• 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…
  • Sharing Audits ✓
    Vital Posts
    Summertime means audit-time in the life of congregations of The Episcopal Church. The Canons [I.7.1(f)] state the standard accordingly: “…All accounts of parishes, missions, or other institutions shall be audited annually by an independen…
  • 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…
  • 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…
  • The Difference Between Mission and Vision ✓
    Vital Posts
    I enjoy helping churches and not-for-profits become strategic thinkers and doers, not just planners. Mission and vision statements are actually strategic tools that help a congregation or organization stay focused. Most churches and nonprofits have…
  • “I could fill this job in about a week!” ✓
    Vestry Papers
    "Why should we spend a year trying to get a new minister? I could fill this job in about a week!" the vestry member proclaimed. "Yes," I replied, "but it's not a good idea."
  • 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…
  • Revitalizing Retreats
    Vital Posts
    In the last three months I've had the opportunity to attend three retreats. The first was a two-day spiritual retreat at Holy Cross Monastery in upstate New York. This was a time for prayer, worship, guided reflections and, most important, silence.…
  • 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…
  • Planning and Resting in the Holy Spirit
    Vital Posts
    Pope Francis stated in his Christmas message of 2014, "Preparing things well is necessary, but don't fall into the temptation of trying to close or direct the freedom of the Holy Spirit, which is bigger and more generous than any human plan."  …
  • What Do You Need To Let Go Of?
    Vital Posts
    Management guru Peter Drucker wrote often about “planned abandonment.” This is the idea that we need to intentionally put to death and bury the activities and thinking that are hindering us from spending time on more fruitful activities. We mus…
  • 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…
  • The Episcopal Church Dismisses You
    Vital Posts
    A few weeks ago we gathered in Alexandria, Va., for the Missional Voices Oneday gathering, where we focused on liturgy, music, and the missional church. Dr. Jim Farwell, the liturgy professor at VTS, discussed the intersection of mission and worshi…
  • The Need for Connection
    Vital Posts
    The leadership of a congregation is responsible for creating a vision, that is, developing a plan that enables the church to respond to the future in a creative manner. Given all the demands of a parish, it takes great discipline to attend to the f…
  • Ideas, Part Four: You Don’t Need Any More Ideas
    Vital Posts
    The title of this post may seem contradictory. But I promise you, it’s not. We’ve spent several weeks here talking about ideas. We’ve talked about paying attention to the things that grab your attention, about sharing and building on ideas wi…
  • 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…
  • Iterate, Don’t Originate.
    Vital Posts
    Or, how a remake of a remake of a song became a classic Starting from scratch is usually a bad idea. Too often, we assume innovative ideas and meaningful changes require a blank slate. When a project fails, we say, “Let’s go back to the…
  • Dots, Eventually
    Vital Posts
    Ever since I took up facilitating strategic planning, I’ve carried dots in my supply box. Small, brightly-colored, adhesive-backed dots come in handy when a group needs to determine priorities for the months ahead. Participants use a small number…
  • Should We Make Decisions Today That People Tomorrow Will Change?
    Vital Posts
    For the past several weeks, I’ve snuck a hour or half-hour, here or there, on as many days as I can to clear rocks from the rectory’s front yard in Valley Lee. My late predecessor, his wife tells me, got a call one day from a friend who offered…
  • Perfect Isn’t Good Enough
    Vital Posts
    Last night’s Olympic closing ceremony was a fitting end to two weeks where that saw outstanding performances, unflinching determination, and constant innovation. One of the brightest stars of this Olympiad was Houston’s own Simone Biles, wh…
  • Ideas, Part Two: Better Together
    Vital Posts
    I was well on the way to pursuing my idea. I had completed some interviews, bought a few plane tickets, and was researching innovative ministries across The Episcopal Church to interview. I was going to write a seminary thesis on mission and innova…
  • Ideas, Part One: Pay Attention to What You Pay Attention To
    Vital Posts
    We all have ideas, but where do they come from? I am fascinated by the ways in which people come up with new things. I’m sure you have an idea that you are toying with, for a business, a ministry, or maybe even a blog series. You may think th…
  • When Things Don’t Go According to Plan
    Vital Posts
    What do you do when things don’t go according to plan? Episcopalians are planners. We like things to be decent and in order, and we like to know who’s doing what well in advance of the liturgy or event we are planning. We make a rota, order…
  • Fear Not the Capital Campaign
    Vital Posts
    Angels in the Bible often say, “Fear not!” as they are about to deliver some awesome news from God. In my role as a capital campaign consultant for the Episcopal Church Foundation, I also have found, “Do not be afraid,” is a needed preface …
  • Independence Day Reflection
    Vital Posts
    Two hundred and forty years ago, representatives of the thirteen English colonies in North America declared their independence. They took this action on the second of July. We celebrate the day of its signing: July 4th. Of course, fireworks lit the…
  • 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.
  • A Place for Those who Came Before
    Vital Posts
    Sometimes four generations of family sit together in my church. Even after nearly five years, I’m still learning who is related. New priests for this congregation should get a family-tree chart as part of their welcome package! Honoring those…
  • The Capital Campaign: Where the Past, Present and Future Converge
    Vital Posts
    One of the blessings of working with different congregations on their capital campaigns is the opportunity to hear the amazing stories of the commitment and generosity of the saints whose passion for the Gospel brought these communities into being,…
  • The Key to Strategic Implementation? Communication
    Vital Posts
    “Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say.”(Acts 2: 14) It must have been breathtaking t…
  • Vital Practices Digest: 5 Clergy Transition Resources for May
    Vital Posts
    In the May Vital Practices Digest, we offer 5 resources for clergy transition in congregations, with the 5th a resource to help in developing year-round stewardship in your congregation. Please share this digest with others in your church …
  • Healthy Uncertainty
    Vital Posts
    Imagine yourself in these scenarios: It’s about 15 minutes before your Sunday morning service and an acolyte hasn’t shown up. What do you do? The end of the year is nearing and there’s a small budget shortfall. What’s the next step? You ask…
  • Finding God’s Purpose for Your Capital Campaign
    Vital Posts
    Motivational speaker Simon Sinek stresses that WHAT we do, and HOW we do it, are LESS important than a clear understanding of WHY we do things. Here are two key reasons ‘why’ we do a capital campaign:  1. A capital campaign is a vehicle f…
  • 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…
  • February 2016 Editor’s Letter: ‘Reboot’ Your Vestry
    Vital Posts
    Creating a vibrant and vital vestry is an ongoing task. The period following your annual meeting, when newly elected members join the vestry, is a good time to review and renew your congregation’s vision statement and to think about what p…
  • Fire First!
    Vestry Papers
    Robert Wright encourages us to make explicit our fire – our common purpose - and to keep it “in front of us” as it will bless our common life in exciting ways.
  • Spiritual Well-Being for Older Adults
    Vital Posts
    When answering the question, “Who is your target audience?” most church leaders will say young people, or Millennials, or young families, or the unchurched. Very few will say their churches are focusing on people over 75. Yet look at the people…
  • Key Elements of Identity for your Vestry Retreat
    Vital Posts
    If your vestry is planning an annual retreat, make sure you include some time for prayerfully affirming or discerning one or more of these key elements of your congregation’s identity: Ministry Strengths, Mission, Values and Vision. Ministry …
  • Vital Practices Digest: Top Ten Resolutions for Church Leaders in 2016
    Vital Posts
    Top Ten Resolutions for Church Leaders in 2016 ECF Vital Practices, after taking a look back at the questions you asked us in 2015, has pulled together a top ten list of resolutions for congregational leaders to consider in 20…
  • 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…
  • Following Jesus, Lord of the Church
    Vital Posts
    This past Sunday was a wonderful day for The Episcopal Church. Not only was Michael Curry installed as our new Presiding Bishop, he also preached an awesome sermon in which he laid out a dynamic, exciting charge for The Episcopal Church in years ah…
  • Supporting First Responders
    Vestry Papers
    Disasters happen. In “Supporting First Responders,” Bruce Barnes shares how during a major fire, Church of the Redeemer quickly opened a cooling shelter for first responders due to the hard work of his congregation’s disaster team. At the end o…
  • In Good Faith: Seeing the Big Picture
    Vital Posts
    When I was a kid my parents often dragged me and my brother to museums. It wasn’t just that they were trying to ram some culture down our throats; they were genuinely inspired by art and wanted to share that passion with their children. Much of w…
  • 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?
  • Living Within Our Giving
    Vital Posts
    In my head I really believe this, and I’ve long thought it’s absolutely fundamental to effective ministry. I trace the origin of the concept back to my time in the Diocese of Chicago’s intentional curacy program, and my introduction to the th…
  • Communication, Communication
    Vital Posts
    Want some advice on how to grow your church?  Hire a communications director. Yes, you heard that right. A communications director. Not an additional pastor, not an education director or another musician. But a professional communicator t…
  • The Cost And Benefits Of Discipleship
    Vital Posts
    Autumn’s annual return means that most congregations are starting to put together financial plans for next year. The annual fundraising campaign or pledge drive is about to begin. Alongside this work, and at the same time, vestries and finance co…
  • The Gift of Time
    Vital Posts
    I am reminded again and again that ministry takes time. Relationships take time. Changes takes time. New life takes time. Even resurrection took three days, for heaven’s sake. We are in a huge hurry in the church these days. In part, we are m…
  • Finding the Still, Small Moments
    Vital Posts
    I’ve always enjoyed flying. Not the security lines or those times when I’ve been squished into a small seat in an overbooked plane, but the moment when you’re seated and you’ve just taken off. You can’t use your laptop or your phone and y…
  • August 2015 Editor’s Letter: Vision and Planning
    Vital Posts
    Why is it important for congregations to have a clear – and shared - vision of what God is calling them to do? Many times congregations discover the root of their conflict is a different understanding of the vision. Making – and taking -…
  • Multilingual Leadership and Multicultural Churches
    Vestry Papers
    Sandra Montes speaks Silvestre Romero shares his thoughts and experience working with multicultural parishes as well as the Episcopal identity and the challenges they face.
  • From Vision to Action
    Vestry Papers
    A special excerpt from the new Vestry Resource Guide, Nancy Davidge and Susan Elliott offer strategies for shifting a strategic planning process to the more nimble and dynamic strategic thinking model.
  • Growing Our Church
    Vestry Papers
    Estela Lopez shares the story of the rebirth of a struggling church in Texas. A shared vision and inviting all members to become leaders are central to the success of this ministry. (Also available in Spanish.)
  • Who Sets the Vision?
    Vestry Papers
    Who sets the vision for the congregation? In “name,” Nancy Davidge shares the responses from congregational leaders – lay and ordained – from across our church.
  • Nitty Gritty
    Vital Posts
    ECF Vital Practices and our new Vestry Resource Guide provide helpful insights on strategic planning and direction for congregations and dioceses. It’s uplifting to witness congregations as they identify their ministry strengths and then prayerfu…
  • The Numbers Also Get You There
    Vital Posts
    Not surprisingly, a tangential remark led to a rich conversation at one of the many meetings we’ve been having among the Episcopal churches in southern Maryland. “The fact is that the numbers get you to understand the need for institutional col…
  • Ten Steps
    Vital Posts
    I've always been a little uncomfortable with approaches to church that draw directly from the so-called corporate world. The idea that gospel witness offers an easy parallel with marketing is downright creepy, frankly. And I'm increasingly suspicio…
  • July 2015 Editor’s Letter: Vision and Planning
    Vital Posts
    Who are we? What is our vision? Where are we going? For July, Vestry Papers invites congregations to consider these questions, reflecting on the gifts God has granted to us while also listening – and watching – for what God is call…
  • God Helps Us to See
    Vestry Papers
    In ”God Helps Us to See,” Alex Montes-Vela reminds us that it is through our brokenness that we can truly see what God is calling us to do – and be – in the world.
  • Why Strategic Planning?
    Vestry Papers
    “Why Strategic Planning” by Linda Buskirk invites congregational leaders to consider discerning God’s call as a community through prayerful reflection and conversation on the gifts God has uniquely provided your congregation and the needs that …
  • Why Articulate Your Mission & Vision?
    Vestry Papers
    “What are we to do with that knowledge?” Ongoing visioning and planning is a key vestry responsibility. In “Why Articulate Your Mission & Vision,” an excerpt from the new Vestry Resource Guide, Nancy Davidge and Susan Elliott share a process …
  • Small Church, Big Impact
    Vestry Papers
    How does a congregation live into its sacred role as a healer?
  • 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…
  • Celebrate. Listen. BE INSPIRED. Plan.
    Vital Posts
    When there is so much happening, or so much to do in the present, it’s sometimes difficult to imagine the future. Here’s a fun exercise to move people to envision how their church could make an exciting difference in the world. Vision is in…
  • The Minnesotans are Coming! The Minnesotans are Coming!
    Vital Posts
    Well, they actually have already come, and gone. One of the blessings of being an ECF Fellow for 2015 is the opportunity that it affords Southside Abbey to grow with other communities that will come visit us as part of the Innovative Leadership Rou…
  • 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…
  • Why Strategic Planning?
    Vital Posts
    I receive some pretty interesting responses when I tell people that I facilitate strategic planning for congregations. By far the most frequent response is a blank stare followed by a polite, “Oh, that must be interesting.” Sometimes an enthusi…
  • "Why Didn't It Work?"
    Vital Posts
    The associate pastor of a 225-member Presbyterian church in rural Virginia sent me an important question. She described an extensive evangelism project they had undertaken -- at considerable expense and effort -- and asked "why it didn't quit…
  • Strategic Thinking: How our biases impact our parish’s decisions
    Vital Posts
    Years ago, I was in a freshman at a Midwest liberal arts college. I took a required course for graduation called “Bible and Culture.” Rick McPeak, the professor, had three rules. The third rule, the one that captured this Episcopalian’s attenti…
  • Other People’s Ideas
    Vital Posts
    What do you do with other people’s ideas? Here’s a scenario I see a lot in the church these days: Someone does Something in their congregation that really works. It’s a little off the beaten path. Let’s face it; the “we’ve alw…
  • Big Data and Small Data
    Vital Posts
    Like communicators everywhere, Episcopal communicators need data to evaluate their effectiveness. But what kind of data: big or small? It’s relatively easy to get numbers: How many people visit the website, how many followers we have on Twi…
  • Time Line Story Telling
    Vital Posts
    Creating a time line is a fun, interactive way to engage a congregation in telling stories that help people learn about each other and what they have in common. This is not an exercise to compile an accurate account of your church’s history – i…
  • 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…
  • “Aha” Moments
    Vital Posts
    Have you ever heard, ‘if we could just solve the problem of x in our parish strategy, we'd be ready …”? I was on the plane on my way to visit a client. I picked up a “Psychology Today” magazine which featured  this article: “Eureka:…
  • 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…
  • Creative Juices
    Vital Posts
    Have the two energy-zappers of vestry meetings, Routine and Re-hash, drained your creative juices? Even in the early church, Paul advised church leaders to persevere: “So let’s not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good. At the right …
  • 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 …
  • Do You Really Need A Mission Statement?
    Vital Posts
    Top 5 answers to the question: Does your church have a mission statement?  5. Yes. We post it in our bulletin and affirm or revise it in our annual Vestry retreat. 4. Yes. Well, maybe. No, I don’t think we do. 3. We created on…
  • 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…
  • A Vision for Your Vestry Retreat
    Vital Posts
    Celebrate. Listen. Be inspired. Plan. “I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.” - Dr. Martin L…
  • A Vision for Your Vestry Retreat
    Vital Posts
    Celebrate. Listen. Be inspired. Plan. “I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.” - Dr. Martin L…
  • Ears to Hear
    Vital Posts
    Celebrate. Listen. Be inspired. Plan. Then Jesus said, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.” Mark 4: 9 We all know Jesus told stories to help people understand deep truths about God, His nature, and His grace and love. Stories ar…
  • A Tale of Two Parishes: Lessons Learned From The Field
    Vital Posts
    Cinda Lavely, financial resource consultant, tells a story of working with two parishes at the same time and some lessons she learned along the way: “Working with two churches at the same time to help them find their way to a new form of an…
  • A New Opportunity: Accept? Or Pass?
    Vital Posts
    How do Episcopal organizations know what opportunities to take and what to leave behind? Recently, a friend of mine was offered a big job opportunity. With it came a higher salary, regular hours in the office, and a chance to do some impactful …
  • A Foundation of Strengths
    Vital Posts
    Celebrate. Listen. Be Inspired. Plan With this new year, my ECF Vital Practices blog posts return to offering ways to engage people in prayerful discussions about the ministries and direction of their congregation. Four key practices will be ex…
  • Resilient Communities
    Vital Posts
    On November 8, 2013, the strongest tropical cyclone ever recorded hit the central islands of the Philippines. The islands of Leyte and Samar were hit the hardest, with more than 6,000 dead and 1,000 missing. Southern cities like Tacloban and Suriga…
  • Top 10 Resolutions for Church Leaders in 2015
    Vital Posts
    Top Ten Resolutions for Church Leaders in 2015 ECF Vital Practices, after taking a look back at the questions you asked us, has pulled together a top ten list of resolutions for congregational leaders to consider in 2015. If you find…
  • Keep Awake
    Vital Posts
    Not too long ago my church, St. Lydia’s, moved into its own storefront location. Previously, we had borrowed or rented space for just a few hours each week. It wasn’t an easy process in New York City, and in some ways it mirrored the process my…
  • Apples and Oranges
    Vital Posts
    I was intrigued by the Lutheran blog that asked “Do we have Nadia problem?” reposted in part on Episcopal Cafe. Episcopal responses included an amusing retort: Would that we had a Nadia problem! We don’t even have a Nadia. The Nadia in qu…
  • Listening Campaign
    Vital Posts
    It may seem odd to think about listening as a way to engage more people in the life of your congregation. We are used to teaching, preaching, singing, worshiping, setting up web sites, posting on Facebook, tweeting, for heaven’s sake. But listeni…
  • Celebrate. Listen. Be inspired. Plan.
    Vital Posts
    “Man plans and God laughs.”  Has this wonderful Yiddish proverb ever been uttered in your vestry meeting? We can spend months planning a project or a new ministry, but sometimes it just doesn’t get traction. The wheels of our motivation a…
  • Stone Soup
    Vestry Papers
    Using this familiar folktale, Grace Church shares how declining resources can be a gift as well as a challenge in forming a vision.
  • 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…
  • Jesus is the Reason for this Season, Too
    Vital Posts
    The return of school and these post-Labor Day days seem to have kicked the whole world – and no less the church – back into program mode. Bible studies and Sunday schools and small groups and senior ministries and other programs are in full swi…
  • September 2014 Editor's Letter: Sharing Our Gifts
    Vital Posts
    When you think about stewardship, do you associate it with giving or with sharing? To me, giving suggests a transaction, a handing off, while sharing implies relationship, a connection. God invites us into relationship – with God and with eac…
  • 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 …
  • Can a Starbucks Barista Find a Place in The Episcopal Church
    Vital Posts
    It’s no secret that the Episcopal Church has historically been associated with a particular stratum of society—white, educated, socially connected, middle- to upper-class. The Presiding Bishop used to live in Greenwich, Connecticut—and now li…
  • What Do The Numbers Mean?
    Vital Posts
    This past week I signed up for something called SoulPulse. It is designed as both a large research study and a personal resource to help you measure your spiritual life. Twice a day for two weeks, SoulPulse sends you a survey about what you are doing…
  • Starting Planned Giving from Scratch
    Tools
    Is there a sure-fire way to set up a planned giving effort from scratch in a congregation? While there's no magic bullet, Jim Murphy, ECF's managing program director for financial resources, recommends these basic steps.
  • Ask For Help
    Vital Posts
    Telling the truth and asking for help have been the best and hardest things I have learned in ministry. I was ordained into a highly consumerist moment in the church. Watching suburban megachurches boom, the struggling mainline was under pressu…
  • Summer and Episcopalians
    Vital Posts
    You’ve heard the old yarn: Episcopalians are the only ones God trusts to take the summer off. We laugh. But underneath is the grain of truth: a lot of Episcopalians do take the summer off, from attending worship to participating in parish e…
  • We’re All In This Together … In Southern Maryland
    Vital Posts
    Together with our local congregations, we’re creating a website or, more broadly, some kind of web-based platform to better market The Episcopal Church in southern Maryland. The goal is to create a site which would speak more compellingly to youn…
  • Strategic Solutions
    Tools
    Strategic Solutions is a program offering facilitation and assistance for congregations, dioceses, and Episcopal schools to envision and fund future ministries.
  • Getting Unstuck: Discerning Decisions
    Vital Posts
    Intentional conversation, listening & reflection. “At 30, 50, or 70, who do you want to be?” Malcolm Boyd asks this question in his recent article of the same title. I was struck by this, realizing that I hadn’t thought that far o…
  • Singing a New Song
    Vital Posts
    This past fall, St. George’s took the RenewalWorks survey. Based on the work of Bill Hybels and Willow Creek Community Church and adapted by the Jay Sidebotham for purposes of use in The Episcopal Church, RenewalWorks is an incredibly thorough su…
  • Is the Church Dying? Or Not? (and the answer is...)
    Vital Posts
    The church blogosphere is heating up. The topic is death… the death of the Church…or to be more accurate this issue is a question: “Is the Church dying? Or not?” Of course, everyone has an opinion. And I do mean everyone (including me, b…
  • Crowdfunding
    Vital Posts
    For the past four or five years, my church, St. Lydia’s, has worshipped around dinner tables in a Lutheran church, an Episcopal parish hall, a congregant's house, and rented space in a Zen Center. Soon we’ll be moving into our own storefront. …
  • Theology of Interruption
    Vital Posts
    I pride myself on an ability to multitask. But I also resent when the unexpected takes me away from my well-laid plans. During breakfast, my dining companion talked about a willingness to be open to the work of the Spirit. A one-time parish s…
  • 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 examples of Episc…
  • 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…
  • Vision, Planning, and Movement?
    Vital Posts
    Earlier this week several congregants from St Lydia's gathered in our new space armed with cardboard and packing tape. We recently signed a lease on an empty storefront and are working with an architect on the design of the new space, so we made ro…
  • Wine and Design
    Vital Posts
    How can a congregation reclaim a sense of activism in the face of worry? Cinda Lavely, ECF Financial Resources consultant, works with parishes wrestling with discernment. She writes: “What can we do?” I hear this all the time, and with…
  • What is a Church?
    Vital Posts
    Fifty years ago -- even twenty -- that might have seemed a bizarre question. But these days, many things are up for grabs. How regular is regular worship? What constitutes preparation adequate for church leadership? Instruction of young? With walls…
  • 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 …
  • Seat Fillers
    Vital Posts
    Sometimes I wonder if what we really want in our churches are seat fillers. Seat fillers are an LA institution. When the season of televised awards shows rolls around, certain production challenges arise: among them, what to do with unsightly e…
  • We’re All in This Together
    Vital Posts
    In elementary and middle school, we learn about the importance of being good citizens. We place a high value on civic-mindedness, on tending to your community and neighbors. But we often lose sight of this value when it comes to our churches …
  • Collaboration: Challenging the One Parish, One Priest Model
    Vital Posts
    I just realized something, and it’s a game changer. For a while, I’ve been working on developing collaborative relationships with other local Episcopal congregations. Frankly, it makes no sense to me why we continue to prop up a one-paris…
  • 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.
  • 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, …
  • They Will Know Us by Our Love
    Vital Posts
    On Saturday morning I went to a coffee shop to write. Or possibly it was a Turkish restaurant. Or a patisserie. It was one of these things, or maybe all of them. It was mostly empty. It could have been the dreary weather, but I think one of the…
  • A New Year's Gift? Move the Annual Meeting
    Vital Posts
    Once the calendar hits late August, the rest of the year feels, like such a rush: Going from the late summer organization of the program year, to the autumn stewardship drive, then finding yourself generally unprepared to “be prepared” during A…
  • Resolutions
    Vital Posts
    Lose weight. Start exercising. Read the classics. Keep a journal. Find life/work balance. Pay off credit cards. Make new friends. Reconnect with old ones. This is prime time for resolution writing. Facebook and Twitter will soon be popping with…
  • Keeping Advent throughout the Year
    Vital Posts
    I am currently planning my wedding with my fiancée, Denise. As most people know, there’s a lot of work that goes into that single day. There are dress fittings and cake tastings. We have to decide how to feed our guests and find a venue and send…
  • Christmas Reality and Budget Strategy
    Vital Posts
    Right about now, leaders in congregations are putting the finishing touches on Christmas liturgies and sermons, finding a part for everyone in the pageant and giving equal attention to clearing the office calendar so we all can take a well-deserved…
  • Sleepy Sundays
    Vital Posts
    I had a grieving parishioner who started coming to church regularly during a terrible year of tragedy and loss. This person would arrive, sit down in the pew, and promptly fall asleep, waking only to take communion, and then only if jostled. Sc…
  • Packing
    Vital Posts
    Recently I’ve been doing a lot of packing. Well, I’ve been doing a lot of traveling which requires packing—trips for work and trips to visit family—something we are all familiar with. Packing is always an exercise in determining both wha…
  • That Old Time Religion: Looking Beyond Heyday History, Part 2
    Vital Posts
    My current parish is just over 100 years old, typical of Episcopal parishes near the heart of Los Angeles. It was founded in another Heyday, at a time when our city was being built, and when a whole lot of intrepid (mostly women) missionaries were …
  • That Old Time Religion: Looking Beyond Heyday History, Part 1
    Vital Posts
    I’d be the first to admit that I have a chip on my shoulder when it comes to nostalgia. It’s a generational thing. Born in 1971, I grew up hearing that the sixties were AWESOME (or maybe it was GROOVY??). Ordained in 2000, I have heard througho…
  • Surprises
    Vital Posts
    Last week was a week of surprises, and not the pleasant kind. There were network issues and train delays and last minute changes to a project I was working on, and while it all worked out just fine, the week didn’t exactly conform to my plan. I …
  • 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.   …
  • Rethinking the Pledge, Part 2: A New Way
    Vital Posts
    Second in a two-part series. Read part 1 here. These next few months are an opportunity for the Christian church to start talking in real terms about real life. It takes courage, in this case, to talk about money. Naming in real terms what amou…
  • God Had a Hand in This
    Vestry Papers
    Luke Blount shares the story of strangers brought together by a shared vision.
  • Candy Crush for God
    Vital Posts
    I’ve finally stopped playing candy crush. Truth be told, it wasn’t rock-star self-control that pulled the plug but rather a program error in one of the 300 levels that kept freezing the iPad, despite a few (hundred) attempts. Eventually, even I…
  • 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…
  • Are You Prepared?
    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…
  • Editor's Letter: September 2013
    Vital Posts
    September brings a different sort of energy, a different sense of time. There’s a renewed sense of urgency – the ‘lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer’ are behind us, replaced by a desire to get organized, to get on with things. For many of…
  • Increasing Spiritual Vitality: RenewalWorks
    Tools
    RenewalWorks grew out of the Diocese of Chicago's Episcopal Spiritual Life Renewal Program. Facilitator Clarence Langdon describes the process developed for congregations.
  • 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…
  • Editor's Letter: August 2013
    Vital Posts
    Sometimes the best way to bring about needed change is to actually break something. The damage in the parish hall at St. James Anglican Church in Perth, Ontario caused the congregation to post signs forbidding skateboarding on the property. St.…
  • Shattering the Status Quo
    Vestry Papers
    “Shattering the Status Quo” by Todd Ousley challenges congregational leaders to break out of familiar patterns by entering into an exodus experience as a way to open themselves to get ‘Egypt’ out of their systems.
  • Seeds of Hope
    Vestry Papers
    Like many small churches, Christ Episcopal Church in Biddeford, Maine had seen its resources rise and fall with the economic tide of the community. Shirley Bowen’s “Seeds of Hope” shares how this congregation multiplied their ability to serve C…
  • Who?
    Vital Posts
    “When renovating a kitchen, don`t forget who will use it!” In my last blog, I talked about how the discernment phase of a capital campaign seeks to answer the question of what God is calling a parish to do. We use this phase to create a soli…
  • Why?
    Vital Posts
    “Instead of asking how to keep going, change the question to why.” During the Discernment Phase for a capital campaign, we seek to ask what God is calling a parish to do. This often comes in the collective wisdom of a parish community. Meani…
  • 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…
  • 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…
  • [Accepting] God’s Gift of Chaos
    Vestry Papers
    In “God’s Gift of Chaos,” Demi Prentiss shares how embracing the messiness of the unknown can help a congregation become unstuck from the things that prevent meaningful change from occurring.
  • Sharing Faith Dinners
    Vestry Papers
    Unlike other faith traditions, the Episcopal Church is not known as a denomination where members talk easily – or publicly - about their faith. “Sharing Faith Dinners” by Luke Blount and Laura Shaver describes what can happen when groups of Ep…
  • Becoming Grace
    Vestry Papers
  • Seeing is Believing!
    Vital Posts
    “60’s shag carpeting is not part of our vision.” ECF has a three-phase strategy for capital campaigns: Discernment-Feasibility Study- Solicitation. During Discernment, we work with parishes to determine what God is calling them to do.  …
  • Taking Time
    Vital Posts
    Last week, everyone in my department took a morning to collect themselves and look at the months ahead. We talked about future events and deadlines, about messaging, and about our big ideas.  We could easily have spent that time last week produ…
  • 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…
  • 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…
  • Disaster Prep: Before, During, & After
    Tools
    Every parish has the potential of a devastating disaster. Are you prepared? These resources may help.
  • Finding God in the Raging Storm
    Vestry Papers
    The April 2013 events in Boston and West, Texas have again attuned our minds to the reality of crises in our lives. When crises occur, people often turn instinctively to the church, in the same way a stumbling person reaches for a handrail. Are our c…
  • Crisis Communications: Managing In
    Vestry Papers
    “Crisis Communications: Managing In” by Linda Hanick and Nathan Brockman offers congregations practical recommendations for managing the sometimes overlooked aspect of crisis communications: how and when you communicate within your own organizati…
  • 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…
  • 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…
  • Excellence
    Vital Posts
    Excellence. It’s not an arbitrary thing. Many people use this word like Bill and Ted did [in "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure,"] much like some people today, especially youth, use the word ‘epic.’ Maybe the bar has been lowered, therefore …
  • Experimenting
    Vital Posts
    It’s possible to make things too complicated. This is something I’ve learned while working on multiple projects. Some projects require extensive planning. They need budgets and a clear vision and measurable goals. Sometimes, however, overly amb…
  • It's Time to Grow!
    Vital Posts
    How can your congregation engage your community? We offer this collection of articles and resources for congregations to look outside and see how you can become a vital part of your community. As winter season winds down, now is a great time to sta…
  • Community Partners
    Vital Posts
    This past weekend I listened to a panel discussion on Community Schools. These are schools intended to be community centers, offering education, of course, but also services for children and adults, such as programs promoting health. These initiati…
  • Beans and Grapes
    Vital Posts
    All Saints Episcopal Church in Pleasant Ridge, a first-rung suburb of Cincinnati, could easily have been a statistic.  With fewer than 100 people on Sunday mornings, it’s not a corporate-sized congregation that can weather significant shifts i…
  • A Mosaic of Faith: Putting the Pieces Together
    Vital Posts
    Recently, we have undertaken a new outreach program at our mission in the Hill neighborhood called GARLiC (Green Art Renewing Life in Community). Its purpose, as outlined ably by its program director Sarah Raven, is “to encourage ‘upcycling’ …
  • 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.
  • A Suggested Order of Meeting (for Vestry Meetings)
    Tools
    In this new era the vestry and all leader groups will seek to give the congregation the gift of missional leadership. The governance functions in this agenda are concentrated, allowing greater time for the development of an atmosphere of discipleshi…
  • A Quiet Moment to Look Ahead
    Vital Posts
    I’ve spent much of the past week reading and taking walks on the beach in Rio. My girlfriend is from Brazil, so I was lucky enough to come out here for the holidays. It’s been a little strange celebrating Christmas in 100-degree heat and going …
  • Crisis Preparedness: Making a Plan
    Tools
    Is your congregation prepared for a crisis? Do you have a written, easy to access guide for dealing with a crisis? Are your staff and congregational leaders familiar with/trained to deal with a crisis should it arise?
  • Calendaring
    Vital Posts
    I was in utter disbelief when I heard Christmas anthems being played on my friend's computer. He had been planning for Christmas Eve services as far back as August, while at that time my mind was focused on a busy September lineup of fall programs.…
  • Bountiful Abundance
    Vital Posts
    Here is a story about how a seasonal theme can emerge.  As we were putting together the church school program for the coming fall, we retained the services of a mosaic artist to help our young people create a mural for the church. We held a mee…
  • A Question of Vision
    Vital Posts
    Every field has its own language, words and phrases that have clear significance to insiders, but which are as clear as mud for everyone else. Richelle Thompson, who also writes for ECF Vital Practices, has frequently said that the Episcopal Church…
  • Magical Thinking
    Vital Posts
    Do you remember the TV show Bewitched?  Samantha, a witch played by Elizabeth Montgomery was married to a mere mortal Darrin Stephens, played by Dick York and later Dick Sergeant. Remember the way Samantha would twinkle her nose and all would b…
  • Is Spiritual Tranquility Possible?
    Vital Posts
    Is our fast paced, change driven culture compatible with congregational spiritual tranquility? As Episcopalians we pray each week "Sanctify us also...that we may serve you in unity, constancy, and peace." - Holy Eucharist II We pray for what …
  • Time Lapse Movie: A Week in the Life of St. Andrew’s
    Vital Posts
    At one of our Mardi Gras celebrations, a cook set up his fancy digital camera and it shot one frame every five minutes to create a time lapse video of the event, from start up to clean up. With the program year approaching, I am thinking I mig…
  • The Church that Plays Together
    Vital Posts
    I’m packing our bags. This weekend, half of the church is heading to the diocesan conference center for retreat. Since this is our first time, we have had lots of recommendations for packing: Sturdy shoes for hiking, bathing suits for swimm…
  • Spiritual Consolation
    Vital Posts
    How do congregations decide the spiritually ripe time to make their most difficult decisions? Many Episcopal congregations are facing urgent decisions on the ways they can grow their parish, increase their pledges, and bring in more young fam…
  • Spiritual Desolation
    Vital Posts
    [Post #2 of 5 - "Do You Recognize the Signs of Your Congregation's Spiritual Crisis?"] Spiritual desolation occurs when we cease to experience and or question the reality of God's love for us. Augustine's words bring us back to our spiritual c…
  • Anxious Decisions or Passionate Urgency?
    Vital Posts
    Spiritual Health of Congregations: Anxious Decisions or Passionate Urgency: Part 1 In the next five blog posts I will introduce congregations to the principles of the spiritual life, discernment, and making Spirit centered decisions. There are m…
  • The Paradoxical Gift of Viability Threatened Congregations
    Vital Posts
    Part 3 of 4: Exercising Leadership with Viability Threatened Congregations. Read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3. In my chaplaincy at a level 1trauma center I learned new meaning is often found when people experience extreme losses that fundamentall…
  • With: Strengthening Congregations through Partnerships
    Vital Posts
    Part 3 of 4: Exercising Leadership with Viability Threatened Congregations. Read Part 1 and Part 2. This four-part series has been intentionally named "Exercising Leadership with Viability Threatened Congregations". "With" not "for" or "over"…
  • Naming the Issue
    Vital Posts
    Part 2 of 4: Exercising Leadership with Viability Threatened Congregations - The Congregation's Leadership Responsibility.  Read Part 1 here. Several months after an Episcopal parish church closed I gathered its former members to engage them in …
  • Viability and Vitality
    Vital Posts
    What is unique to congregational vitality and how is it different from congregational viability in the ways that intersect with mission? Congregational vitality has risen to its appropriate place of prominence in The Episcopal Church through …
  • Serving Without Pandering
    Vital Posts
    The best beer in the world is made by Trappist monks in Belgium. Or this is what I was told by 99% Invisible, a podcast I listen to occasionally. The beer is called Westvletern 12, and in order to purchase it you must call one of the monks and make…
  • Constantine has Left the Building
    Vital Posts
    My assignment at this [77th General] convention has been to track the movement to re-organize the entire structure of the Episcopal Church. A strong consensus has emerged that it is time to re-boot the way we are set-up – General Convention, Offi…
  • Heartbeat, Not Heartache
    Vital Posts
    Our churches "should be the heartbeat of mission and service, not the heartache of history and loss." Today Congregational Seasons celebrates The Episcopal Church Building Fund (ECBF) for its passion, vision, and pastoral care of congregations …
  • Editor's Letter: July 2012
    Vital Posts
    While the ‘where and how’ of communications has changed dramatically since Vestry Papers’ 2008 issue Parish Communications, the ‘who, what, when, and why’ has not. During the summer, we’ll look at ways congregations are successfully mer…
  • Using Video
    Vestry Papers
    Do you need a video for your capital campaign? Maybe you've had your heart strings pulled by glowing shots and the stirring soundtrack of your alma mater's video or the local hospital's. But is something that flashy appropriate for a church instituti…
  • Find a Church
    Vestry Papers
    Online listings offer churches the opportunity to tell their story 24/7, with capacity to include far more than name, address, contact information, and worship times. Learn about what's available and how to get maximum (free) exposure for your congre…
  • Communication Tune-Up
    Vestry Papers
    Do your congregation’s communication tools need sharpening? Maybe you’d like to get on track for fall and the new program year? Here are suggestions from the Media in Ministry class at Bloy House, the Episcopal Theological School at Claremont, Ca…
  • Brand: Burn, Baby, Burn
    Vital Posts
    Farmers understand branding. There’s a long history of branding cattle as a way to distinguish one herd from another. The brand of a well-respected rancher is sought after and considered more valuable. From this agrarian perspective, brandi…
  • The Future in Four Parts
    Vital Posts
    Will the Episcopal Church thrive because of social networking sites, or will we wither away because these now serve as an effective alternative to Church? Will our congregations, schools, and camps and conference centers be a refuge to those who ha…
  • Come on People, Let's Get Together
    Vital Posts
    Do we really need another….? …committee, task force… soup kitchen…, website???? Might our time, talent, and treasure be better served by looking around, seeing who is doing similar work, and joining forces? This question came to min…
  • Wanna Grow! Help People Discern
    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…
  • Top Ten Things You See in a Church Merger
    Tools
    Is the possibility of a church merger being considered as part of your growth strategy? This resource may help...
  • Wanted: Fundraiser Makeover
    Vital Posts
    Today, I’m attending my first “Card Party” at my new congregation. I know I’ll have a great time kibitzing with women of all ages, visiting over the specialty sandwiches, and bidding with abandon on baskets of goodies. I like this kin…
  • 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.”                               …
  • Of Dinosaurs & Discernment
    Vestry Papers
    Concern for the future started Lisa Towle and ECW-NC on a journey of discernment and discovery. 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.…
  • Surviving or growing into the future?
    Vital Posts
    Last week I remembered a resource about “survival mode” vs. “growth mode” for congregations. There are lots of resources available about this topic, but my notes pointed me to a short, easy description I could remember and share with others…
  • Editor's Letter: March 2012
    Vital Posts
    Greetings. Much has been written about the overall decline in mainline denominations. Tom Ehrich and others are calling for a ‘new way of doing business‘ – and throughout our church, congregational leaders struggle with the reality of d…
  • Real Collaboration
    Vestry Papers
    Collaboration has about as much buzz as any buzzword seems to buzz these days.
  • I Have Seen the Future: It is Kampala
    Vital Posts
    In my first 10 days in Uganda I have been taken to the capital city, Kampala, three times. All roads lead to the capital, it’s just that all those roads are in terrible condition. The freakish traffic can create jams of three hours or more. The mut…
  • 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…
  • The Value of a Mission Statement
    Vital Posts
    Does your parish have a mission statement? Our Book of Common Prayer provides a mission statement for us all: “The mission of the church is to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.” (Book of Common Prayer, pg. 855.)…
  • Helping out the Calendar Master
    Vital Posts
    Every congregation needs a calendar master. This person oversees all the events in the church and coordinates with outside groups. The calendar master knows which group will leave the building spotless and which ones will leave half-full coff…
  • Church in the Round
    Your Turn
    In fall 2011 St. Andrew’s in Seattle, WA began the visioning process for a new mission center in the heart of Lake City.
  • Which Way to Worship
    Vital Posts
    As you may have followed from earlier blogs, we at St. Andrew’s, Seattle, are in the midst of launching a brand new Episcopal mission expression in a northeast neighborhood of Seattle. We inherited a fascinating building whose architecture gave t…
  • The Edge Effect
    Vital Posts
    I’ve just learned about “the edge effect.”  In nature, the interface between two ecological systems – the edge – is one of the most fertile, diverse, resilient, innovative  spaces. Think of a forest and a meadow, or a mountain and river v…
  • 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…
  • Church in the Round
    Vital Posts
    We have now officially launched our design team to re-establish an Episcopal mission in northeast Seattle that we have named, “Church in the Round.” As you may have read in my earlier blog posts, my parish has been asked to re-open a closed Epi…
  • Is it Worth It?
    Vital Posts
    “If no one else signs up to help, you’ll have to bring me in on a stretcher next week.” This was the closing line of a lay leader’s announcement last Sunday, as she pleaded for more volunteers to make blueberry cobbler for the town’s annu…
  • Out of Many, One: New River Regional Ministry
    Vestry Papers
    The New River Regional Ministry is the result of the commitment of The Diocese of Southeast Florida, All Saints Church, St. Ambrose Church, El Centro Hispano de Todos los Santos, and St. Ambrose Pre-school to serve joyfully both in the abundance and …
  • Beyond Functions: An Incarnational Ministry Fair
    Vital Posts
    With Kick-off Sunday under our belts, many churches turn to the Ministry Fair to jumpstart recruitment for all the numerous parish ministries needing warm bodies to keep their mission going. Many times these look like this: a parish hall set up wit…
  • “Final Affairs” Fair Offers a Good Way Out
    Vital Posts
    Our church on Saturday used the format provided on the Vital Practices website to host a “Final Affairs” Fair where members could look death in the eye and walk away smiling. The idea is have in one place information and resources about a n…
  • If You (Re-)build it, Will They Come?
    Vital Posts
    When I began to redesign our diocesan website, I had a few clear goals in mind: Improve navigation. Increase user satisfaction. Update the look and feel. I’ve shared this journey with you on Vital Practices because I think it’s helpful to s…
  • Be Ready
    Vital Posts
    Two nights ago I arrived home to find no power on the property. So much for plugging in the laptop and writing a blog post! But I got the flashlight, managed to warm up some dinner on the gas stove, then went to bed early. The power outage is a…
  • One Step Out of "Stuckness"
    Vestry Papers
    Helping others make spirited and rooted next steps often involves being intentional about not only where you want to go but also what is keeping you from getting started.
  • 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…
  • 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. …
  • 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.…
  • Wanted: Authenticity
    Vital Posts
    Summer is novel reading time. Trapped by the heat, I try to stay as still as possible, book in-hand, under a tree or nestled up to my AC wall unit. Two weeks ago I survived one of New York’s hottest days by reading Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from th…
  • 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.
  • Strategic Planning for Your Church
    Tools
    A series of activities to help your leadership do a comprehensive review of all activities, ministries and programs of your church.
  • 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…
  • Starting from Scratch
    Vital Posts
    If you were asked to start a new Episcopal Mission from scratch, how would you go about it? What principles or values would you put in place from day one? What first steps would you take in the those first days as you began? Our church may have …
  • Stewardship: Glass half-full
    Vital Posts
    The list of expenses was long. Over the past year, this Appalachian church installed a new boiler system, purchased an industrial stove and oven, and dug up half the parking lot to repair the water and sewer pipes. Bids are out for a new roof…
  • What's your Impact?
    Vital Posts
    Could anyone have anticipated the impact of the resurrection? Talk about long-term outcomes! Jesus had a plan in mind, but the disciples seemed surprised and amazed by the early impact of their ministry with him. Feeding more than 5,000 people,…
  • Who's Blooming?
    Vital Posts
    How did the rose ever open its heart and give to this world all its beauty? It felt the encouragement of light against its being – otherwise, we all remain too frightened. (Hafiz) This beautiful phrase anchors tonight’s meditation during Ve…
  • Appreciative Inquiry at St. Mary's Manhattanville
    Your Turn
    Our congregation has used the process of Appreciative Inquiry (AI) to understand our strengths, core values, and hopes for the future, leading to enhanced ministry and energy for our mission. The first event in April 2007 was a great success. Attache…
  • The Little Church That Could
    Vital Posts
    “We had an emergency building committee meeting on Thursday. The boiler is failing. But when I left the meeting, after 2 hours, I was so energized!” That isn’t the usual response from a property committee chair. But it was Liz’s respons…
  • Giving up Lent for Lent
    Vital Posts
    In my Resurgent Church colleague clergy group, two members shared the different ways their communities have been approaching the Lenten Season. Cynthia Espeseth, vicar of St. Hilda/St. Patrick’s, Mulkiteo, talked about the “wishful thinking hal…
  • State of the Church Part 2
    Vital Posts
    How do you summarize the state of the Episcopal Church in one 20-page report? What status reports are most helpful for the church-at-large as it seeks to live out its mission in the world? How do you crunch a sea of statistics into a usable form fo…
  • Ear to the Ground
    Vital Posts
    I love this expression. It conjures up times as a kid when I literally pressed my ear to the rocky soil listening for clues about what was going on beneath the surface.  Years later, I often hear this expression in the context of what it means …
  • La Bonne Cuisine: A Mortgage and a Mission
    Vital Posts
  • Change: Top down or bottom up? Or both?
    Vital Posts
    The question of how the church must change was the theme of the opening address at The Episcopal Church’s Executive Council meeting in Fort Worth. As reported by Episcopal News Service, House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson used part of …
  • The Resurgent Church
    Vital Posts
    For the third year running I am taking part in a clergy action/study group called the Resurgent Church. It comes out of the incredible work of Anne Lukens, a rector in our diocese, who has convened small groups of 8-10 "practitioners" who meet for …
  • Red Notes
    Vital Posts
    Last week I shared some "blue notes."  Those post-it note pictures gave a sense of the reality of the church as some people see it now. While there are many wonderful aspects of the Episcopal Church these days, those particular notes sang the blues…
  • 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…
  • "Be Not Afraid" - Is Our Role Business or Faith?
    Vital Posts
    Jesus said to us “be not afraid” and yet we are afraid. We, in religious communities, are afraid that we will run out of money, run out of people, run out of energy. If our focus was on formation, not on maintaining the status quo, I believe we…
  • Statistical Data on Episcopal Congregations
    Tools
    Do you know your congregation's statistics? Information is available: use this data to enhance your knowledge about your diocese, congregation, and local community.
  • Happy 2011
    Vital Posts
    In the United States, the start of a new calendar year signals time for reflection and renewal and setting goals. Out with the old! In with the new! Honoring the New Year’s tradition of evaluation and goal setting, ECF Vital Practices invited…
  • Resurrection Leadership
    Vestry Papers
    Do we really believe in resurrection? That is the question that the people of St. Alban’s Episcopal Church in Waco, Texas, asked themselves after closing St. Alban’s Memorial School, an Episcopal school that had served the children of Waco for 60…
  • The End to 'Business as Usual'
    Vestry Papers
    For a better future to happen, vestries need to recognize that business-as-usual is over. Over the next two to three years, vestries need to undertake six radical shifts in how they operate.
  • What Do YOU Want for Christmas?
    Vital Posts
    This week I’ve spent a lot of time shopping. No, not in malls or online for family and friends; I’ve been ‘resource shopping’ for ECF Vital Practices, looking for tools and resources to add to our site, gifts to help congregational leaders …
  • Your website: A communications hub
    Vestry Papers
    You do have a parish communication strategy, don't you?
  • Discerning for Young Adult Ministry
    Your Turn
    A tool kit for exploring the calling and possibility of ministry to young adults (18-30).
  • For youth, it's all about relationships
    Vestry Papers
    Six years ago, when I took on the position of Youth Minister at Grace Episcopal Church, I didn't have the slightest idea of where to begin.
  • A Bible Study for Difficult Decisions
    Vestry Papers
    How can you tell when a ministry is no longer viable?
  • Making a List....
    Vital Posts
    Yesterday, on a day off, I felt caught in a strange place between endings and beginnings. I had my usual list of personal tasks to accomplish in limited hours. Yet it had the strange aura that only comes at this particular time of year. Encroaching…
  • Koheleth and the Good Soil
    Fieldwork
    Paul reflects on his meager harvest.
  • Back from Nuevo Amanecer
    Vital Posts
    I’m writing this blog post on my flight back from the Nuevo Amanecer Conference, an event I attended on behalf of the Episcopal Church Foundation. This conference is a once-in-two year gathering for those who are involved in Latino ministry. Atte…
  • 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…
  • 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…
  • Vestry work in real life: New vision
    Vestry Papers
    How does true spiritual discernment work with nuts-and-bolts issues like vision statements and parish budgets?
  • Holy Diversions
    Vital Posts
    I live alongside a monastic community. (Yes, there are nuns and monks in the Episcopal Church!) What a unique and amazing experience. I could never have planned for something like this…it just emerged in grace-filled ways over the last 18 months.…
  • 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…
  • Beginnings
    Fieldwork
    Alex Montes-Vela, priest in the Diocese of Texas shares the story of the birth and growth of St. Mary Magdalene in Manor (pronounced Maynor), Texas.
  • Growth Charts
    Vital Posts
    When my parents moved from my childhood home, they asked if there was anything I wanted. They expected, I think, for me to ask for a favorite piece of furniture or artwork.  I asked for part of a doorframe.  From the time we moved into the…
  • Limited funds, limited time, yet success
    Vestry Papers
    Many small parishes never undertake capital campaigns because of the difficulties and limitations that come with having few resources.
  • Capital campaigns, faith and hard times
    Vestry Papers
    St. Michael and All Angels is not a wealthy congregation. However, the story of our capital campaign over the past couple of years has been quite remarkable.
  • L.E.A.D.E.R. - The Mission Driven Budget
    Tools
    It’s no secret. Parish budgets usually aren’t dynamic or compelling. They’re a series of numbers trapped in straight lines. Context is everything. In the right context, those numbers are the legend to a map: Where did we come from? Where are we…
  • 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…
  • Planificación estratégica para las feligresías
    Webinars
    ¿Cuál es la diferencia entre la "misión" y la "visión" de una congregación? Esta conferencia web se centra en los principios básicos de un proceso de visión y planificación. Los temas cubiertos incluyen definiciones claves, ideas para empezar…
  • Holy Shift: 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…
  • Vision & 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 examples of Episc…
  • 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 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…
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