Small Gains are Just Fine

Date: June 9, 2023

I love the story in Genesis where Abraham tries to convince God not to destroy Sodom. He’s basically haggling with God (Gen 18:22–33), right? But I love how the story shows us that God doesn’t expect huge numbers to be happy. This is important to keep in mind because we sometimes tend to think that God will only be happy when every Episcopal church is a megachurch.

The last time I looked at the numbers, which was before Covid, the net loss of people on Sunday (for all reasons), was about 60,000 from year to year. Since we have about 6,000 Episcopal congregations, this meant that if every congregation added 10 people per year, we could stop the decline of the denomination. That’s less than one per month. If every congregation added just one, then we’d be a denomination that’s growing. No megachurch, just one new friend per month.

One of our experiments, “Episcopal SINGs” (SINGs stands for Spirituality in Nature Groups), recently ran some Instagram ads to get people from outside the congregations to want to take part in the outdoor liturgies and more in this different way of being church. It was a very modest investment and we wanted to see what would happen. Here’s what one of the churches reported back:

We have had over 20 contacts from this!!! Including one woman who came to church because we were doing a gratitude and blessing over trees we have to take down…and she stayed for Eucharist and wants to join our church! YAY!”

I’m no Abraham, but I think God is happy with that.

The Rev. Lorenzo Lebrija
Chief Innovation Officer | Virginia Theological Seminary and the General Theological Seminary
Executive Director | TryTank Experimental Lab

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