July 17, 2024 by Ken Howard

These days it seems like the leadership of every congregation thinks the answer to their dwindling or stagnant membership and attendance numbers is to attract young families: specifically, growing their congregations by bringing in families with young children. But is that really the answer? And if it is, how do we go about attracting them? Here are a few thoughts, based on research and experience.

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January 31, 2024 by Jacob Sierra

You’ve probably heard the familiar grumble in your church or ministry setting “Where have all the young people gone?” Many of us are concerned about the declining interest in Christianity among young adults. In 2022, TryTank Experimental Laboratory and The FaithX Project partnered to test the Episcopal Pulse Pilot, a regular micro-survey. During that pilot, they learned that 8 in 10 Episcopalians surveyed said their congregation had anywhere between 1 and 20% of young adults (age 18-25) in their congregation, while 14% of Episcopalians surveyed said they had none at all.

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September 28, 2022 by Cathy Hornberger

This month we offer five resources on youth ministry. Please share this digest with new members of your vestry and extend an invitation to subscribe to ECF Vital Practices to receive Vestry Papers, blogs, and the monthly digest.

Michael Carney writes about youth ministry during the pandemic at St. Elizabeth’s, an Episcopal mission on the Ute Reservation in northeast Utah in Youth Ministry Pandemic Style.

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July 20, 2022 by Cathy Hornberger

This month we offer five resources on Welcoming Families in Worship. Please share this digest with new members of your vestry and extend an invitation to subscribe to ECF Vital Practices to receive Vestry Papers, blogs, and the monthly digest.

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May 31, 2022 by Spencer Hatcher

I am formed by the liturgy of camp; by singing to music led by amateur guitarists, pianists, and bongo drummers. We sat on a worn hardwood floor and listened to chaplains tell the stories of their lives and of God’s action in the world, all the while whispering to one another about what came next, telling secrets and laughing under our breath into a space made holy by our half attention and full presence. Each week, we gathered, still seated on that hardwood floor to share a cup of wine and a plate of bread, passing it from one set of dirty, sweaty hands to another. We would laugh and whisper, having no idea what we were doing, but knowing, somewhere, somehow, that this was set aside time. But also, perhaps, that it was time connected to all the rest- to the games, friendship bracelets, canoe trips and picnics where we would sit under shade trees and imagine a different kind of world, to the old table in the back of the main gathering room where generations of us would secretly carve our names into the soft wood with ballpoint pens knowing without knowing that we were a part of something bigger than ourselves. My understanding of church is still rooted under those shade trees, still carved into that old table, still sitting criss-cross on that worn hardwood floor, laughing and learning what it means to be the body of Christ together.

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March 23, 2022 by Cathy Hornberger

This month we offer five reflections on the upcoming Easter holiday. Please share this digest with new members of your vestry and extend an invitation to subscribe to ECF Vital Practices to receive Vestry Papers, blogs, and the monthly digest.

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October 18, 2021 by Maria Teresa Bautista-Berrios

"Lead me where people need your words, need my enthusiasm for life; where hope is faint, where joy is scarce, just because they do not know You. I give you my sincere heart to express without fear your greatness, Lord. I will have tireless hands, your story between my lips, and strength in prayer." Alma Misionera is a Spanish song from the Flor y Canto hymnal, and this is part of the English translation. These words were fundamental in cultivating my family's spiritual identity as a whole and my understanding of what it means to mean to a baptized person within this community of faith.

My story begins with my father, Rev. Simon Bautista Betances, an Episcopal priest, alongside my remarkable, devout, trailblazing mother, Amarilis Vargas Bautista. Who together built a loving, fun, creative, respectful, faith-filled, justice-oriented family who were raised to be proud of our Latino heritage and African descendants. Church for the four Bautista children wasn't a bore or a thing we "had" to do just because our father was the Priest. Instead, we marveled at being part of different diverse communities of faith where we were so loved, cared for, and welcomed. We were known as the "missional family," wherever my Dad was called to serve, the Bautista party of six served alongside him. Early on, my curiosity towards the Holy Trinity's mystery and who God was calling me to be settled in. God's calling began when I served as an acolyte at the age of nine years old, and in the moments where with my family, we would pray for the healing of one of our beloved church members. In those moments, I felt a yearning to learn more about this gracious and Holy God. When I could share God's Good News with the campers at City Camp in Philadelphia, I was left restless with how I am called to be part of God's hands and feet on Earth.

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October 11, 2021 by Annette Buchanan

We have all been on many Zoom services over the last year, either at our own church or other congregations near and far, and the observation is there were few to no youth on these Zoom services.

Further, in discussions about the challenges congregation face in the new virtual or hybrid (in-person and virtual) environment, the lack of youth presence is highlighted as a major issue that had not been adequately addressed.

Concerns were as follows:

Sunday School Teachers and Youth Leaders need new or updated skillset for this virtual environment to better engage with the youth. They need resources to share issues confronted and receive best practices to move forward successfully.

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July 28, 2021 by Reed Carlson

Every month ECFVP offers resources on a theme. This month we've asked 2015 ECF Fellow the Rev. Dr. Reed Carlson to choose five resources from Vital Practices to highlight. Please share this email with new members of your vestry and extend an invitation to subscribe to ECF Vital Practices to receive Vestry Papers and this monthly digest.

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September 10, 2020 by Michael Carney

Who could have imagined the upheavals 2020 has brought upon us? Along with every other institution, churches have been turned upside-down. In many cases necessity has been the mother of invention, as with the explosion of online worship. In other parts of our common life, such as youth ministry, it’s been tempting to throw up our hands and wait for a better time.

We’d like to share two experiences of adapting to the pandemic, with the hope that they’ll open up some possibilities in your setting. The first arose from young people and their youth leader responding to needs in the community and making an impact. The second explores the question of how a youth group can safely gather in person again. We’ll begin by describing the unique setting in which these experiences took place.

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May 14, 2020 by Liz Perraud

There was that summer when a small construction project at our church and a burned-out Vacation Bible School (VBS) director meant we shifted from a traditional week of morning VBS to Wednesday evening intergenerational gatherings. And then there was that summer of major reconstruction when we couldn’t use the building or grounds and we opted to skip VBS altogether. Then along came COVID-19 in the spring of this year and the conversation and creativity took a whole new spin. Are we done spinning yet? Likely not.

I am a Christian education volunteer in my church and also serve as executive director of GenOn Ministries. For 60 years GenOn, a nonprofit organization, has partnered with churches to nurture, grow, and deepen intergenerational Christ-centered community. Excellent Vacation Bible School does that well. And so, in mid-March, we discussed how to support churches for at-home faith formation this summer.

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November 4, 2019 by Richelle Thompson

It’s not often a resource can be used by both children and adults, as a formation tool and a gift for visitors, and as a celebration of the arts and the gifts of parishioners. But one congregation struck the trifecta.

Grace Episcopal Church in Anniston, Alabama, created its own coloring book with art solicited from members of the congregation featuring different facets of the building and liturgical accoutrements as well as local traditions. Published by the Christian education department, the coloring book is offered for the simple enjoyment by children and adults as well as for formation. A glossary in the back explains each picture. So, for example, an image of the aumbry might be familiar to folks who attend the church but who may not know its function. The handy glossary explains (along with a key for pronunciation): “AHM.bri: The aumbry of Grace Church is recessed into the east wall of the sanctuary near the altar. It is used to store the reserved sacrament. A sanctuary lamp hangs over the aumbry to indicate that reserved sacrament is stored within. The aumbry was dedicated in 1961.” Other images include the chalice and paten, the baptismal font, the pitcher used to hold the water of baptism.

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October 24, 2019 by Melissa Rau

There once were young parents who decided to find a church family with whom they might raise their family in the faith. Though they’d attend the occasional Christmas and Easter service, they wanted to be more intentional. They committed to attending regularly, and after a little, they began being recognized as regular church attenders. People began to learn their names and that of their little girl. They eventually met with the priest and decided to have their toddler baptized.

As their little girl grew, they began looking forward to when she could participate in Sunday morning formation. It was about that time when they learned they’d become parents to a second child.

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July 1, 2019 by Lindsey Harts

I’ve often wondered why we, as millennials, are known for our insistence upon radical authenticity and our lack of tolerance for facades. The bulk of our generation grew up in the years surrounding and following the Columbine High School shooting. Many of us grew up doing “code red drills” where we hid under our desks and inside closets, knowing that in the instance that a shooter wrought havoc on our school, only a windowed classroom door stood between the shooter and our demise. Whenever I student-taught in college and entered a new classroom for the first time, my first instinct was to get a full visual layout of the room and see how I could best protect my students if there were to be a shooter. If there was a closet in the classroom, was it locked or unlocked? Was it big enough to hold students? Was there a window that students could safely use to exit the building? All of these questions went through my mind. These questions were harrowing questions to ask, but not at all out of the ordinary.

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June 28, 2019 by John Lynch

One of the odd perks of being a millennial, even if an “old” one, in the Episcopal Church is that I have always been expected to be a leader. Someone once suggested that it’s because I have some special quality or other, but probably it is just because I have continued to show up. Given that nearly all the millennial Episcopalians I know, no matter their shape, size or color, are also priests, I suspect that my experience is not entirely unique. Although this sort of experience may have been more common than I realized at the time, parts of it still strike me as odd.

During my youth there were plenty of occasions when I was asked to take on some small task or to coordinate some small group, which is all meet, right, and good. I imagine that this is normal for most kids who grow up in church. The odd part was that most of the time I was the only kid who showed up to church. This resulted in quirky absurdities like being named the leader of a youth group of which I was the only member. (I even received diocesan training for it!)

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June 22, 2019 by Erin Wolf

Hi, my name is Erin, and I’m a millennial leader in the Episcopal Church. I am the Diocesan Youth Ministry Coordinator in the Diocese of Fond du Lac, the Episcopal Church in Northeast Wisconsin. I oversee all diocesan youth programs, like Summer Camp, Happening, New Beginnings, and lock-ins, as well as remain connected on both provincial and denominational levels. I also serve as the Youth Minister at All Saints Episcopal Church in Appleton, WI. In both roles, I work to recruit and train volunteers to help run diocesan and local programs connected to faith formation. This also includes Sunday School, Youth Group, service work, ecumenical events, worship services, and more. This is a small part of my story and how I continue answering the call to grow and lead in Youth Ministry.

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June 20, 2019 by Gerlene Gordy

The word “millennial”, once uttered, causes a reflex of eye rolls. I was not particularly eager to hold the title of being a millennial. The thought of millennials seems off-putting with the generations that came before mine.

I am a Navajo, Second Generation “Cradle” Episcopalian Millennial Woman. What does this mean? It means I am full of hope and wear moccasins and a ton of turquoise to national church functions. As Nadia Bolz-Webber said, “You’re winning in the jewelry category,” at the 2019 Episcopal Communicators Conference. My generation adapted through the rapid advances in technology thus we are more accepting of change and our surroundings.

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June 18, 2019 by Hilary Bogert-Winkler

As a millennial clergy woman, I’ve been approached by folks when I’m visiting churches about “what millennials want in church.” My usual response is, “well, I can tell you what I look for in a church, but that’s not necessarily what my husband looks for, or my friends.” Despite what the media may lead us to believe, millennials are not a solid mass of young people (the oldest of us are in our late thirties) who all want the exact same thing. As every generation that has gone before us, we’re a diverse group of people who have different needs and desires in our lives, and that extends to church as much as to anything else. Thus, my advice to those asking the question about how to reach millennials and bring them into church is this: Be yourself (in my head, in true millennial fashion, it’s the Genie from Aladdin as voiced by Robin Williams saying this right now). It’s advice I give to the young people with whom I work all of the time, and it’s a guiding principle in my marriage and in my parenting. But these are good words to live by when it comes to being church as well.

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June 14, 2019 by Alan Yarborough

The “we” I’m speaking of is all of us who make up The Episcopal Church, a church body split politically nearly the same way as all U.S. adults, and the healing I’m talking about is the healing of the division along political party lines.

I find it extraordinary that the denomination of more U.S. presidents than any other faith group, and indeed the place where the Trumps attend major holidays, still looks like the overall U.S. population in terms of political affiliation. The denomination of many early founders of our government, responsible for the good and the bad in our country’s early development, remains over-represented in Congress in terms of proportion of the elected body who are Episcopalian.

The Episcopal Church has an incredible opportunity to leverage our political composition, our level of education, our growing diversity, and our rich history to help our country heal the immense divide we are experiencing and reinvigorate compassionate, critical dialogue necessary for tackling the challenges facing our world.

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June 10, 2019 by Samantha Haycock

I feel like I need to tell you upfront that I didn’t join Tinder to spread the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to all of my potential matches. I do hope you already knew that. But after three years, a laundry list of bad first dates and a handful of short-term relationships, I learned that I have become readily equipped with all of the skills I need to be an evangelist. I’m no longer involved in online dating rings - moving from the San Francisco Bay Area to Northwest Arkansas meant a swift and jarring shrinking of the dating pool. Also, online dating in a college town when your match radius only reaches the campus population you are responsible for pastoring to is an absolute non-starter. I’m now in an #offline relationship. Still, I use the skill set entrusted to me to by God, developed with a little nurturing by Tinder and OKCupid, every single day. There are quite a few transferable skills between partially blind dating and talking to strangers about Jesus. And maybe, the online platforms that the church has given side eye to are actually doing the work of equipping the saints of God.

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