Church Welcomed into the AEUNA
By Lena Agulian
Note: At its 15th Biennial Assembly, the AEUNA recognized
the Armenian Evangelical Fellowship of Glendale as its
member church. This decision was formalized during the
worship service on Sunday morning, June 25,2000. About
20 representatives from the church were present, including
the pastor, Rev. Barkev Darakjian, and the church board
chairman, Mr. Joseph Dornian. The service of recognition
was presided over by Union moderator Rev. Dr. Vahan
Tootikian and Minister to the Union Rev. Karl Avakian.
Upon the request of the fellowship members, the new
church was named The First Armenian Evangelical Church
Throughout our Armenian Evangelical movement's history,
we have learned that our Evangelical churches came to
exist by sprouting from smaller Bible study groups.
Godıs Word has proven to give birth to new churches,
and the same held true in Glendale, California. It was
there that Rev. Berdj Djambazian had the vision to start
a series of studies as part of an outreach ministry
to the community in May of 1988, at the Glendale Presbyterian
Church. Several Evangelical lay leaders and ministers
participated in this ministry. In a few years time,
the ministry grew and hundreds were attending these
studies and services.
January 1, 1992, the board of the AEUNA invited Rev.
Samuel Agulian to become the fellowship's first full
time pastor, to teach and preach the gospel. The fellowship
reorganized with a full staff and Sunday school, and
a youth group that met after the Sunday services. The
Union appointed a committee of fellowship members to
assist the ministry by conducting visitations, preaching
the Word, and serving in different ways. In the midst
of its spiritual duties, the fellowship also conducted
social activities, picnics, couples meetings, as well
as special programs for holidays.
On January 1, 1994, the fellowship moved into a new
location and started sharing facilities with the United
Community Church (333 East Colorado, Glendale) where
they are currently. On June 1, 1997, Rev. Sam Agulian
moved to a new position as pastor of the Armenian Memorial
Church of Watertown, Mass. In the months following,
local AEUNA ministers assisted in filling the void,
particularly Rev. Joe Matossian of the Immanuel Armenian
Congregational Church, and Rev. Mgrditch Melkonian of
the United Armenian Congregational Church, who served
wholeheartedly and gave of their time freely.
At this time of need, the arrival of Rev. Barkev Darakjian
was providential. He had served the Armenian Evangelical
church in Chicago for 21 years and had recently retired
and moved to Glendale with his family. Despite this,
he willingly agreed to step in and led the fellowship
beginning in May 1999 as an interim pastor.
Over the past year he has worked diligently to organize
the fellowship and constitute a full-fledged Armenian
Evangelical church. Rev. Darakjian has prepared a series
of studies to teach the duties of church membership,
which resulted in more than 50 people becoming members
and a new church council being formed. By Godıs grace,
the AEUNA unanimously voted to accept the fellowship
as the Unionıs 25th member church. Nevertheless, we
have several ongoing needs:
- A church building of our own where we can freely hold
our services and conduct our activities.
- A full-time pastor who can continue the Lordıs work
and meet the spiritual needs of our community.
- The moral and financial support of the AEUNA.
On behalf of the First Armenian Evangelical Church of
Glendale, we thank our Lord Jesus Christ for this gracious
gift and opportunity. We are grateful to our Union for
accepting our fellowship as one of its churches. And
we also thank the AMAA and Rev. Movses Janbazian for
their continual support in assisting the newly established
church to become a strong center where lives are saved.
Note: Lena Agulian is a homemaker residing in Pasadena,
California. She has attended the Glendale Fellowship
since the earliest days of its inception, and has served
as superintendent of Sunday school.
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January 15, 2001
Pecoraroıs Insights on Church Growth
What drew me to attend Rev. Hilda (Shahinian) Pecoraro's seminar
on church growth at the convention? Well, if I must be honest,
it wasn't the subject; it was my desire to renew an old acquaintanceship
that stretched back perhaps 25 years to Sunday school and family
camps. But the presentation surprised me by its relevance and
practicality, and I feel its substance deserves to be shared
with the wider community of the AEUNA.
Hilda is senior pastor of Green Valley Presbyterian Church (PC-USA)
in Henderson, Nevada, which she has pastored for the past 13
years. During her tenure, the church has experienced a steady
growth from about 70 individuals to its current membership which
exceeds 600. To some extent, this can be attributed to the rapid
population growth being experienced in that part of the country.
However, it is also clear that her focus on welcoming new people
and integrating them into the community can take much of the
Here are some of the key issues
that she enumerated.
- Is your church willing to grow? The church must truly
want to grow and be willing to endure the discomfort of relating
to new people, as well as the changes that inevitably accompany
growth. If there isn't such a willingness at the foundational
level, no growth campaign will ever succeed.
- Has your church made its presence known to the community?
Simple, mundane ways of telling the community that you
exist must not be overlooked. Ads or announcements in local
newspapers, listings in the Yellow Pages, a sign in front of
the building that announces times for worship, these are all
ways of telling outsiders that you want them to come in.
- How friendly is your church facility to newcomers?
Simple signs can help direct visitors to the key locations on
campus. Apparently the two most often-searched for parts of
the church complex are (a) the nursery, and (b) the womenıs
restroom. How easily would someone at your church for the first
time locate these?
- Is there any follow-up? This is essential if the first-time
Visitor is to be coaxed into returning for a second visit. There
must be a definite and deliberate follow-up plan that could
involve several components: mailings, phone calls, personal
visits, invitations to small groups, etc. The important thing
is that the follow-up process be planned and implemented deliberately
by the church rather than being left to chance or the good intentions
- Do church members reach out consistently to visitors?
The integration of new people into the community must be
facilitated through the intentional efforts of those who are
already there. One way to facilitate this is through the "two
minute rule": all parishioners are asked to spend the first
two minutes following the conclusion of each Sunday service
in conversation with someone they don't know or havenıt met.
Afterwards, they can go to their circles of familiarity, but
at least for that short period, they are obliged to make personal
contact with newcomers.
- Is there a path for new people to become involved in the
church? Beyond merely welcoming and greeting visitors, there
must be opportunities for them to begin serving and taking part
in the life of the church soon after their arrival. Here's an
example: all new members are invited to a brunch two or three
months after being received as members, at which time they have
the opportunity to comment on their experiences to date and
make constructive comments on the church's ministry.
Let me also cite a true anecdote from another, non-Armenian
church (letıs call it St. Mark's). One of the church leaders
surveyed the twelve-member vestry (the churchıs governing board)
and asked them to recall from their past one positive and one
negative experience of being a newcomer. For all twelve of these
church leaders, the negative example was their first time at
St. Mark's! Which illustrates that the problem of church growth
is not limited to any particular ethnic or denominational group.
But there is one thing this church has done that is healthy
and indicative of their willingness to grow: they formed a special
ministry to newcomers and began that ministry by asking parishioners
to share their particular stories of their experiences when
they first came to St. Mark's. Healthy self-examination is a
key component to growth (here used in its qualitative rather
than quantitative sense). How many of our churches would have
the courage to face the answers we would receive were such a
query made of our own congregations?
It's true that our ethnic focus limits the scope of our church
growth efforts, but even within our target demographic group,
what efforts at growth are we making? One interesting item gleaned
from the statistical report presented by Rev. Karl Avakian at
the convention business meeting: since 1992, the total number
of communicant members in AEUNA churches has remained essentially
constant (4000 then, 4030 now), as has the total number attending
service on an average Sunday (2830 then, 2790 now), in spite
of the fact that one new church has been added to the union
during that time. To quote from Rev. Avakian's report, Though
the AEUNA churches have not shrunk in numbers,.., the lack of
growth... should be a matter of serious concern."
And even if some of the tactics and strategies adopted by non-Armenian
churches may not work among our people, surely there must be
some that will, or that at the very least can be adapted to
our peculiar context. It all begins with the church making a
deliberate decision to want to grow and formulating a strategy
for achieving that goal. May God grant us all the vision to
see church growth as a reality within the AEUNA over the next
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