the Faith.
 
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Put in comfy chairs, have a coffee shop in the narthex, have tons of programs, classes, and groups; then relax fasting and prayer, do a "traditional" liturgy once a month, but have contemporary worship on other Sundays so the kids will like it. You will have exponential growth. Is it the type of Christian the parish needs or is it the type of parish such a Christian wants?
I'm not so sure about all that modernizing, hasn't been particularly helpful for the Catholics and their active youth are flocking to traditional parishes while their inactive youth just don't care because they no longer recognize the divine in their church. What makes Evangelical churches like that grow is the sense of community they foster and the amount of outreach they do as in encouraging actual evangelization. A lot of Orthodox churches in North America are ethnic clubs. Certainly not all, mine isn't, but we have to remember where we are in the world as well. The same cannot be said for churches over in the Ukraine or Greece for example where the opposite is happening with respect to Orthodoxy and Protestantism. Protestantism is just part of the culture in the United States as Orthodoxy is part of the culture in Greece. You don't see Islamic communities growing exponentially in the United States but you will see the Baptist church down the street begin to do that. Religion encompasses a lot of things and culture is one of them.
 
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Christos3

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I think our hierarchy should promote the basics of faith that are found in the Didache & the scriptures that it derives from. Perhaps a modern explanation of what is entailed in this could also be provided. The commandments, alms giving, prayer, fasting etc. is all there. Studying patristics, hesychasm, icons etc. is fine but I bet many people do not have a good grasp of the necessary ( & ultimate) basics.

I have suggested this to a couple clergy & not that they individually have to do it but talk to others & get a commitee formed or something. The first English pocket prayer book had an adaptation of the short catechism of St. Philaret ( only about 20 pp,) in it.
I agree. And were we truly "shine" and separate ourselves from the non-denoms is our care for those who passed. From the funeral, 40 day, and yearly memorial services. And how we always pray for those Orthodox Christians who have passed. The difference between our memorial services and others is striking to say the least. Unfortunately, I don't think that is a big issue for many.
 

Christos3

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I'm not for changing the church at all. Just a better way to get in front of people. We have our web page and sign out front. We have done a limited run on facebook ads. We have a wonderful priest, beautiful sounding choir, and very welcoming people. But, we have a small marketing budget. Maybe an "open house" for inquirers to stop by? Host some conferences? Any ideas?
Our church is too small to have a festival.
 

hecma925

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You don't see Islamic communities growing exponentially in the United States
I don't think any religion in the US can claim exponential growth. In some areas of the country, Islam outpaces Orthodoxy easily.
 

hecma925

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Maybe an "open house" for inquirers to stop by? Host some conferences? Any ideas?
Do you have an inquirers/catechumen class?

My old parish did a sort of open house/intro to the Church event. I would say there were maybe 6 people that came because of local advertising and a big sign in front. None were seen again. The remaining people were parishioners.
 

hecma925

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My editing got timed put, but as to conferences, conference topics tend to be specific or niche that the average person looking for a church community may not even be interested in.
 

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Why do we want people to visit/join?
 
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Stinky

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I just invited someone to come and see tomorrow. My older daughter came with me last week. Maybe invite someone each week?
 

JTLoganville

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If your community does food festivals offer guided tours of the temple at specific times and/or keep the doors open with lots of explanatory signage temporarily attached with non-defacing tape, command hooks, etc, to allow for self-guided tours.
 

hecma925

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And were we truly "shine" and separate ourselves from the non-denoms is our care for those who passed.
After the first liturgy I attended, I saw my first pannikhida in the cemetery next to the church and it made a great impression on me.
 

sestir

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I'm not for changing the church at all. Just a better way to get in front of people. We have our web page and sign out front. We have done a limited run on facebook ads. We have a wonderful priest, beautiful sounding choir, and very welcoming people. But, we have a small marketing budget. Maybe an "open house" for inquirers to stop by? Host some conferences? Any ideas?
Our church is too small to have a festival.
Are Facebook users really the visitors you want? ;)
Looking at this from the perspective of the 7 P:s of marketing, most initiatives would be effective on a regional level since we offer an identity.

Price: Since the Orthodox Churches make collection/tithes, visiting an Orthodox service is high-involvement, so:
1. A person who considers visiting needs somewhere to find a lot of information about the meaning of every element of the service.
2. The visitor needs to see a clear advantage of Orthodoxy compared to non-collecting churches.

Place: Since much of what goes on in O. church buildings is alien to Americans' cultures, I think individuals can have more success than the parish, especially business owners who offer related services such as news, travel info, statistics, books (authors), VPN and GIS.

And mobile phone apps. I have only glanced at the few that come out top on Google Play, but isn't it that for other churches "calendar" means the events planned by the parish in coming weeks, whereas for Orthodox people "calendar" means the feast days of various saints+hymns and scripture readings? To a heterodox user I think, as an inquirer, that it would seem awkward to have a calendar app which isn't even aware of where the nearest church-buildings are and when they are open.
 

hecma925

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To a heterodox user I think, as an inquirer, that it would seem awkward to have a calendar app which isn't even aware of where the nearest church-buildings are and when they are open.
Is there such an equivalent with Catholics or Protestansts? "Find me all the Primitive Baptist Churches near me with service times"? I don't think something like that is feasible.
 

sestir

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Is there such an equivalent with Catholics or Protestants?
I made a search before posting and the first two results seemed to be such apps, but not exactly as it turns out.
You are right! :) It isn't very common. Some examples:

Kirkekalenderen gives easy access to liturgies, meetings and events in ca. 2.200 churches, affiliated with Den Danske Folkekirke. As default, the App shows churches in a radius of 10 km, and it's possible to view churches all over Denmark. Under each church, you can see which parish it belongs to, and there's contact info and addresses for priests and other staff. [...]
Svenska Kyrkan, supposedly Lutheran but I doubt if Martin Luther would agree, has a similar app—Kyrkguiden—covering "more than 3.000 churches". From the comments it's clear that it displays the times for services and other events.

For English-speaking churches, there are such apps, for example a St Paul's Lutheran Church has one, but they are typically for a single parish.
 

hecma925

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Makes sense for a state church like that, but wouldn't makes sense interdenominationally in a different country.
 

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Why would you need an extra app? Google Maps finds nearest Orthodox churches quite fine and there's usually some link to websites to find daily schedule. That's how I've managed when abroad.
 
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Remember St Seraphim of Sarov, "Preach the Gospel and when necessary use words".


I remember one post-Vatican II hymn from my days as a Roman Catholic said "they'll know we are Christians by our love". So, be a good person and maybe invite a person or two. I'd say on the years when Pascha is a ways after Western Easter to invite people to Agape Vespers if they missed their own Easter celebration.
 

scamandrius

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in town and growing. Meanwhile, we, like every Orthodox church is in the slow growth mode. Any ideas on how to grow the church?
I wouldn't worry. These churches' membership is rooted in people looking for the next emotional high when the one from their previous church wears off. They don't stay long because the affect wears off, then they're off to the next one. Who knows? Maybe the next one will be an Orthodox church. If so, be an Orthodox church and people. Don't rush them. Don't ask them hundreds of questions. Don't advertise all your events or programs. Simply be the church and do your duty--to worship the Lord as we Orthodox do. It may work; it may not. But don't give an inch to those Evangelicals in the Orthodox community who subscribe to the Church Growth model. It will only make us less Orthodox, not more at the expense of a few new members.
 

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I always thought the "Preach the Gospel" saying was attributed to (St.) Francis of the RCC. But I'll take the correction.
 

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I'm not so sure about all that modernizing, hasn't been particularly helpful for the Catholics and their active youth are flocking to traditional parishes while their inactive youth just don't care because they no longer recognize the divine in their church. What makes Evangelical churches like that grow is the sense of community they foster and the amount of outreach they do as in encouraging actual evangelization. A lot of Orthodox churches in North America are ethnic clubs. Certainly not all, mine isn't, but we have to remember where we are in the world as well. The same cannot be said for churches over in the Ukraine or Greece for example where the opposite is happening with respect to Orthodoxy and Protestantism. Protestantism is just part of the culture in the United States as Orthodoxy is part of the culture in Greece. You don't see Islamic communities growing exponentially in the United States but you will see the Baptist church down the street begin to do that. Religion encompasses a lot of things and culture is one of them.
I don't think that hecma925 was being totally serious. I agree with you that quite a few Orthodox churches are ethnic clubs, and we need to make a concerted effort to shed that perception. Try to have a balance between English and the old world liturgical language. If there are 2 (or more) priests in the parish, serve 2 liturgies on Sunday, 1 in English and 1 in the old world language. Get the word out.

Develop a functioning website that is kept up to date, with meaningful content in both English and the other language. I've browsed different parishes' web pages, and I've noticed that ROCOR and the Antiochians were the best at having a mix of English and the other language on their websites. St. John the Baptist in DC has all the content in its Russian version in the English version, as do a number of other ROCOR parish websites. The Romanian OCA parishes in Potomac, MD, St. Andrew's, and Holy Cross in Alexandria have websites that are functional in Romanian, but very much bare-bones in English. One of the ROCOR parishes in Brooklyn has a website that is entirely in Russian. However, the Eastern American diocese website is functional in both languages. Having a functional Internet presence will allow inquirers to find us, and God willing, some of them might become converts.
 

ilyazhito

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I always thought the "Preach the Gospel" saying was attributed to (St.) Francis of the RCC. But I'll take the correction.
The original quote can be attributed to the Lord himself. "Go ye therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to do all things, whatsoever I have commanded you". (Matthew 28:19)
 

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I think the key is: whatever the church does must (a) be done well, (b) work in a way that is engaging, so someone can see how they can be part of it, and (c) touch the being of the visitor. And above all: warmth born of truly wanting to be there for love of Christ.

a) If the choir is bad, that will repel people.
b) If things seem ethnically specific, many will decide against being a permanent tourist.
c) If liturgy, hours, panikhida are manifestly uninteresting to regulars, people will be repelled.

Warmth and engagement are more important than quality. If regulars are rude and self-absorbed, it isn't convincing to a visitor that the church architecture and furnishings be beautiful. Bad singing in a very engaged community will be more attractive than good singing in a cold community. Now, the worse the choir is, the more warmth you're gonna need. :))

Also communities change over time. Even over just five years, the warmth factor can change.

Warmth cannot be faked. No greeters are necessary. People who are there for Christ will radiate warmth no matter what their ethnic tastes may be.

An ethnic core can inadvertently repel others, who won't want to intrude, or who will be subtly jealous of the connection the core members have with each other, or who will be averse to making a lifelong project of trying to appeal to the core.
 

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I think making more convert-friendly services helps. I’ve been impressed with the American Coptic parishes around me that do most things in English to reach out to the non-Coptic communities. Americans walk into ethnic meetings in languages they don’t understand in a style of worship they don’t recognize with rules and traditions they don’t know. English outreach helps familiarize Americans with the faith beyond the ethnic group.
 

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I think making more convert-friendly services helps. I’ve been impressed with the American Coptic parishes around me that do most things in English to reach out to the non-Coptic communities. Americans walk into ethnic meetings in languages they don’t understand in a style of worship they don’t recognize with rules and traditions they don’t know. English outreach helps familiarize Americans with the faith beyond the ethnic group.
I agree, and having services in English isn't even just convert-friendly; it's just friendly.
 
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