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Faith lessons from recent election

The November 2 mid-term elections offer many lessons. Both major parties will be sifting the results.

Faith communities need to be analyzing the results, as well. If this election was indeed a referendum against the status quo that arose in frustration, economic dislocation, anger at elites, and a sense of cultural drift, that is our bailiwick.

If we stand for anything, it should be concern for the well being of people around us. If they are desperate for work, we should care. If they are anxious about the world their children are entering, we should care. If they look at a complex global economy filled with dangers and doubt that their culture has a lively future, we should care.

I’m not saying we don’t care. But somehow mainline congregations have come to be seen as part of the problem, not a locus of solution. We are tagged as aloof, judgmental, self-referential, and among those elites who look down on “common folk.”

We need to “get on message,” as they say, and communicate our deeper reality as caring fellow-sufferers.

The principles of Multichannel Church are critical in this effort. Fairly or unfairly, Sunday morning is perceived as a segregated hour when in-crowds tend to their own interests. We need to shift some focus to Wednesday night, as it were, to those times when we gather just to share a meal and to care for one another. This is the side of us that outsiders tend not to see. They don’t see the life-sustaining friendships that develop while cooking food or hammering nails. They don’t see people listening to tales of woe.

In the months ahead, I suggest that congregations make a strong effort to engage people in midweek activities — activities that don’t reflect centuries of doctrine and distance, but touch lives.

I think especially we should be heeding the pain that people expressed in their voting. This is a time to be answering the questions that people actually are asking. The agenda is right in front of us: job fairs, skills training, debt management, open-mike forums on health care, schools and government safety nets.

Now more than ever, transformation of life needs to come from missional action. We can’t talk or shout each other into newness. I’m thinking local mission. As much need as there is overseas, I think we should join hands with those who don’t trust us and do something for our communities.

In applying such Multichannel principles, I think we will also find our way forward in other respects, including membership development. We will build bridges to new constituencies — people who won’t ever cross our threshold on Sunday morning. We will paint a more complete and nuanced picture of ourselves. We will learn to use new tools like social media and lead generation, and get beyond just opening our doors.

Here are specific steps that any size church can undertake:

» Start one new midweek gathering, aimed at the larger community.

» Support it with a high-energy marketing effort. (Write me for guidance on how.)

» Overtly connect your effort with stresses in your community. Be seen as responsive.

Learn along the way, and then apply what you learn to your next effort.

TOM EHRICH is a writer, church consultant, and Episcopal priest based In New York. He is the founder of the Church Wellness Project (churchwellness.com). His Web site is (morningwalkmedia.com).

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