• Preparing for Lay Only Leadership ✓
    Vestry Papers
    A model being used in the Episcopal Diocese of Eastern Michigan helps lay leaders make the shift from full time clergy to working with part time or supply priests.
  • Shared Leadership ✓
    Vestry Papers
    Several small congregations in the Diocese of Colorado are growing and thriving as a result of their adoption of a shared leadership model.
  • Getting Outside of Our Churches
    Vital Posts
    For many, their only worship experience or connection with other Episcopalians are in their home congregations. There are churches that are less than a mile apart and as individuals or congregations we have never visited or seen the inside of our n…
  • Alternative Questions and the Church
    Vital Posts
    Discussions of crowd size have blanketed the news this past month. Friday’s crowd was small, and Saturday’s crowd was bigger, so we judge the value of these two ideas based solely on audience participation. The Episcopal Church knows a th…
  • Tree of Life Stewardship Campaign
    Vital Posts
    For years I have used Vestry Papers and TENS resources at my church (St. Mark’s Episcopal in Boonsboro, Maryland) sharing them with vestry members. This year we re-focused our stewardship letter and presentation; I am sharing our letter and Tree …
  • Tree of Life Stewardship Campaign
    Your Turn
    I am sharing our stewardshipletter and Tree of Life illustration with you to show what a smaller church can accomplish.
  • Inspired by the Mustard Seed
    Vestry Papers
    St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Amenia Union, New York was a parish of 16 when priest Elizabeth Fisher accepted their call 10 years ago. “Inspired by the Mustard Seed” shares the story of a tiny church with a mission to do great things who, by us…
  • Reclaiming Morning Prayer
    Vital Posts
    The message heard loud and clear at our monthly UBE (Union of Black Episcopalians) meetings at different congregations throughout the Diocese of New Jersey was how difficult it was to fill all Sunday services with a clergy person. The reasons were …
  • Should We Make Decisions Today That People Tomorrow Will Change?
    Vital Posts
    For the past several weeks, I’ve snuck a hour or half-hour, here or there, on as many days as I can to clear rocks from the rectory’s front yard in Valley Lee. My late predecessor, his wife tells me, got a call one day from a friend who offered…
  • Backpacks: God’s Work
    Vital Posts
    Back to school time! Pencils, pencil boxes, notebooks, markers, glue sticks, tissues, hand sanitizer... Lists of required school supplies are long and diverse for each grade, each school. Many churches engage their members to “shop the list” a…
  • “Persuaded That What We Teach Is True, Undertake To Live Accordingly”
    Vital Posts
    “As many as are persuaded and believe that what we teach and say is true, and undertake to be able to live accordingly, are instructed to pray and to entreat God with fasting, for the remission of their sins that are past, we pray and fast with…
  • Peace Garden
    Vestry Papers
    In 2012, neighbors believed the church was closed. It wasn’t. Four years later, there are visible signs of life at St. Alban’s Episcopal Church in Indianapolis. “Peace Garden” by David Paulsen, with an introduction by Nancy Davidge, tells the…
  • A Ministry of Space
    Vestry Papers
    Sharing our buildings with others can tax a congregation’s resources. “A Ministry of Space” by Louise Fortuna shares how, on a shoestring budget and without a sexton, this downtown church has become a true community hub.
  • Reconciliation House
    Vestry Papers
    For Janice Ford and Peter Kosciusko, their commitment to the full recovery and rehabilitation of men incarcerated in the local county jail was the catalyst for the transformation of the rectory at their Episcopal Church into a sober house, providing …
  • Piano-Strings Evangelism
    Vital Posts
    Festival season is gearing up, and hopefully congregations are spending some serious creative time thinking about how to make the most of these evangelism opportunities. St. James Episcopal Church in Piqua, Ohio, has one idea: Invite folks to…
  • Part Time ≠ Less Than
    Vestry Papers
    Across our church congregations wrestle with decisions related to clergy staffing. Recognizing many congregations may associate moving to part time clergy a ‘failure. ‘ Cathie Caimano suggests reframing the conversation by asking different questi…
  • 1 Church, 4 Locations
    Vital Posts
    The far corner of northwest Indiana is a collection of cities and towns at the edge of greater Chicago. Through decades of multiplying suburban communities, Episcopal parishes were established throughout this region. As steel mills closed in a chan…
  • Easier Entries and Exits?
    Vital Posts
    A colleague recently mentioned that she was starting a music project for Christmas. The commitment for participants would be six weeks of rehearsals. She said it seemed much easier to get people to commit to something that had a clear start and fin…
  • Swap-a-Priest
    Vital Posts
    On Sunday, we had a new priest. For the day. And our priest made his way to her congregation. Pulpit exchanges aren’t a new concept, but I’d like to promote a resurgence. Having clergy swap for a day can be an important exercise in unders…
  • Blessings and Struggles of Scrappy Church Ministry
    Webinars
    Do you find yourself serving a congregation that in the face of great adversity still holds an incorruptible spirit of resilience and determination? If so, welcome to the club because you are serving a “Scrappy Church”.
  • The Gift of Time
    Vital Posts
    I am reminded again and again that ministry takes time. Relationships take time. Changes takes time. New life takes time. Even resurrection took three days, for heaven’s sake. We are in a huge hurry in the church these days. In part, we are m…
  • I'm Excited to See the Potential in the Rural Church
    Vital Posts
    A bivocational Episcopal priest in eastern Kentucky shares his joy at being part of a changing church. It’s a clear morning in the Bluegrass Region of Kentucky. Mist is rising over the rolling hills and limestone fences. Horses graze on the…
  • Growing Our Church
    Vestry Papers
    Estela Lopez shares the story of the rebirth of a struggling church in Texas. A shared vision and inviting all members to become leaders are central to the success of this ministry. (Also available in Spanish.)
  • Let it be, Eleanor Rigby
    Vital Posts
    There’s tradition, Episcopal style, and then there’s rock royalty. A congregation in the heart of Kentucky decided to marry the two for a good cause. When the local food pantry needed help, the folks at St. John’s, Versailles, got c…
  • A Good Start
    Vital Posts
    We still have the dog days of summer ahead, but fall isn’t far beyond. And with the start of school comes the start of the program year for churches. Hopefully yours already has been talking about how to kick off the year in grand fashion. …
  • Innovative Leadership Rounds Explained
    Vital Posts
    Perhaps I got ahead of myself with my last blog post. It happens. I am often guilty of: “Ready. Fire. Aim.” In mentioning the Minnesotans' trip to Southside Abbey, I mentioned the Innovative Leadership Rounds, without really unpacking what that…
  • From Secretary to Administrator
    Vital Posts
    A few weeks ago, I finally got caught up on compiling the time-sheets our church’s parish administrator fills out every week. I know it doesn’t sound like much, nor does it sound very exciting, but it’s all part of a larger shift we’ve been…
  • There’s Something About Sunday School
    Vital Posts
    We’re getting ready to celebrate our Sunday School kids and families and teachers this Sunday. At the later service, the children will get their certificates, the families will get their photo ‘op,’ and the teachers will be honored, as well. …
  • Wallpaper the Church with Photos!
    Vital Posts
    In this digital age most of us take a lot of pictures. I'm amazed by how fast I can accumulate 1000 pictures on my phone. Most of the time I show them off on the phone itself, passing around particularly good images and inviting friends to scroll t…
  • The Sacrament of the Nametags
    Vital Posts
    This post is also available in Spanish here. Third Sunday is mash-up Sunday at St. Mary’s. We bring together all three of our Sunday worshipping groups -- from our two English and one Spanish service -- plus Trinity Church, our neighbor congr…
  • Laundry Love Ministry
    Vital Posts
    Holy Trinity, Manistee recently completed month 8 of its Laundry Love ministry. We learned about this idea last summer from a video sent out by The Episcopal Church. We hadn’t thought of this as a ministry opportunity until then, but it was immed…
  • Hearts and Hands of Jesus
    Vestry Papers
    Because of the commitment of Lee and Charlie Manning and with the support of the St. James' Episcopal congregation in Payette, Idaho, 20 men at the Snake River Correctional Institution know that God loves and cares for them, even while they are in ex…
  • Going That Extra Mile
    Vestry Papers
    A present day ‘man on the road to Jericho’ story that reminds us that Christianity is a living thing, that our faith stories of today mirror the ancient stories in the Gospels, and that each of us has the opportunity to follow Christ through our …
  • Bag of Marbles
    Vital Posts
    I keep getting in trouble with my snarky rejoinders to the endless blogs and advice columns exhorting me to keep my church website up to date. Some people dismiss careless website management as inexcusable sloppiness. Others patiently explain …
  • Ten-Minute Fundraiser
    Vital Posts
    Okay, so I might be underestimating a tad, but here’s an idea for a quick-and-easy fundraiser. Think about upcoming church-wide events. Hymn sing? Thanksgiving gathering? Wreath making? You want an event that will attract a significant prop…
  • There will be Trespasses!
    Vital Posts
    Lately I’ve been paying attention to what Jesus asks of us in prayer and relationship. I understand the instructions not just in terms of what we are to do, but also as a sign of what God knows about the formation of human community. Sometimes we…
  • August 2014 Editor’s Letter: Leading Change
    Vital Posts
    This month’s Vestry Papers shares somewhat similar stories from congregations across our church. All faced real challenges. Some related to issues inside the church: leadership transitions, declining membership, decreased income, and rising opera…
  • Pooling Resources
    Vestry Papers
    Four small churches of different denominations have found new energy by working and occasionally worshipping together. Three of these four churches also share a rector.
  • No Saints, No Heros, No Martyrs
    Vestry Papers
    The leadership team of a small church, over the course of a year, moved from being tired and anxious to enthusiastic about the way in which ‘the Holy Spirit is working through us and with us.'
  • What Do We Want to Be?
    Vital Posts
    Ten would have been considered a success.    But when twenty-six women showed up for a Saturday morning retreat sponsored by the Episcopal Church Women, the numbers alone were enough to make the group take notice.    I suspect that many ECW…
  • Flash Mass
    Vital Posts
    If imitation is a form of flattery, then I suggest we heap some compliments on an idea out of western New York. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Buffalo has offered a clever twist on the flash mob. In layman’s terms, a flash mob is when a grou…
  • Small Churches
    Vital Posts
    This past Sunday I went to hear my friend preach at a very small Episcopal church in Manhattan. They had me fill out a welcome card and during the announcements they mentioned my name and everyone clapped to welcome me. This was probably unnecessar…
  • Missional Churches = Real Churches – Regardless of Size
    Vital Posts
    I recently had the pleasure of presenting at Episcopal Appalachian Ministries' Mountain Grace Conference, “We(e) Small Voice – Exploring Small and Non-Traditional Church in Appalachia." While there, I was honored to be part of wonderfully hones…
  • Small-Group Experiments
    Vital Posts
    If your church always has high attendance at every formation program and is fully subscribed to Sunday School, don’t read further. This blog isn’t for you.    This is for the 99 percent of churches that struggle with finding ways to attract…
  • An Afternoon Caller
    Vital Posts
    I stumbled across the Facebook post and was floored: these kids I remembered playing tag in the back of the church were headed to college. I flashed back to the first day I met them. The family, mom and dad, a son and daughter, visited the st…
  • Becoming Grace
    Vestry Papers
  • Pushing Past Fear
    Vestry Papers
    “Pushing Past Fear” by Karen Hunter shares what can happen when a congregation commits itself to being church in the world. The growth – and success - of Grace Episcopal’s mission church, La Gracia Farmland, is largely due to being comfortabl…
  • Start at the Very Beginning
    Vital Posts
    Julie Andrews had it right. In “The Sound of Music,” she begins to teach her young charges about notes and singing. When she realizes that they don’t even have a basic understanding, she backs up and encourages them. “Let’s st…
  • Pluck
    Vital Posts
    I’m not sure the Bible mentions the word pluck (other than a few pesky references to removing one’s eye), but Jesus is clear time and again that his followers should exhibit the values imbued in the word. Trusty Webster defines pluck as a…
  • Shake, Rattle, Roll, and Bless
    Vital Posts
    If you can’t beat ‘em, join them. That’s what the people of Grace, Pomeroy decided. Each Memorial Day weekend, hundreds of Harley Davidson motorcycles roll into the small Ohio River town for an annual holiday ride. The revs …
  • Overview of Church Size Theory
    Tools
    A resource offering a brief overview of church size theory that can be used by lay leaders or clergy to explain how church size effects the culture of a congregation.
  • The Promised Land?
    Vestry Papers
    Is the Internet the 'Promised Land' for congregational communication? Sharon Richy Turner explores how churches are using Internet based resources to share the Good News.
  • Little Church, Big Mission
    Vital Posts
    I used to think I belonged to a small Episcopal Church. Both the parish where I grew up, in Lake Geneva, WI, as well as my congregation in New York City probably have about 60 people in worship on Sundays. I’ve known the rectors and their familie…
  • Leaving is Lonely
    Vital Posts
  • Here, Hear the Children
    Vital Posts
    The call came a few hours after the parish meeting. A young dad, he wanted his priest to know about a situation, in case it escalated. The diocesan transitions officer was meeting with the people of the parish to talk about next steps since t…
  • Church in the Round
    Your Turn
    In fall 2011 St. Andrew’s in Seattle, WA began the visioning process for a new mission center in the heart of Lake City.
  • Broken Windows
    Vital Posts
    Who would think that cleaning up graffiti and cracking down on jaywalkers could lower crime rates? This is the main premise of the broken-windows theory, which posits that a cleaner, more orderly neighborhood is less likely to attract criminals…
  • Charting a New Path
    Vital Posts
    The economic news in Dayton, Ohio, isn’t good. Long a manufacturing hub, the city has acutely felt the national financial woes. One in 10 workers are unemployed, and job loss is among the highest in the state. But leave it to the Epis…
  • The Baptist Bus Driver
    Vital Posts
    Herb beckoned for my husband to come to the bus door. My daughter found this book for me, Herb said. It is really amazing. I’m learning all kinds of new things. Have you ever seen a book like this? The words “Holy Scripture”…
  • Is it Worth It?
    Vital Posts
    “If no one else signs up to help, you’ll have to bring me in on a stretcher next week.” This was the closing line of a lay leader’s announcement last Sunday, as she pleaded for more volunteers to make blueberry cobbler for the town’s annu…
  • Three Cups of Coffee
    Vital Posts
    This past July, Tim Schenk, Episcopal priest and blogger at Clergy Family Confidential, tweeted “Forget the tea. I should write a best-selling book called ‘Three Cups of Coffee.’ Subtitle: A Day in the Life of Fr. Tim." As might be expected,…
  • Green Shoots from the Stump
    Vestry Papers
    In the first of a two-part series, the Rev. Brent Owens writes that when you're down, you're not out.
  • Vestry as Spiritual Leaders?
    Vital Posts
    How would your vestry's work differ from current practice if the spiritual health of the congregation was its primary obligation? One of the best kept secrets in the Episcopal Church has to do with the wide range of work that vestries can ta…
  • An Unexpected Gift
    Vital Posts
    A crew from Calvary, Ashland, Ky., was supposed to be rolling in late last night, weary but exhilarated from a train trip to Washington, D.C., part pilgrimage to the National Cathedral, part journey on historic rail cars. But first there was …
  • God Moments
    Vital Posts
    In college my friends and I became fond of saying “God works in the Housing Office.” As I entered my sophomore year and returned to a small suite of rooms in the dorm, I realized an immediate connection with the two first-year students plac…
  • The Hunger Games
    Vital Posts
    As I mentioned in my post last week, summer is novel reading time. I recently read the first two books of Suzanne Collin’s The Hunger Games, a popular and unnervingly dark young adult novel. In this series a violent society pits starving teenagers …
  • A Children's Place
    Vital Posts
    Episcopalians aren’t the only people God trusts to take the summer off. At our church, the nursery attendant goes home from college, and the kids join the congregation for the whole service. During the program year, the nursery is staffed…
  • Space invaders
    Vital Posts
    The air conditioner died, not with a bang but a whimper. Because of problems getting the parts, it would be a month before the company could install a new unit. With early June temperatures in the 90s – and the priest already prone to sweat…
  • Building Community -- at a Campground -- and Church
    Vital Posts
    Campers could share a lot with parishioners when it comes to building community. We travel frequently with our children – my son was seven weeks old when I flew to New York City for a business trip. I wasn’t ready to leave him yet, so we …
  • Losing Your Pew, Gaining ground
    Vital Posts
    Prepare to lose your regular pew this Sunday. Churches are full-to-the-brim on Easter Sunday, with twice-a-year, Christmas-and-Easter guests and first-time visitors feeling inspired to make more of the day than egg hunts and candy-swapping. …
  • The Little Church That Could
    Vital Posts
    “We had an emergency building committee meeting on Thursday. The boiler is failing. But when I left the meeting, after 2 hours, I was so energized!” That isn’t the usual response from a property committee chair. But it was Liz’s respons…
  • Soul Food Pyramid
    Vital Posts
    Have you had 6-8 servings of sacred story? What about the recommended monthly 2-4 servings of Christian action?  The Soul Food Pyramid outlines what is needed for a healthy, balanced spiritual diet.  Developed by the folks at St. Patrick’…
  • Growing Pains
    Vital Posts
    I just got off the phone with a friend who’s been priest-in-charge of a congregation that's grown from an average Sunday attendance of 30 to about 80 in a little less than two years. "It’s a tough day!" she exclaimed. It was only noon. I'd …
  • Back to basics
    Vital Posts
    The first semester of our experiment ends tonight. My church is a typical county-seat congregation in the foothills of Appalachia. If only Christmas Eve were our typical attendance on Sunday mornings, we’d be a packed 150. Instead, most Sun…
  • Church and State
    Vital Posts
    The separation of church and state is a key cornerstone of the U.S. government. At the same time, everyone at my noonday meeting on Tuesday had cast their vote in a local church. This juxtaposition struck me today as we move from one of the most…
  • Saints Alive
    Vital Posts
    Faye laundered money. Literally. At the small, rural church, she collected the offering at the end of the service and hid it in her clothes hamper until she could make it to the bank. We discovered the occasions when she washed the purse wi…
  • Beginnings
    Fieldwork
    Alex Montes-Vela, priest in the Diocese of Texas shares the story of the birth and growth of St. Mary Magdalene in Manor (pronounced Maynor), Texas.
  • Limited funds, limited time, yet success
    Vestry Papers
    Many small parishes never undertake capital campaigns because of the difficulties and limitations that come with having few resources.
  • Editor's note
    Vestry Papers
    There are a few myths floating around about small congregations: they reflect the demise of the Church; they are poor; they are troublesome; and they are a minority in the Episcopal Church.
  • Revolution brews in the baptismal font
    Vestry Papers
    “You are troublemakers,” charged Tom Ray, retired bishop from the Diocese of Northern Michigan, which has been on the forefront of the Total Ministry movement in the Episcopal Church for the past twenty-five years. “This is serious stuff.”
  • Ups and downs of small church ministry
    Vestry Papers
    In the Book of Deuteronomy Moses says to the Israelites, “See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse.” He holds up the entire life of faith and offers his people a choice — to love and serve the Lord their God or to revolt and ig…
  • What is a “vital small congregation?”
    Vestry Papers
    Some congregations are vital and alive; others are not. Why?
  • Feeding your soul in the small church
    Vestry Papers
    Being senior warden is demanding, regard- less of the size of your congregation. In a small congregation, though, the demands are magnified because church staff members are in short supply.
  • Learning from the Small Church Way
    Webinars
    In this webinar, Kay Collier McLaughlin explores the leadership and financial lessons that the wider Church can gain from our many small churches. Dr. Kay Collier McLaughlin is the Bishop's Deputy for Communications and Leadership Development for the…
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