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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July 3, 2018 by Annette Buchanan

One of the most difficult things to do in our congregations and organizations is to make a decision on when to let go. We hold onto programs, buildings and even people. We oftentimes see letting go as failure and therefore hold on to outlived, unnecessary and sometimes dysfunctional ideas.

We hold on to buildings that we cannot afford, that drain us financially and emotionally and prevent us from doing ministry in our communities.

We hold on to programs that have long outlived their usefulness. We blame each other instead of doing the strategic work to determine whether this program that was so effective in the 1980s still works for our congregation today.

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Topics: Change
July 2, 2018 by Alan Bentrup

We’ve spent some time in this space looking at what art museums can teach us about mission and innovation, and what one particular art installation reveals about how we see each other.

Today I want to talk about what an art installation reveals about listening.

The image above is of the installation, “Terrain,” by Julianne Swartz. This piece is made up of a delicate net of wires and speakers that alternately rise and fall, resembling the swells of a landscape. The speakers suspended from the wires emit whispering voices, differing in intensity throughout the room and creating what Swartz describes as “a landscape of gentle sound.”

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Topics: Mission, Outreach
June 27, 2018 by Melissa Rau

This month we offer five resources on discipleship. 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. What is discipleship? In Discipleship Matters, Richelle Thompson explains what the word means to her and challenges her readers to consider what it could mean to them. Are you growing as a follower of Jesus Christ?

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June 26, 2018 by Anna Olson

Three months into St. Mary’s commitment to the Safe Parking project, I have a few observations.

One is that it is going well. None of the big problems that people imagine have come to pass. Our vehicle-dwelling neighbors report sleeping better and seem to coexist peacefully and happily with the many other folks who overlap with them at church, including lots of programs for kids and families.

Another is that the concept is very popular. There are lots of people in lots of congregations that think it’s a great idea. There are people working really hard to get the idea through their congregational decision making processes. But so far no other congregation in greater Los Angeles has actually gotten to the starting line. Besides St. Mary’s the other lots run by Safe Parking LA are all on public land.

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June 22, 2018 by Linda Buskirk

How we Episcopalians love to experience a thundering organ and rousing choral music, complete with hand bells and chimes and sunshine beaming through the stained glass, wait… why is that family leaving?

This article is the third in a series about improving inclusion for people with disabilities in our faith communities. Some disabilities are invisible. Those who have particular sensitivity to noise and lights may not be able to enjoy a typical worship service.

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June 20, 2018 by Lisa Fischbeck

The local public radio station allows sponsors 24 words for each ad. The name of the sponsor counts as one word. But if a website is given, “dot” is one word, and “org” is another. 24 words.

Like a tweet on Twitter, the word limit makes us consider what is most important to communicate and to whom. A good exercise. It is similar to articulating a mission statement. But a mission statement is meant to guide and inspire the people who are already part of the congregation. This was for those beyond our walls.

So, how do we describe ourselves in 24 words or less?

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Topics: Communications
June 14, 2018 by Alan Bentrup

James Turrell is perhaps my favorite artist. He uses light and space in new ways to help people see new things. Or, rather, he helps people see things in a new way. During our recent visit to Newfield in Indianapolis, a docent invite my wife and me into a room to see one of his works, Acton. I’ve only ever been to his skyspaces before, so I didn’t know what to expect.

As we stood at the back of the room, we looked ahead at a white wall with a dark painting hung in the center. Or so I thought. Acton is one of his “space division” series, which “consists of a large, horizontal aperture which appears to be a flat painting...but is a light-emitting opening to a seemingly infinite, light filled room beyond.”

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Topics: Mission, Outreach
June 11, 2018 by Linda Buskirk

In my city, Fort Wayne, Indiana, AWS Foundation works to educate all of us about how to be graciously, respectfully, inclusive. The Foundation is where I first learned about “people first language” – words that move hearts from marginalizing others to including them (learn more here).

AWS Foundation CEO Patti Hays recalls as a child being taught, “It’s not polite to stare,” at someone with a disability. Today, she encourages parents to suggest, “Let’s go meet this person.”

Hays reminds us that the Americans with Disabilities Act provides minimum guidelines for removing barriers. Engaging people with varying abilities in the life of our faith communities may require some intentional learning and understanding.

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Topics: Outreach
June 9, 2018 by Annette Buchanan

We all watched and reflected with pride as Presiding Bishop Michael Curry delivered his sermon at the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Much has been written and spoken about the impact that sermon portends for the Episcopal Church and Christians today.

One area worth exploring again for our congregations and ourselves is the impact of an invitation. Specifically how often do we extend an invitation to family, friends, colleagues or even strangers to join us at our worship service and our outreach ministries.

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Topics: Outreach
June 1, 2018 by Linda Buskirk

Projects to improve accessibility are often included in church capital campaigns. In my work as a capital campaign consultant with ECF, I witness congregations choosing ramps, restrooms large enough for caregivers to enter with their adult loved one, hearing loops, wider doorways, lowering the altar rail to the main level of the nave, and other changes to make it clear that all are welcome.

As our awareness of physical barriers increases, let us also consider whether our language and behavior send messages of, “You are truly welcome.” Consider the differences between these sentences:

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May 30, 2018 by Anna Olson

There was a time when I would have been frustrated with the small scale of our offering. Ten parking spaces when nearly one percent of the population of Los Angeles lives on the streets? I easily count more than ten tent encampments just on my 1.5 mile walk from home to church. Things are bad.

Ten spaces will definitely not solve the problem. However, I have been amazed to discover once again how God can take a small offering and multiply its impact. You might think that the mustard seed parable or the feeding of the 5000 (not counting women and children?!) would have been enough to convince me. Maybe it was growing up in Missouri, the oddly named “show me state”. I have to see things with my own eyes, hear them with my own ears.

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Topics: Outreach, Mission
May 22, 2018 by Jerry Campbell

As a college student majoring in Music at Arizona State University I was a part of the Choral Union which presented Handel’s Messiah at Christmastime.

I sold tickets to people at my church, loaded everyone into the church’s bus and drove them to the auditorium through streets clogged with the cars of Christmas shoppers. By the time I unloaded my concertgoers at the main entrance and parked the bus at the far, far end of the parking lot, I was too late to join my fellow tenors as they marched onto the stage. So, I decided to enter through the lobby, make my way down a side aisle and climb onto the stage to take my place in the choir.

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May 16, 2018 by Melissa Rau

This month we are highlighting five resources to help your vestry or other church groups learn more about strategic visioning and planning. 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 Why Strategic Planning, Linda Buskirk describes what strategic planning is and why it’s important for churches to engage in strategic thinking. She also shares the necessary steps a church needs to take in order to achieve its vision and provides some thought provoking questions to help your church move forward in strategic ways.

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May 14, 2018 by Alan Bentrup

After the Missional Voices National Gathering last week, my wife and I spent Sunday afternoon at Newfields (the rebranded Indianapolis Museum of Art). I draw much of my inspiration for MV (and ministry) from art museums and other places and groups that are looking to creatively gather and connect people.

What I found at Newfields was a perfect way to cap off a week of conversation about innovation, creativity, and courage in the Church.

Newfields is working to find the right balance between traditional museum and innovative gathering space. Its director, Charles Venable, is seen as either a visionary or a heretic. And if you read profiles of him or Newfields (here, here, or here, for example), replace the work “museum” with “church” and I think you would find a great discussion of what our future may look like.

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Topics: Mission
May 12, 2018 by Linda Buskirk

The heads and heartstrings of many Episcopalians are being tugged toward action for racial reconciliation, social justice, addressing poverty, or determining how our congregations can be more obvious participants in the Jesus Movement. Marching in demonstrations is one thing, but how do we, as faith communities, start to bring about unity and peace?

Traditionally, we categorize such efforts as “outreach ministry,” hoping we make a positive difference to those who need it. We jump to do things for the poor. We give money, buy and wrap Christmas presents for the Angel Tree, invite needy neighbors to hot meals we prepare. Beautiful acts of charity.

After many years of doing so, some wonder, “Why don’t those people come to worship?” Some sigh and conclude, “Well, they just must want the food and clothes we hand out.”

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Topics: Outreach, Mission
May 8, 2018 by Anna Olson

St. Mary’s Church in Los Angeles’ Koreatown, where I have served as rector since 2011, recently became a site for “safe parking”. We opened a part of our small church parking lot to be used each night as a safe spot for a few of the thousands of our Los Angeles neighbors who are living in their vehicles after losing their housing. A community partner raises funds to provide security and a portable toilet in the lot each night. That partner also works with local social service agencies to offer case management to each of the guests as they work towards a more permanent housing solution.

This is the first in a short series of posts about how St. Mary’s came to this ministry and what we have learned in the process.

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Topics: Outreach, Mission
May 1, 2018 by Linda Buskirk

Congregations can take years to get up the gumption to seriously consider a capital campaign, even when ministry needs in their church home are obvious. Tight operating budgets and fewer folks in the pews often foster these misgivings, along with fear of failure. Leaders may feel overwhelmed, not knowing how to begin a campaign effort, let alone end one successfully.

Certainly an important outcome of a successful campaign is raising enough donations to successfully pay for desired projects. Here are three other outcomes of a robust capital campaign process, as I’ve witnessed as an Episcopal Church Foundation capital campaign consultant:

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April 30, 2018 by Annette Buchanan

When was the last time a delegation of 5 or more people from your church attended an event that addressed an area of vital importance to your congregation? These important areas may include: 1) Evangelism 2) Stewardship 3) Formation 4) Anti-racism 5) Vestry Leadership Development 6) Church Planting/ Replanting 7) Outreach or 8) Communication.

These events may have been sponsored by the Diocese, the Episcopal Church or a national Episcopal organization. These entities have invested much time and effort to be a resource in the areas listed above and others not mentioned. Additionally the National organizations have dedicated their whole ministry to deep expertise in these areas. Examples of these organizations are Forma, Episcopal Church Foundation, and Church Pension Group.

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