"Why Didn't It Work?"

by Tom Ehrich on May 22, 2015

The associate pastor of a 225-member Presbyterian church in rural Virginia sent me an important question.

She described an extensive evangelism project they had undertaken -- at considerable expense and effort -- and asked "why it didn't quite work."

Rather than respond just to her, I thought I would make this a case study from which we all could learn.

Project summary

The church sent two postal mailings to residents of their draw area: one to 1,500 specific names from a purchased list, the other to 4,000 "postal customers." The card invited recipients to attend two meetings with church pastors to consider "When Your Spiritual GPS Says Recalculating: Finding God Again -- or for the First Time."

Three recipients responded to the first mailing but did nothing beyond attending two sessions. Not a single person responded to the second mailing.

I commend their decision to "reach outside our walls." Most congregations are far too inward-focused. Now the problems.

Problem 1: Not knowing the target audience

No one should try to "sell a product," be it cola or religion, without knowing what people want to "buy." I saw no sign that they understood their intended recipients. See problems 2, 3, 4 and 5.

Problem 2: Mushy pitch

Only a committee could love a 14-word title that says nothing. There's a reason why Apple has "The Watch is here." Brevity catches attention, conveys confidence and suggests focus.

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Strategic Thinking: How our biases impact our parish’s decisions

by Erin Weber-Johnson on May 21, 2015

Years ago, I was in a freshman at a Midwest liberal arts college. I took a required course for graduation called “Bible and Culture.” Rick McPeak, the professor, had three rules. The third rule, the one that captured this Episcopalian’s attention, was to commit to transcending my personal biases. 

At the time, I was 17 and unaware I could hold biases much less rise to transcend them. A required reading, which supported the class rules, was F. Scott Peck’s The Road Less Travelled. Peck noted in this formational book, “Human beings are poor examiners, subject to superstition, bias, prejudice and a profound tendency to see what they want to see than what is there.”

Years later, I’m still committed to working on it. Lately, I see the leaders of our Episcopal Churches and ministries living in to this same difficult work.
  • “We tried that once….”
  • “We don`t want to risk losing any members with this new ministry.”
  • “We`ve already sunk so much money into this ministry. We don`t want to miss out on it finally working!”
Do any of these sound familiar? Encountered at your most recent vestry or leadership meeting?
Harvard Business Review recently published a fascinating article entitled, “Leaders as Decision Architects” by John Beshears and Francesca Gino. In it the authors note:

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Permalink  |  0 Comments Change, Vision & Planning

Vital Practices Digest: 5 Resources for Conflict in Congregations

by Brendon Hunter on May 20, 2015


Conflict in Congregations


In this month’s Vital Practices Digest, we’re sharing 5 ways congregations can address or manage conflict while also building trust and well-being. Our 5th resource is offered to help congregations strengthen their practice of year round stewardship.

It’s easy and free to connect with these resources for your congregation. Subscribe to ECF Vital Practices to receive Vestry Papers and this Vital Practices Digest in your inbox each month.


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Screens In Worship

by Greg Syler on May 20, 2015

When I wrote a post about the old battle between using service bulletins or The Book of Common Prayer, I knew I’d get feedback, pushback, and a whole lot of unabashed opinions. My predictions were spot on, but the responses I got were also toned down, at least a bit, primarily because the point I was making was that there’s a middle way, something of a happy complimentary relationship between the two.

Up front, let me say that, in general, I think the best answer to most questions and issues we deal with as the church is both/and. And I think that that’s not just a compromise position but it’s an honest and integrated theological position, expressed in the comprehensiveness that is at the heart of Anglicanism.

Thus, having said all of that (see how it took more than 100 words to get there!) I want to make a case for video/visual screens in worship. I’m not going to really argue the point, and this is only a cursory case, at best. I’m talking about flat-screen TVs or projector screens, installed professionally and as part of an entire audio-visual overhaul of the parish hall and/or church space. At the very least it would be worthwhile to do a serious investigation of how screens might enhance or compliment our worship experience, then considering a congregation-wide conversation.

Now let the pushback and vitriol begin.

There are many advantages to screens in the worship space and setting. If you use screens to project prayers or songs, the people in worship will be looking up and be all the more engaged, together, in the act of corporate worship. Screens are a great way to push out announcements and advertisements for upcoming events. Some congregations might use screens for songs and prayers at a more contemporary service and for a slideshow of announcements before the service begins in a more traditional service. Screens can also eliminate the need for lengthy service bulletins that are time-consuming for the parish administrator.

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Nice People and Criticism

by Jeremiah Sierra on May 18, 2015

Most of us are nice people. We don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, least of all those of our employees or volunteers. Yet criticism is a necessary part of management.

From time to time I’ve had to manage people: interns, volunteers, and occasionally employees, and of course like most of us, I’ve worked for several managers, good and bad. Here are a few things I’ve found make giving and receiving criticism easier:

Communicate often. If you’re in regular communication with your employees, then presumably you’ll regularly be offering them positive feedback, as well as occasional critiques. This will make the negative feedback easier to hear. It also allows them to better understand your communication style so they can interpret your feedback. Consider regular check-ins with your employees or volunteers.

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