October 23, 2018 by Sarah Townsend Leach

“How did it go?” My mom’s words came through the cell phone ear piece with equal parts excitement and apprehension.

“I have learned things about church design that had never occurred to me before,” I answered flatly with a tinge of exhaustion. I had just attended my first service with a six-week old baby, and I would see things with new eyes from now on in every church I visited thereafter.

You see, church design matters to me as a member and worshipper, but it also matters deeply to me as an ECF capital campaign consultant to churches around the country that are considering investing hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars in renovations or new buildings.

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October 15, 2018 by Alan Bentrup

For the second time in just over a year, my work has focused on hurricanes. Last year it was helping my parish and the city of Houston navigate life during and after Hurricane Harvey. Earlier this month it was waiting and preparing for Hurricane Florence.

Needless to say, storms and flood waters have consumed much of my thinking.

Maybe that’s why I’m so struck by the picture at the top of this post. Something’s wrong there. Who would build a bridge in the wrong place?

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October 11, 2018 by Annette Buchanan

In my travels this Summer I had the opportunity to interact, albeit briefly, with Anglican churches in the Bahamas, Panama and London. What these experiences illustrated is that while sharing similar religious tradition and worship styles, cultural nuances are very important and offer an opportunity to learn, incorporate best practices and grow in our ministry.

As Episcopalians and Americans, oftentimes in our local and international travels we have a mindset of being more evolved and therefore enter into these interactions without a spirit of inquiry and discovery.

October 9, 2018 by ECFVP Editorial Team

In celebration of ECF Vital Practices’ eighth anniversary, we went back through our archives to bring you some of the most popular articles from our past eight years of being an online resource. Each of the following articles was among the most read during a specific year. We curated them to have a variety of topics and writers, and are happy to share them with you here. We hope you enjoy them!

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Topics: Leadership, Vestry
October 8, 2018 by Richelle Thompson

I’ve found a way to make Christmas last all year. Or at least a bit of the spirit of the season.

When I store the decorations for another year, I’m always faced with a dilemma: What should I do with the Christmas cards? It’s the one time of year that folks send a snail mail card, and even if most have a simple signature, they are still a tangible connection to a longtime friend, a faraway relative, neighbors, and fellow parishioners. I hate to throw them away but I also don’t want to become a Christmas card hoarder.

A few years ago, a friend (and Episcopal priest) sent me a handwritten note in the middle of the year and explained that she kept her Christmas cards for a special purpose. Each week, she would draw a card from the pile, add the person to her prayer list, and then write and mail a note.

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October 1, 2018 by Linda Buskirk

Saying thank you for a gift is good manners. So when donations or annual pledges are made to the church, most churches mind their manners and send thank you notes as well as official receipts acknowledging commitments.

Thank you notes are private communications. The issue of whether to publicly thank donors, by name, depends on the culture of each faith community.

As a congregational consultant, I’ve visited parishes in which nearly every space or thing installed has a name plate acknowledging the giver who made the pew/pulpit/font/organ/window/sacristy/choir room/chapel possible.

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Topics: Stewardship
September 26, 2018 by Bill Campbell

As the Presiding Bishop continues to call us deeper into the Jesus Movement, especially now that we have the Way of Love as a tool to guide us deeper into relationship with Jesus and our neighbor, it’s time for us to start talking about what a Jesus Movement Leader looks like. We need leaders in this movement. Bishop Curry and Canon Spellers can’t do it all on their own!

For my part, I’ve been watching some of the emerging leaders and taking note at how intentionally they walk into their leadership roles. I’ve noticed that many of the leaders of the Jesus Movement take up less space in their leadership role. It has been eye opening for me. It has lead me to my own mantra in leading Forma these past two years: “How much space do I need to take up before I can make space for someone else?” or “Take up less space!”

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Topics: Leadership
September 22, 2018 by Jerry Keucher

The Discernment phase of a capital campaign is as important as either the Feasibility Study or the Solicitation phase, and it is a unique part of ECF’s capital campaign method.

During Discernment, information is shared, questions are raised, discussion happens, and a consensus for a vision for the future is crafted by the entire community. The fact that everyone is personally invited to participate, and everyone is listened to not only creates a vision for the community, but it also inspires individuals to buy into the vision and feel it is their own.

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September 19, 2018 by Melissa Rau

This month we offer five resources to help your congregation practice stewardship. Please share this digest with new members of your vestry and extend an invitation to subscribe to ECF Vital Practices to receive Vestry Papers and the monthly digest.

1. In Reframing Stewardship, Greg Syler shares how St. George’s in Valley Lee, Maryland engages in stewardship and financial generosity. Instead of stewardship drives, St George’s focuses on an annual pledge drive. In this article, Greg unpacks the difference between the two and why it matters.

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Topics: Stewardship
September 7, 2018 by Linda Buskirk

We all know it’s coming. Letters are being written, folks are being asked to share their stories from the lectern, pledge cards are being designed. The annual giving campaign will soon be underway.

Unless it got started months ago. More and more, congregations are recognizing stewardship as an ongoing ministry. Activities occur throughout the year, such as celebrations of gratitude, education about different ways to give, and stories about the impact of gifts. Their communications shine a light on discipleship, not just the obligation of “membership.”

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Topics: Stewardship
September 1, 2018 by Linda Buskirk

It’s still Ordinary Time in the church calendar – that long season after Pentecost so rich with stories of Jesus’ miracles, run-ins with authorities, and teachings about how he is the bread of life, our truth, light and way to God.

For many of us, it’s also a time of return to ordinary… back to the routine of school and less play, of church activities and less heading out of town most weekends. If your coffee hour now returns to speakers or discussion groups, this might be a good topic: Why are we here?

Perhaps this sounds scary to ask. It’s not meant to present a challenge. It is offered as a way to infuse the return of busy-ness with a bit of inspiration. So you might ask it like this:

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August 28, 2018 by Alan Bentrup

Vince Lombardi, former head coach of the Green Bay Packers, (supposedly) said: “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing!” For professional sports, winning drives every decision from strategy to personnel.

In the church, mission isn’t everything, it is the only thing! God’s mission (ideally) drives every aspect of church life. God’s mission determines when we say “yes” to certain opportunities, and also when we say “no.”

A clear vision of God’s mission is the heartbeat of a congregation’s movement as a community. And as we enter “stewardship season,” that vision plays a vital role in communication and helps answer the “why should I give” questions that many folks have.

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Topics: Mission, Stewardship
August 15, 2018 by Melissa Rau

This month we offer five resources to help your congregation with leadership. Please share this digest with new members of your vestry and extend an invitation to subscribe to ECF Vital Practices to receive Vestry Papers and the monthly digest.

1. In Leadership and Learning, Jeremiah Sierra reveals how leaders will often learn new things about their personality and behavior while in positions of leadership. The best leaders are those who are open to learn and grow themselves. What are you learning about yourself while you lead?

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Topics: Leadership
August 10, 2018 by Alan Bentrup

There is a recent surge in interest around evangelism in The Episcopal Church, in part due to inspiration and interest drawn from Bishop Curry’s royal sermon. There are wonderful resources available on TEC’s website, and a recently-launched Facebook Group allows folks to share ideas and encouragement.

I love the energy and momentum around evangelism, but I worry that we often are blurring the lines between evangelism and marketing.

Are we talking about how great our Presiding Bishop is, or how beautiful our parishes are, or how wonderful our music can be? Those are all good things, but they are marketing.

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Topics: Evangelism
August 3, 2018 by Linda Buskirk

A recent lectionary reading, Romans 16:1-16, got me thinking...

In this passage, Paul commends to the church in Rome a long list of friends in Christ. They are women and men whose faith and service Paul has witnessed, experienced, and sometimes by which he benefited.

Priscilla and Aquila “risked their lives” for Paul. He writes that he and “all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them.”

Epenetus was “ the first convert to Christ in the province of Asia.” Andronicus and Junias were in prison with Paul. Mary, Tryphena, Tryphosa and Persis, are all praised for their “very hard work” for Christ and the church. The mother of Rufus was like a mother to Paul.

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July 23, 2018 by Linda Buskirk

Why do you give to the church? Is it out of obligation, loyalty, gratitude, assurance that the gift will make a good impact, support for community?

It turns out that there are studies about what motivates giving. They conclude: Often your perspective is tied to your generation.

The Episcopal Church Foundation has stressed this for several years in its teaching about how to strengthen stewardship ministry. St. John’s Episcopal Church in Grand Haven, Michigan, took the lessons to heart, including differently-worded letters to parishioners of different generations. The letters are delivered in annual giving packets that include a booklet describing the impact of St. John’s ministries, and a pledge card.

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Topics: Stewardship
July 19, 2018 by Lisa Fischbeck

When I was in my late 30s, I believed I had two vocations: I was a priest, and also a wife and mother. Both of these identities engaged my heart, soul, body and mind. Each fed and nourished the other. Both gave me my greatest cause for thanksgiving and my greatest fulfillment and sense of purpose. Both also prompted my most earnest prayers for guidance and forgiveness. They sometimes, even often, came into conflict, particularly in matters of calendar and clock. I keenly felt that each vocation had been blessed by God, and I believed that by engaging in them I was being faithful in my response to God’s call.

In those years, some 25 year ago now, I self-identified as a “bi-vocational priest.” One vocation came with a cash salary, the other did not.

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July 18, 2018 by Melissa Rau

This month we offer five resources to help your congregation with hospitality. Please share this digest with new members of your vestry and extend an invitation to subscribe to ECF Vital Practices to receive Vestry Papers and the monthly digest.

1. Especially relevant in today’s political climate, Canon Stephanie Spellers paints a beautiful picture of radical welcome and hospitality in Radical Welcome: Embracing the Other. How do you and your congregation include and embrace “The Other” within your midst?

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Topics: Hospitality
July 16, 2018 by Alan Bentrup
July 10, 2018 by Linda Buskirk

“Why should I support this?” “Why will this make a difference?” “Why should I care?”

These are questions people process as they consider whether they should get involved or invest in a project, ministry, or annual giving. Oh, perhaps those who have been faithful participants in a congregation for 30 or 40 years do not need an explanation. Their “why” is because they love their church and believe they should support it. Younger generations may require reasons why something is worthy of their participation.

When it comes to special or new needs or ministries, people of all ages generally want to understand “the why.” St. Dunstan’s Episcopal Church in Madison, Wisconsin, developed a fun way to communicate why projects to be accomplished in their capital campaign were important.

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