🔥 1 big thing: Doubling down on Generation Z
What’s new: One of TryTank’s strategic priorities for this year has been figuring out how the church can best engage with members of Generation Z.
✝️ 2. Quick experiment uses SMS to deepen Holy Week
The big picture: With so much going on in the world and so much data coming to us at once, we wanted to use a way to interrupt us during Holy Week so that we can experience it deeper.
How it works: This Holy Week (from Palm Sunday, April 10, to Easter Sunday, April 17), subscribers will receive text messages in real-time so they can walk with Jesus during his final days.
🕹️ 3. [update] Metaverse experiment moving on to next phase
We asked the Rev. Sean Steele, the experiment manager for our metaverse church experiment, to update us on how things are going. Here’s his note:
The Web3 Abbey team recently completed their “beta” experiment in the metaverse.
The bottom line: If you are interested in learning more about the community or leadership team, please email them HERE.
🙏 4. [update] La Misa in English experiment starting
We asked Brother Luis Hernandez Rivas, the experiment manager for our La Misa in English experiment, to update us on how things are going. Here’s his note:
Big picture: La Misa in English is an exciting new experiment that aims to serve second and third-generation Latinos.
By the numbers: Currently we have 4 congregations enrolled (3 from the Diocese of San Diego and 1 from the Diocese of Missouri) with others in discernment.
🔊 5. [update] Evangelism experiment making friends
We asked Rev. Ken Kroohs, the experiment manager for our Easter Evangelism experiment, to update us on how things are going. Here’s his note:
So much excitement! The best part of this experiment has been the enthusiasm and excitement in people seeking to reach out to new people.
🌟 6. [update] Evangelism cohorts
Seeing the success we have had by having walking alongside congregations as they try evangelism experiments, TryTank partnered with The Episcopal Church to train more mentors to expand the effort.
😊 7. [update] Bigger churches can help smaller churches
What’s news: Our recent Prayer School experiment allowed folks from around the country to join a class from Grace Church in Oklahoma.
Why it matters: Many smaller congregations cannot regularly offer classes to their members to help them grow in faith.
What's next: How might we create a directory where larger congregations can add faith formation classes they are willing to offer to the wider church? Then smaller congregations could offer the classes to their members.
🎨 8. TryTank is looking for an illustrator!
For an upcoming experiment, TryTank is in need of an illustrator. Have you always wanted to see your doodles and cartoons published? This could be your chance!
🦙 9. One fun thing…the Order of the Llama
Recently, Fr. Lorenzo traveled across the pond to lead multiple workshops on innovation and to help church leaders invest in experimentation using the TryTank model.
Catch up quick: The trip included stops in Edinburgh, Scotland as well as Norwich and London, England.
Stay tuned for more on the Order of the Llama.
📓 1 big thing: Training new evangelism mentors
What’s new: TryTank is teaming up with the Department of Evangelism in the Office of the Presiding Bishop to train 20 Episcopal evangelism catalysts as Evangelism Mentors.
🎵 2- A 3D, 360-degree concert to teach gospel music
What’s new: Before the pandemic, TryTank had teamed up with the Gospel Choir from the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas in Philadelphia for a teaching tour.
Go deeper: In thinking about how to revive this experiment, new opportunities arose.
🔥 3- Web3Abbey holds first-ever Episcopal service in the metaverse
We asked the Rev. Sean Steele, the experiment manager for our metaverse church experiment, to tell you all how it went at the first Episcopal worship event in the metaverse. Here’s his note:
Big picture: The Web3 Abbey team hosted the service in a specially designed outdoor space on the AltSpaceVR platform that included ample space for worship, conversation, and fun.
What's next: They plan on meeting in the space on Monday evenings throughout the month of February at 7:00 pm central.
If you are interested in learning more please join their discord server HERE or simply come on Monday evenings, room code is RBR302!
👂4- Listening Project experiment will soon have results
Big picture: The Listening Project, launched in 2019, aimed to find out:
Last year, TryTank teamed with the experts at Learning Forte to take a deep dive into the “Listening Project” interviews and to try to discern a pattern that might prove to be something that could be replicated elsewhere.
Learning Forte’s chief researcher, Dr. Deborah Coe, has served as the head of research for two major denominations is leading the LF! staff through the process of coding the interviews and looking for answers that emerge.
What's next: In the coming weeks, Learning Forte will prepare a detailed research report to present to TryTank their findings. And you know we’ll have an update for you here.
🇬🇧 5- TryTank is headed to the United Kingdom
From March 14 to 25, TryTank’s director, the Rev. Lorenzo Lebrija (that’s me!) will be headed to the U.K. to talk about innovation in the church.
Why it matters: At TryTank, we want to teach anything we have learned in doing this work to others so that they too can try stuff out.
Go deeper: The trip will involve three stops: Edinburgh, Norwich, and London. At each stop, workshops will teach TryTank’s three-step framework for innovation and encourage new styles of church.
❤️ 6- Sometimes, we are reminded why we do this work
We are currently in the third phase of our evangelism experiment. Many of our congregations had their first opportunity to see results this past Tuesday for Shrove Tuesday.
On Wednesday, we were sent a message that a member of the evangelism team for Trinity Church in Mt. Airy, NC (a small rural congregation) sent to the other members of the team.
Here it is, unedited (CPS is Child Protective Services):
Guys, I really love my church, and aside from that, I’m actually proud of my church. I don’t feel like I’ve been able to say that at any other point in my life - aside from maybe the Wesley foundation at some points in college. Tonight we had a hotdog and marshmallows roast at riverside park. It was to celebrate Shrove Tuesday. Traditionally they have had a pancake supper at the church, but with Covid, crowding into a tiny building wasn’t a good idea, so we took it to the park, and since Tuesday night is also youth group night, the youth came too 😬 and I invited their families. We had rich and poor people, drug users and non-drug users, people who have spent years and years in prison and people who have never run into the law, LGBTQ and heterosexual people, white people and black people, refugees, immigrants, and natives, homeschoolers, public schoolers, school dropouts, people who are working on their GED and teenagers suspended from school indefinitely, young and old people, republicans abs democrats, church members, and no church members, foster families, adoptive families, CPS workers and the families served by CPS and kids taken away from their families by CPS, white-collar, blue-collar and unemployed people, and on and on. And we had a good time and it was amazing and special. The darkness is scary and overwhelming, but I saw the kingdom of God at the park last night.
🍎 7- It’s not too late for Prayer School
If you want to watch or listen to Prayer School, you can still do so. Just go HERE to find the resources, audio recording (great for the car), and video recordings.
🚨1 big thing: Episcopal Pulse reveals important weaknesses (and strengths)
The results from the first Episcopal Pulse survey show that a significant majority of the church feels we are struggling in the areas of evangelism and discipleship/formation.
Why it matters: The Rev. Ken Howard, director of FaithX and experiment manager for the Episcopal Pulse experiment tells us:
First-ever Episcopal worship in the metaverse is Feb 28
What’s new: Web3 Abbey, the experimental Christian community in the metaverse, will host the first-ever Episcopal worship service in the virtual world later this month.
Why it matters: During a recent webinar about the church and the metaverse, futurist Bob Johansen made the point that the metaverse is the next iteration of the web. And that it is coming like a wave.
Go deeper: Last September, a new kind of missionary came to be in the Episcopal Church (and the Holy Hermits in Australia) as several members of the clergy and laypeople began to explore the church in the metaverse.
Office of Latino Ministries takes over “El Librito de la Misa”
The Office of Latino Ministries of the Episcopal Church has agreed to take over the “Librito de la Misa Episcopal.”
Go deeper: The Librito was the outcome of the “Spanish Missalette” experiment from TryTank.
Our thought bubble: Thank you to the Rev. Anthony Guillen and the Rev. Samuel Borbon, who are such willing partners with the work of TryTank!
New experiment to explore spirituality of young adults
Wha't’s new: Try Tank is undertaking an experiment in cultivating deep relationships.
Big picture: We plan to share our findings widely through a report that captures the longings heard in conversation.
Then, out of these learnings, the experiment team will come up with possible experiments to engage with young adults. Stay tuned!
New offering for smaller congregations: Prayer School
As part of the 1730 Project which aims to help smaller congregations thrive, TryTank offers an online class aimed at their members.
Why it matters: smaller congregations usually cannot offer robust classes to their members. So, what if we could offer a class where smaller congregations can invite their members?
Go deeper: Prayer School is a workshop that will help participants form their habit of prayer by drawing on liturgical disciplines. It is an introduction where participants will learn:
The third phase of the evangelism experiment focuses on Easter
TryTank has launched the third phase of its very successful evangelism experiment.
Do you ever wonder if the shadowy figures drifting past your church can become friends with names and faces? That’s what our current experiment is testing.
🙏 The Virtual Preaching Monks are back for Lent
The Virtual Preaching Monks launched last year as part of TryTank's1730 Project experiments.
What's next: The Brothers of SSJE will offer a sermon series for Lent. If you'd like to use this resource, sign up to be “in the know” about the 1730 Project HERE.
Who wants to try this?
Someone out there, try this: the iScanner app uses AI technology to snap a picture and quickly count things for you. You can see a short video of it in action here.
One fun thing: Last fall, we tried to build a “Pop-up Monastery” in a mall during the holiday season. In the end, five malls turned us down. 😭 So, this year, we are starting early. Does anyone know the owner or a manager of a mall who might welcome the monastery?? Let me know HERE.
1 big thing: TryTank Experimental Lab is now three years old
Big picture: When TryTank Experimental Lab launched on Jan 1, 2019, who could have predicted what the next few years would bring to the world and the church? As a joint venture between two seminaries, TryTank itself is an experiment in working together.
There have been some successes (Alexa skill, Latino Ministry in a Box, video action alerts, evangelism events, the virtual preaching monks, and more!), and some failures (spin church, “drunk bible,” cleaning monks, prayer puppets, and more!).
Why it matters: Being able to own successes and failures hopefully allows TryTank to model how to be the church in the world today.
Here are some of the highlights of our 2021:
Coming next week: “Church in the Metaverse”
What's next: Next Friday is the premiere of the latest Faith in the Future conversation. Noted futurist Bob Johansen, a distinguished fellow with the Institute for the Future, will join a small audience from around the church to imagine the church in the metaverse.
Go deeper: Our guests will be joined by an expert on Teilhard de Chardin, philosopher, theologian, and priest, who will help us compare the metaverse to de Chardin’s concept of the divine milieu and the noosphere.
Yes, but: Other practical voices will join the discussion to assess the implication for the church at large…especially those who are at the margins and may lack access to technology.
To view the conservation when made available on January 14, click HERE.
Experiment update: Evangelism Theater
Here’s an update on the evangelism theater experiment. The experiment — which was delayed because of Covid-19 — aimed to create a theatrical experience in a church that members could invite their friends for a night of fun.
Why it matters: We know that people have no problem inviting a friend to the theater but aren’t as likely to invite someone to join them at church. We wondered what would happen if we made theater at the church.
By the numbers: The show (Baking with Bertha) took place on Friday, Dec 10 at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in the Carondelet neighborhood of St. Louis, Mo. The goal was to get church members to invite their friends. And they did!
Experiment update: BOTA ➡️ INFACT ➡️ Easter Evangelism
Here’s an update from the Rev. Ken Kroohs, the experiment manager for the Blessing of the Animals (BOTA) experiment, which led ( ➡️) to the Involving New Friends After Christmas (INFACT) experiment:
BOTA: Over 400 new people connected with nine participating congregations through the Blessing of the Animals!
More than 10K Spanish-language missals distributed
Big picture: If you ask, most clergy will tell you that the bulletin takes a few hours of their time each week. We asked, what if they had that time back?
We created a Spanish-language missalette that included the Eucharist from the Libro de Oracion Comun (Book of Common Prayer).
1 Big Thing: Virtual Preaching Monks a smashing success
Big picture: When the Virtual Preaching Monks experiment was launched last month, TryTank expected a few dozen congregations to take part. Instead, as of this writing, 460 congregations have signed up to use this resource, representing more than 22,000 people on an average Sunday.
What's next: Based on this success, the monks from the Society of Saint John the Evangelist have committed to offering a similar resource during Lent. They will cover:
HeartEdge USA forming peer learning cohorts around the 4 Cs
Big picture: With the support of TryTank, HeartEdge USA is forming a peer-learning cohort in support of the HeartEdge model of congregational renewal.
Go deeper: This small group is for those ready to begin experimenting with a group of other excited leaders while learning from each other. The cohort will meet have 9 monthly meetings over a year facilitated by a mentor and will be a place for:
Faith in the Future to host a conversation about “Church in the Metaverse”
What's next: In January, noted futurist Bob Johansen, a distinguished fellow with the Institute for the Future, will join a small audience from around the church to imagine the church in the metaverse.
Go deeper: Our guests will be joined by an expert on philosopher, theologian, and priest, Teilhard de Chardin who will help us compare the metaverse to de Chardin’s concept of the divine milieu and the noosphere.
Yes, but: Other practical voices will join the discussion to assess the implication for the church at large, especially those who are at the margins and may lack access to technology.
To view the conservation when it’s made available on January 14, click HERE.
Looking for signals of the future
Big picture: Part of TryTank’s work relates to foresight, the ability to spot signals and drivers of change to then develop plausible futures.
Go deeper: Think of a driver of change as a big wave.
Where have you seen the church of the future today? If you have some answers, let us know HERE.
Experiment update: Episcopal Pulse
Here’s an update from the Rev. Ken Howard, the experiment manager for Episcopal Pulse: “We have made significant progress toward the 2022 kick-off of the Episcopal Pulse Experiment:
Experiment update: Christmas Evangelism
Here’s an update from the Rev. Ken Kroohs, the experiment manager for the Christmas Evangelism: “It’s going great! The churches’ enthusiasm, energy, and commitment are inspiring and contiguous!
Prayer Puppets experiment seeks the wisdom of the crowd
Big picture: Last year, we wondered how we could bring Christian formation closer to home. Our solution, and then experiment, was to create a Christian version of Sesame Street. And thus were born the Prayer Puppets.
We created three episodes and tested them on a streaming platform where the conversion rate (from those who landed on the website to subscribe for a dollar) was around 8% which is very high.
The bottom line: We figured if people were willing to pay to subscribe, they’d be even more likely to subscribe to a free YouTube channel. We were wrong. Of some 29,000 times that our 15-second ad was seen only 43 subscribed.
What's next: So now this experiment is stuck. Here is the question: what would you do with the Prayer Puppets? Click HERE to submit your ideas.
You are now reading our newsletter experiment
Looking for market study participants
Big picture: TryTank is looking for ten active members of the clergy to be interviewed about professional and executive education for clergy.
Why it matters: In an ever-changing world, clergy are often called to take on tasks that they were not trained for in seminary. At the same time, there is new learning about leadership, finance, and other fields that affect ministry.
Go deeper: Selected participants will commit to a 20-30 minute interview. For their time, you will receive a $25 Amazon gift card.
To apply to be a participant, send us an email and you’ll hear from us soon.