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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April 27, 2018 by Greg Syler

“Wait? This isn’t the last budget revision we’re doing?” our church’s treasurer recently asked at the finance meeting. To his point, he’s the one who plugs in the numbers. He did it in November, preparing for our December annual meeting. He did it in December, when the Vestry wanted to revise some areas. And he was doing it in January and February, when the finance committee started to take another whack at it.

Ascension and St. George’s, the two congregations I serve as rector, are doing a lot of amazing things and one of the most impressive things, I tell them, is that they’re facing financial uncertainty. A few years ago, before our collaborative sharing began, Ascension looked at their numbers and calculated they had three to five years left. St. George’s, too, recognized that the numerical and financial growth it was experiencing was, ultimately, insufficient to create a sustainable model of ongoing discipleship and growth. And each congregation, unto itself, faced those financial uncertainties. They stared financial uncertainty in its ugly, nasty, scary face. They wouldn’t let it dominate them. They didn’t run away and pretend it didn’t exist. They faced it, plain and simple, and they let that uncertainty take them to the limit of the old business model.

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Topics: Finance, Vestry
April 25, 2018 by Melissa Rau

This month we are highlighting five resources to help your vestry or other church groups learn more about effective endowment management. 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. An "Endow your Pledge" Campaign
In order for most traditional churches to function, they depend on the generosity of their parishioners in the form of pledges. What would it look like if some were to guarantee their annual pledge in perpetuity? In An "Endow your Pledge" Campaign, Deborah Kelly shares how her church educated and invited parishioners to think about endowing their pledge.

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Topics: Endowments, Finance
April 20, 2018 by Linda Buskirk

“We are doing something we've never done before. We are changing the culture of resource development in our Church to be more fruitful for God's mission.”

So boldly announce the College for Bishops, the Development Office of the Episcopal Church, and the Episcopal Church Foundation (ECF), in their partnership creation called Project Resource.

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Topics: Stewardship
April 17, 2018 by Alan Bentrup

The week after Easter, we always hear the story of Thomas’ questions. And in some places, Thomas gets a bad rap as “doubting.” But I don’t even think this story has much to do with Thomas. Do you know what bothers me most about that story?

The other 10 disciples had already seen the risen Christ, they received the Holy Spirit, but they’re still hiding behind locked doors a week later!

I sometimes feel like that, too. I have experienced Christ, I have received the Holy Spirit, but too often I sit behind a closed and locked door. But Jesus wants us to go! Jesus wants us to share the Good News we’ve received with a broken and hurting world.

That’s called evangelism.

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Topics: Evangelism
April 14, 2018 by Greg Syler

How many committees should your church have? Two, I believe. An Episcopal church should have two committees and, technically, they are sub-committees of the vestry. I also believe that this, and the other considerations in this blog post, should be spelled out in the parish by-laws.

For starters, our polity has set it up that the business model of every Episcopal congregation is overseen by one elected body – the Vestry. The Vestry is the overarching committee, the Committee of all committees.

Also, the Canons are clear, and rather limited, at that, when they speak about the powers and responsibilities of a Vestry. When a parish is not otherwise in clergy transition, a Vestry is fundamentally in charge of the fixed assets of the parish (“…agents and legal representatives of the parish in all matters concerning its corporate property”) as well as something like a council of advice between the clergy and the congregation (“…and the relations of the Parish to its Clergy,” Canon I.14.2). The Vestry is in charge of money and the oversight of fixed assets.

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Topics: Vestry
April 10, 2018 by Linda Buskirk

We Episcopalians are truly blessed by the liturgical touchstones that help us feel our way through Lent, Easter and the entire year. The reading the Word and its interpretation through creative arts – sculpture, statues, stained glass, and all the smells, bells and glorious music - are truly gifts of our worship tradition.

Given this, it seems fitting that we should replicate some of this artful exuberance in our personal faith journeys. In his latest book, Jesus God Among Us, available at Church Publishing, author and artist Roger Hutchison uses one of his own paintings to inspire reflections about finding Jesus. The painting in its entirety “illustrates the full life of Christ.” Segments of the painting inspire Hutchison’s reflections on Christ’s journey “then,” and where we might find or follow Christ “now.” Each reflection is accompanied by questions for further exploration and prayer.

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April 6, 2018 by Charles Fisher

In my previous career, Fran (my coworker) and I were developing products and services to help obese people lose weight, and had prepared to meet with a woman named Susan to learn about how well the health negatives of obesity were understood. Susan was a large woman, and happily quoted all the standard health reasons we had prepared to hear – nothing new to learn. As we were finishing, Fran asked about where Susan’s kids were today. Susan began tearing up. When she regained her composure, she said: “They went to King’s Island (local amusement park) with friends – I just wish I was able to fit on the rides with my kids.” This started a much deeper conversation where we learned what really drove her desires, and the help she needed to accomplish them.

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April 3, 2018 by Greg Syler

“How do you do Sunday mornings?” That’s perhaps the most common question I get when someone realizes that I serve as one rector of two congregations. The question makes perfect sense, actually, and figuring out the Sunday morning worship schedule was among the most important things we did before launching our new, shared venture between Ascension and St. George’s – the two communities I serve.

In order to develop the fullness of Sunday morning worship, as well as make sure that neither church ‘lost’ a service, we wanted to develop two Sunday morning services at both churches. Both Ascension and St. George’s, each, have worship at 7:30am – one at St. George’s, one at Ascension.

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April 1, 2018 by Anna Olson

It was the day of Preparation, and the sabbath was beginning. The women who had come with [Jesus] from Galilee followed [Joseph of Arimathea], and they saw the tomb and how [Jesus’s] body was laid. Then they returned, and prepared spices and ointments.

On the sabbath they rested according to the commandment.

But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body.

Luke 23:54—24:3

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March 30, 2018 by Greg Syler

“How do you do Sunday mornings?” That’s perhaps the most common question I get when someone realizes that I serve as one rector of two congregations. The question makes perfect sense, actually, and figuring out the Sunday morning worship schedule was among the most important things we did before launching our new, shared venture between Ascension and St. George’s – the two communities I serve.

I need to state, up front, that we put out a survey. We mentioned it online, but we very intentionally surveyed the actual Sunday morning worshippers. We stuck in the bulletins a hard-copy half-sheet insert for four Sundays. We ran it well before we had to make the actual decision. We listened carefully to the feedback.

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March 28, 2018 by Alan Bentrup

“To encounter crisis is to encounter the possibility of truly being the church.” So says missiologist and theologian David Bosch in his great book, Transforming Mission. Bosch notes that the Japanese character for ‘crisis’ is a combination of the characters for ‘danger’ and ‘opportunity’. So, in his estimation, crisis is not the end of opportunity but the beginning.

So what is the Church’s opportunity?

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Topics: Mission
March 23, 2018 by Linda Buskirk

I lugged my technology-laden baggage over the stone path and up the wooden stairs to the entrance of my cabin. I couldn't believe I had an entire cabin to myself at Kanuga, the beloved Episcopal conference, retreat and camp center in North Carolina.

I started touring, taking photos to text to my husband. The cabin was sheer rustic charm, including a fire place with a small pile of chopped wood on the hearth!

I intended to review notes for the retreat I would be facilitating the next day, but just had to build a fire. After it was blazing, I called my husband to ask if he had seen my latest pic captioned, "1 match."

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March 22, 2018 by Greg Syler

Following his triumphal entry into Jerusalem, Jesus stayed in the city. “Every day he was teaching in the temple,” Luke tells us (Lk.19:47), and we can feel the plot thickening. Indeed, “the chief priests, the scribes and the leaders of the people kept looking for a way to kill him.”

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March 16, 2018 by Linda Buskirk

It’s Lent – a great time to start constructing your congregation’s annual giving campaign – and, no, not as part of your penance. It’s a great time because it’s early in the calendar year and, for most churches, the fiscal year too. There is ministry happening all over! Take advantage of opportunities now through the summer to document how current year giving is making impacts. Here are three steps to get you started:

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Topics: Vestry, Stewardship