1. Tim
    February 9, 2009 @ 9:41 pm

    In light of the classic joke to start your sermon Sunday, I’m holding my breath waiting for the punch line to your invitation to wrestle with topics on-line! I’m sure this must be a joke!

    Seriously, I appreciate the blog on membership; and I agree that there’s a little (at least) hyperbole in the short opening quotes.

    Wrestling with issues like this is important. In her recent book entitled “Quitting Church,” Julia Duin (whom I don’t know, though she lives in Falls Church and is the religion editor for the Washington Times) wrote:

    “One of the top reasons people give for their leaving church is loneliness: the feeling — especially in large congregations that no one knows or cares whether they are there. Midweek small groups are a help in creating connections, but fewer and fewer people are able to fight their way through traffic, wolf down dinner, then carve out several hours in a given evening to be part of a small group. The people I talk with who have found true community and then must leave it, due to family or job reasons, pine for it the rest of their lives.”

    I think Duin may be onto something. “No one wants to join” or “no one wants to commit” is hyperbolic (at least to some extent) because the answer is — well — more complicated. There is a “time for everything, and a season for every activity.” As much as those who’ve found true community and then had to leave it may yearn for it, they may also be powerless to change their circumstances.

    For at least the past 15 years, metropolitan Protestant churches have proclaimed small groups as the answer to problems of “community.” Like others, I’ve been the beneficiary of finding true community in a small group setting, whether through a weekday small group or a very small “accountability group” or a mission-oriented community that met on Sunday mornings before church. But, like others also, I’ve experienced periods where a multiplicity of reasons combined to prevent participation in that type of setting.

    I’m not sure “one size can fit all.” What, for example, does membership look like for the shut-in, the traveler, the student, the single, the older family, the younger family, and more? And how do you balance all of that with the mission and community at work, in schools, in the inner city, and in the neighborhoods in which we live?

    It’s a tough question — one worth wrestling about. And one worth thinking about creatively.


  2. davidmartinhanke
    February 10, 2009 @ 9:43 am

    Tim, thanks for your great reply. Duin’s book is VERY insightful. Nice quote. I think it captures the tension we feel in DC between our longing to be known in community and our frantic drivenness to do one more thing. This is my personal shortcoming as I leave my office late every day because I need to answer one more email and then scramble home in a flurry; or as I wrestle with whether I should sign my kids up for one more activity– Lacrosse, piano lessons…

    You are right when you say it is complicated and there is not one size that fits all. As a leader, I want to create ‘main street, Restoration’. What is a (fairly) simple way for someone to be involved in a smaller community? Can we create one size that might fit most? Once we have a ‘regular’ way, then we can flex and try to create ‘side streets.’ The issues you are identifying are the classic struggles of an organization that wants to provide services to its members, but also be flexible. How do we meet the needs of everyone? It takes an on-going conversation, even in an impersonal place like a blog…

    Right now we are averaging about 110 on Sunday and about 62 in small groups. I am thrilled that we have a structure that is providing community for that high a percentage. The next hurdle will be to creatively flex and find times that work for the numerical growth we are anticipating.


  3. Gail Wright
    May 25, 2009 @ 8:27 am

    Re Tim’s remarks: The phrase “one size fits all” has also been running through my mind.

    One size fits all has never been applicable to me, either physically (less that 5′) or any other way…..and having taught pre-school through college, I found it didn’t apply to my students either.

    Re small groups: As a church member for many years, I have been in and out of small groups as fit my time and my needs. I heartily testify to the good that they can do.
    BUT to mandate one’s being in a small group as requisite for membership in a church is a policy with which I can not agree.

    I come just as I am, I come, I come. Our loving and being concerned for others, our interest in them as members of our community and encouraging their becoming members of a small group group, is what I see as the responsibility of the “church”.
    I came to Jesus just as I was, I was, and loving members of various church communities (in and outside of small groups) to which I have belonged have been of great importance in my growth as a Christian.

    What I can not understand is adding something to the 39 articles of the church (membership in a small group) and that as a baptized and confirmed member of the Anglican Communion for 47 years I can not qualify as a member of an Anglican church unless I belong to a small group…….but I can qualify though not confirmed in that same church.

    with love to all,

    Gail Noni” Wright

    Gail “Noni” Wright


  4. davidmartinhanke
    May 26, 2009 @ 8:37 am

    Gail, Thanks for asking good questions. Here are 2 thoughts:

    1. when we think about ‘membership’, the way I have consistently talked about it is ‘a group of people who are making a set of commitments to each other.’ “member’ is defined by what we hold in common. So to that end, I am asking people to make a commitment about their relationship to God (baptized, believe the Gospel); a commitment about their relationship to the church (giving their time, treasure, and talent for the mission of the Kingdom through Restoration); and a commitment to each other (that we would belong to smaller communities where we can be known and served, where we can celebrate and pray for each other). These commitments flow out of our Gospel core value and are evidenced in our relationship to God, the church, and each other. The intention in asking people to make a commitment about small groups is to be holistic in our vision of what it means to follow Jesus– it impacts our relationship with God, the church, and each other (that’s the small group one).

    2. Great question about confirmation. For those who were baptized as infants and have never made a public declaration of their faith in Christ, confirmation is a necessity. Hopefully over the years, we will see many of the kids in our church take these vows of confirmation. But we also have lots of people in our church who grew up in other traditions. For them confirmation is a possible, but not mandatory ‘next step’. There are people who want to commit to our local congregation, but not to the wider Anglican Communion. That’s fine. We are Anglican, I have a bishop over me, I have been ordained, we use the BCP liturgy. There is a lot of Anglican immersion at the local level. But our Bishop does not require confirmation for membership and neither shall we. For those who want to serve as elders on the vestry, that requires this second step of commitment to the Anglican Communion through confirmation.

    Hope that helps explain some of our reasoning in this process.


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