October 20, 2017 by Sarah Townsend Leach

Last weekend, as I do several times per year, I was standing in front of a group of parishioners at an Episcopal church introducing the process ECF uses to guide a faith community in deciding if a capital campaign is in their future. As the rain poured down outside the window behind me and my PowerPoint presentation shined into the dim room, a man in the back row asked a question I hear from someone at almost every church I visit: “But, what will happen to our annual stewardship pledging if we hold a capital campaign? Won’t it go down? We can’t afford to have our annual stewardship pledging decrease!” This fear is common among so many congregations because, often, adequate time has not been spent talking and educating about the different ways we can give to the church.

The short answer to his questions is, if we (the campaign leadership from your parish supported by me, your ECF capital campaign consultant) do our jobs right, the total given through annual stewardship pledges will not decrease over the course of a capital campaign.

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October 19, 2017 by Linda Buskirk

Already stores urge us to “prepare for the holidays” – as if the whole season depends on us choosing a new color scheme for our Christmas decorations. Right now.

Episcopal sensibilities resist this, of course. We are too busy getting back into the swing of Sunday School, reviving outreach ministries, and conducting annual giving campaigns. Before we know it, the last pot will be scrubbed after the annual community Thanksgiving meal. Dry your hands, sit down, take a breath. Welcome Advent.

Here are five ways to get ready to experience a meaningful Advent.

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October 18, 2017 by Brendon Hunter

This month we offer five resources to help your congregation with different generational aspects to giving. Please share this digest with your parish leadership and extend an invitation to subscribe to ECF Vital Practices to receive Vestry Papers and the monthly digest.

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Topics: Stewardship, Finance
October 17, 2017 by Anna Olson

My parish is a busy place. Multiple communities – with varying degrees of involvement and investment in the religious life of the congregation – use church space for a wide range of beneficial purposes. Kids play basketball and learn instrumental music and traditional dance. Korean drums vie with tuba-driven banda rhythms. The food for festivals and fundraisers is prepared in the kitchen – everything from specialized triangular tamales (the claim to culinary fame of one small town in the mountains of Oaxaca) to a Japanese American take on manju pastries filled with a delicious paste of sweetened lima beans.

It all sounds amazing and beautiful and it is… until someone leaves a mess. Dancers find crumbs on the stage. The basketball team finds discarded plates of tamales in the parking lot. A door gets left open. The trash doesn’t get taken out. In a place as busy as ours, it’s all bound to happen at some point.

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Topics: Hospitality
October 10, 2017 by Jerry Keucher
October 6, 2017 by Richelle Thompson

In the midst of the tumult surrounding the NFL and whether to kneel or stand for the National Anthem, our priest quietly practiced his faith.

A former parishioner is in the midst of the Crucible, a grueling three-day endurance test required before becoming a Marine. Our priest offered special intentions on his behalf (and all the recruits going through the Crucible). During Morning Prayer, the priest wrote down the young man’s name on a card and laid it near a candle on the altar. And he shared the picture on Facebook with the parents.

Surely this is the type of kneeling that all people of faith, regardless of political opinion, can embrace.

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October 3, 2017 by Alan Bentrup

All over Houston, private citizens pulled their fishing boats behind pickups. They launched their vessels at the water's edge, which could be anywhere that a street became a bayou.

Harris County Judge Ed Emmett put out an extraordinary call in the midst of the storm. He said the fire department, Coast Guard and police are overwhelmed — they needed people to help their neighbors. And folks responded.

The boat that evacuated my family belonged to four fishing buddies from Virginia, who drove through the night to come help. Ordinary citizens, they responded and teamed up with a county constable and starting rescuing people.

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Topics: Mission
October 2, 2017 by Annette Buchanan

At my home parish, St. Augustine Episcopal Church, Asbury Park, New Jersey, we have been truly blessed to have a Music Director, Gladstone Trott, who began with the church as a child prodigy at age 13 and remained for over 45 years until his recent death after a long illness.

As a tribute to Gladstone’s long tenure there are many wonderful behaviors he practiced that congregations can embrace to ensure a successful music ministry. They are as follows:

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Topics: Worship, Outreach
September 27, 2017 by Linda Buskirk

The words we choose to discuss annual giving with our congregation can resonate obligation or gratitude. Or both. Kate Ferris wrote about this in her 2007 Vestry Papers article, Good Stewardship Addresses Hopes and Fears. She described a successful annual giving campaign at St. George’s in Clifton Park, New York, that “provided both practical and spiritual messages about pledging:”

We made an effort to balance the type of messages people received. Some people understand that unless they pledge, the church cannot meet its financial obligations. Others respond to the biblical teachings about giving first fruits or giving back to God.

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Topics: Stewardship
September 20, 2017 by Brendon Hunter

This month we offer five tools to help with your congregation’s annual giving campaign efforts. Please share this digest with your congregation's stewardship or annual giving committee and extend an invitation to subscribe to ECF Vital Practices to receive Vestry Papers and this monthly digest.

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Topics: Stewardship
September 19, 2017 by Alan Bentrup

This past Tuesday I was at the red light next to St. Mary’s, and all of a sudden the car in front of me started backing up. There was someone behind me, so I didn’t have anywhere to go. I watched as the SUV in front of me kept backing up, and crushing my hood.

As if flood recovery wasn’t enough to deal with right now.

I’m safe, the car is drivable (which is good, because there are no available rental cars in Houston right now), and I now have a new friend.

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September 12, 2017 by Annette Buchanan

September is back-to-school month for many of our youth. There is much anticipation and preparation by parents, students, teachers and retailers for this once a year event. Schools send out reminders about schedules, meals, and activities. Teachers spruce up classrooms and take refresher courses. Parents buy clothing and supplies and figure out transportation needs. Students look forward to reuniting with friends and negotiating for the latest computers, backpacks, sneakers etc. from their parents.

September is also an opportunity for us to have a back-to-church month for our youth with the same vigor and anticipation for Sunday School and youth activities. How are we doing? The leadership of the church including our vestry and clergy, not just the youth ministry leaders, should be intimately involved in this youth outreach. Many of us bemoan the lack of youth in our congregations but do not make it a priority in our planning.

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Topics: Outreach
September 8, 2017 by Miguel Escobar

Registration is now open for the 2018 Church Leadership Conference, March 2 - 4 at the Kanuga Conference and Retreat Center in Hendersonville, NC.

Join us for three inspiring days, designed in partnership by the Episcopal Church Foundation and Kanuga, to strengthen, equip and re-energize church leaders for ministry. View a preliminary schedule here.

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Topics: Leadership
August 29, 2017 by Alan Bentrup

I’m writing this as my family and I are in the midst of Tropical Storm (formerly Hurricane) Harvey.

My heart goes out to so many victims of Harvey – to those dear souls who have lost their life, and to those who lost their homes and cars, or years’ worth of memories and precious possessions. Hardship and suffering tend to bring out the worst in people – the occasional looting in flooded neighborhoods, traffic nightmares, and fist fights in long gas station lines are, sadly, all too real.

But hardship and suffering also bring out the best in people!

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Topics: Outreach
August 23, 2017 by Annette Buchanan

In the wake of the recent overt racist actions by hate groups in Charlottesville, Virginia and other continued acts of injustice, for example, the killing of unarmed minorities by the police, targeting of Muslim worshippers, separation of families by deportation, the Church is obligated to live out its mission by speaking and acting to address justice issues within our communities. The question is what (or what more) can the Church do?

Many within our churches are concerned and willing to do something but do not have a history of activism so are unsure where to start. As a result there is dissonance between what is going on within our churches and the society as a whole, these justice issues are sometimes never mentioned.
One reason why justice issues go unmentioned is that we have not made a clear distinction between partisan political vs. social justice issues and are therefore afraid of polarization among our members.

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Topics: Advocacy
August 22, 2017 by Nick Sollog

The question I am often asked when I am making a presentation to prospective clients is usually related to making “The Ask”. “The Ask” is the moment when one parishioner invites another parishioner to join them in giving to a fundraising appeal. Whether Capital Campaign, Annual Giving, or Planned Giving, this question is a common concern raised in parishes. While I am not surprised at the question I do enjoy answering it. I usually start by saying “I know I am biased because I do this for a living but this is actually one of my favorite parts”. With ECF’s 3 phase methodology for a Capital Campaign, when you do the first two phases right (Discernment and Feasibility), an ask is just coming together in fellowship to celebrate all of the work that has lead up to this moment.

It is in this moment that I see a sense of relief in most of those in the room. There are sometimes those who may still be skeptical.

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August 18, 2017 by Linda Buskirk

In 2015, Vital Posts recorded the planting of a new Episcopal congregation in Brownsburg, Indiana, just outside Indianapolis (Parachute Drop). Rev. Gray Lesesne, D.Min., Church Planter/Pastor, “parachuted” into this suburban area and worked the coffee shop crowd, discovering what he was called to find: diverse people seeking spirituality.

The small seed of a congregation that Fr. Gray planted has grown to nearly 130 people of Good Samaritan Episcopal Church. He says it is “a Spirit-filled operation that has gone beyond our wildest dreams.” The congregation stays united around a mission and identity rooted in service: Good Samaritan Episcopal Church is a growing community of open-minded Christians who seek to do what Jesus taught us: to include, love, and serve all people without exception.

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August 16, 2017 by Brendon Hunter

This month we offer five resources to help your congregation with conducting a successful capital campaign. Please share this digest with your parish leadership and extend an invitation to subscribe to ECF Vital Practices’ to receive Vestry Papers and the monthly digest.

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August 7, 2017 by Annette Buchanan

Within our churches and organizations as the leadership becomes more seasoned the question arises who will take over the responsibilities they now oversee. Many believe that they are irreplaceable and refuse to train or transition to someone new. Others complain that they cannot find anyone to take on their responsibilities. Still others may believe that as seniors they have much more to offer and are being discriminated against in a youth-oriented society. Whether it is the Senior Warden with the 20 year term or the Altar Guild member who has been there for 40 years, our friendly term for some of these folks are Mama or Papa Docs that is, leaders for life.

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Topics: Change, Leadership
August 1, 2017 by Alan Bentrup

Last time I briefly mentioned how Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg thinks his community shares many of the same goals and attributes of the Church. The response I saw in the media, and among my friends and colleagues on social media, was that Facebook sees itself as a new kind of “church.”

But this - the idea that a corporation could replace (or at least replicate) “church” is nothing new.

This past week my wife and I watched the movie “The Founder,” which tells the gripping story of Ray Kroc, the McDonald brothers, and the McDonald’s Corporation. One part, relatively early on, caught my attention. In selling his vision of expanding McDonald’s franchises around the country (a vision the brothers didn’t share), Mr. Kroc shared a story about his travels around the country.

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Topics: Change