IBRA Rep case study – Orion Johnson
IBRA Rep case study – Orion Johnson
Denomination: Church of England
Average congregation: At the largest weekly service (10am Sunday), which is where I promoted FfTW, it’s usually 70-80 in church with more (15-20) attending online
Late November: I asked permission from our vicar to give a notice at the end of a service about the book; he was not only very happy for me to advertise and sell it at church, he added to my ‘plug’ by pointing out the rather dismal statistics for personal Bible reading among CofE congregations in general and made a plea for our parish to ‘buck the trend’. That really helped galvanise enthusiasm, and I set up a table beside the exit route from church (our ‘Welcome Area’ or vestibule) and took orders as people left the service and headed back to their cars. (We weren’t quite back to serving post-service coffees yet, but were in one of those opening-up stages between lockdown and normality)
I also had some copies of the 135th Anniversary edition (available at £1 each - so I was happy to give them away), for people to get a taste of the FfTW style, or for people to pass on to folk they might wish to encourage to take up the Bible reading habit.
With a noticeboard that gets cluttered with adverts from groups using our Parish Centre, etc, etc, and the fact that we still weren’t circulating and hanging around quite as normal, I didn’t bother trying to put a poster up as I knew it would be largely missed or ignored. But the order form on the poster came in very handy to take names when various folk came up to me in the melee of leaving church / saying ‘goodbye’ to the vicar / saying ‘hello’ to friends – and most importantly to keep a record of who had paid and who hadn’t, since some thrust money in my hand straight away and others didn’t have cash on them.
Unsurprisingly, I quickly got rid of the ‘free’ anniversary copies, and encouraged takers to pass those on to whoever they wished. As the readings are not dated, they are perfect for someone to try as a ‘taster’ and can simply be passed on and on.
I took a punt on achieving an order for enough copies (10) of FfTW to achieve the discounted rate; fortunately, I got orders for 7 or 8 on that first Sunday and one or two then emailed me during the week to add their names to the list, so I ordered 10 and when I had the copies to hand out after a subsequent service in December I quickly sold the remaining copies as 2 or 3 more people asked for them once they saw the finished copies there in front of them.
I had also asked for consent from one of the regular preachers who writes her own daily Bible reading notes for Advent and Lent (as I didn’t wish to ‘tread on toes’) – she was not only very happy for me to advertise FfTW, she also bought a copy. That had been the reason I didn’t advertise on Bible Sunday, as she is usually promoting her Advent notes by that time.
I have since had good feedback about the notes, including from a couple who use a number of different daily schemes and are quite conscientious Bible students so I was delighted to know that it is of use to people who are longstanding Christians and who have been serious Bible readers for decades as well as to those who are trying to cultivate the habit for the first time.
The year before, I had purchased a couple of copies to send to Christian friends as a sort of New Year present: one wrote a review of FfTW for her own parish magazine, so hopefully that has taken the book into another church too!
I found that clergy are generally eager to get their congregations cultivating a personal Bible reading habit: the supportive voices of my vicar and an associate minister were really powerful in drawing attention to FfTW as a tool to help with that. None of our ordained clergy were aware of the book before I promoted it, and to be fair it perhaps isn’t the sort of thing they would use themselves for perhaps a more theological daily study, but I found them very enthusiastic about anything that helps congregation members at all stages of the Christian ‘journey’ to engage with the Bible for themselves.