The latest parochial report statistics are out, and the annual hand wringing over decline has started. With all of the questions being asked (and blame being placed) around the statistics and what it means for us as a church body, I was reminded of a book I recently read.
General Stanley McChrystal’s book, Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World, discusses how he and his team redesigned Special Operations in Iraq to fight Al Qaeda, and how such lessons can be applied to all kinds of organizations in both the public and private sectors. He didn’t mention the church, specifically, but so much of what he wrote applies to us as well.
What Gen. McChrystal realized was that he was leading an organization that was designed to fight previous wars, and he and his team were wholly unprepared for the new context in which they found themselves.
In August 2019 we commemorated the Quadricentennial (400, 3:00 pm, in remembrance of this critical date. There were also events in Ghana celebrated as the “Year of the Return” encouraging visits to the place of origin for many African-Americans. I also visited Jamestown this summer and learned a lot more about our American history including the critical role of the church in the chaotic times of the countries’ formation.
Commemorations are also very important in our church life, regardless of whether we are celebrating a tragic or happy event or flawed or heroic individuals. The church has provided us with liturgical resources including Holy Women Holy Men, and more recently A Great Cloud of Witnesses to highlight the many individuals who through their lives have furthered the ministry and mission of the church. Many churches do commemorate their own patron saint, however so many more can be explored and utilized from our church history.
In 2017, I had a client in the midst of a Feasibility Study when their beloved Rector was elected to be a Bishop in another Diocese. One would think this would mean the end of their hard work toward a campaign, but it came at the right time. The personal interviews had been completed but the majority of the parish had not been invited to respond to the survey. Because of this, their report provided a true picture and temperature for moving forward with the campaign.
While there was some concern, the overall theme of the report was that they could move forward and had the potential to raise just over $1 million for the projects that were under consideration. What the Vestry needed to do then was decide how they would move forward. They had the good fortune to have a strong committee and an outgoing Rector who both wholeheartedly supported moving forward into the solicitation phase of the campaign.
This month we offer five resources on evangelism. Please share this digest with new members of your vestry and extend an invitation to subscribe to ECF Vital Practices to receive Vestry Papers and the monthly digest.
1.Does your congregation yearn to bring others into church but are not sure how? In Evangelism for the 21st Century, Day Smith Pritchartt from the Episcopal Evangelism Society shares stories of some of the projects she’s worked on to serve as inspiration.
In most faith communities, prayerful planning and preparations are about to launch annual giving campaigns. Many people frame this as “the time of asking for money.”
Thinking of the annual campaign as an invitation rather than “an ask” puts a different frame around the picture. An invitation generally means a request to join someone in doing something.
An invitation transforms a polite ask (“Please submit your pledge card because the church needs your support”), into a personal recognition that we’re all in this together: “We invite you to join us – the Stewardship Committee, Vestry and our Clergy - in making a financial commitment to St. Stephen’s for next year.”