Monday, June 05, 2006

Survey for Lutherans; Answering my own questions

Survey originally posted on 5/6/2006. Several people posted comments in answer to these questions. Others answered me privately.

1. What is the approximate numbers who worship on a Sunday morning? How many services? Are there midweek worship opportunities? Why? Are there any outreach worship services?

We have approximately 125 – 175 in church most Sundays. We have many visitors attend our services, especially in summer, so the summer attendance is similar in number to winter attendance, but almost like a different congregation. There is one service on Sunday morning. No outreach services now. There are other non-worship activities such as Bible studies, youth group, meetings, funerals, as well as non-religious functions that take place, giving an estimated use of the church of about 300 - 450 people per week.

Given that the nature of employment in our area has many people working on Sunday mornings, I think that providing an alternative worship time and day would serve the community. Our RC brothers and sisters usually have such an alternative. A church has to be committed to this for the long haul, regardless of attendance to make it work.

2. Do people travel a long way to this church? Are there other Lutheran churches people can choose from without traveling more than 15 miles? Is your church in a tiny town, rural area, small city, big city?

My church is in a tiny town in a rural area. Many people drive at least seven miles to attend church. The closest ELCA church is almost 20 miles away. According to the yellow pages, there are about 30 Lutheran churches of various kinds within about 50 miles.

3. What age groups does your church attract? Since younger adults often don’t attend church, if you do have lots of young adults, do you know what brings them to your church? Do you have a youth group? Do you have adults who volunteer to help? Do you pay a youth leader?

Most of the people who attend are older middle age and up, but there are some people of all ages. This used to be a church of lots of young couples who were very active, but we aged and the younger groups didn’t fill in. This is somewhat because of demographics [all the school populations are shrinking] and somewhat because of the general changes in society, but I can’t help but think that we must have had something lacking. I sense that another church in our community is attracting the young families with a stronger program for children and families.

We have a paid youth leader and have had one for a number of years. There are at least 4 youth leaders who volunteer to help every week as well. The youth program attracts a good following, although those kids seem to attend on Sunday only if their parents attend on Sunday.

The youth have a weekly meeting during the school year, retreats, conventions in the state, and camping trips.

Sunday School attendance is about 20 students, whereas at one time we often had about 60 children.

4. Does this church have a mixture of ethnic backgrounds? Does this church have mostly people who were always Lutheran or does it have many people who came from other types of denominations? If your church has people of mixed denominational backgrounds, do you know why they come to your church?

Most of the people are of N. European descent, with a very few non-white people. There is a mixture of cradle Lutherans and people who chose this church, including some who chose it as a compromise made by couples of two differing Christian backgrounds.

Making a very unscientific mental survey, I’d say that at least half of the very active people in this church, including past and present paid staff, have come from non-Lutheran backgrounds. Perhaps “choosing” a church is like choosing where to live rather than just living somewhere because that’s where mom and dad lived: the person actually compares and contrasts and likes the openness and acceptance of this church. We've had a number of baptisms of children, teens, and adults.

5. How many pastors does your church have? Other employees who do ministry, such as a youth director or parish nurse?

One full time pastor, two part-time office people, a part-time parish nurse and part-time youth director.

6. Would you say that your church has a strong pastoral leadership style or a style of lots of lay leaders, committees, that are active and that the pastor can delegate to? Other styles? Does your church have any lay people who are willing to be the worship leader at a Sunday service? Lay people who preach? Lay people who visit the shut-ins? Lay people who help serve communion? Other opportunities for lay people? If you are in a church where the pastor is in charge of everything, what do you think would happen if a new pastor wanted the people to be part of the ministry? Is your pastor pulled in many directions, in danger of being over committed and worn out? Do you think that most people realize all that a pastor does?

Our church has strong and active lay leaders who look to the pastors we have had for guidance, opinions, and spiritual direction. There are a number of active committees (or teams, depending on the in-jargon of the moment.) Some of these meet regardless of the pastor’s attendance.

We had had lay readers in church for at least 25 years, as well as occasional lay preachers. There are probably close to a dozen people who have been lay preachers, and a few people who will lead a worship service and/or do the liturgy.

Lay people always help serve communion, and a few lay people take communion to the shut-ins. There has been an on-going effort for years to have more lay people do visiting of others, but it hasn’t been sustained. There is also a feeling among some of the older members that the (generic) pastor “should” do all the visiting, visit everybody, even magically decide who needs to be visited without an invitation.

No one ever knows all that the pastor does because the pastor is never at liberty to talk about the various visitations he/she does.

7. What is the worship style of your church? Green book? Blue book? Maroon book? Your own music or books? Liturgical? Formal? Informal? Mixed even in the same service? Different services for different types of styles? Do you have an organ, piano, guitar, other instruments? Does the pastor or worship leader sing the liturgy? Choir? Mostly traditional hymns? Newer praise music? Music from various ethnic backgrounds, even if your people are not of that background? Who decides what hymns will be sung and what liturgical setting will be used?

I tend to think of the style of our church as being informal because it is friendly and touches on real-world goings on of the community, with give and take and appropriate laughter. But we do use the liturgy and it is usually sung. [Aside: sung/chanted liturgy is supposedly “traditional” but I never experienced this (meaning the pastor singing) until I was in my 30’s, even though I’ve always been Lutheran.]

We use both the blue book and the green book. I think that the people tend to sing out more with the songs from the blue book (With One Voice.) We’ve also been using some music from the Renewing Worship materials, as well as some of the great new music that the Catholic Church is using, much of it composed by Lutherans. We've used music from the ELCA's African American hymnal (maroon book, sorry don't remember the name.) The musicians have been very interested in using the hymns that come from other cultures especially from the blue book, as well as some old gospel music. We don’t do them any better than we do old Bach and Schubert music, so I don’t see a problem with this. [Make a joyful noise unto the Lord.] There is a small choir and a bell choir.

There is a worship committee who makes the decisions as to what liturgies we will use for the seasons and also picks the hymns. There is a place for congregants to suggest songs. The worship committee includes the pastor, but this committee also works when there is no pastor.

The music is usually led by both the organ and piano, as is the custom in our area. Hymns that are better played on the piano without the organ are done that way. On occasion, there might be guitar or violin with the piano, and conga drums or rhythm instruments if they fit the song. I've noticed occassionally we've used a hymn that some people consider an old favorite that I've never heard before because it comes from a different tradition.

8. Is your church building a "traditional" style building? More modern style? Older building remodeled into a modern style? Explain. Do you think that the style of the building influences the style of the worship?

The building is set up in the traditional way, but it 30 years old with none of the old style architecture. It is a fairly straightforward, humble building, very serviceable. Several years ago the front interior of the church was remodeled for better function. One great change was that the furniture in the front, altar and altar rail are all moveable so that it is possible to meet changing needs and types of services.

9. Have you had a woman a president of the church or council? Have you had a woman pastor or in another leadership position?

The first woman council president was elected about 20 years ago, and we have had several since. We have had a woman pastor. This seems to be a non-issue for the council and pastor and lay preachers. We have had many strong male leaders on the council as well. On the other hand, the leadership and most teachers for Sunday School and Bible School have all been women. It has been harder to get men to volunteer to be the lector, but that has changed and they now participate about equally.

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