• What are you waiting for? ✓
    Vital Posts
    Among my character traits, you will not find “waits with patience.”  Whether it’s for a table at a restaurant, on hold with customer service, or anticipating a big trip, waiting is not among my virtues.  That makes Advent really hard.…
  • Time to be a Gracious Loser ✓
    Vital Posts
    I planned to be a gracious winner the week after the election.  I wasn’t going to rub it in the faces of folks who had been Donald Trump supporters. My social media presence would be demure, and while I expected to dance a little jig inside, …
  • Models for Vestry Leadership of Faith Formation ✓
    Webinars
    So your vestry has a handle on the financials. But how are you doing as leaders and stewards of your church's faith formation ministries? In this webinar the Center for the Ministry of Teaching posits four "developmental stages" of vestry leadership …
  • Making the Most of Your Vestry Retreat ✓
    Webinars
    Vestry retreats are investments of time, energy and (often) money. This one-hour webinar will provide an overview of a design process for vestry retreats that will help you make the most of these investments. In particular, we will talk about: ● D…
  • Senior Warden Ministry: Mission Impossible? ✓
    Webinars
    “Your Mission, potential senior warden, should you choose to accept it…” Serving as senior warden can be one of the most spiritually rewarding experiences for a lay leader. This one hour webinar is designed to present practical tips and consid…
  • Leadership in Times of Change ✓
    Vestry Papers
    This article shares a model to help leaders manage change, be aware of their own feelings, and help parishioners address their own emotions to support health, wholeness and vitality for years to come.
  • 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.
  • Tools for Healthy Communities ✓
    Vestry Papers
    Using the monastic Rule of Life as a guide, Br. David Vryhof shares how vestries and other leaders can develop a covenant to both form and function well as a group.
  • Strategic Thinking for Congregations ✓
    Webinars
    How we are responding to the rapid pace of change throughout the Church and in the world around us, and how we can be proactively addressing it? With change happening at an ever increasingly rapid pace around us, congregations can no longer afford to…
  • On Being a Senior Warden ✓
    Vestry Papers
    In “On Being a Senior Warden,” Robert Harris shares some of his experiences as senior warden in two congregations over a number of years. Having worked with a variety of rectors with varying levels of experience and characteristics, his advice ra…
  • 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.
  • Vision for Impact, Not Just Change ✓
    Vestry Papers
    When Christ Church in Pensacola began to think about their future, they engaged in a process of strategic thinking. Their goal was to identify their vision and their values, as well as some priorities for strategic action. Linda Buskirk shares their…
  • A Blueprint for Change ✓
    Vestry Papers
    Our church is vibrant, alive, and very connected to our community, as well as to The Episcopal Church at the diocesan, provincial, and denominational levels. It hasn’t always been that way...
  • Teams Built on Trust ✓
    Vestry Papers
    Our capacity to move into the future depends on the ability of our congregational leaders to function effectively as a team.
  • Building Strong Teams: A Tool for Identifying and Addressing Five Common Areas of Dysfunction ✓
    Tools
    ECF Vital Teams consultant Rosa Lindahl believes a leadership team’s capacity to move into the future depends on its ability to function effectively. What can we, as congregational leaders, do to discuss more openly and honestly the ways in which o…
  • Transformational Churches ✓
    Vestry Papers
    Mike Michie and Clay Lein have been successful church planters with thriving congregations. They share the three tenets they follow to have committed and empowered leaders.
  • Vestry as Body of Christ ✓
    Vestry Papers
  • The Power of a Shared Nightmare ✓
    Vital Posts
    This past weekend, my colleague Brendon Hunter and I took part in the annual Leadership Development Initiative (LDI) training in the Diocese of Massachusetts. If you are unfamiliar with LDI, know that it is one of the most important and inspiring e…
  • My Top Ten: Vestry Responsibilities ✓
    Vestry Papers
    Just as the Great Commission—“Go therefore into the world to make disciples of all nations”—does not go into great detail on how exactly to accomplish that mission, so the canons of the Episcopal Church are not particularly specific about the…
  • Avoiding the Quick Fix ✓
    Vestry Papers
    The greatest gift vestry members can give their churches is creative, positive challenge and support of their rector(s).
  • Elephants in the Sanctuary ✓
    Vestry Papers
    Conflict. It’s inevitable. It occurs every day, in every facet of our lives.
  • Living Into Our Ministries ✓
    Tools
    This guide is for conducting effective mutual ministry reviews in one's congregation. It was collaboratively developed by the Episcopal Church Foundation, the Episcopal Church Center's Offices for Ministry Development and Deployment and many diocesan…
  • Structured Team Approach to Mutual Ministry Review ✓
    Your Turn
    Marshall Ganz's Structured Team Resource was used as a basis for the annual mutual ministry review.
  • Structuring Leadership Teams ✓
    Tools
    The most effective leaders have always created teams to work with and lead with them. Take Moses in the story of Exodus, or Jesus and the apostles in the New Testament, or Martin Luther King Jr. in the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Our own ministries cou…
  • Cultivating a Culture of Discernment ✓
    Vestry Papers
    St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in St. Paul, MN has been re-envisioning the role of the vestry over the last five years: inviting vestry members to understand their role as that of a spiritual discernment team.
  • Ways to Let God Lead Your Vestry
    Webinars
    The Episcopal Church canons declare that the vestry is responsible for things “temporal,” but buildings and budgets are spiritual matters. More than that, if vestry members want to help their faith community participate in God’s mission more fu…
  • 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…
  • Vestry Orientation
    Webinars
    This webinar will help you understand roles, responsibilities, and best practices for vestries. You will learn how to move your vestry from a focus on day-to-day management or crisis response to a more effective form of leadership. Designed for clerg…
  • Trust the Process
    Vestry Papers
    How did you learn about lay leadership and decision making in the Episcopal Church? In Trust the Process, Jade Mohorko Ortiz, shares her moving personal story of coming into the Episcopal Church, in which she learns the value of order and process, an…
  • Discernment in the Vestry Process
    Vestry Papers
    In Discernment in the Vestry Process, Bruce A. Freeman draws from personal experience to emphasize the importance of a careful, spiritual discernment process by and for congregational leaders to ensure the work of the church is relayed and continues …
  • New Leadership for a Changing Church
    Vestry Papers
    What will our Episcopal church look like in 100 years? Numbers and trends suggest a drastic makeover is in order. In New Leadership for a Changing Church, ECF President Donald V. Romanik, alerts us to the swiftly changing landscape, and shares how ch…
  • Vestry Covenants: A Great Start to 2017
    Webinars
    A covenant can be a powerful tool for helping a vestry or other leadership team to establish group expectations and accountability. By establishing shared norms and expectations after the new vestry convenes each year, a vestry can lay a foundation f…
  • Words Create Worlds
    Vital Posts
    On Christmas morning a few weeks ago, we turned from the infant in the cradle to give our worship to the mighty God who came among us as that baby. We read these words: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was G…
  • Vestry Orientation
    Webinars
    This webinar will help you understand roles, responsibilities, and best practices for vestries. You will learn how to move your vestry from a focus on day-to-day management or crisis response to a more effective form of leadership. Designed for clerg…
  • Spiritual Gifts
    Vestry Papers
    Does your church conduct a Spiritual Gifts Assessment for its parishioners? Jennifer LeBlanc shares the experience of her church’s spiritual gifts assessment in Spiritual Gifts.
  • Lessons From a Senior Warden
    Vestry Papers
    The role of the warden, in relationship to the rector, vestry and the congregation is a significant one in the life of the church. What are the primary responsibilities of the job? And how best are they prioritized and balanced?
  • Beginning Your Vestry’s Work Together
    Vestry Papers
    Nathan E. Kirkpatrick shares the importance of intentionally forming the vestry as group of leaders and disciples by learning both each other’s values and the expectations of the role, while always keeping in the focus the main reason for serving o…
  • Street Performers, Strangers, and Community
    Vital Posts
    My wife and I recently spent a few days of vacation in New Orleans. Jackson Square is one of my favorite places on the planet, largely because of its collective and eclectic group of artists, performers, and tourists. This time I happened upon …
  • Looking Back and Going Forward
    Vital Posts
    Almost like those moments that begin sometime late at night Christmas Eve and continue the next several days, the world begins to hush during Thanksgiving week. People re-connect and spend precious time with their loved ones, and there’s not much…
  • Selecting Leaders in our Churches
    Vital Posts
    Annual meetings are being held in many of our congregations in the next few months. We will have the opportunity to elect leaders to include wardens, vestry members and delegates to diocesan conventions.  It is important for us to reflect on ho…
  • I Want to be Like Bean Blossom
    Vital Posts
    Like most of the country, I had never heard of Bean Blossom (also spelled Beanblossom) Indiana, before this weekend. It’s honestly the kind of name someone on the blue parts of the coasts might make up to mock the perceived backwardness or hokey-…
  • ECF First Step: Assessment tool for Congregations
    Webinars
    Annual giving, mission and vision, legacy giving, volunteer engagement, leadership formation – all of these are important for your church. Where do you prioritize your time? How can you address the needs of each without burning out staff and volunt…
  • Looking Back for Decisions Ahead
    Vital Posts
    Many of us know what it’s like to be new a decision making body such as a vestry. It can take a while to ‘get-up-to-speed’ with the organization, getting to that place where you feel you know enough about its history, ethos, and current chall…
  • Witnessing Faithfully Beyond the Walls
    Webinars
    This webinar explores neighborhood-based house church ministry as one form of mission that can bring Episcopalians from established congregations into communion with others in their wider parish to witness together to the presence of Christ and the K…
  • 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 …
  • Hands Off: Letting Teens Take the Lead
    Vital Posts
    Our youth group’s revival started with a half-century old confirmation bulletin. A member of the church brought in his confirmation bulletin to share with the priest. As he looked at it, he noticed an interesting addition. In the listing of c…
  • Vestries: The Next Six Months
    Webinars
    Fall and winter are busy times for vestries in the Episcopal Church. This one-hour webinar will provide an overview of free, online resources and exemplary practices in the following areas: - Jump starting your annual stewardship campaign - Nominati…
  • The Best Fit: Matching Volunteer Skill Sets to Needs
    Vital Posts
    Not all volunteers are created equal. Or to paraphrase another cultural bastion: Differ’nt strokes for different folks. A faithful, careful reader of Vital Practices stopped me at church on Sunday to talk about last week’s blog, in whic…
  • Vital Practices Digest: 5 Resources on Spirituality and Leadership
    Vital Posts
    In the July Vital Practices Digest, we offer 5 resources centered on spiritual aspects of leadership in congregations, with the 5th a resource to help in developing year-round stewardship in your congregation. It’s easy and free to con…
  • Fruit by Committee?
    Vital Posts
    We come to our churches with many gifts. One spirit supplies our gifts. Diverse as we are, we are one in this spirit. This is lovely, Biblical reality. So why do the fruits of our gifts sometimes seem a little sparse? In many congregations, the…
  • Theology of Interruption
    Vital Posts
    Editor’s note: Long weekends are wonderful. Until you return to work on Tuesday. For today’s summer rerun, we’re sharing one of Richelle Thompson’s past posts that seems appropriate as many of us return to an overstuffed inbox after the lon…
  • God Mission And The Church’s Organization
    Vital Posts
    A title like this should go with a longer, more comprehensive and sufficiently nuanced piece, or perhaps a book. Be forewarned: this is not that contribution. It isn’t even close. Here’s what I want to share: St. George’s in Valley Lee, M…
  • Collaborative Ministry Covenant
    Your Turn
    Documents developed by two congregations who envision a sharing future who have developed a covenant to guide their conversations to explore collaboration.
  • The Speed (or Lack Thereof) of Change
    Vital Posts
    The conversation about building a parking lot began before I was born. And while I’m not ready for the pasture, I, sadly, no longer qualify as spring chicken. Welcome to church time, which runs apace with glaciers. I wonder if you, like u…
  • Vital Teams Interview Tool
    Tools
    An interview tool to help congregations in a clergy search process identify individuals with strong team leadership skills.
  • Congregational Confidentiality and Release of Info
    Your Turn
    Who has found some good norms for confidentiality? Who has figured out some helpful and healthy practices around confidentiality? Please share them.
  • Leadership Confidence And Confidentiality
    Vital Posts
    Shortly after arriving at St. George’s, nearly nine years ago, I had lunch with the extended supply priest who preceded me. “One thing I really worked hard on while I was serving there,” she said that afternoon, “was to confront and, I thin…
  • Navigation Aids
    Vestry Papers
    What resources are available to congregations navigating a significant transition? “Navigation Aids” by Randy Ferebee invites readers to consider three pathways for building relationships to support using resources readily available to many of us…
  • The Little Generation that Could
    Vital Posts
    Remember Generation X?  If you Google us, here’s what you may get as the first response: Gen·er·a·tion X noun 1. The generation born after that of the baby boomers (roughly from the early 1960s to mid 1970s), often perceived …
  • There's No "i" in Team
    Vital Posts
    There’s no "i" in team. But I sort of expected there was one in leader. As I have risen in my career and in leadership positions at my church, I confess that there has been a lot of “i” in my expression as leader. All of those personality…
  • The Kindness of Strangers
    Vital Posts
    Blanche Dubois might always depend on the kindness of strangers, but I am inspired by their faithfulness. In an airport lounge, I took a seat next to an older couple. The man wore a clergy collar, so I asked if he was Episcopalian. For the next…
  • "A truth-teller with a sincere and faithful heart"
    Vital Posts
    "But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ..." (Ephesians 4:15) This morning I attended the funeral of a former parishioner of mine at St. Francis Church in Holden [Massachusetts]. I'll c…
  • Strategic Visioning and Planning for Congregation
    Webinars
    How are we responding to the rapid pace of change throughout the Church and in the world around us, and how we can be proactively addressing it? With change happening at an ever increasingly rapid pace around us, congregations can no longer afford to…
  • April 2016 Editor’s Letter: Conflict
    Vital Posts
    Conflict may take several forms. Many times it has to do with an imbalance of power or a sense that everyone is not being treated fairly. It may be visible to all or more subtly, be building bit by bit despite the best efforts of those deter…
  • Room for Doubt
    Vital Posts
    For a few years in college I was a part of a small chapter of a national fundamentalist group called Campus Crusade for Christ. The other members were very kind and sincere, but they didn’t really know how to handle questions that lacked easy or …
  • Developing a Leadership Covenant
    Webinars
    Church leaders serve God and serve the congregation. But how can they serve one another amidst tough discussions and challenging disagreements? How can steady, faithful behavior serve as a model for the church as a whole? This hour-long webinar explo…
  • Paying Attention: What's Under the Surface?
    Vital Posts
    The other day in church, we sang a song called “What We Need is Here.” I was overcome with an almost suffocating feeling I couldn’t quite name, something between nostalgia and sadness. The song is a lovely simple melody that the church sings …
  • March 2016 Editor’s Letter: Conflict
    Vital Posts
    What is it about human behavior that lends itself to conflict? As followers of Christ, rather than pretending differences or bad behaviors don’t exist, can we break the cycle and instead learn new ways of building up the beloved community? …
  • Getting Along in a Really Strange, Big Family
    Vestry Papers
    Can we learn new ways of dealing with conflict? Kay Collier McLaughlin’s “Trying To 'Get Along' In A Really Strange, Big Family” offers an approach to help congregational leaders identify destructive behaviors and replace them with healthier al…
  • Vestry Orientation
    Webinars
    This webinar will help you understand roles, responsibilities, and best practices for vestries. You will learn how to move your vestry from a focus on day-to-day management or crisis response to a more effective form of leadership. Designed for clerg…
  • Let the Children Lead
    Vital Posts
    Jesus is still encouraging us to let the children come to him, not least because they can explain the new features of an iPhone. The Church as a whole has a mixed record when it comes to fully embracing children as equal participants in the bod…
  • Valuing All Parts of the Body of Christ
    Vital Posts
    One of my favorite television shows is the BBC show, Sherlock. It's all about Benedict Cumberbatch's flashy and clever version of Sherlock Holmes, and of course his partner, John Watson. While the show is about Sherlock, it is just as much about Wa…
  • Vital Practices Digest: 5 Vestry Tools for January
    Vital Posts
    Are you interested in practical, spiritually grounded resources for your congregation? Subscribe to ECF Vital Practices: A collection of articles, tools, and resources by and for congregational leaders. With a subscription, you’ll receive…
  • Vestry Orientation
    Webinars
    This webinar will help you understand roles, responsibilities, and best practices for vestries. You will learn how to move your vestry from a focus on day-to-day management or crisis response to a more effective form of leadership. Designed for clerg…
  • Turbulence And Joy In The Fountain Of Youth
    Vital Posts
    “Why don’t these younger people start doing more around here?” It’s a common refrain I’ve heard for years, perhaps one of the most consistent things I’ve heard throughout my ten years of ordained ministry and generally uttered by so…
  • Telling the Difficult Stories
    Vital Posts
    It’s easier to avoid the difficult stories. We know this in our personal lives, of course: no one really likes to talk about their divorce, or the time they got fired. It’s also true in communities: we don’t talk about the families who left b…
  • January 2016 Editor’s Letter: ‘Reboot’ Your Vestry
    Vital Posts
    Happy New Year! For many the beginning of a new calendar year represents an opportunity to start anew, to ‘reboot’ if you will, things that just aren’t working as they should. To kick off the new year, we invited experienced leaders from …
  • Why Team Building Matters
    Vestry Papers
    Team building is an important aspect of a vestry’s work; work that takes on more importance as a vestry welcome new members and say ‘thank you’ to others. In “Why Team Building Matters” Kanuga’s Leslie Hartley offers timely tips and resou…
  • Vestry Covenants and Norms
    Tools
    Every vestry should establish written group norms and a vestry covenant. ECFVP offers examples from Episcopal congregations.
  • 3 Great Things You [Likely] Missed in 2015
    Vital Posts
    The 4th of 4 posts - see below for the other three articles. I can often predict whether an article, resource, or webinar will do well when pushed out in an email or posted on Facebook or Twitter. Then there are those times that something…
  • A Few Not-so-obviously Great Things That I Wouldn't Want You to Miss
    Vital Posts
    3rd in a series of 4 posts - see below for the previous articles. Like many people at this time of year, I find myself reflecting on the great and not-so-great things that have happened over the past year. Among the things that fall into the …
  • Too Good to Miss! (Here’s your second chance…)
    Vital Posts
    1st in a series of 4 posts. Long ago I gave up any expectation that people would read everything I wrote or posted. Not everything shared on ECF Vital Practices’ reaches thousands of eyeballs, despite the more than 100,000 unique visito…
  • Creating Small Groups
    Vital Posts
    When a group such as a vestry gathers for a meeting or retreat, much of the time is spent as one large group. There are times, though, when it can be beneficial to break into smaller groups for a specific task or point of discussion. Small group work…
  • Planning for the Certain & the Uncertain
    Vital Posts
    My wife, Denise, and I are having a baby girl in June. In many ways I feel ready to have a baby. We’ve been talking about it for a while and we’re both very excited. We’ve seen the appropriate doctors, Denise is taking vitamins, we’re doing…
  • Vital Teams: Team Leadership Essentials
    Webinars
    This webinar will provide participants a glimpse of the Vital Teams 101 training curriculum, including a discussion of three areas that good teams are constantly balancing effectively: relationships, process, and results. Relationships: How to build …
  • Same Side of the Wall
    Vital Posts
    I was asked yesterday what I thought the most important lesson was in leading change successfully. Our congregation has managed to hang in there for quite a lot of change in recent years, despite a well-earned reputation for having resisted change …
  • Break with a Purpose: How to Make the Most of your Next Meeting
    Vital Posts
    Editor's note: The Church Leadership Conference brings together vestries and other congregational leaders for learning, reflection, and formation. It’s a time and space for vestries to ask the big questions facing their congregations, featuri…
  • December 2015 Editor’s Letter: Practical Matters
    Vital Posts
    Advent: A time of preparation; a time of waiting. And, for our congregational leaders, especially those responsible for parish administration, time to make a master list and check it twice. First, for all of the seasonal events and services, next f…
  • Administrator’s & Treasurer’s Lunches
    Vestry Papers
    Growing out of the popularity of the annual diocesan church administrators and treasurers’ conference, Nancy James and Ann Turner share a roadmap for how they setup networking events for administrators and treasurers in their diocese.
  • First Steps in Leading Change
    Webinars
    Leading change can be one of the most rewarding - and challenging - aspects of lay and clergy leadership in Episcopal congregations. This webinar focuses on general principles and best practices for leading a change process effectively. The presentat…
  • How Does Your Group Grow? Group Developmental Stages
    Vital Posts
    Editor's note: The Church Leadership Conference brings together vestries and other congregational leaders for learning, reflection, and formation. It’s a time and space for vestries to ask the big questions facing their congregations, featuring o…
  • Vital Practices Digest: 5 Resources for Recruiting Vestry Members
    Vital Posts
    Recruiting Vestry Leaders In the November Vital Practices Digest, we’re sharing five resources to help you prepare for and prayerfully recruit new leaders for your congregation’s vestry, bishop’s committee, or other leadership t…
  • Getting to Know You: Tips for New Groups
    Vital Posts
    When you have a new group, it’s important to take the time to get to know each other better, so you have the best chance of working well together. Incorporating teambuilding exercises at the beginning of your first meeting may help group members ha…
  • The Importance of Failure
    Vital Posts
    We failed. Not a big, catastrophic failure. Nothing that will change the future of humankind, the nature of the neighborhood, or the flavor of the church. But a fundraiser idea that I pitched and planned two years ago has died. Essentially, I…
  • Skipping Out on Holy Days
    Vital Posts
    Why celebrate the major holy days of the church? The Feast of All Saints is coming up on Sunday, Nov. 1, and many of us will mark the day with special prayers during worship. And of course, we’re in church for the Nativity of Our Lord on Chri…
  • "Who Wants to be on Vestry?"
    Vital Posts
    It’s that time of year when many phone calls or coffee hour chats will include the fateful question, “Would you please consider running for vestry?” Traditionally, many people view vestry membership as similar to serving on the board of…
  • Keep it up! Raise the Energy Level in Your Next Meeting.
    Vital Posts
  • Hammock Time
    Vital Posts
    I used to skip over pictures like this too. And click past the blogs that touted the merits of Sabbath time. After all, who has time for that? I’m learning though that I don’t have the time to not have Sabbath. I have spent far too many d…
  • Vital Practices Digest: 5 Resources for Vestry Retreats
    Vital Posts
    Holy and Effective Retreats In the October Vital Practices Digest, we’re sharing five resources to help you plan a holy and effective retreat for your vestry or other leadership team. Our fifth resource is to help congregations strengthen t…
  • A Walk Through the New Vestry Resource Guide
    Webinars
    Join editor Nancy Davidge for a review of the newly revised Vestry Resource Guide. You'll learn how congregational leaders can use this resource to help form strong leadership teams, tailoring content to meet their own needs. With information and re…
  • 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…
  • Five Meeting Tips for New Leaders
    Vital Posts
    Walking into your first meeting as a new leader of a group can be unnerving. You may have known the members for years as part of your church community, but this new situation may feel like you are entering a room full of strangers. According to Kanug…
  • Strategic Vision & Planning
    Webinars
    How are we responding to the rapid pace of change throughout the Church and in the world around us, and how we can be proactively addressing it?
  • 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”.
  • Hunger
    Vital Posts
    We stood in the drizzling rain, some huddled under umbrellas, others with water darting down glasses and dripping off noses. There wasn’t a football game or concert to keep us from escaping to the dry indoors. Instead the magnet was a desire for …
  • Make Time for Marketing
    Vital Posts
    "How many hours a day do you write?" a marketing and social media expert asked me. "Four hours," I replied. "Then you should spend two hours a day on marketing," she said, mainly in social media and email campaigns where costs are quite…
  • An Honest Question About Vestry, Church Organization
    Vital Posts
    Several years ago, St. George’s organized its vestry around several key areas of parish life. It was a good idea, rooted in the biblical priesthood of all believers and acknowledging that the rector can’t do everything her/himself. They tri…
  • 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…
  • Volunteering: The Fit/Stretch Dynamic
    Vital Posts
    On Saturday I was in Union Square with a clipboard and a petition, attempting to get strangers to sign. In recent months as I’ve become more involved with the climate change movement, I’ve found myself further and further outside my comfort zon…
  • In Good Faith: Pardon the Interruption
    Vital Posts
    There’s a show that airs on ESPN called Pardon the Interruption and it gives me agita. It’s a roundup of the day’s sports news hosted by a couple of loud, contentious talking heads with strongly voiced opinions about…everything. It’s kind…
  • Alcohol & The Church, An Update From General Convention
    Vital Posts
    In addition to all the other very exciting things happening at General Convention there’s a lively conversation on an important, sensitive, and timely topic – our church’s relationship with alcohol, addictions, recovery, substance misuse, and…
  • #JesusAtGC
    Vital Posts
    Thousands of people from across the United States have hunkered down in Salt Lake City for the triennial General Convention. It is an intense, marathon-length, sprint-pace gathering for leaders of the church to make decisions about policy, directi…
  • Thinking Personally and Systemically
    Vital Posts
    For the past several days I've spent more time than I probably should following General Convention on Twitter. We're trending! For those who don't tweet, this means our hashtag, #gc78, which basically links all the various tweets about conventio…
  • A Resource for Vestry Retreats
    Vital Posts
    In response to ECF’s recent announcement of the publication of the new Vestry Resource Guide, a congregational leader asked: Is going through this [the new Vestry Resource Guide] worthwhile as a vestry retreat? My response to her was ‘y…
  • Vital Practices Digest: 5 Resources on Episcopal Governance
    Vital Posts
      An Orderly Chaos - Episcopal Governance For the June Vital Practices Digest, we’re sharing five resources on how governance works – or can work – in our Church, from General Convention to your parish vestry or bishop’s com…
  • Clearing the Air
    Vital Posts
    A few days ago I had received a somewhat awkward phone call. I volunteer with an organization that advocates for policies and practices to curb climate change, and a colleague from the subcommittee I serve on sent an email out about a new initiativ…
  • State of the Church
    Vital Posts
    In just two weeks, leaders from across The Episcopal Church will gather for General Convention. Held every three years, this conference is a time for the Church to pray together, to spend time wrestling with difficult issues, and to chart a course …
  • The Strategic Legacy of Bishop Ed Little
    Vital Posts
    From the beginning of his ministry as the seventh bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Northern Indiana, the Rt. Rev. Edward S. Little II has beamed a spiritual focus to follow. Personifying the lighthouse on the diocesan seal, Little has delivered p…
  • June 2015 Editor’s Letter: Facing Leadership Challenges
    Vital Posts
    Leadership challenges come in many forms. One constant we must all face is the ever changing nature of God’s creation, including that of our faith communities. Effective leaders recognize this and pray and work together, seeking understanding of …
  • Come As You Are
    Vestry Papers
    How a community cared for and supported the discernment of one of its members from a teenager to becoming a young adult and how she grew into becoming a leader in the Church.
  • The Wizard of Oz or Dorothy?
    Vestry Papers
    This article shares insights developed by Brian McLaren related to the leadership styles of these two famous movie characters.
  • Vital Practices Digest: 5 Resources for Conflict in Congregations
    Vital Posts
    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…
  • Nice People and Criticism
    Vital Posts
    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…
  • It's Not about Me
    Vital Posts
    Birthdays in the age of Facebook are fun.  People from all different parts of your life chime in and send good wishes. It’s a virtual “This is your life” episode. Meandering down memory lane is lovely, but this year I decided to try…
  • Lawn-Mowers, Leaky Pipes, And Prayers
    Vital Posts
    I knew why he was calling so I picked up the phone. I was glad to get an update on his friend’s health condition: Some good news, some not-so-good news. (His friend is also a parishioner.) Prayers were shared. Prayers continue, I reminded him. Wh…
  • Well Done, Good and Faithful Servant
    Vital Posts
    The cardboard numbers were well-worn, a clear crease in the middle and the corners tattered from altar guild members wrestling them into the hymn board. 335 The Hymnal 1982 opened to the page. “I am the bread of life; they who c…
  • May 2015 Editor’s Letter: Facing Leadership Challenges
    Vital Posts
    Your team’s in place, you’ve recommitted to the congregation’s mission and vision, and for your first few vestry meetings everything’s been working well. Then “bam” –everything seems to be falling apart. What’s happening? It cou…
  • Leadership from the Pews
    Vestry Papers
    A common challenge church leaders face is identifying new leaders. María Eugenia Giraldo shares how she became a lay leader and helps us see the signs of a person who is eager to serve.
  • Being with Our Neighbors
    Vestry Papers
    Where is the spirit of God at work? Everywhere. Going Local is a diocesan initiative to help congregations develop new attitudes, habits, practices, and values as they seek and join God’s work in their neighborhood.
  • The Challenge in Recruiting - and Retaining - Volunteers
    Vital Posts
    I was at a parish recently for an all day workshop. The parish leaders were struggling to recruit new volunteers and keep the volunteers they had from burning out. One parishioner made this key observation, “It’s frustrating for our workers…
  • Flying Blind or Flying Uniformed
    Vital Posts
    While my wife browsed TJ Maxx for summer trousers, I sat on a curb outside and observed people going in and out of TJ Maxx. Here is what I observed: Perhaps 95% of those entering TJ Maxx were female. The majority of them were middle-aged whit…
  • Low and High Context: Bridging the Gap
    Vital Posts
    It’s morning in the office, and my instinct is to head straight to my desk, fire up the computer, scroll through email, and wrap my brain around the day’s agenda. But others think I'm rude. They like to start with friendly chatter, checking…
  • Who's in Charge Here?
    Vital Posts
    Alleluia! Gosh, it feels good to say that again. From the darkness of the Easter Vigil it suddenly rang out: “Alleluia! Christ is risen!” The victory is won! We are bold and jubilant. This is so different from the Friday before when we qu…
  • Community and Last Suppers
    Vital Posts
    This is what community looks like. Fifteen coworkers seated around a conference table, cups of water at their right hand, spooning pudding from parfait glasses. As we move through Holy Week, we recall the Last Supper, the Passover meal …
  • Still Waters
    Vital Posts
    Several years ago I was inspired by a wonderful Southern Baptist friend who could, at the drop of a hat, quote a relevant verse from the Bible, no matter the situation. I realized how few verses I knew by heart, so I became determined to memorize s…
  • Share And Share Alike
    Vital Posts
    We were standing and talking in the entryway of his church as the afternoon light on this early spring day flooded the well-designed and beautiful, inviting space. His is a large church, a new church building and a congregation that just keeps grow…
  • Jesus + Community = Changing the World
    Vital Posts
    A few years ago, I went to the monthly meeting of a local environmental group. It was long and tedious, and at the end I wasn’t sure what I should do next to get involved. I never went back. I eventually got involved in other ways, but I thin…
  • Re-Visiting ‘Beyond Vestries’
    Vital Posts
    I’m grateful for the feedback and engagement with my previous post: “Beyond Vestries,” February 25, 2015. I’d like to clarify some matters and, above all, point to some larger, more critical principles. For starters, my one big hope i…
  • What Do You Do?
    Vital Posts
    So, she turned to me. What do you do at the church?    Pardon me? I didn't quite understand her question.    At my last church, the priest's wife was always there, organizing things and cleaning up. What do you do at the church?    I sw…
  • The Sunday Roller Coaster
    Vital Posts
    It was a rough first Sunday of Lent in church. Attendance was low, especially in one of our services. There were some explanations for the absences of our regulars (aren’t there always!). But the bottom line was that we had several new folks who …
  • When It's Not About You
    Vital Posts
    This past weekend a very close friend of mine got married. I was a groomsman (there were two grooms, in this case, and my wife was a groomswoman), so I wanted to give him a toast. I started thinking about the toast more than a week before the w…
  • Is Gift-Based Ministry Part Of The Problem?
    Vital Posts
    ECF Vital Practices recently reposted on its Facebook page a list of signs of healthy church. It was a fine list for the most part, and like most such lists, it emphasized empowering people to identify and use their spiritual gifts and talents. …
  • Ain't No Mountain (of Snow) High Enough...
    Vital Posts
    Neither rain nor sleet, neither blizzards nor other weather foes will keep a good church down. With a hat tip to the postal service, church leaders across the Northeast (and now Midwest) are finding ways to gather, despite mountains of snow a…
  • Making Annual Meetings a Source of Renewal
    Vital Posts
    In a faith with long, rich tradition, some things can (and should) be changed. Annual meetings, for instance, don’t need to be dreary gatherings of moan and drone. Mix them up a bit. Let your annual meeting reflect the life of the congregatio…
  • Professional Development
    Vital Posts
    I’ll be honest. For many years, I saw “professional development” as code for relatively fun junkets away from the office. The idea of taking a retreat or sabbatical seemed like more of an excuse to get out of work than a needed time for reflect…
  • February 2015 Editor’s Letter: Vestry Leadership
    Vital Posts
      Editor’s Letter As congregations continue to welcome new vestry members and begin the process of forming new leadership teams, ECF Vital Practices’ continues to share the wisdom and experience of congregational leaders from across o…
  • Leading from the Side
    Vestry Papers
    A key vestry role is to identify and support emerging leaders. What might that look like? In her “Leading from the Side” series, Elizabeth Magill, of The Mission Institute, shares steps individuals and congregational leaders might take to support…
  • Wardens’ Work
    Vestry Papers
    In “Warden’s Work,” Neva Rae Fox lifts up the warden’s role as evangelist, sharing stories from conversations with current and former wardens in the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles.
  • Me And My Engineers: A Rector’s Perspective On Selecting A Senior Warden.
    Vital Posts
    I am so not an engineer. I’ve never been a huge devotee of personality typing, but even I can see that whatever personality types make good engineers must be extremely different from my own. We see things differently, approach problems differentl…
  • Vital Practices Digest: Vestries: Start The Year Strong
    Vital Posts
    Vestries: Start Strong in 2015 Are you interested in practical, spiritually grounded resources for your congregation? Consider a free subscription to ECF Vital Practices: A collection of articles, tools, and resources by and for congregation…
  • Public Displays of Affection
    Vital Posts
    Priests should practice PDA. Before someone files a complaint, let me explain. First, I mean married priests. And second, I mean chaste and sweet PDA. Holding hands at an open house, an arm around the waist or shoulder, a peck on the check or…
  • It’s Not About Me
    Vital Posts
    Karaoke isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. I know. It’s hard to imagine that cheering an off-key rendition of Copacabana isn’t how everyone wants to pass the time on Friday nights. I confess: I love karaoke. I think it’s fun and fun…
  • Leadership and Learning
    Vital Posts
  • January 2015 Editor's Letter: Vestry Leadership
    Vital Posts
    Welcome 2015!  For many congregations, January is the time for annual meetings and vestry elections. Changes in leadership teams bring opportunities to explore new ways of looking at the familiar challenges facing your congregation. As new vest…
  • Lift Every Voice
    Vestry Papers
    Being part of a diverse congregation, Anna Olson is accustomed to ministering to people with a wide range of personalities, cultural backgrounds, work experiences, educational preparation, and familiarity with The Episcopal Church. In “Lift Every …
  • The Gifts of Holy Imagination
    Vestry Papers
    Sometimes we get stuck in our thinking. Potential solutions can be constrained by the ways we define the challenges we face. What would happen if we changed our definitions? “The Gift of Holy Imagination” by Miguel Angel Escobar invites congrega…
  • Leadership in Community: A Dance of Mutual Love
    Vestry Papers
    Being in community brings both rewards and challenges. In “Leadership in Community: A Dance of Mutual Love,” Geoffrey Tristram, superior of the Society of Saint John the Evangelist explores the theology used to express and explain God’s divine,…
  • Resolutions
    Vital Posts
    The new year is always a great time to think about what we want to accomplish. But all too often we make overly ambitious, impossible resolutions with their focus on our selves, our bodies, our pocketbooks. And when we fail, we revert to our old wa…
  • Lessons From a Busy Fall
    Vital Posts
    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 managem…
  • Mary Louise Patterson
    Vital Posts
    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. …
  • Why Pray At Church Meetings?
    Vital Posts
    The answer to the title’s question might seem completely obvious to you. Maybe I should’ve made it more controversial. Try this: “Stop Praying (like you’ve been doing) at Church Meetings!” More to the point, I’m suggesting we might ben…
  • Scratch-and-Sniff Stickers
    Vital Posts
    Wouldn’t it be great if we had an easy way to gauge when our churches were in trouble? Our local utility company sent a letter this week and included a scratch-and-sniff sticker. Yes, you read that right. Scratch-and-sniff sticker. The text e…
  • Over-Led or Under-Managed?
    Vital Posts
    I recently came across an article in the Harvard Business Review on Twitter. The article is about the differences between management and leadership. “Management is about coping with complexity,” it explains. Leadership, on the other hand, is ab…
  • Life-giving or Life-sucking
    Vital Posts
    At some point or another, we’re all drinking from the firehose. We have way too much to do, coming at us too fast.    For me lately, and I suspect for many of us, the hose has been less a source of water for growth and more a way to put out f…
  • Changing Seasons
    Vital Posts
    The change in seasons always comes as a bit of a surprise. I know it happens every year, but having lived in Texas for so long where fall isn’t all that different from summer, I never really expect the weather to actually change. But then it does…
  • Ghosts
    Vital Posts
    I went on a ghost tour a few years ago in Lower Manhattan . We walked by old buildings and parks and our guide told us about the people who had died there and also about the occasional hauntings that had been reported. It was more of a history and …
  • Civil Discourse
    Vital Posts
    The shrill, my-opinion-is-the-only-opinion way of talking, isn't working.  As a society at large and in the wider church as well as our local congregations, we too often divide into like-minded factions, erecting barricades and resentments agai…
  • Leadership From the Side: Follow Other Leaders
    Vital Posts
    Part 4 of 4. (Read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3) Maybe this blog should have been the first, but as we close this series, I must remind you that there is no such thing as solo leadership. You can't lead without followers, you can’t lead well with…
  • Critical Feedback
    Vital Posts
    Whether we want to hear it or not, paying attention to feedback – solicited or unsolicited – is critical. When we listen for – and to - how others see us, it opens a window on how we, or our ministries, are perceived by others. This month in …
  • Why I Give
    Vital Posts
    As far as church-elevator talks go, this one is a doozy.    Sure, it's definitely hard to talk about faith, about my personal relationship with Christ. But money and how I give (or don't give)? We're on thin ice.    The sarcasm is thin vene…
  • Collaboration: 4 Tips to Increase Effectiveness
    Vital Posts
    I always hated group projects in school. Other people were too unpredictable and I never knew what to expect. But give me a to-do list and my own desk in a quiet room and I’ll get things done. Unfortunately, life is not a string of solitary t…
  • Managing Out
    Vital Posts
    In the workplace, good leaders need to be effective at managing up—and managing down. The same is true in the congregation, although I’d like to call it managing out. In an earlier blog, I talked about some techniques for managing up. Ju…
  • Too Many Choices?
    Vital Posts
    I begin today with a confession: Sometimes, when I feel like my life is just too full, I skip church. About a decade ago, this is something I would have judged myself pretty harshly for. You go to church not because it’s easy and you feel like it…
  • Managing Up
    Vital Posts
    The church is not a business. But we would be foolish to ignore some business concepts that can help us be better ministers in our communities, more effective witnesses for Christ. We don’t scoff at the importance of audits—clearly a soun…
  • Leadership From the Side: Patience
    Vital Posts
    Part 3 of 4. (Read Part 1, Part 2, Part 4) You may wish that change would happen like a thunderstorm, arriving quickly, without warning; that it would clang like thunder and awaken everyone to action. You may wish that vibrant lightning would a…
  • Empowered Volunteers
    Vital Posts
    Sharing Vital Practices Over 6,000 church leaders have subscribed to ECF Vital Practices to gain ideas, tools, and resources for building up vibrant ministry. As our congregations start back into the program year, connect your congregation to th…
  • Stuck in the Middle – And Glad for It
    Vital Posts
    Do your commissions have enough middle managers? I’ve talked many times about commissions and how they can be vehicles for sharing and expanding leadership in a church. But if the composition isn’t right, then they will most likely flound…
  • Can Planning Dazzle?
    Vital Posts
    The concussive bursts added a heartbeat, and my eardrums thrummed for hours. But it was so worth it, to see the sky rain fire. To watch explosions of color, whites and golds, reds and blues and greens, paint the night. Cincinnati has an …
  • The Other Way to Renovate
    Vital Posts
    Like every other church, St. George’s deals with deferred maintenance on our buildings and grounds. We try to keep up with as many projects as we can, but our forebears gave us a lot of stuff and, today, the funds and the personnel are limited. B…
  • Leading from the Side: Authority and Power
    Vital Posts
    Part 2 of 4. Read Part 1 here, Part 3 here, and Part 4 here. When you begin to lead from the side in your church, I have found that people will question your authority, question your power, and question your ability to be a leader. To stand fi…
  • Confronting Clergy-Congregational Conflict
    Vital Posts
    Christ Church in Anytown, USA is an Episcopal congregation with an average Sunday attendance of around 75 and an annual budget of about $150,000 with an aging but beloved physical plant. The parish is facing the usual challenges of finances, and he…
  • Worry.... And Heart
    Vital Posts
    Where your worry lies...there your heart is also What keeps your leaders awake at night? What generates intense discussion in your vestry? What motivates your members to write letters, whisper in the parking lot, or furrow their brows during an…
  • Leading from the Side
    Vital Posts
    Part 1 of 4. Read Part 2 here, Part 3 here, and Part 4 here. Often lay people tell me that they love so many things about their church, and that they hate so many things about their church. They describe how the congregation dreams of change an…
  • 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.
  • Small Groups, Big Impact
    Vestry Papers
    Using small groups, Iona-Hope Episcopal Church lives into its core values, impacting not only life inside the church but also in their wider community. Also in Spanish.
  • Becoming/Continuing/Expanding
    Vestry Papers
    A revitalized congregation shares how their lay led ‘centers of creativity’ is restoring the church both literally and figuratively.
  • Getting Invested in Christian Formation
    Vital Posts
    Even though the official end of summer isn’t until September 1, the signs of the final dog days are here. Back-to-school sales. Last trips to the beach. Baskets of tomatoes and zucchinis in the parish hall, free for the taking. As one seaso…
  • Pointless Conversation?
    Vital Posts
  • Making the Body of Christ Come Alive
    Vital Posts
    “I’ve always understood that the work of ministry is in the hands and hearts of all people of God and that if we are doing what it is we are called to do together than we are stronger, our community is stronger, and we have a sense of purpose …
  • Failing Up
    Vital Posts
    When something doesn’t work, we often learn more, but the lessons are harder. I often share here the good and successful events and ministries, especially from my own congregation. But it’s important too to tell when things don’t go as …
  • Using Your Fundraising Time Effectively
    Vital Posts
    In my July 11, 2014 blog I asked the question “How much time can a Church leader anticipate spending on the day to day activities of a successful campaign?” If you missed it, you can access it here.  If we consider fundraising as not just a …
  • Finding Strengths
    Vital Posts
    In a circle of thirty we sat. On the floor, in the middle, were Post-It notes listing our individual core strengths. The staff of Forward Movement came to Cincinnati from the far corners of the world. Or at least, from stretches across the U…
  • Unequally Yoked
    Vital Posts
    She put her arm around my shoulder to soften the gut punch she would deliver next. “I’ve been praying,” she said. “And I think you should spend some time studying this scripture.” This church leader handed me a page from 2 Cor…
  • Are You Leading A Zombie Parish?
    Your Turn
    Leadership teams are invited to take this ten-item quiz to discover whether your church is undead.
  • Steps to Restructuring
    Vital Posts
    Right-sizing the structure of your church is a critical element to its health (and maybe to your sanity as well).    In an earlier blog, I talked about how structure needs to change to support the realities of the congregation. A growing church…
  • My Response to 'Our Father'
    Vital Posts
    Editor's note: Just before Father's Day, ECFVP posted Our 'Father' or??? on our Facebook and Twitter feeds and invited comments. Victor Sarrazin tweeted about his experience working without the title and we invited him to share a few of his thought…
  • The Flanders Phenomenon
    Vital Posts
    The church has a problem. Some call it the Culture of Nice. I call it the Flanders Phenomenon. You know Ned Flanders, right? He's the uber religious next door neighbor on The Simpsons. The earnest, Biblical literalist who uses such saccharine c…
  • Open Source Church
    Vital Posts
    I find myself intrigued by the idea of “open source church”. What happens when we open the doors, hand out keys, and give a wider variety of our neighbors a shot at creating what happens in church? Not just a voice in the planning of programs t…
  • Thank You Notes
    Vital Posts
    Does your church have a theology of gratitude? Is this “attitude of gratitude” more platitude than practice? The state of Kentucky held its primary election on Tuesday. Signs in patriotic blues and reds littered most street corners. Pamph…
  • Bring Out Da Woo
    Vital Posts
    In addition to being an ENTJ, I’m apparently a woo as well. The personality text, StrengthsFinder, indicated that one of my character (and leadership) traits is “woo.” What that means in part is that I enjoy meeting new people, asking q…
  • Tearing Down, Building Up
    Vital Posts
    Sometimes the hardest part about rebuilding is tearing down. Most of our churches are longstanding institutions, with dearly held traditions about firmly ensconced expectations. Making changes requires a delicate touch. A case in point:…
  • Hole-y Soap
    Vital Posts
    The soap in the hotel seemed to be missing something. Specifically, the center. I flipped over the box of this hole-y soap and learned that it was an environmental effort “designed to eliminate the unused center of traditional soap bars.”…
  • Sharing Personnel Costs: A Multiparish Council
    Vital Posts
    The congregation I serve has been working for a long time on developing collaborative relationships with other, local Episcopal churches in our community. I genuinely experience God calling me – and, frankly, the Episcopal Church and so many othe…
  • Defining your Meeting
    Vital Posts
    My daughter served as a page for the Kentucky State Senate recently. She thought the day was interesting, and she learned a lot. But she also informed me: “Did you know they spend all day in meetings? I don’t think I want a job like that.” …
  • The spirit of God moves, moves, moves. Oh brother, let it move your heart!
    Vital Posts
    Editor’s notes: This reflection was written on the eve of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts’ gathering to elect a new bishop. Click here to read about the results of this election. This blog post is also availble in Spanish here / Este art…
  • Johnny Takeover
    Vital Posts
    The perfect meeting facilitator sometimes seems as illusive as the unicorn and fairy dust. But we all know what bad facilitators look and sound like: they talk too much, moving from facilitation to domination. I experienced a Johnny Takeover …
  • Editor's Letter: April 2014 Building Strong Teams
    Vital Posts
    Last month I had the privilege of attending the New Community Clergy and Lay Conference at Kanuga. There, nearly 200 lay and clergy leaders from ethnic ministries across our church gathered to explore the theme “Together, Advancing the Sacred Dre…
  • Making it Work: Church-School Leadership
    Vestry Papers
    Navigating a church-school relationship is not always easy. Like any relationship, it requires time, care, communication, and a willingness to learn.
  • Try This at Church: What Do You See?
    Vestry Papers
    Designed as an icebreaker to help workshop participants gain an understanding of the congregational contexts represented in the room, it can also be used to help members of a leadership team learn more about their peer’s perception of where the con…
  • The Truth Will Have To Do
    Vital Posts
    A few years ago I attended a life changing professional development training. Inhibited by worrying about how others would respond to hard truths, I asked how a leader determines the responsibility of caring for others and their response. The consu…
  • Clericus
    Vital Posts
    Once a month, generally on the first Wednesday of each month, September through June, I get together with seven or eight or, sometimes, fifteen or more Episcopal clergyfolk. (Numbers tend to swell when the bishop shows up!) We gather for mid-day p…
  • Am I Ready to Commit?
    Vital Posts
    On Saturday, my church, St. Lydia’s, had our community meeting, which happens twice a year. We go over financial reports and talk about the future, and occasionally vote on something (though we did not have anything to vote on at this meeting). …
  • Breaking Bread
    Vital Posts
    Jesus knew: food brings people together. Breaking bread together plays a central role in many passages of scripture. Most importantly, of course, is The Last Supper, when Jesus lays the foundation for the Eucharist. But throughout the …
  • Transition, Stress, and Support
    Vital Posts
    My church, St. Lydia’s, just signed a lease on a new storefront space, which means a big and exciting transition. This week, the Leadership Table (basically, the Vestry), met to discuss this and other changes. We’ve had to make a few big decision…
  • Try This at Church
    Vestry Papers
    A ‘try this at church’ tool that you and your congregation could use to strengthen and support team efforts in your congregation.
  • Church as Base Camp
    Vestry Papers
    Effective congregational leadership teams include members with a strong sense of Christian vocation and the gifts they bring to the table.
  • Why Vital Teams?
    Vestry Papers
    Forming and identifying effective lay and clergy leadership teams continues to be challenge for many of our congregations.
  • March 2014 Editor's Letter: Building Strong Teams
    Vital Posts
    Across our church, familiar clergy and lay roles are changing. Just as our understanding of church changes with changing times and circumstances, so do our models of leadership. How are these changes impacting our effectiveness as lay+clergy leader…
  • Recruiting Ambassadors for Giving
    Vital Posts
    Recruiting volunteers for fundraising can be a community-altering task. Sue Fornabai, Episcopal Church Foundation (ECF) financial resources consultant, tells the following story of gathering parishioners to be ambassadors for annual giving: A s…
  • Speaking Up
    Vital Posts
    “Preach the truth as if you had a million voices — it is silence that kills the world.” – St. Catherine of Siena I came across this quote while reading this article about a Catholic nun who ministers to the transgender community, in spit…
  • TBT (Throw Back Thursday)
    Vital Posts
    Whether or not you enjoy seeing pictures of prom or scanned Polaroids from the family reunion, tbt is a thing. Standing for throwback Thursday, tbt fills my Facebook news thread each Thursday. I’m privy to slightly blurry snapshots of late-nig…
  • The Circle
    Vital Posts
    As I write this, my fiancée, Denise, is reading over something else I wrote, marking it up. She’s got a big black pen (no red pens on hand at the moment) and she’s even doing some rewriting. It’s a little nerve wracking. But I also know that…
  • Church Leadership Conference: ECF Presentations
    Tools
    ECF offered a number of workshops the 2014 Church Leadership Conference: Unlocking the New Church. Copies of some of the presentations are offered below.
  • Volunteering Shouldn't be a Life Sentence.
    Vital Posts
    Yet, in many of our congregations, agreeing to chair a fundraiser or organize an outreach project all too often becomes a lifelong appointment. For people other than Mother Theresa, this inescapable clause eventually engenders bitterness and resent…
  • Cocky Driver Syndrome and How it Can Put Your Ministry in the Ditch
    Vital Posts
    I grew up in the Northeast, completely comfortable driving in any weather. In order to better equip me as a good driver, my parents would accompany me to empty parking lots to do donuts in the snow before plows had come through after large winter s…
  • The Parable of the Sweaters
    Vital Posts
    I started the annual meeting this year with the Parable of the Sweaters. I brought the sweaters in question in a reusable grocery bag. All are knit by me, and only one of them is finished. The one that is finished is the first one I ever knit, …
  • And, Instead of Or
    Vital Posts
    Bill Nye the Science Guy took on creation earlier this week. Or rather, he debated with someone who believes in a literal-Bible interpretation of the creation story. The debate, held in my hometown, has received a lot of press, being promoted…
  • Roadmap for Senior Wardens
    Vestry Papers
    You’ve been elected or selected senior warden for your congregation. You’re eager to take on this challenge and, truth be told, a bit anxious. Demi Prentiss’ “Roadmap for Senior Wardens,” weaves the collective experience of senior wardens …
  • The Vestry Hand-Off: Orientation for new members
    Your Turn
    The Annual Meeting is over, new leaders have been elected and it’s time to start working together. How do you transition from the former leadership team to the new team? This resource may help.
  • 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…
  • Breaking News
    Vital Posts
    In case you haven't heard: it's cold. In breathless spurts, forecasters have issued warnings about the arctic weather. And the cold front has introduced new, fun phrases to bandy about: polar vortex. Frostslaughterous. And my favorite: Frigid…
  • Thanksgiving Means Giving-Thanks
    Vital Posts
    My wife is a band director at a public middle school. A few years ago the principal of the school led the teachers through a process of how to apologize (loosely based upon the process outlined by Randy Pausch). This way students can buy-in to why …
  • Young People: Not Merely the Church’s Future
    Vital Posts
    "The youth are the future of our church!" I have heard these words preached, whispered, shouted both desperately and joyfully, and cried throughout my time in the Episcopal Church. While I cannot doubt the passion behind this statement, it always lea…
  • Remembrance
    Vital Posts
    Ninety-four years later, we still remember.  On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, World War I officially ended. The tradition of Remembrance Day on November 11 began in England and has spread across the globe as a time to…
  • The Episcopal Church: Who’s at the Top?
    Vital Posts
    Folks seem to agree that the Episcopal Church is a hierarchical church. But where there seems to be some diversity of opinion is around who or what is at the top of that hierarchy. Where does the “buck stop” so to speak? And in reality, who has…
  • Holding Lightly
    Vital Posts
    This lesson doesn’t appear on the bright-colored posters of Robert Fulghum’s “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.” But it should. Knowing when to hold tightly and when to hold lightly is a hard and critical lesson.   …
  • Heading Out Into Mission
    Vestry Papers
    Out is where mission happens at Southside Abbey. Bob Leopold introduces us to a community church committed to lifting up hope where that hope has been obscured.
  • Cathedral in the Night
    Vestry Papers
    The story of a church – with links to a diocesan ministry – that believes the openness of space creates an openness of community in Jesus’ spirit.
  • Faithful Transitions - Disponibilité
    Vital Posts
    Nota - Este artículo es disponible en español aquí. Gabriel Marcel, a French, Christian philosopher, speaks eloquently about the notion of Disponibilité. The most direct translation of this word in English is "availability" but in Fren…
  • Criticism
    Vital Posts
    My pencil poised above the words. Capital letter here. No semi-colon. Needs parallel structure. I settled into edit mode. “Mom,” my daughter beseeched. “I just want you to read it. Tell me what you think.” I couldn’t tur…
  • Retiring Clergy: Moving On
    Your Turn
    Should a retired priest remain in the parish and/or community where he or she last served?
  • A Laughing Matter
    Vital Posts
    I braved the question: How was the meeting? I feared the typical forlorn answer. Frustrating. Long. Circular. Without direction. This particular committee was causing consternation, and I knew he was starting to dread the meetings. …
  • Just Do It
    Vital Posts
    Normally by now, I’ve figured out what I want to write. Often I mull over the subject for this blog as I’m falling asleep the night before. If I’m lucky, it’s half-written in my mind before I reach the computer the next morning. …
  • Communications for Parish Leaders
    Vital Posts
    Leaders need to be able to effectively communicate. There is a myriad of topics, resources, and tools available on communications, but for this digest we offer articles and resources focused on effective communication. What are the steps that y…
  • Miss Manners
    Vital Posts
    A questionable email has sunk many a ship. Or at least set adrift relationships, events, and momentum. Like many technology tools, email can be a wonderful help. But used without care, it can create problems. I’m sure you’ve receive…
  • Rethinking The Pledge, Part 1: It's Not Stewardship
    Vital Posts
    First in a two-part series. Read part 2 here. Around this time of year, vestries and stewardship committees, rectors and wardens, finance committees, and those few parishioners who’ve served on any of the above working groups have a big thing…
  • Generational Characteristics of Giving: What to do?
    Vital Posts
    Have you ever attended a really informational event and then came away saying, “That was great and now what?!” This recently happened to me. I was listening to a person speak eloquently about a topic. He ended with great fanfare. I had tears in…
  • Prime Real Estate
    Vital Posts
    Who—or what—occupies your prime real estate in the church newsletter? Does a missive from the rector always run on the front page? Or do you have a pencil drawing of the church façade, circa 1955? Either way, you’re squandering o…
  • Prepare, Practice, Test. Repeat.
    Vital Posts
    September is National Disaster Preparedness Month. Episcopal Relief & Development’s US Disaster Program equips Episcopal dioceses in the United States to prepare for local disasters, mitigate their impact and help the vulnerable make a full and s…
  • Bylaws & Shared Ministry, Part 3: Entrusting and Empowering Parish Staff
    Vital Posts
    This is third post in a three part series, read Part 1: Unburdening the Vestry here and Part 2: The Difference Between Vestry and Congregation here.  Decentralized leadership and shared authority, as I’ve written in previous posts, are crit…
  • The “ABCD’s” of Asset-Based Disaster Response
    Vital Posts
    September is National Disaster Preparedness Month. Episcopal Relief & Development’s US Disaster Program equips Episcopal dioceses in the United States to prepare for local disasters, mitigate their impact and help the vulnerable make a full and s…
  • Field Trips
    Vital Posts
    When is the last time you took a field trip? Fifth grade? Washington, D.C.? Third grade to a historical re-enactment? First grade to the zoo? (As an aside, my daughter’s class took a field trip to a water treatment plant. Really?) O…
  • Building Leadership Teams
    Vital Posts
    Who is going to lead? Are you ready for your full slate of activities from Sunday school, the stewardship campaign, and the next big fundraiser? Are you brainstorming new ministries and projects? Hopefully your congregation is abuzz with …
  • Their Chance to Lead
    Vital Posts
    This morning I was privileged to see a high school senior give a speech to her entire school. I know her to be a person of deep faith – what kind of high school senior invites her priest to this kind of thing? As she spoke she showed grace, skill…
  • Bullies
    Vital Posts
    Normally a yellow-light note means bad news.    In kindergarten, teachers judge behavior on a green, yellow, and red light system. A red light is pretty serious; yellow, as you might imagine, indicates a problem.    The note attached to the…
  • By-laws & Shared Ministry, Part 1: Unburdening the Vestry
    Vital Posts
    This is the first post in a three part series, read Part 2: The Difference Between Vestry and Congregation and Part 3: Entrusting and Empowering Parish Staff. Early on, I was exhausted by vestry meetings. They were long, tedious and oddly dis…
  • Valuing Volunteers
    Vital Posts
    This Saturday I spent some time putting together a mosaic at Charlotte’s Place, Trinity Wall Street’s community center. This is part of an ongoing art project in which parishioners and staff and even tourists who stop by can help create a mosai…
  • Creating Space for Yes
    Vital Posts
    I'm a “yes” man. I'll admit it, though maybe not the way you are imagining. As facilitator of a non-traditional community, people approach me with all kinds of questions:  This All Souls' Day, can we host a meal and worship service at our…
  • Covenant of Courtesy
    Vital Posts
    At my first visit to a new dentist, I had to fill out paperwork. Among the reams was a surprise: this page asked me questions about my likes and dislikes at the dentist. Do I hate sound of the drill? Do I have a low—or high—tolerance for pain? …
  • Relational Matters
    Vital Posts
    Like many, I’m starting to transition from the fun and frivolity of summer to the necessary stuff that goes into gearing up for the so-called program year. This past week, though, my sister and her family were in town. It was as we always say…
  • Hog, Bog, and Frog
    Vital Posts
    Want to suck the energy out of a meeting? Allow the hog to dominate. Stay silent for the bog. Invite the frog. At a leadership workshop offered this weekend by the Diocese of Lexington, I learned about this phrase. It was in the context of how …
  • Who Gets Keys?
    Vital Posts
    Who gets the keys to the Kingdom? Thankfully key distribution for the Kingdom of God isn’t up to us, but church keys sure can be a source of conflict and anxiety. Just as the disciples trip over themselves asking who gets to sit next to …
  • Facebook Snark
    Vital Posts
    Sometimes snark isn’t helpful.  Especially this weekend, with deep wounds being laid open again by the decision to acquit George Zimmerman in the death of Trayvon Martin. This blog isn’t about justice, or lack thereof, racism, or even…
  • [The Power Differential]
    Vital Posts
    I recently heard a colleague use the term power differential when referring to the relationship between clergy and laypersons. She wasn’t wondering if one existed, but rather simply naming its existence as fact. Using my best poker face, I tried …
  • Comrade or Competitor
    Vital Posts
    Several years ago, we were church planters, establishing a new congregation in one of the fastest-growing counties in the state. One of the biggest obstacles: resistance from the closest Episcopal church—still 10 miles away. Their argument was th…
  • An Antifragile Church: The Power of Disorder, Change, and Failure
    Vital Posts
    I have been reading with some interest a book by Nassim Taleb titled Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder. The premise of the book is that institutions fall into three distinct categories. The first is fragile. These can be seemingly str…
  • Just Say No
    Vital Posts
    In Christian circles, we hear a lot about saying yes. We open ourselves up to Jesus, saying yes to his call for our life. We should be open to the Holy Spirit, ready to respond as it moves in and through us. Yes, to attending worship. Yes, to the s…
  • Editor's Letter July: Vision & Planning
    Vital Posts
    Growing up, July and August meant a change of routine: lazy days to bike, swim, and read, and summer camp. In my neighborhood all the kids played outside after dinner; at dusk Mrs. Manghis would ring the bell hanging by her back door and we’d all…
  • Equal Partners
    Vestry Papers
    For many churches, the one church one priest model is no longer possible, creating opportunities for different models of leadership. In “Equal Partners,” Donald Romanik shares a story of a congregation – and a diocese – committed to the devel…
  • Letting Go
    Vital Posts
    When you care, it’s hard to let go. We know that instinctively but, as with many things, when it comes to watching the emotional tug-of-war play out, we often forget. It’s been six months since I left my job as a diocesan communicat…
  • When People are Mean
    Vital Posts
    Sometimes it’s hard to be nice.  We’re at the tail-end of our first landlord experience, having leased our old house after we moved 18 months ago. Despite our cajoling, forgiving, pleading, and insisting, the payments were never on time and…
  • Failing
    Vital Posts
    We need to fail faster.    At a graduation ceremony for a year-long leadership program, one of the speakers talked to us about failure. She recounted a story by the chief executive officer of Procter & Gamble, the makers of Tide, Ivory, Pampers…
  • The Gift of Volunteers
    Vital Posts
    At first blush what could be better than a group of people willing to give their time and energy to support various facets of your work for free? In times of tightened budgets and downsized staffs, such individuals are invaluable assets for keeping…
  • From the Ashes
    Vestry Papers
    The sense of powerlessness that sets in following a crisis can be paralyzing. At St. Luke and St. Matthew Episcopal Church in Brooklyn, the fire not only caused significant damage, having been ruled arson, it also threatened to engender fear. “Fro…
  • Leap of Faith
    Vestry Papers
    Emmanuel Church in Moorefield, West Virginia is a tiny church with an older congregation, unable to support even a half-time rector. Yet each week for over five years, in response to significant and increasing unemployment in their community, this co…
  • Becoming a Resurrection People
    Vestry Papers
    With churches often seen as places of sanctuary and safety, the May 2012 shooting at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Ellicott City, Maryland was devastating. For the families of the three people killed, the congregation, and the community, their gr…
  • After the Storm
    Vestry Papers
    When the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth split apart, many continuing Episcopal congregations, including St. Alban’s Church in Arlington were shut out of the church buildings they had worshipped in for years. In “After the Storm,” Melanie Barne…
  • Memorial Day
    Vital Posts
    Memorial Day isn’t a feast day in the church (although some might understand feast in a different way, with all the BBQs and cookouts). But I’m really thankful that my congregation took note of the holiday anyway. A few of our hymns…
  • The Vestry Hand-Off
    Vital Posts
    Incorporating new people into leadership in a methodical, regular way is important, and most of our churches elect new vestry members each year. The problem, I’m discovering, is that most congregations don’t have a methodical, regular way…
  • Listen First
    Vital Posts
    I know what you need: To meditate. I know what you need: To eat better. I know what you need: To watch less television. To exercise. To repent. It’s sometimes easy to diagnose others. Our culture is full of those who want to solve ea…
  • What People Want (and Need)
    Vital Posts
    I recently spent some time in Los Angeles with a bilingual congregation. The group I was with wanted to hear and talk with members of this congregation about the types of resources they want – and need. It was a good day, with conversations in th…
  • Editor's Letter May 2013: Leadership in a Time of Crisis
    Vital Posts
    When I began working on the May Vestry Papers - focusing on leadership during a time of  crisis - it never occurred to me how timely this issue might be. The recent tragedies in Boston and West, Texas, as well as the continuing violence and natural…
  • Suwa Bona… I See You, I Hear You
    Vestry Papers
    “Suwa Bona… I See You, I Hear You” by Kay Collier McLaughlin introduces ‘Holy Conversations,’ a process developed in the Episcopal Diocese of Lexington to help congregations paralyzed by conflict, anger, grief, and/or fear begin the healing…
  • Resilency
    Vestry Papers
    “Resiliency” by Bill Livingston helps congregations consider the potential impact of a devastating disaster, looking beyond the immediate physical needs and issues related to long term recovery, to the church’s unique role of offering a theolog…
  • A Bad Joke
    Vital Posts
    It’s not funny. Not even the first time, although I’ll likely flash a faint smile and then steer the conversation in a new direction. By the second or third time, I want to school the speaker, to explain why the phrase is hurtful, undermining, …
  • Being Schooled
    Vital Posts
    With the enticement of pizza and pop, the youth group gathered to talk with us about how to support and strengthen the Latino community.    We learned a lot – the need for bilingual materials, desire for resources on the sacraments and saints,…
  • Bulletins, Telephones, and Databases... oh my!
    Vital Posts
    Let’s face it - it’s a tough job being a church administrator. Whether an employed staff of dozens or a solitary volunteer, this is a vital part of our mission and ministry. How many ways have you been grateful for the ministry of your administ…
  • My BIG Beef with the Word ‘JUST’ – Appreciating Volunteers in April
    Vital Posts
    “I’m just a volunteer.” You may use this phrase in a number of different contexts, but in every single instance, the word ‘just’ should be stricken from the sentence. In fact, the consequences of uttering the word ‘just’ when used bef…
  • Mostly Dead Is Still Alive!
    Vital Posts
    The setting of this week’s Gospel reading sounds like many of the meetings I’ve attended lately: A small band of deeply committed, faithful disciples trying to figure out what to do when things seem to be falling apart. Too often their numbers …
  • April Editor's Letter
    Vital Posts
    Do you remember the movie “Sideways?” A middle aged man, dissatisfied with his life, takes his ‘washed up actor and about to be married’ friend on a weeklong trip to California’s wine country. The movie became an unexpected hit, garnering…
  • Getting to the ‘Why’ 2
    Vestry Papers
    “Getting to the Why 2” continues Miguel Angel Escobar’s exploration transformational leadership, offering some of the key practices used by transformational leaders to both build a shared sense of purpose and strengthen leadership capacity.
  • Time to Bloom
    Vestry Papers
    Margaret Babcock’s “Time to Bloom” invites congregations to consider a model of ministry and leadership that has taken root across our Church. Called baptismal, total, shared, or mutual ministry, this model recognizes the shared responsibility …
  • 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…
  • Molting Our of Our Old Shells
    Tools
    A different way of thinking about leadership practices that nurtures congregational vitality.
  • Holy (and Heck) Week
    Vital Posts
    Facebook posts by clergy and church workers trumpet the beginning of Holy Week. The posts share a similar mix of emotions: excitement, anticipation, reverence. There is also the collective breath before the weeklong sprint. For Christians, Ho…
  • Elixir for Church Growth
    Vital Posts
    In the middle of the science fair/book fair/fine arts fair, time to visit the school night, we ran into a couple from our church. I was surprised. Their kids are grown and in master’s programs around the country. They don’t have grandkids…
  • Space to Heal
    Vital Posts
    It’s an all-American, boot-strappin’ response to tough times: We’re fine. We’re over it. We’ve moved on.  Even when, especially when, the wounds are still there, just covered with a light scab for disguise. The past three years ha…
  • Explain Why, or People Will Leave
    Vital Posts
    The other day I attended a fire and emergency safety training at work. The instructor, who has many years of experience as a New York City fireman, talked to us about which staircase to use in case of a fire, what to do in case of an earthquake (st…
  • March Editor's Letter: Cultivating Leaders
    Vital Posts
    The Pope’s resignation, followed by the conclave of Roman Catholic cardinals at the Vatican, has the world focused on leadership. When asked about the type of leader the Roman Catholic Church should chose, the best answer I’ve heard is “Jesus…
  • Building Young Adults Networks
    Vestry Papers
    Some congregations don’t know what they can provide to attract young adults. Mary Cat Young offers a different approach for congregations.
  • Reclaiming Relevance
    Vestry Papers
    How could St. Andrew’s welcome its Brazilian neighbors? Lori Mills-Curran shares how a ‘boot camp’ leadership experience spurred new ideas and connections.
  • Getting to the ‘Why’
    Vestry Papers
    Does your leadership have a shared sense of purpose? Miguel Angel Escobar shares ways of introducing group leadership development and shared purpose.
  • Icebergs
    Vital Posts
    What do icebergs and churches have in common? I recently spoke with the Rev. Eric Law, founder of the Kaleidoscope Institute, which helps churches communicate across cultural boundaries. During our conversation he introduced the idea of churc…
  • There’s No We in Team
    Vital Posts
    I’ve heard of a boy named Sue but never a person named “we.” In meeting after meeting, I’ll hear (and sometimes say), “We will take care of it.” Or “We should do something about that.” Or even, “We think there’s a problem…
  • Priest as CEO? A Response
    Vital Posts
    Jeremy Sierra’s “Priest as CEO” blog post raised the question: “is the Church preparing them for this role?” and generated the following comment:  "A question or two ... are priests to personally embody all of the roles/functions that…
  • Results, Relationships, Process
    Vital Posts
    A few years ago, I attended a collaborative leadership training led by the Interaction Institute for Social Change. The training was a short, two-day intensive course which left me, and perhaps a few others, feeling like they’d just finished drin…
  • Priest as CEO...
    Vital Posts
    ... is the Church preparing them for this role? I know a lot of Episcopal priests. My father and my close friend are priests, I’ve worked at three Episcopal Churches and been involved in several others, and I’ve met a lot of seminarians. Jus…
  • February Editor's Letter
    Vital Posts
    As I began working on this month’s content, a common theme emerged: vestry service being described as a dreaded obligation, chore or something to be endured. A common request was, “Can you help bring joy back into serving on the vestry?” This b…
  • The Locally Owned Church
    Vital Posts
    Last week, ECF concluded a two-part web conference series on “Becoming Local” presented by Will Scott. Will is the vicar of St. Cyprian’s Episcopal Church in San Francisco, a community of faith that has discerned the key to its revitalization…
  • I Miss Vestry Meetings
    Vestry Papers
    In “I Really Miss Vestry Meetings,” Henry Parsley, retired bishop of Alabama states “vestries should be one of the most exciting ministries in the church – joyful, in fact” and then shares the key components that he, after working with vest…
  • Called to Serve?
    Vestry Papers
    Chris Yaw offers ECF Vital Practices’ first video Vestry Papers article, “Called to Serve,” in which Christopher Webber, author of The Vestry Handbook shares his approach to vestry recruitment.
  • St. Mind Reader
    Vital Posts
    For most problems in our lives, there’s a patron saint. Need a house sold? Petition St. Joseph. Troubled pregnancy? Pray to St. Gerard. Lost something? Help me, St. Anthony. But to the best of my knowledge and Google’s s…
  • Managing Volunteers? Remember these 9 Tips
    Vital Posts
    Creating something is never easy, whether it’s publishing a newsletter or planning a dinner. It’s even harder when those working on the project are volunteers. Any work that gets done has to be accomplished between work and time with family and…
  • What Shouldn't We be Doing?
    Vital Posts
    For the past few years at the Episcopal Church Foundation (ECF), the pendulum has been swinging in one direction only. Since 2009, ECF has been expanding its programs and services; we developed ECF Vital Practices, launched our series of web confer…
  • Generous Listening
    Vital Posts
    As President Obama is inaugurated into his second term and we face “fiscal cliffs” and “debt ceilings,” as the church continues its period of uncertain transition, we’ve got plenty to argue about. In this current political climate its eas…
  • Managing Change
    Vital Posts
    We received the keys to our new house last night. The kids ran from room to empty room, claiming their space and plotting design elements. We brought the champagne to pop open after the old owners left. But a funny thing happened. Like …
  • Pray it Forward, FB-style
    Vital Posts
    You’ve probably seen the posts by now about the pay-it-forward movement on Facebook. “The first five people to comment on this status will receive from me, sometime in the next year, a gift - perhaps a handmade item, some baked goods, a c…
  • Lessons from Bossypants: Saying 'YES AND...'
    Vital Posts
    A few weeks ago, while browsing in an airport bookstore, I picked up Tina Fey’s bestselling autobiography Bossypants. As many will already know, Tina Fey is a popular comedian, former head writer of Saturday Night Live, and the executive producer o…
  • Editor's Letter: January 2013
    Vital Posts
    Happy New Year! What makes some vestries really effective? Is there a secret to developing a vestry that enjoys working together, feels energized while doing so, and has fun at the same time? How are vital congregations and congregational l…
  • Rethink Congregations
    Vestry Papers
    Are we trying to function based on outdated demographics? William Doubleday explains in “Rethink Congregations” how many congregations are and what they can do about it.
  • Reframe Vestry Meetings
    Vestry Papers
    Tried and frustrated of too many problems and a lack of solutions? Randy Ferebee shows us how vestries can rise above these issues in “Reframe Vestry Meetings.”
  • Framework for Vestry Success
    Vestry Papers
    Group dynamics need to develop and will change with each new vestry. In “Framework for Vestry Success”, Sandy Kolb guides us through the key stages to give care and attention to.
  • Framework for Vestry Success
    Tools
    A helpful outline that provides an overview of group development theory and how it can be used to create a well-functioning vestry.
  • Get on the Bus
    Vital Posts
    Does your congregation have the right people on the bus? I’ve been reading Jim Collins’ Good to Great, in part to prepare for my transition into a new job. What are the keys to success? How can I be an instrument of positive change? …
  • Christmas Hope & Healing
    Vital Posts
    In these remaining days before we celebrate the birth of the Christ Child, we pause to offer some resources for hope and for healing. The pain experienced by the tragic mass shootings of the children and teachers at Sandy Hook have opened wounds fo…
  • A Church That Fails
    Vital Posts
    The church has failed. A few weeks ago I listened to Joan Chittister give the keynote address at Trinity Institute (you can watch it here). Evolution, she said, teaches us that we are all participants in an ongoing creation. It shows us both th…
  • What Fresh Hell is This?
    Vestry Papers
    Sam Portaro’s invitation to think about Advent through Joseph’s eyes as he travels to Bethlehem with Mary. In “What Fresh Hell is This?,” Sam challenges us to embrace a form of spiritual leadership that demands courageous truth telling.
  • Feedback Forms and the Serenity Prayer
    Vital Posts
    Keep the Serenity Prayer close at hand when reading anonymous evaluation forms. We just completed our diocesan convention. For the first time, I was in charge as chair of the dispatch of business. (This is also the last time because I’ve ac…
  • Best Practices: Challenging Conversations
    Vital Posts
    This weekend my community, St. Lydia’s, made some big decisions. We affirmed a new governance system and a leadership team for the first time in our short history. All good change, though none of it was particularly simple or easy. What made this…
  • Editor's Letter: November 2012
    Vital Posts
    Liturgy, Music, and Leadership When recent converts are asked why they chose to join an Episcopal Church, many share they were drawn by the beauty of the liturgy. As Episcopalians we gather regularly to participate in liturgies that back to the…
  • Unity Post-Election
    Vital Posts
    I braced for impact. Less than eight hours after Barack Obama won a second term as president, my father and father-in-law were in the same room. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that one of my daughter’s science terms this week is combu…
  • A purple witness
    Vital Posts
    I’m exhausted. I never thought I’d long for beer and sports-drink commercials. But when you live in or near a swing state like Ohio, all of the TV spots are bombast and lambast. The news is, of course, consumed as well, detailing ev…
  • Creating Safe Spaces
    Vital Posts
    My heart broke a bit more last night. I was reading the Episcopal Communicators’ Talk list; one of our members posted a question related to an online article she had seen about the Diocese of South Carolina. Within the hour, other members sha…
  • Creating Strong Teams
    Webinars
    Ella Auchincloss of the Diocese of Massachusetts' Leadership Development Initiative presented Creating Strong Team Structure to teach participants how to build strong teams using evidence-based practices that work and are easy to understand and imple…
  • Easier or More Meaningful?
    Vital Posts
    When it comes to our commitments to church, are we about making things easier or are we ultimately about making those commitments more meaningful? This issue came up last Wednesday night during a web conference on Identifying and Recruiting N…
  • Raising PK’s
    Vital Posts
    I want a village to help raise my PK’s (priest's kids) – as long as they’re not defined by their parents’ profession. I’m sure this is an issue for families of a variety of occupations, but there are some peculiar expectations place…
  • What's in a Name?
    Vital Posts
    The names we call each other sometimes hurt! “Nonvital” Episcopalians are not members of nonvital and nonviable congregations. The members of an Episcopal church about to close need to urgently know that they are not to blame for their co…
  • Giving Feedback
    Vital Posts
    I couldn’t believe my ears. I had my mouth full of not-that-great mini chocolate bundt cake when my friend asked me – in front of the baker – what I thought. Earlier in the day I had been thinking about the problems that often arise whe…
  • Managing Volunteers
    Vital Posts
    As an administrator at a nonprofit and later a church, I was often seeking volunteers. However, it turned out that sometimes volunteers actually created more work. I’d occasionally have to refold the bulletins, or sometimes there was plenty of wo…
  • Differentiated Leadership (In Seven Minutes)
    Vital Posts
    Next week, as part of the Episcopal Church Foundation's pilot project Barnabas,  I will be helping to lead a webinar for a small group of seminarians, clergy, and vestry members on leadership for a changing church. Because it is a pilot pro…
  • Two
    Vital Posts
    In college I spent a lot of time with a group of friends, who were so nice that they didn’t like to disagree, or sometimes even express an opinion. This made choosing a restaurant difficult on Friday nights. Out of a desire to defer to each other…
  • Reporting General Convention
    Vital Posts
    Part of the job of a communicator is to hold a funnel to the fire hose. This is especially true over the next two weeks, as the 77th General Convention of The Episcopal Church commences in Indianapolis. Deputies and bishops will meet in c…
  • Calling a Call Committee
    Vital Posts
    I have put together a screening committee to help me select a new leader for our children and youth ministries. At St. Andrew’s we are coming to the end of a seven-year period where our children and youth ministries have been directed by a fun, g…
  • Incarnational vs. Functional – A Search Process
    Vital Posts
    My worst surprise returning from sabbatical was to find that my bishop had hired away my Director of Children and Youth Ministries to become the chaplain at the University of Washington. He now owes me a curate and two deacons to be named later, be…
  • Examples of Commissioning Services
    Your Turn
    Ken Garner, Director of Communications and Stewardship of Church of the Redeemer in Bryn Mawr, PA, shares examples of their commissioning services.
  • Tips for Creative Collaboration
    Vital Posts
    I’ve spent quite a bit of time editing people’s writing: In my MFA program, while working on a ‘zine for Episcopal young adults, and now in my job at Trinity Wall Street. It’s not always easy. A person’s writing is his or her creation, an…
  • So, You Only Work One Day a Week?
    Vital Posts
    As I have re-entered after my sabbatical, I have become painfully aware of what a priest with oversight of a congregation actually does with their time. I am also aware at how much of this is subterranean in its aspects with regard to the wider kno…
  • Moving from Purpose to Spirit-Driven Meetings
    Vital Posts
    I was dubious. The only item on the agenda for our two-day staff retreat: Bible study. Don't get me wrong. I think Bible study is important. But as a type-a, list-maker, take-action person, I wondered if we would accomplish enough. After a…
  • June 2012 Editor's Letter
    Vital Posts
    As July approaches, and with it our church’s 77th General Convention, I find myself looking forward to the 10 days I plan to be in Indianapolis. My first General Convention was 2003 in Minneapolis and, despite having taken an “Introduction to G…
  • Episcopal and Baptist Governance
    Vestry Papers
    As a teenager David Perkins was called as a Baptist minister. Years later, he joined the Episcopal Church, in part because of its governance.
  • Our Call to Leadership
    Vestry Papers
    People of Color have a special call to leadership. Lelanda Lee offers insight into cultural differences that may be hindering acceptance.
  • Connecting the Dots
    Vestry Papers
    Bonnie Anderson 'connects the dots' from our revolutionary roots to today's vesty.
  • Are We Taking Ourselves Too Seriously?
    Vital Posts
    Last weekend I attended an ordination to the diaconate for a friend in which Bishop Gene Robinson preached. Among the advice he gave to the ordinand, was this: take your office seriously, but don’t take yourself too seriously. This is not new…
  • Babies, Bathwater, and Structure
    Vital Posts
    There's a reason you don't throw the baby out with the bath water. I've been thinking about this adage through the extensive discussions about structure -- both on the church-wide level and within dioceses and congregations. It's clear tha…
  • Worth the wait
    Vital Posts
    Having bad news appear on the front page of a local newspaper is easy. Getting the attention of a reporter – and editor – for good news is the challenge. When our bishop closed a local church in 2008, the handful of members took the…
  • Talking To Ourselves
    Vital Posts
    This weekend I came across some research which gave me pause. In the 1980s, two MIT researchers looked at the relationship between how long a working group had been together and that working group’s communication with “outsiders”. The k…
  • Finding your Gifts
    Vital Posts
    It figures, harrumphed a colleague. Totally an ENTJ. And, she continued, his ENTJ doesn’t leave any space for my ENTP. So, I think to myself, I am LOST. I have never undergone an extensive Myers Briggs personality test. But I’…
  • Learn About General Convention
    Tools
    Trying to describe the Episcopal Church's General Convention? These resources can help...
  • Consensus: A Countercultural Activity
    Vital Posts
    Many are saying that we are living through one of the most polarized periods in U.S. history. They point out that we, as a nation, are now divided into extremes: left and right, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican. What's more, the long-held pra…
  • Forty.
    Vital Posts
    I’m not gonna lie. The idea of turning 40 sucked. I spent some time moping last week. It didn’t help that my kids started teasing, calling me oldy-moldy or old-and-crusty. Then a co-worker prefaced a question to me with “O, ancient one.…
  • Open Source Your Church
    Vital Posts
    Editor’s Note: Guest blogger Chris Yaw’s passion is healthy churches. His ChurchNext ministry puts the spotlight on a diversity of ministries that are flourishing. He records and shares interviews with faith leaders so others can learn from the…
  • Conversations on Governance
    Vital Posts
    Conversations related to governance are everywhere. State and national elections dominate news reports. In New England, we are in the middle of Town Meeting season; earlier this week I listened to passionate arguments for or against leaf blowers, …
  • From Nine to Ten
    Vital Posts
    My colleague’s questions flabbergasted me. The conversation had begun innocently enough. She and I had just finished a series of ten lengthy meetings that had gone, in my estimation, very well. We’d begun on time. We’d ended on time. Ou…
  • Silence in the Office and the Meeting Room
    Vital Posts
    For the first time in my life I have my own office. In the past I’ve shared offices, sat at the receptionist’s desk, which was basically in a glass box, and had a desk in the office lobby, where I never knew when my boss would pop out of his of…
  • May Editor's Letter
    Vital Posts
    I like to know how things work. From an early age, I learned if I had a basic understanding of this, I made better decisions. This practice led me to my first – and only – computer-programming course. It was in the early 80s, computers were…
  • Knowledge is Power
    Vestry Papers
    In “Knowledge is Power,” William Doubleday introduces congregational leaders to the resources available to them in Canon 7: Of Business Methods in Church Affairs.
  • Being on the Same Page
    Vestry Papers
    “Being on the Same Page” by Ron Pogue, reminds us of the value of our congregation’s governing documents and how they can be a useful tool for decision making.
  • From Above or Below?
    Vestry Papers
    Alberto Cutié shares key differences in governance between the Episcopal and Roman Catholic churches. Available in both Spanish and English.
  • Our Story
    Vestry Papers
    “Our Story” by Sheryl Kujawa-Holbrook explores the roots of our democratic style of governance and invites us to consider ways to balance an organization’s need for order with its equally important need for creativity and risk-taking.
  • That Other Trinity: Results, Process, Relationships
    Vital Posts
    There’s a lot of advice out there about how faith communities can work together and get things done. One of the best pieces of advice that I’ve heard has to do with the three factors that folks need to be mindful of in the midst of leading: res…
  • Wanted: Good Coaches
    Vital Posts
    In March 2011, the New York Times ran a lengthy piece about Google’s 8-Point Plan to Build A Better Boss. Based on massive amounts of data culled from employee evaluations, the plan sought to do two things: first, it sought to name the top eight …
  • Will your Goals Make a Difference?
    Vital Posts
    The large whiteboard in my office is full of goals.  At some point in January, my colleagues and I thought it would be a great idea to write down in large scrawl ECF's yearly goals on that whiteboard. As the months have gone by, we've been …
  • Personal Reflections on Leadership Challenges
    Vestry Papers
    In a conversation one afternoon Ed Friedman wondered aloud about “the good people of the world who are burning out trying to change the unmotivated.”
  • Characteristics of Effective Congregational Leader
    Vestry Papers
    The issues of leadership that were often raised in the Zacchaeus Project discussions led to initiation of the Emmaus Project.
  • Transforming Attitudes about Ministry
    Vestry Papers
    Our attitudes often dictate what kind of people we become. Likewise, our attitudes as communities of faith dictate what kinds of congregations we become. Here are two good examples.
  • Who Should be at the Table?
    Vital Posts
    There are many tables within an Episcopal Church. There is, of course, the altar. This table is at the center of our liturgical life and serves as a reminder of the table around which Jesus and his disciples shared a final meal. But in most chu…
  • April Editor's Letter
    Vital Posts
    “Perhaps this week, more than others, we remember our rightful place as servants of the one who came not to be served but to serve and those he loved to the end, especially the poor, the oppressed, the needy.”                               …
  • Remembering About God
    Vestry Papers
    Stacy Sauls invites us to image a different kind of church, one formed around making Christ truly present in the world. More
  • Our Future is Bright. (And lean, uncharted, and scary)
    Vital Posts
    Last week, my colleagues and I began compiling “the stack,” a sizeable tower of completed applications to ECF’s Fellowship Partners Program. As the stack rose higher and higher, it quickly became clear that this year we’d had a bumper crop.…
  • The Other 1 Percent
    Vital Posts
    I dreaded the meeting. Negative, sometimes brutal messages on listservs, blogs, and other forums had drained my energy, twisting and dampening my anticipation of connecting with colleagues. If it ends up being three days of more of the …
  • Christlike Conversation
    Vital Posts
    Este artículo esta disponible en español aquí. We’ve all been in one of those meetings: a meeting that goes on and on, in which people repeat each other or seem to speak just to hear themselves talk or in which strong emotions inhibit th…
  • David & Goliath
    Vital Posts
    Only one hospital served the small community. In a river town in Appalachia with high unemployment and even higher numbers of uninsured folks, I’m sure it was sometimes hard for the hospital to make a balanced budget, much less a profit. …
  • Communication is mission: Connection
    Vital Posts
    Several years ago, knitting ministries were more novel than ubiquitous. I thought the ministry would make an interesting story, so I spent time with a few churches that had knitting groups and wrote a feature for the diocesan newspaper. The a…
  • Jesus Didn’t Micromanage
    Vital Posts
    While trying to plan a fundraising event several years ago, I learned just how difficult delegating can be. I was working for a small nonprofit, and I was in charge of planning and execution. This included arranging for dinner, silent auction items…
  • Gathering Around Ministry, Not Minister
    Vital Posts
    Over the past several years, the Episcopal Church Foundation (ECF) has been advocating for a new type of local congregation - one that serves as a transformational faith community. Its primary purpose is to inspire and empower members to become act…
  • Cupid-ity or Stupidity?
    Vital Posts
    Be mine. I thought this was simply a sweet if trite sentiment on a candy conversation heart. But an astute wordsmith preacher taught on Valentine's Day that this phrase takes on a dark twist in the word “cupidity.” Instead of an ar…
  • A New Way to Start a Meeting
    Vital Posts
    Apparently I’m in meetings often enough that when I told my son I had meetings the other day, he grunted. “Meetings. Is that all adults do? Do you ever work in these meetings?” My honest answer: Sometimes. Meetings consume a l…
  • Small Groups
    Vital Posts
    I have served on vestries and participated in men’s Bible studies and groups for young adults. All of these groups have defined boundaries – not everyone can join them. There is a part of me that is a bit uncomfortable with a group in which membe…
  • Being Nice or Not
    Vital Posts
    I sometimes have trouble distinguishing between being nice and being kind. In my experience, it’s a distinction that church leaders often struggle with as well, especially staff. This may not be true in every church – we all know that some peop…
  • Digital Direction
    Vital Posts
    All of us at ECF Vital Practices tend toward the practical. When writing about communications technologies, we are focused on helping congregations use these new tools, whether it’s creating dynamic Facebook pages, improving e-newsletters, claiming…
  • A Secret Key to Keywords
    Vital Posts
    So we’re agreed: keywords are important. They elevate your website’s standing in rankings on search engines like Google and Yahoo. The exercise of listing keywords helps you hone in on content, and the combination of keywords and search e…
  • A Critical Parable
    Vital Posts
    Though the following was used with youth ministry in mind, many people in leadership roles within the church fall into the same trap. Too many of us aren’t honest with ourselves, so we don’t accept our weaknesses. Many struggle with knowing how…
  • Seeing Jesus
    Vital Posts
    As we parked, my daughter whispered: “I hope I make at least one friend today.” My husband and I exchanged the glance that roughly translates into our willingness to cut off an arm so that this could happen. “You will,” we reassur…
  • Missionaries One and All
    Vestry Papers
    Is not God most concerned about how we live from Monday to Saturday?
  • Vestry Members as Spiritual Leaders
    Vestry Papers
    “The spiritual leadership of the parish is the rector’s job!”
  • Light as a feather or stiff as a board? Vestry ice breakers
    Vital Posts
    By the dim light of the hall bathroom, the girls could see each other. No giggles, we imposed. Then each of us placed a finger under the pre-teen girl and began intoning, “Light as a feather, stiff as a board.” Each time, we were amazed wh…
  • Courage
    Vital Posts
    In the last two weeks courage keeps popping up. Well, to be honest, courage itself isn’t showing its face (yet). But I’ve been hearing about courage: on the radio, a friend’s Facebook post, email messages, and other conversations. Is ther…
  • What We Leave Behind
    Vital Posts
    I pull out my diocesan credit card and survey the moving boxes. As I slide the card to the salesman, I'm distracted, calculating how many boxes I might need for my office. The salesman looks closely at the card. You have the same name as Bish…
  • Who are you waiting for?
    Vital Posts
    The Nones are having none of it. And all of it too. Last week, in an editorial for the New York Times, Eric Weiner introduced us to the Nones. The Nones are the roughly 12% of the population (nearly a quarter among youth) who are opting out of rel…
  • 13 Bosses: Supervising the Parish Administrator
    Vital Posts
    The rector would like a printout of the leaflet by Thursday. The choir director needs a few checks written for musicians playing at a concert on Friday. The treasurer is requesting a report, the senior warden needs to schedule some roof repairs, a…
  • Elf on a Shelf -- and Control
    Vital Posts
    I’ve heard tell of some who dismiss the Elf on a Shelf as crass marketing. They think it’s creepy for an abnormally long-limbed doll with a plastic head and black oval eyes to keep watch by day and report to Santa by night. But at our ho…
  • Feeling Connected
    Vital Posts
    Editor's Note: ECF Vital Practices welcomes Jeremiah Sierra who will share his thoughts, experiences, and recommendations related to our churches from his vantage point as a parish administrator. It’s a funny thing when someone asks you not to…
  • Community and Security
    Vital Posts
    How much is too much? I’m grappling with this question as I re-evaluate our policies about security and the Internet. There are mean, scary people out there, and I want to do my part in protecting people of the diocese. At the same ti…
  • All I Need to Know I Learned in…
    Vital Posts
    David. Tommy. Kim. Mike. Shields drawn. Walnuts in hand. What are the rules? What makes a fair game? This little poem popped into my mind last weekend after a quick flood of childhood memories. I’m the middle girl of two broth…
  • Open it Up, Share it Wide
    Vital Posts
    Last week I received a fairly straight forward question from a lay leader regarding vestry nominations. In addition to answering Andrea’s question, it opened the door to share a great example I just learned from the rector of St. Paul’s in Murf…
  • Vestry: Cast of Characters
    Vital Posts
    Prudent rectors and nominating committees already are scouting the congregation for new blood. Often annual meetings aren’t until January, but now is the time for recruitment. Outgoing vestry members and/or the nominating committee need to ha…
  • Voices of Transformation and Renewal
    Vital Posts
    I am attending the Transformation and Renewal Conference at Kanuga Conference Centers in North Carolina. Co-sponsored by the Office of Black Ministries, the Union of Black Episcopalians, and Kanuga Conference Centers, this year's gathering focuses on…
  • What I Didn’t Learn in Geometry, I Learned at Church
    Vital Posts
    Triangulation. It’s the classic killer of many ministries. Person A tells something to Person B, and Person B takes it to Person C. The problem is exponentially exacerbated when Person C actually holds court in the first place with Person B. Ther…
  • Collegiality
    Vital Posts
    I am writing from a break in a Clergy Day where 40 clergy have gathered together for conversation as well as to hear about an exciting program called Mary’s Hope. This has me thinking about the clergy groups I have been a part over the past 36 ye…
  • Refrigerator Score
    Vital Posts
    Growing up in a competitive, game-playing family, if I was thoroughly thumped during a card game, then the score promptly went up on the refrigerator. The good-natured taunts of “refrigerator score” would begin about midway through a game…
  • Shoulders to Stand On
    Vital Posts
    If you’ve ever felt paralyzed by your congregation’s glorious past, or overshadowed by the prior rector’s legacy, consider the lot of the Rev. Raphael Warnock, the current pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church, Atlanta, GA. This past Sunday, jus…
  • Change
    Vital Posts
    Every organization needs a shake-up.  Not all the time, of course. After all, constancy is valuable, as long as it’s not prized above all else. But organizations, like churches, diocesan offices, denominational centers and General Conventions…
  • What a Relief!
    Vital Posts
    The new youth minister is finally arriving! I know it can feel like such a relief when the new person is starting after your church has spent months, and in some cases more than a year, searching for the perfect youth director. But before you ha…
  • Conflict and Decline
    Vital Posts
    Here’s a set of numbers that should give us pause. According to the 2010 Faith Communities Today Survey conducted by the Episcopal Church’s Office of Research, we are a conflictive church. In that survey 61% of Episcopal churches reported that…
  • Leaders Bear the Burdens
    Vestry Papers
    In May 2002 I packed my bags in Manhattan for the West Coast in order to lead a retreat for clergy of the Diocese of Northern California.
  • Wisdom Gathered, Lessons Learned
    Vestry Papers
    There ARE crises that come along that you have to meet.
  • The Spirituality of Authentic Leaders
    Vestry Papers
    We are all pilgrims, together on a journey through life.
  • Vestries: Catalysts for Healing
    Vestry Papers
    “What do you think is going to happen?” is a question I hear often in discussions of the aftermath of the sexuality decisions of the 2003 General Convention.
  • Fit to Go the Distance
    Vestry Papers
    Don’t read this piece if you are looking for some McGod off the shelf, for religious leadership in uncertain times is not about a quick fix.
  • When Conflict and Hope Abound
    Vestry Papers
    Conflict and controversy are intrinsic to the church, even if many of us would prefer to live and worship in communities that never disagreed about anything.
  • Bringing Wounds and Blessings
    Vestry Papers
    Conflict can be difficult, especially in the church.
  • Skeletons in the Sacristy
    Vestry Papers
    Skeletons in the sacristy? We have one — figuratively, at least — in our church.
  • Learning Together
    Vital Posts
    How do you learn? How do you put your learning into action? There is no simple or single answer. Much research suggests people learn in a variety of ways. Some are better at conceptualization, some in experimentation, yet others in reflection u…
  • The Youth Minister Left. Now What?
    Vital Posts
    Many volunteer youth workers are left with this question when their youth director/minister has been fired or has resigned unexpectedly. This time of transition can be sad, confusing, and frustrating. It’s often a time for grieving. And though ev…
  • Doing the Advance Work
    Vestry Papers
    When someone asks me about vestries in times of crisis, my frank response is that vestries can be useless in such times – unless they have done their work in advance.
  • Finding God in the Raging Storms
    Vestry Papers
    The events of September 11th have attuned our minds to the reality of crises in our lives. This focusing experience, powerful as it may be, is but one of the many forms a crisis might take.
  • When the Waves are High
    Vestry Papers
    I have been privileged to enjoy a number of explicit leadership roles in my life. People who have a real stake in the outcome have deliberately given me authority and trusted me to use that authority well on their behalf.
  • Faith Forged in the Fire
    Vestry Papers
    On September 11th, as my husband Larry and I were finishing breakfast, we heard a plane go over our house – too low and too loud for the usual air traffic approaching Newark Airport, 20 minutes away. We looked at each other in concern, and I glance…
  • Back to Church Sunday
    Vital Posts
    Updated 8/15/12: Please note that the 2012 date for Back To Church Sunday is September 16, 2012. I’m not normally a fan of made-up national-something-days. They sometimes seem contrived, like National Uncles who Once Took You Fishing …
  • 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…
  • From Death to Life
    Vital Posts
    This week I’ll attend a big staff gathering where we’ll review statistics and trends about the Episcopal Church. I don’t like hearing the bad news about decline. It sucks my energy and can leave me with a “why bother?” feeling. But I have…
  • Rising Dough, Growing Communities
    Vital Posts
    Nearly every weekend that I’m home I get out the flour, water and yeast and begin to make bread. Hearth loaves, baguettes, buttermilk currant loaves and more. What began as a hobby two and a half years ago has become a passion of mine, and I oftent…
  • Who do you say that I am?
    Vital Posts
    Can you be Christian all by yourself?  If you never go to church and you never talk about your faith and you never mention Jesus in any of your relationships, are you a Christian? I’m not sure. To me, the living out of our Christiani…
  • Being and Doing
    Vital Posts
    As our congregation gears up for a very busy fall, I am struck once again by the dynamic of “being” versus “doing.” As a die-hard activist I always have to be reminded that our state of being is just as important as what we accomplish. …
  • Leadership Self-Assessment
    Vital Posts
    This blog post was originally written in Spanish and is available here.  How many times in the middle of a major project have you asked yourself, “Am I being a good leader?”   I believe it’s safe to assume that most of those who…
  • New Year. New Options?
    Vital Posts
    Although we are still in the dog days of August, congregational leaders are starting to gear up for September and the start of a new program year, planning ministries and other activities including worship, music, Christian formation, and outreach.…
  • Waxing nostalgic: Back to school
    Vital Posts
    Bring on the routine.  In 12 days, the kids begin school for the fall, and our family settles into a regular schedule. Homework, dinner, a little TV. Piano practice, art lessons and for the first time, maybe karate. I say maybe, because t…
  • 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 …
  • Taking My Leave
    Vital Posts
    I am five months away from the first sabbatical of my 30 year priesthood, not too early to start planning for my leave time and what will go on at the parish while I am gone. I am very blessed to have two of my priest associates on board to take o…
  • Volunteer Accountability
    Vital Posts
    It’s tough being a volunteer or lay leader. Volunteers are often under-appreciated, over-worked, and mis-managed. It can be equally difficult when a volunteer drops the ball. Sometimes volunteers don’t show up because they had something els…
  • Sharing Time
    Vital Posts
    It's not easy to share my husband. The call came about an hour before we planned to leave for a short-but-much-needed vacation. An elderly parishioner died, and the family wanted the funeral on Thursday, smack dab in the middle of our four-day …
  • Mission of Union and Integration
    Vestry Papers
    The mission I set for myself before becoming a priest was to help establish, expand, and sustain Hispanic/Latino ministries in the Episcopal Church.
  • Shooting Stars
    Vital Posts
    Every diocesan office, every church staff has some superstars. They are creative thinkers – and doers – with boundless optimism and energy. Their job is a ministry, a calling, and they pour both their ability and heart into the work. And it…
  • Hard Decisions, Winning Strategies
    Vital Posts
    I’ve been musing about an article in Newsweek by Jack and Suzy Welch. Jack Welch was, of course, the chairman and CEO of General Electric for 20 years, leaving in 2001. He wrote the book, Winning, with his soon-to-be wife, Suzy, amid some controv…
  • The Value of Advice
    Vital Posts
    In The Episcopal Church (and maybe all churches), we have lots of listening sessions. These are times for the stakeholders to come together and talk to the leadership about their wants and desires. The leadership, in turn, is supposed to listen wit…
  • Annual Review
    Vital Posts
    This morning I took the cats to the vet. Not my favorite thing to do, as my two cats are experts at eluding capture. Yet, over time I’ve learned ways to make ‘herding the cats’ into their carriers an easier task. I haven’t, however, figured…
  • Doing the Trim Work
    Vital Posts
    I hate to trim. While the kids are away for a week at the grandparents, my husband and I are toiling through a long-delayed to-do list. That includes painting several rooms. Since my husband is at least seven inches taller, he works on …
  • The Parable of the Trapeze
    Your Turn
    A resource for congregational lay leaders from when a rector announces s/he is leaving and through the search process for a new rector.
  • Dog Paddling at the Deep End of the Pool
    Vital Posts
    Ever learned to swim by being pushed into the deep end of the pool? It isn’t pretty and can be downright terrifying, but there’s a strong incentive to figure out what works! In the past two years, I have served as the chair of two committees i…
  • How to Select a Consultant
    Tools
    A tool for congregational leaders who are considering hiring a consultant - or professional resource - to assist them in reaching their goals.
  • Editor's Letter July
    Vital Posts
    One of my earliest memories of church is of the kindergarten room in the basement of Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Wakefield, Mass. It is Epiphany, and there is a large felt board on the wall with figures representing the Magi’s visit to the baby Je…
  • The Wander Years
    Vestry Papers
    What does life after youth group look like?
  • The Diaconate of Young Adulthood
    Vestry Papers
    Young adults are not big churchgoers generally. Our lives are hectic and often unstable.
  • Youth Comes Knocking
    Vestry Papers
    We often fail to include our youth in one of the most central aspects of our faith, the governance of our church. Until they come knocking, that is.
  • Letting Our Light Shine
    Vestry Papers
    On Sunday June 5, close to 600 people from the community of Medford, Massachusetts turned out for Let’s Move! Medford.
  • Ten Tests for Growth
    Vital Posts
    “Provide more practical tools for congregational leaders,” say respondents of a recent ECF Vital Practices survey. A look through the variety of resources that flood my inbox on a daily basis provided a resource developed by the English Diocese o…
  • Led by Children
    Vital Posts
    The nursery renovation began with a 5-year-old. Our church is nearly 200 years old, and some of the toys in the nursery surely witnessed the first service. We even considered carbon-dating. But to be honest, our attention was on the adu…
  • "Make Yourself at Home"
    Vital Posts
    “Make yourself at home.” I’ve heard, and uttered, this phrase thousands of time in my life. And, depending on the situation, I either follow through or I don’t, my actions guided by the intangible ‘vibes’ my senses pick up. I sto…
  • What Makes Community?
    Vital Posts
    “Negotiating limited resources creates community,” says Don Bisson, a Marist brother and widely respected leader on the interrelationship of spirituality and psychology. When I heard this claim last week from Sr. Carol Bernice, reporting on…
  • The Importance of Being…Barnabas
    Vestry Papers
    I am speaking here of that often overlooked hero in the New Testament book of Acts...
  • Raising PKs
    Vital Posts
    My daughter was only four months old the first time I truly understood the challenge of raising PKs – priest kids. I held her in my arms as we waited by the door for my husband to lock up the church. Her little face peaked out from a caterpil…
  • Diocesan Ministry Fairs
    Vital Posts
    Worship in the Diocese of Chicago last Saturday was fantastic. Why worship on Saturday? The opening of the annual diocesan Leadership and Ministry Fair. Bishop Jeffrey Lee, Vicki Garvey (canon for Christian Formation), and Dent Davidson (Missio…
  • Different Styles, Different Gifts
    Vestry Papers
    The process of making such decisions have enormous capacity to bring together or tear apart vestries.
  • Tips on how NOT to make decisions...
    Vestry Papers
    Louie’s not here. So let’s vote now.
  • Decision-making Led By The Spirit
    Vestry Papers
    The Church is the body of Christ: the incarnation of God in the world.
  • Decisions: The Work of Leaders
    Vestry Papers
    Decisions, decisions, decisions — sometimes vestry meetings seem overrun and overwrought by them.
  • Osama bin Laden: To rejoice or not?
    Vital Posts
    I don’t rejoice that Osama bin Laden is dead. To be certain, I am glad he can no longer mastermind terrorist attacks. I am thankful he will no longer be able to lead disenfranchised zealots to attack innocent people around the world. His …
  • Editor's Letter: Caring for Each Other
    Vital Posts
    Our congregational life is a common life, complete with the joys and challenges that come from being in relationship. As congregational leaders, our role involves managing the sometimes ‘sticky wickets’ of relationship that hamper our work of b…
  • So You Think You Don’t Know One…
    Vestry Papers
    Congregations often include people impacted by addiction and codependency.
  • Lunch is on Me
    Vital Posts
    Each Eastertide I try to inject some fun and relaxation into the lives of parishioners. For the third year running, I will host “Joy Walks;” a four-mile trek around the glacial lake that gives our Green Lake neighborhood its name. But the n…
  • 10-Minute Rule
    Vital Posts
    If the church is on fire, tell the rector. Otherwise, in the final 10 minutes before a service starts, try to resist peppering your priest with questions or reports about some failure of performance – people or facilities (or both). I…
  • Backbreaking Meetings
    Vital Posts
    So far this week: eight meetings in three days. Whether I like it or not, meetings form the backbone of my day, vertebrae linking ideas, people, and action. Yet one-third of all meetings are considered unnecessary by the people who attend them.…
  • Bishop Sutton on Leadership
    Vital Posts
    The clergy of the Diocese of Olympia just ended a three-day retreat led by Bishop Eugene Sutton of the Diocese of Maryland. The assignment he had given himself was to help this gathering of priests and deacons, “connect role and soul.” In four …
  • 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’…
  • Google and the Human Touch
    Vital Posts
    Leading a team is really hard. Can Google help? Two weeks ago, the New York Times ran an article on Google’s 8-Point Plan to Build a Better Boss. The 8-Point Plan was the fruit of a two-year project in which a team analyzed Google performance…
  • Leave
    Vital Posts
    A New York Times article last summer began, “The findings have surfaced with ominous regularity over the last few years, and with little notice: members of the clergy now suffer from obesity, hypertension, and depression at rates higher than most A…
  • Rev. Peter J. Gomes, Harvard Minister, 68
    Vital Posts
    While driving outside of Boston on Tuesday morning, I heard the bad news: Rev. Peter Gomes had died. I was saddened by the news, but I also knew that I was not mourning alone. Like thousands of people in the communities of Boston and Cambridge,…
  • Academy Awards and Church Announcements: Time to Cue the Orchestra
    Vital Posts
    How many of you have sat through announcements in church, wishing you could treat them like acceptance speeches at the Oscars? When they get too long – or boring, you could cue the orchestra (or organ) music, and the teen daughter of a cele…
  • 30 Years and Counting
    Vital Posts
    Next week I celebrate 30 years as an Episcopal priest, but I feel like I am just getting started. Time has flown by. At my 30th reunion at Yale Divinity School this past fall, a large number of us gathered and relived memories that were as fresh as…
  • Meeting without Meeting
    Vital Posts
    If you're involved in diocesan work (or on staff, like me), then you spend a lot of time in your car, driving to meetings. My diocese is about five hours long and three hours wide -- and we're one of the lucky ones. I know some of the western d…
  • Beware a Theology of Entitlement
    Vestry Papers
    A young woman who has asked for a spot on a vestry agenda comes right to the point: “I speak for those of us who don’t like the changes in the worship service.”
  • Bean Counters No More
    Vestry Papers
    Imagine a congregation where the priest isn’t the only one making pastoral calls.
  • 'The Lord Broke Through'
    Vestry Papers
    We used the Psalms as a way to enter into prayer. At the beginning of each vestry meeting, we read a psalm or portion of a psalm, slowly, pausing a beat between verses.
  • Stories and Numbers
    Vital Posts
    Stories and numbers: we need both. Stories motivate; numbers evaluate. This point, about the need to use both numbers and stories in our ministries, has pressed on me from all sides this past week. It started through commentary here about a…
  • Baby Boomers: Put down the microphone
    Vital Posts
    When the Twin Towers tumbled down, I held my newborn daughter tightly and prayed that we would work to end the violence, to find a way to connect despite different faiths and cultures. I suspect Christina-Taylor Green’s mother felt the same…
  • Resolution #2: Invest in Leadership
    Vital Posts
    While at seminary, in a course on homiletics, I received a worksheet called "Troubling Texts." It was a short list of the hardest passages to preach on. At the top of the list was Jesus' line in the 26th chapter of Matthew, after the disciples comp…
  • Strategy and Relationships
    Vital Posts
    We’re kicking off the year in a big way. Tomorrow I head to the Diocese of Spokane to spend three daSys training about seventy-five lay people, clergy, and bishops in organizing for mission. Why? To equip us to respond to God’s call to serve th…
  • Let Your Light Shine Through
    Vestry Papers
    Given all that energy and the challenges of the time we live in, it feels like a good time to expand the opportunities for lay leadership beyond the church walls.
  • Behaving Badly (and Publicly)
    Vital Posts
    Sometimes people behave badly - and the media (willing participant or not) gives them a platform to advertise the bad behavior. In a recent situation, a former parishioner and church employee was interviewed by a local newspaper. She misled the…
  • Responding to THE Call
    Vital Posts
    I had someone come into my office and share that they wanted to become a priest. This will be the fourth time that as rector I have responded to such a conversation by pulling together a formal discernment group. They will meet over nine months …
  • Koheleth and the Good Soil
    Fieldwork
    Paul reflects on his meager harvest.
  • 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…
  • Who Presides When the Bishop Comes? We do.
    Vital Posts
    When Bishop Greg Rickel makes his first official visitation to St. Andrew’s this Sunday, he’ll join a priest, a deacon, and a lay presider at the altar for a celebration of the Eucharist that stretches the rubrics but models the theology of our…
  • Leadership Development Resources
    Your Turn
    This list I personally compiled for leaders of congregations. It has references and resources for personal and congregational development.
  • Conventional Wisdom and Gene Robinson's Retirement
    Vital Posts
    Last week in my blog I held up our General Convention as an object lesson in applying human reason as a theological authority. With the announcement of the Rt. Rev. Gene Robinson’s retirement I am remembering the most meaningful example of this I…
  • And the Gold Goes to ...
    Vital Posts
    E-mail addresses are gold. By Olympic award standards, the bronze medal goes to snail mail addresses. Cell phone numbers snag the silver. But e-mail addresses rise to the top of the podium. Managing the database for a congregation…
  • Leadership in the Feligresía
    Vital Posts
    This past weekend the Episcopal Church Foundation visited the northern part of the Diocese of Puerto Rico. We were there at the invitation of Bishop David Álvarez and Fr. Juan Monge with the goal of presenting just about everything we possibly cou…
  • The Balance Between Crazy and Amazing
    Vital Posts
    My diocese is not known to have many money problems.    But when a committee started drafting the 2011 budget, they realized we were facing a shortfall. Like every church organization, we’ve tightened our belts, frozen salaries, and made toug…
  • 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…
  • Conventional Wisdom
    Vital Posts
    We had our elections for General Convention deputies at our diocesan convention this weekend; I was chosen to go to Indianapolis in 2012. The head of our deputation is Katrina Hamilton, the first layperson elected. This will be her third convention…
  • 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…
  • Handcuffed by governance?
    Vital Posts
    Do you believe the Episcopal Church's system of governance helps or hinders your congregation's ability to carry out God's Mission? During her remarks at the Executive Council's first plenary session, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori chal…
  • Commissioning New Parish Leaders
    Vestry Papers
    A liturgy for the commissioning of new parish leaders.
  • Discerning Individual Gifts on the Vestry
    Vestry Papers
    How do you understand your purpose as a vestry member? How do you know what God wants of you during your term on the vestry – or in the rest of your life?
  • Lessons for all Churches from Church Planting
    Webinars
    What lessons from church planting can enrich the ministry of the wider church? People who plant new churches must learn how to interact with the communities around them, how to build and empower a team of lay leaders, and how to get the word out abou…
  • 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…
  • Team Leadership
    Webinars
    This webinar will explore how team discernment practices can help your congregation be more open and responsive to God's call to mission and ministry. The webinar will provide an overview of three team discernment practices and will focus on how they…
  • Vestry Orientation
    Webinars
    This web conference will help you understand roles, responsibilities, and best practices for vestries. You will learn how to move your vestry from a focus on day-to-day management or crisis response to a more effective form of leadership. Designed fo…
  • The Leader's Heart
    Webinars
    Research derived from a range of congregations, denominational and non-denominational, has indicated that a key factor contributing to the vitality of congregations has to do with the leader's heart, with the characteristics of those who lead congreg…
  • Vestry Orientation
    Webinars
    This web conference will help you understand roles, responsibilities, and best practices for vestries. You will learn how to move your vestry from a focus on day-to-day management or crisis response to a more effective form of leadership. Designed fo…
  • Vital Teams: What do Vital Leadership Teams Do?
    Webinars
    Becoming a vital leadership team begins with discernment in community. On Thursday September 25th at 7 PM ET the Rev. Ronald Byrd, Lead Consultant for Vital Teams, will facilitate a panel discussion concerning what vital teams do and how to discern i…
  • Generations Walking the Way
    Webinars
    Multiple generations walk the way of Jesus each with a distinct footprint and cadence. Join us as we explore the nuances of using the TENS' Stewardship Resource Series: Walking the Way to appeal to a variety of generational thoughts and practices. We…
  • Becoming a Vital Team
    Webinars
    How teams come together and provide outstanding ministry is a mixture of grace, perseverance and the use of best practices. ECF is launching a new program, Vital Teams, to equip lay+clergy to form strong leadership teams. Join our webinar on June 2…
  • Leading a Major Change
    Webinars
    Leading change can be one of the most rewarding – and challenging – aspects of lay and clergy leadership in Episcopal congregations. This web conference focuses on general principles and best practices for leading a change process effectively. Th…
  • Communications for Episcopal Leaders
    Webinars
    While the topic of parish communications covers a broad range of issues, this web conference focuses on the need for leaders to communicate effectively. Geared toward lay and clergy leaders of Episcopal congregations, this web conference will explore…
  • Picturing the Future: Vision and Planning
    Webinars
    What is the difference between a congregation’s “mission” and its “vision”? This web conference focuses on the basic principles of a vision and planning process. Topics covered include key definitions, ideas for getting started, and example…
  • Part II of Getting to the ‘Why’: Growing Leaders
    Webinars
    The Episcopal Church runs on the extraordinary commitment (and real sacrifice) of its lay and clergy leaders. These web conferences focus on the art of cultivating and sustaining strong commitment by 1) building a shared sense of purpose and 2) engag…
  • Part I of Getting to the ‘Why’: Shared Purpose
    Webinars
    The Episcopal Church runs on the extraordinary commitment (and real sacrifice) of its lay and clergy leaders. These web conferences focus on the art of cultivating and sustaining strong commitment by 1) building a shared sense of purpose and 2) engag…
  • Running a Holy and Effective Meeting
    Webinars
    Using tools adapted from the tradition of movement building and community organizing, this webinar will offer practical guidance for running holy and effective meetings in your congregation. Presented by Ella Auchincloss, founder of the Diocese of Ma…
  • Identifying & Recruiting New Leaders
    Webinars
    Using tools adapted from the tradition of movement building and community organizing, this webinar will feature concrete steps in learning how to spot parishioners with good leadership potential and how to recruit them in a way that connects your val…
  • Part 1 of Vestry Leadership 101: Basic Principles
    Webinars
    This web conference focuses on basic roles and responsibilities, and highlights some best practices for vestries. Donald Romanik, long-time vestry member and ECF President, offers a practical review of the ins-and-outs of vestry service. Designed for…
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