By Jordan Smith
Organist and Director of Music Ministries
Over the weekend, I had the opportunity to join several colleagues who are leaders within the American Guild of Organists for an AGO Leadership Expo in Los Angeles, California. The purpose of this conference was to get an idea of where our 15,000-member organization stands on multiple issues. It was eye-opening. The Guild hired marketing professionals who pulled and assessed statistics from our membership and then gave us the truths of our organization, whether we wanted to hear it or not. We learned about statistics that were seemingly obvious to us already: about 90% white, nearly 50/50 male and female, the majority of our members are baby boomer age, etc. But then there were results that were a bit shocking: 85% protestant, student membership is increasing, 80% of those in leadership positions would recommend joining the guild to a non-member. 85% protestant? Why aren’t there more catholic musicians represented in our organization? Student membership is increasing? Surprisingly good news – how is that happening? Why aren’t 100% of our leaders recommending the AGO to non-members? We were asked questions like “Are you a polluter of this organization?” “The world and people are changing – are we changing?” “What is the value of membership?” AGOYO (American Guild of Organists – Young Organists) also had their say at this seminar. Yes, younger membership is increasing due to the introduction of AGOYO, but it will soon dwindle because “what does that guild have to offer them?” And then people were bringing issues to the table that we didn’t even think existed, like accidental favoritism toward organists who play pipe organs as opposed to those who play digital organs, and that the AGO is an “elitist” organization. Who knew? Needless to say, we’ve got issues, both good and bad that we need to learn how to address.
As I sat through this seminar and heard the statistics and professional presentations on how to address the issues we face as an organization, I couldn’t help thinking about how nearly all of these things also apply to a church setting. St. Stephen has 468 members and since we all see each other almost every week, our membership statistics are pretty clear. As a new staff member, I have found St. Stephen to be an exceptionally welcoming community and have witnessed the warm hospitality toward other new members. Do all new members get this same warm hospitality? I hope so! Is there more that we can do to attract new members and retain new members? Of course! St. Stephen has a lot to offer to its members: worship, music, Bible study, Sunday School, youth group, social ministries, outreach ministries, and the list goes on and on. And that list can and should be added to! How will you help St. Stephen grow to become even more welcoming and hospitable than it already is? How will you help members stay engaged with St. Stephen? How will you help vital programs grow and thrive even more than they already are? It’s not just a membership committee, it’s not just an outreach committee, it’s not just one of the staff’s job – it is all of our job to do the work of the Church. I can tell that the people of St. Stephen are capable of all of these things and I am thrilled to be a part of this church and do this work alongside all of you.