From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Presbyterian "how-to" booklets are best-sellers

Date 20 Feb 2001 12:23:47

Note #6386 from PCUSA NEWS to PRESBYNEWS:


Presbyterian "how-to" booklets are best-sellers

Officials struggle to meet demand for popular Living the Vision guides

by Evan Silverstein

LOUISVILLE -- When you live on a farm and worship in a small congregation,
you can never learn enough about rural ministry and church redevelopment.

That's why Grace Hargrave, who lives with her husband, Jim, on a dairy farm
in Madrid, NY, has been Living the Vision -- exploring a new series of
"how-to" booklets published by the Evangelism and Church Development (ECD)
program area of the Presbyterian Church (USA).

"We're talking about rural," said Hargrave, who worships at 80-member Scotch
Presbyterian Church in Madrid. "That means we don't have all the resources
in the world. ... Right now we have a half-time minister, so we have to make
do and cope, try to keep the programs going with less than a full staff. So
any of these things that can shed some light on how to do things more
efficiently  Why, it's welcomed."

The Living the Vision series, which is available through the Presbyterian
Distribution Service, includes seven paperback guides, each 16 to 34 pages
long, that provide basic, easy-to-read information about various aspects of
evangelism and church growth. Among the series titles: "Rural Ministry:
Church and Community" and "Small Church Ministry."

Those are the two that Hargrave read. "They're easy to read, and the
examples, I thought, were something you could in many cases apply to your
own situation," she said.

The booklets and other resources are intended to help the denomination reach
the unchurched and minister more effectively to people of different racial
and ethnic groups. The free booklets are part of ECD's implementation of A
Vision for Church Growth in the Presbyterian Church (USA), adopted by the
211th General Assembly in 1999.

The other titles in the Living the Vision series are "Welcoming Immigrants
and their Gifts"; "Commitment to Evangelism"; "Preparing Members for
Evangelism (Faith Sharing)"; "Congregational Transformation"; and
"Developing Strategies and Guidelines for Korean New Church Development."

Officials think the series' popularity has much to do with the booklets'
straightforward format and the simplicity of its language. They have been
flying off the shelves since the first of them was published, last year.
Within nine months of the initial release, a second printing was necessary.

That demand has prompted Evangelism and Church Development to plan six more
booklets. They're expected to touch on topics ranging from campus ministry
to new-church development and multi-cultural ministry.

"This has been one of the most important series that we've ever had," said
the Rev. Rosalie Potter, ECD's associate director. "We're just shocked at
the response that we're getting. We started with 10,000 to 15,000 copies,
and the minute they're gone we try to do some more. We can't keep them in
print. We've got a bunch of others that are coming. It's been a wonderful

Potter said copies of some of the booklets were sent to every PC(USA)church,
presbytery and presbytery resource center and were distributed in packets to
participants in PC(USA)-sponsored conferences, such as last month's
Churchwide Redevelopment Conference in Miami, FL, and the recent Association
of Presbyterian Church Educators gathering in Birmingham, AL.

The publications also have been popular among lay people.

"We were shocked," said Potter, who wrote the booklet "Preparing Members for
Evangelism (Faith Sharing)."

"They started coming in and wanting 50, then they wanted 75. We had one
(person) that called in this week and wanted 70. So the lay people (as well
as the pastors) are eating it up."

Keeping the publications simple has been the key, officials said.

"I think that's what's been appealing," said the Rev. Steve Boots, the
PC(USA)'s associate for congregational redevelopment and author of
"Congregational Transformation."

"In mine, I wanted to keep it short and sweet," he said, "so people in the
pew could look at it and see what congregational redevelopment was from that
side of the pew. It's only 16 pages, real short. (It has) a description of
the five dynamics (of redevelopment) with a few stories of congregations
that have done redevelopment and some of the important things related to it.
That's it."

He said 3,000 copies of his booklet were printed in January 2000, 5,000 more
in April, and 12,000 more in October. "The demand for it has been increasing
a lot more than what we expected," Boots said.

He said his department hopes to produce guides focusing on each of the five
dynamics of church redevelopment.

"From my perspective, it's better to add more complete resources in that
kind of a format, rather than publish a big book," Boots said.

One PC(USA) staff member said he hopes the booklet he co-wrote will attract
some much-needed attention to immigrant issues in the church.

"I guess from the perspective of this office, the Presbyterian Church (USA)
hasn't had a good history of welcoming immigrants previously," said the Rev.
Tony Aja, former associate for immigrant groups ministries in the PC(USA).
"We're still at approximately 94 percent white Anglo-Saxon. Thanks to
immigration, we're moving to a truly pluralistic multi-cultural society, and
the Presbyterian Church doesn't reflect that yet. It is necessary for our
church to be educated as to the dynamics of immigration." Aja is now
associate director for People in Mutual Mission in the Worldwide Ministries

For more information about the Living the Vision series contact ECD by phone
at 1-888-728-7228, ext. 5227, or by email at

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