Massachusetts evangelism guide provides humorous blueprint for church growth

June 23, 2005

Drawing inspiration from their 2004 annual convention theme, the Diocese of Massachusetts convention steering committee produced and distributed a pocket-sized resource called "A Shy Person's Guide to the Practice of Evangelism."

"The focus on evangelism comes from our mission vision and mission strategy [which] in shorthand is ‘Inviting, Forming, Sending, Serving,’" said Helen P. Netos, chief operating officer and director of Christian formation for the diocese. "We have 12 strategic goals that are primarily outwardly-focused initiatives which call for both congregational participation and coordinated diocesan-level action. We believe that congregations which participate in these initiatives will in fact grow as they join God's mission, and we are supporting and encouraging that growth through a variety of means, like the guide, the welcome packet, special events and training [because] we wish to increase our average Sunday attendance by 50 percent by 2013."

Netos, a convention steering committee member, said the idea for the 3.5 x 6 booklet came out of a planning meeting where she suggested that an "evangelism phrase book" be created to help normally taciturn New Englanders welcome newcomers. The "idea evolved from there" and "a subcommittee was formed to work on it."

The Rev. Canon Steven Bonsey, of the Cathedral Church of St. Paul, wrote the heart of the booklet. Amy McCreath, Episcopal chaplain at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), wrote the reflection guide, Maria Plati, diocesan director of communication, designed it, and Netos contributed the "quiz" and additional resources.

The book, in an amusing way, examines the meaning of the word “evangelism,” gives examples of how it is present in everyday life, and presents ideas on how to practice it.

"The entire subcommittee offered suggestions and edits to help create something small and unobtrusive—as befits shy people," said Netos. "The response has been positive and people were chuckling and laughing out loud on the floor of the convention as they perused the booklet."

Since then, the guide, which has been printed several thousand times, has been given to congregations, with at least one sending it to everyone in the congregation who pledged.

To obtain a copy of the guide, email hnetos@diomass.org