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.

Continue reading...

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.

Continue reading...

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.

Continue reading...

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.

Continue reading...

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.

Continue reading...

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!

Continue reading...

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.

Continue reading...

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.

Continue reading...

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.

Continue reading...

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.

Continue reading...

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.

Continue reading...

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.

Continue reading...

Topics: Change
July 27, 2017 by Linda Buskirk

Sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ with friend or stranger sounds a bit scary. To make it less so, we are advised to prepare what we would say whenever the opportunity arises. Writing one’s faith story is a powerful experience when done in prayerful partnership with the Holy Spirit. Sometimes the resulting words on paper seem so compelling, the would-be story teller transforms into a would-be author. Or at least dreams about it.

Recently, dreams found paths toward reality at a Writing for Your Life conference in Nashville, Tennessee. More than 100 spiritual writers – some would-be and some already published – gathered like pilgrims at a hallowed place. No candles in this grotto - just inspiration from best-selling authors Barbara Brown Taylor and Rachel Held Evans, and information from other writers, teachers and editors about the craft and business of writing for publication.

Continue reading...

July 25, 2017 by Alan Bentrup

I’ve used the ride-sharing app Lyft before, so I recently received an email from the company announcing their new charitable donations program. This is a great idea, and a great use of crowd-funding and the gig economy. But one line in the email struck me as off. Lyft has chosen non-profit partners that “align with values that represent the Lyft community.”

I’ve ridden in Lyft, so that makes me part of this community, apparently. But I’ve shared Lyft rides with people that are dear friends, and I don’t know that I would say our values align with each other, not to mention the millions of people around the world that use this service that I don’t know and will probably never talk to.

Continue reading...

Topics: Change

Prayer — the heart of Christian practice — can embody the continuation of the movement of reconciliation, and can be an integral element of social and systemic change. In Ineffable Grace, Piero Ferrucci recalls the power of what prayer might do:

Prayer is not a request for God’s favors. True, it has been used to obtain the satisfaction of personal desires. It has even been adopted to reinforce prejudices, justify violence, and create barriers between people and between countries. But genuine prayer is based on recognizing the Origin of all that exists, and opening ourselves to it. . . . One can then communicate with this Source, worship it, and ultimately place one’s very center in it.

Continue reading...

July 19, 2017 by Brendon Hunter

This month we offer five resources to help your congregation with buildings & grounds. Please share this digest with your parish leadership and extend an invitation to subscribe to ECF Vital Practices.

Continue reading...

July 18, 2017 by Linda Buskirk

I had an idea for a post about annual stewardship campaigns. Before I launched into writing, I visited the ECF Vital Practices’ web site to see if someone else had already written about my idea. As you likely know, dear reader, on the Vital Practices home page, the dark blue bar across at the top includes an option for Topics. When you click on that, you receive a listing of Featured topics, as well as a list of 28 topics covering myriads of ministries, from Administration to Youth and Young Adults.

I clicked on Stewardship, one of the Featured Topics, and found not one page, but TWELVE PAGES of articles and links to recorded workshops – all about stewardship ministry. I read several posts as I investigated whether my topic idea had been covered by someone else.

Continue reading...

Topics: Stewardship
July 13, 2017 by Jerry Campbell

I looked at her capital campaign pledge card and set it aside. At first, I thought it must be a mistake. She couldn’t possibly afford to give this much. I knew her well. She was among the first to greet me when I first came to serve this parish, and was a regular volunteer in the church office. She was rarely absent on a Sunday morning. I knew that she lived off a minimal income and relied on assistance from a variety of community resources. I had visited her in her home often enough to know that she eschewed luxury, and obviously embraced a simple lifestyle out of necessity.

Continue reading...

Topics: Stewardship
July 10, 2017 by Annette Buchanan

For many, especially those in seasonal climates, the summer months (July and August) are regarded as the time when the church slows down. We may combine services, the priest maybe on vacation, the vestry may not meet, the choir may not sing, Sunday school may be cancelled, and many guilds will also suspend their meetings until the fall. While totally in agreement that we need rest and relaxation, and it is the most popular vacation time, do we all need to rest from church obligations at the same time. Sadly it is also a time when finances go on vacation as our support of the church dwindles during the summer months.

Continue reading...

Topics: Worship, Hospitality
July 4, 2017 by Linda Buskirk

On July 4, 1992, my husband and I boarded a train in East Berlin, heading for Warsaw, Poland. We struck up a conversation with a young Polish woman passenger, who, immediately upon learning we were Americans solemnly said, "Today is the anniversary of your freedom." It was the sweetest declaration of our independence I could have heard, full of yearning and understanding.

How we take it for granted. And not just the politics of it, but the faith of it. Many American Revolutionary leaders held a deep faith in God. They boldly believed they were acting in accordance with their faith, guided by God to fight for freedom. They prayed for America to be guided by God too.

Continue reading...