I Woodroffe United Church’s Key Challenges - Observations
Challenges as identified in the EDGE Viability Assessment Report (October 2016)
Lack of Volunteers
Ageing Congregation poses a substantial financial risk
Church operating in a silo
Statistical data (2012-2015 numbers)
85% of our congregants live in the K2A, K2B, K2C, K2H and K2H postal code zones; the majority (about 60%) live in the K2A, K2B zones.
% of people by age in that area (these are approximations):
Under 20 - 25%
Between 22 and 60 – 55%
Over 60 – 20%
Anecdotal note: The area around Carlingwood has the highest percentage of seniors in all of Canada
The religious affiliation of people living in the area is around 60% Christian, with the exception of the Bayshore area where it is about 40%; this is due to a significant Muslim community.
There are a lot of older people living in our community, but there are almost 3 times as many people aged between 20 and 59, most of whom are Christian. Although about 80% of the community is under the age of 60, only forty-six (46) percent of our congregation is made up of this age group.
Many younger people have very busy lives, they may be spiritual, but they are busy during the week (school, family, sports) and often there are competing interests for their time on the weekend.
While younger people may have more energy to give, they do not have as much money to give and less time available for volunteering than retired folks. Annual givings of people aged between 19-30, 31-45 and 45-60 were $75, $222 and $818. People over the age of 60 gave between $1,000 and $1,400. This is understandable as younger people have more debt (mortgages) and family related expenses.
There are a number of United Churches in this area who are probably facing the same challenges. In a sense, we are all interested in the same “target” population.
Observations (very high level) about our congregation taken from February and April 2016 meetings, etc.
People over 60 have a fondness for tradition but are open to change.
All people enjoyed contributing and the sense of involvement and making a difference.
All felt we were spiritual.
All like the sense of community WUC provides.
People felt we were a welcoming caring community
Younger people have difficulty balancing family, church and other demands on their time.
People are tired but are willing to do short term projects.
Younger people wanted more modern services with contemporary music and also suggested a praise band.
The challenges (in every challenge there is an opportunity)
Declining Attendance/lack of Volunteers
Declining attendance and lack of volunteers go hand in hand, the theory being that is more people attend, there might be more volunteers. Younger people are already very busy. Having more “seniors” attend might help with the volunteering challenge, but would most likely not be sustainable without relief in sight (i.e. the younger set).
Our existing congregation, while open to change, enjoy tradition, this must be kept in mind when examining options, lest we turn them “off”. Younger people seem to want more contemporary services, so perhaps our existing service could be a hybrid or given that younger people are busy on weekends perhaps a service (messy church?) during the week might work. This is not to say it would be a young person’s service as all would be welcome.
Volunteer fatigue is setting in; younger “busier” people will not volunteer if they see it being a long-term commitment or a lot of work and particularly if they think it will be boring. Perhaps streamlining how our committees work, or the number of committees, may be an option.
However, people will volunteer for things they are interested in or things that are not seen as long term.
Ageing Congregation poses a substantial financial risk
Increasing attendance in the younger groups might not really help with the financial welfare of the church (at least at the start) based on the aforementioned giving patterns. We are ideally positioned in terms of “new” older members as we are in an area where many seniors live.
We should be mindful of our financial reserves, as they are what probably will tide us over while we are on our revitalization journey.
Church operating in a silo
This is something that we have gone a long way in changing through our work on revitalization. Looking outside our walls and connecting with the wider community while acting on Jesus values, will create awareness and possibly help with our attendance and volunteer challenges. Community associations are one avenue (it allows us to see what is important to the community), connecting with other churches (United or other) to see what works and where we could partner together (like the youth group does with Britannia United) are viable options.
All of the following, were heard from the congregation in the Revitalization workshops.
1. Kick-off - Revitalization Sunday, February 5, 2017
The kick-off event was broken-down into three age groups of senior, in-betweens, and youth & young families. Overall, we got a sense that all the groups found that the bazaar and special events (i.e. the refugee family, the Downton Abbey Tea, special dinners, etc.) are the most meaningful. Everyone has a great sense of community and of helping people that brings everyone together into the most memorable experience. When we all come together to pull off something that is bigger than just you - great community and team building activities that lead to contributing to either our local community or the community at large.
There was a sense of hope that we are looking at our future, but a sense of hesitation as it was unknown what this experience would mean and the fondness for our current traditions (not wanting to lose them). It was identified that we do a lot of outreach already.
Key characteristics: a sense of belonging, a place that cares about them, a safe environment, close relationships, and being able to transform from giving to receiving (identified by a senior, but for all: acceptance of being able to move back and forth between giving and receiving)
2. Congregational Lunch - April 30, 2017
Meaningful activities: refugee sponsorship experience, JNAC committee, youth group retreats, parenting, bazaar, renovations, special events, pastoral care, choir, Downton Abbey tea, dinners. (the most favoured are the ones that involve the ENTIRE church, not just one committee)
The sense of belonging comes when the entire church comes together to accomplish something. Being with a diverse group of people and having meaningful discussions (part of why the workshops have been popular?) - helps to get to know people on a deeper level. Having a safe space for themselves and their children to learn and grow together as a family. People enjoy working together as a team. Being appreciated, being invited to participate.
Contribute - again all comes back to working together for the common good. Making a difference. Bringing joy to people. Doing something that is relevant to the world (and not just our church community).
Believe - having role models within the church - helps to build a strong value system. Small growth groups for deeper discussions on faith to seek a better understanding. Shared music experiences. Feeling engaged. Diversity of viewpoints through multiple presenters and other members of the congregation.
In today’s world, people are attracted to contribute, first, develop a sense of belonging second, and then, possibly, learn to believe in the values of the congregation. In the past, Congregants came to church because of their beliefs, felt a sense of belonging, as they contributed to the work of the church. [Diana Butler-Bass, Christianity After Religion]
3. Experience Workshop - November 18, 2017
Overall, the experiences most looked for and are the most meaningful are ones that involve the community outside of WUC. Ones that make the congregation feel like they are part of something bigger, that provide a sense of being included and not isolated. Participating comes in many forms: cheerleader, supporter, or event participant. They are looking for a sense of connection. Communal experiences that bring people together to share their gifts.
4. Community Workshop - January 13, 2018
We need to look at the community differently - we engage with them and learn from each other. There are many opportunities to learn from others. It is a gradual process. We need to go from being paternalistic and judgemental, to a relationship of partnership. It will be a gradual process - we need to build awareness of who we are throughout the community. We won’t go out to “fix a problem” but learn how we can support the community. Offer what you can, and help those who accept the offer of help (do not force it). You do not need special tools to be a disciple. Remain respectful and humble while carrying out your mission. Go where we can as we can’t be everywhere - targeted efforts. Try to look at it from the receiver’s viewpoint.
Walk the talk - live Christian values. We do not have to preach if our actions can talk for themselves.
Woodroffe United Congregant Required Experiences:
Bazaar and Social Events Experience Statement:
Bazaars and social events are great vehicles to include church people and neighbours in a common task. Working together forges stronger relationships, and we accomplish something that is helpful to others. At the end of the event, people feel a sense of belonging, a sense of team, and joy and happiness.
Music Experience Statement:
Music is a communal experience that has participation on both sides: performing the music and appreciating the music. It is a great way to bring people together and the most rewarding experiences are ones with people coming from outside the community to share their gifts. Music creates a safe space for all to learn and grow together - there are no wrong notes as long as you sing from your heart.
Pastoral Care Experience Statement:
Pastoral care is the church’s way of supporting those going through physical or mental health challenges, those who are bereaved or lonely or are otherwise struggling In life. This could describe any of us at various stages of our lives. It embraces those who cannot attend church as well as those who do. Pastoral care means being present and listening empathetically without judging the person in need. For some it is a formal calling but everyone in the congregation is encouraged to share this Christian concern. Pastoral care is challenging and spiritually fulfilling.
Outreach Experience Statement:
Participation in outreach activities allows congregants to experience joy, fulfillment and connection to the church community and the larger community outside the church. Opportunities to participate are welcomed and experiences are more meaningful as congregants are encouraged to participate regardless of the form of involvement they choose to take, be it cheerleader, supporter, or event participant.
Worship and Spirituality Experience Statement
We are looking for: ---the feelings of comfort and rejuvenation that come from individual and group opportunities to pray for family and for those who are struggling in the world ---the strong sense of community and being part of something bigger than ourselves that is achieved by sharing communion by intinction ---the feeling of being included and not isolated in our quest for personal Christian growth ---being drawn in to worship in fresh ways and engaging in conversations about the divine to deepen understanding ---meaningful opportunities to share worship with those outside the Sunday service to have a spiritual impact.
Our Call: To be disciples of Jesus Christ and share the good news.
What is Woodroffe United Church called to do?
Worship and Spiritual Activities, Pastoral Care, Social Outreach, Build Community, Create Music
Here’s what we heard from the WUC Congregation:
According to Young Families: the church coming together accomplishes something / together we make a positive difference / experience diversity, engagement, learning and personal growth
According to In-Between and Young Retirees: sense of contribution / helping people / fellowship and community / personal growth / sense of accomplishment / fulfilment and excitement / bring joy to others / participate / physical activities
According to Seniors: sense of connection to God and others, belonging / sense of accomplishment / appreciation of diverse points of view / working with others
Discipleship Do and Be:
What can we do to act as a disciple? Forgiveness / broaden pastoral care to all ages / engage community / model good relationships / challenge ourselves to address people in need / deepen spirituality by sharing in worship, including first person sharing/ encourage self-development / focus on Jesus' words “Love your neighbour as yourself”
How can we prepare ourselves personally to behave as disciples, to live the good news? Introspection, self-awareness, educate ourselves about ourselves / demonstrate the values displayed in the parables / understand our spiritual calling / practice active listening, forgiveness, empathy and non-judgmentalism – be compassionate, open and vulnerable
Scripture-based visioning: “Love our neighbours as ourselves” and Jesus words “Go and do likewise” / hospitality is about concern, caring and showing mercy / when we come to church, prioritize the things we want to do – first priority involves our relationship activities (welcoming and engaging others)
Living out the Jesus values of Sharing, Community, Forgiveness, Hospitality and Relationship
Prepare ourselves to be Disciples of Christ: church is all about being in relationship / learn by being actively engaged in-person spiritual lives through full participation in worship, sharing experiences of the divine, introspection, group reflection, self-development and self-awareness
Share the good news in our communities: tell others of the work of WUC / model good relationships / focus on the possible
Achieving Our Call: It is important for congregants to articulate and share their beliefs. Congregants feel more comfortable bringing friends to a secular activity, else they be seen as proselytizing. Some congregants are uncomfortable discussing faith beliefs. Lack of knowledge of scripture can be intimidating.
From what the Congregation told us, here’s the Calling that developed:
Woodroffe United Church – Our Call
DISCIPLE: One who accepts and assists in spreading the doctrines of another: such as Christianity
At the Revitalization workshop on Nov. 4th, 2017, we looked at five parables that described the Christ-values of: Community, Forgiveness, Hospitality, Relationship and Sharing. Through these discussions, we described our two main callings as Christians in WUC.
1. PREPARE OURSELVES TO BE DISCIPLES OF CHRIST:
How we ACT
Be in holy community with each other, recognizing that relationship activities must be our first priority. Be welcoming and engaging with others, and then attend to all other activities.
Recognize the things that get in the way of healthy relationships and work through those barriers. Pay attention in our conversations, so that we listen to and understand how people are feeling. Each of us is responsible for our relationships – no one else can make them right. Church is ALL about being in relationship with others.
How we LEARN
Be actively engaged in our personal spiritual lives through our worship services by full participation, sharing our experiences of the divine, quiet introspection, group reflection, self-development and self-awareness.
Be guided by the parables of Jesus to do his work in our communities, inspired by his direction to “Love our neighbours as ourselves.”
How we WELCOME
Welcoming all people into our midst is our FIRST PRIORITY.
Experiment with music to touch people.
2. SHARE THE GOOD NEWS IN OUR COMMUNITIES:
How we ACT
Live into Jesus’ directive to “Love our neighbours as ourselves” – being open, inclusive, vulnerable, nonjudgmental, empathetic, active listening, struggle, welcoming, extend and accept forgiveness, with constant attention to relationship.
How we SERVE
Continue to serve our community through our Local Outreach work.
Stay attuned to our neighbourhood’s needs. In so doing, look for new ways to expand our community outreach through partnering activities, e.g. Help Parkdale United Church deliver their ‘In From The Cold’ program.
How we TEACH
Tell people about WUC’s good works and invite them to participate.
Model good relationships in all that we do.
In so doing, we will look after ourselves in order to be present to others – physically, emotionally, and spiritually. We will FOCUS ON THE POSSIBLE so we are not spread too thinly.
The following is a summary of the community liaison work done by the R-team over the course of its work. Many conversations have been started. Our goal is to work on consolidating a selection of these over the short and long term.
Rabbi Elizabeth Bolton of Ottawa’s Reconstructionist Jewish Community — they meet at the Unitarian Congregation building. She has already expressed interest in meeting us. She is contemplating a goal of having a small neighbourhood interfaith group. Could UCW and others help with this? e.g. St. Martin’s, Our Lady of Fatima, possibly Ukrainian congregation and Unitarians? Churches in walking distance. (Faith groups not in competition but building strength and trust through collaboration).
Bonnie McCutcheon, a former member of Woodroffe Youth Group. She’s the Health Promoter for Seniors at Carlington Community Health Centre. Perhaps among other things we could enlist her for a session on seniors’ health issues, another way to connect with the community.
We got a great lead on Pathways to Education with Jean-Claude Henein who offered to show Wes (and presumably others interested) how homework tutoring and mentoring of multicultural teens works there. Great opportunity for interested people to work with young people who need role models for success, so they can go on to greater goals especially higher education. Pathways is already supported by Outreach, especially financially, and with graduation cupcakes!
We spoke to the principal at Woodroffe Public School, Megan Egerton, who expressed interest in sharing volunteer opportunities with us – opportunities for connections with young children and families.
Spoke with the Boys and Girls Club – looking for volunteers and $
We have created new ties with Carlingwood Community Association, Ottawa Public Library and Carlingwood Retirement Residence.
Regarding Carlingwood Retirement Residence, Rev. Kathryn Peate has started to deliver services on a regular basis. What more can we do to connect with this community. We need to ask them the same questions we asked others: What can we do for each other mutually? What communications can we share? What common goals do we have? What community needs are YOU seeing? Are you willing to collaborate with us and others in the neighbourhood.
Things to keep on the back burner…
Ottawa Interfaith Housing (good for social action and support but, equally important, for finding common cause with other faiths in relating to the wider community).
Possibly connect with Jewish Family Services. They’re in the neighbourhood and have a great reputation (a suggestion of Lynn Crocker)
All of these ideas could entail various degrees of volunteering but this might be an energizing kind of volunteer activity that attracts a different kind of member while also building connections (loaves and fishes idea of sharing and growth).
Follow-up thank you’s with Jeff Leiper, Mark Taylor, John Rapp, Jennifer Johnson – perhaps some kind of roundtable conversation.
Speaking of interfaith, is there not great value in maintaining an informal connection with the Al Wafaies (our Syrian family) with whom we could find long-term mutual interests? They can keep us in touch with their Muslim community, possibly to stage mutual social events (with Mideast cuisine!). They could continue to benefit from our network of local knowledge and assistance also. (Reference EDGE video about how to BE community, not just trying to “help the poor people out there).
We need to recognize how things we already do (Outreach especially) tie into Revitalization. Also, the individual “outside” volunteering our members do.
Consider the relevance of WUC’s new initiatives on Right Relations led by M&S. It ties in with our work too.
Any communications strategy should incorporate our community connections if it is to be effective.