Top 10 Resolutions for Church Leaders in 2015

by Brendon Hunter on December 17, 2014

Top 10 Resolutions for Church Leaders in 2015


ECF Vital Practices, after taking a look back at the questions you asked us, has pulled together a Top 10 list of resolutions for congregational leaders to consider in 2015. If you find this list helpful, please subscribe to ECF Vital Practices to receive updates twice a month with recources for your congregation.


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Talking with Visitors

by Richelle Thompson on December 16, 2014

I wish our churches were more like my local hospital.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been to the hospital three times for some routine appointments and tests. Each time, even before I arrived at the right department, I felt warmly welcomed. Every person greeted me in some way, with a genuine smile or a good morning.

It made me feel like they liked their work, they felt a part of something bigger than themselves. They made me feel like I mattered.

I want to bottle up their hospitality and ship it off to every congregation in the country.

On Sunday and definitely on Christmas Eve, our churches will be filled. Visitors may be sitting in your regular pew. C-and-E’s (Christmas-and-Easter attendees) will be back. And this is a wonderful opportunity to exhibit gracious and gentle hospitality. A warm smile goes a long way. A kind greeting can set folks at ease.

If you’re at a loss of what to say to visitors, consider these examples: 

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Lessons From a Busy Fall

by Jeremiah Sierra on December 15, 2014

This has been an unusually busy fall for me. For several weeks, I was working on two issues of Trinity News, the magazine I edit for Trinity Wall Street, at the same time. During these weeks I learned several lessons in patience and project management, and now that I can reflect back on the experience, I thought I’d share a few of these lessons:

  • Set realistic deadlines. It’s easy to think about a single project and set deadlines that seem plausible in a vacuum. The trick is remembering that your project is almost always one of many. When setting deadlines, be honest with yourself about how much time each task will take and consider it in the context of all the other professional and personal demands on your time.
  • Recruit help early. As soon as you know you might need help, ask. This gives people time to arrange their schedules or for you to enlist other people to help if your volunteers or other staff members can’t help.
  • Do the small things sooner rather than later. It’s easy to leave the small, seemingly easy things to the end. I’ve been reminded recently it’s better to do those first, rather than let them accumulate to the crunch week, when everything is coming together. An small and simple task, left to the last minute, can turn into a headache.

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Advent Lessons from The Sound of Music, or A Few of Our Favorite Things

by Contributors from Episcopal Relief & Development on December 12, 2014

In my past life, I was an active theatrical director and designer. For a few years, I taught theater at a wonderful private school in Texas. During this time I helped to establish a theater program for the school. One of the highlights of this program was the annual musical production, which brought together students of all ages to perform for the school and local community. One year, we put up a fantastic production of The Sound of Music. As a gift for directing this show, a parent gave me a first edition copy of The Story of the Trapp Family Singers, signed by Maria von Trapp. Still one of the coolest editions on my bookshelf. She also gave me a copy of Around the Year with the Trapp Family. When the Trapps came to America from Austria, they brought with them the custom of carrying into daily life the teachings, the beliefs, the feasts and observations of their faith. Life in their home was a continuous response to the cycle and rhythm of the Church year.

In one of my favorite passages from Around the Year with the Trapp Family, Maria tells the story of a family tradition known as "Christkindl" (Christ Child), during the season of Advent:

Mother appears with the bowl, which she passes around. Pieces of paper containing the names of the members of the family and are neatly rolled up, because the drawing has to be done in great secrecy. The person whose name one has drawn is now in one's special care. From this day until Christmas, one has to do as many little favors for him or her as one can. One has to provide at least one surprise every single day — but without ever being found out. This creates a wonderful atmosphere of joyful suspense, kindness, and thoughtfulness. Perhaps you will find that somebody has made your bed or shined your shoes or has informed you, in a disguised handwriting on a holy card, that "a rosary has been said for you today" or a number of sacrifices have been offered up. This new relationship is called "Christkindl" (Christ Child) in the old country, where children believe that the Christmas tree and the gifts under it are brought down by the Christ Child himself.
The beautiful thing about this particular custom is that the relationship is a reciprocal one. The person whose name I have drawn and who is under my care becomes for me the helpless little Christ Child in the manger; and as I am performing these many little acts of love and consideration for someone in the family I am really doing them for the Infant of Bethlehem…At the same time I am the "Christkindl" also for the one I am caring for because I want to imitate the Holy Child and render all those little services in the same spirit as He did in that small house of Nazareth, when as a child He served His Mother and His foster father with a similar love and devotion... 
It is a delightful custom, which creates much of the true Christmas spirit and ought to be spread far and wide.

I’ve read Maria’s words a number of times, but there are two things that strike me differently on this occasion, as I’ve become steeped in the Asset-Based Community Development approach that we use in our work. 

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Mary Louise Patterson

by Anna Olson on December 11, 2014

In my first year as rector at St. Mary’s in Los Angeles I made several small pilgrimages.

I spent two cold, windy days walking around Manzanar, the best preserved of the camps where Japanese-Americans were imprisoned during World War II.

I walked the streets around the church, block-by-block, alone, and with the vestry.

And I went to visit the grave of Mary Louise Paterson. Ms Paterson was a Canadian-born missionary who had lived in Japan and adopted a daughter there. She and her son-in-law, Dr John Yamazaki, founded St. Mary’s as a mission to Japanese immigrants. John Yamazaki served as St. Mary’s first priest and vicar.

As tends to happen when we converse with the dead, I did most of the talking on my visit with Ms Paterson. I asked for her advice and blessing, and asked her to watch over my ministry. I filled her in on developments in the world and the church since her death in the late 1930s.

While she didn’t talk much that day, occasionally I sense some of the wisdom that Mary Louise Paterson brought to her role at St. Mary’s. One thing that stands out is that she immediately turned her attention to raising up and supporting leaders from within the Japanese immigrant community she had been called to serve. St. Mary’s developed in ways that made sense to the growing Japanese community, and in ways that ensured a Japanese-American vision and local leadership for the mission. The leadership dynasty that St. Mary’s is known for is the Yamazaki family, not Mary Louise Paterson, and rightly so.

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