August 27, 2019 by Linda Buskirk

In my role as a capital campaign consultant for the Episcopal Church Foundation, it’s not unusual to hear Vestry leaders hoping for grants to help pay for building improvement projects because…

“We serve our city in unique ways.”
“Our building is historically significant.”
“Our feeding ministry serves the broader community.”

Yes, but, in the world of grant-giving, the stark reality is that your congregation may not be all that special. When you identify a granting organization that will allow a church to apply (many don’t), expect the competition to be steep from established not-for-profit organizations. Agencies that provide food, clothing, health care, or other services as their main mission have honed their compelling “case statements.” A church that serves a community meal once a week or a free clinic once a month may be deemed to have a weaker case.

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Topics: Finance, Advocacy
August 23, 2019 by Andrés Herrera

This article is also available in English here. Este artículo está disponible en ingles aquí.

Hablar de crecimiento espiritual no es una tarea fácil. Es un tema que se puede mirar desde un sin número de perspectivas porque lo que funciona para una persona, no necesariamente funciona para la otra. Sin embargo, todos podemos estar de acuerdo en que queremos crecer espiritualmente; tener una vida espiritual más rica y profunda. Lo difícil es descubrir cómo lograr ese tan deseado crecimiento. Especialmente si somos parte de algún grupo minoritario.

Si eres miembro de la comunidad LGBTQI+, una minoría racial o de género, sabes de lo que hablo. No es fácil crecer cuando se está tratando de sobrevivir y cuando además, estás buscando cómo sanar las heridas que muchas veces nos ha causado la religión y/o alguna iglesia.

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August 23, 2019 by Andrés Herrera

Talking about spiritual growth is not an easy task. It is a topic that can be viewed from a number of perspectives because what works for one person does not necessarily work for another. However, we can all agree that we want to grow spiritually; have a richer and deeper spiritual life. The hard part is discovering how to achieve that much-desired growth. Especially if we are part of a minority group.

If you are a member of the LGBTQI+ community, a racial or gender minority, you know what I'm talking about. It is not easy to grow when you are trying to survive and when you are also trying to heal the wounds that were caused by religion or a church.

In my opinion, the first thing is to stop justifying our existence before those who deny our humanity. The Bible has been used to oppress women, the LGBTQI+ community and those of us who are not white. Putting ourselves on an equal footing is very exhausting. The best thing is to rest in the love of God, being sure that God loves us just as we are and created us as God’s sons and daughters.

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August 19, 2019 by Ken Quigley

Most people prefer not talking about death. Consequently, most people die without a written will. So what happens then?

If you don’t have a will the state has already written one for you. And guess how the state will distribute your assets after you die? Lawyers are first in line, of course. Then taxes, creditors, and finally loved ones. Nothing goes to charity.

Also, your survivors get to pay the maximum in estate and inheritance taxes.

With a will you control applicable taxes, you determine what charities you want to be part of your legacy. You release your family from unnecessary turmoil and delay in settling your estate.

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Topics: Planned Giving
August 15, 2019 by Lisa G. Fischbeck

Most of us who are in the Episcopal Church have a love of the liturgy. Or at least an appreciation for it. Some are well-versed in the meaning of the movement and the posture, the theological nuance of the words. Others have been formed by decades of weekly practice, the words of the canticles still rolling off the tongue, the Prayer of Humble Access still echoing in our soul.

But there are many in our pews and chairs who are still learning the rhythms of the liturgy. They know that there are songs, readings, the Peace and the Eucharist, and that the clergy come in at the beginning and go out at the end. But they don’t even think about the idea of being formed as the Body of Christ. Maybe they have a grasp of the liturgical year, but they still think of Pentecost as the day we wear red. And, increasingly, they are likely to attend about once a month, so may only get one Sunday in the shorter seasons. They will not have the continuity and repetition that leads to learning.

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Topics: Worship, Outreach
August 8, 2019 by Jim Murphy

I have been privileged to hear many personal stories about the deep commitment people feel toward their parish. I remember a young woman recounting when she became a single parent and how her parish rallied around her providing on-going emotional support, as well as sometimes buying diapers and assisting with baby-sitting her daughter. To this woman, her parish literally became her support network and extended family.

In every workshop I do on legacy giving from one’s estate, there is one I phrase I say consistently: “When someone makes a planned gift of any kind to their parish, that person raises their congregation to the level of family in their estate plans”. Such a gift demonstrates that someone believes so strongly in the mission and ministry of his/her parish, that they would elevate them to the same status as one of their children or grandchildren for the eventual distribution of their worldly goods. Such a gift is not a simple token but demonstrates tremendous passion and conviction for the future ministry of the parish.

When someone makes this choice -- whether a bequest, remaining IRA balance, insurance policy or residuum of a Charitable Remainder Trust or Gift Annuity – that person offers a testimony: “I want to support my parish’s future ministry and to continue to participate in the mission which became so vital during my lifetime.”

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Topics: Planned Giving
August 6, 2019 by Lisa G. Fischbeck

My grandfather’s bedtime prayer was the Apostles’ Creed. Knowing that it held this special place in the heart of the man who held a special place in mine made me pay close attention to the words, regardless of the setting, throughout my life. I grew up in the Presbyterian Church, and the Apostles Creed was part of our weekly worship. Nonetheless, for me it was always a love-laced prayer.

Years later, now an Episcopal priest, I am often aware of a contrasting experience of the Creed in liturgy. First, it is the Nicene Creed rather than the Apostles. I know the Apostles Creed is the creed of baptism, and therefore more personal, and the Nicene Creed is more corporate, the “faith of the Church”, meant to be said by the whole congregation. It’s not a prayer.

Liturgically, The Nicene Creed follows the sermon (and sometimes serves as a corrective to the sermon!). It usually begins without introduction, beyond, in some places, an invitation to stand. It is a proclamation, declared with boldness by those gathered, kind of like a pledge of allegiance. This is what we believe!

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August 2, 2019 by Maurice Seaton

Whether in capital campaign mode or not, annual giving is the primary source for funding the annual budget for most churches. Here are ten actions taken by churches that resulted in real increases in annual giving:

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Topics: Stewardship
July 31, 2019 by Lisa G. Fischbeck

The patch was rough. Three years after the old man who had lovingly tended the south five acres of the site for decades had moved to Florida, The Church of the Advocate acquired the land. Three years after that, we finally had a building in which to worship on the land. But having rented worship space for 11 years, it took us a while just to recover from all the transition and to settle into the reality of having our own place. We didn’t pay very much attention to what was growing where. We just tried to keep some of the grass mowed.

Soon, however, it became clear that the grounds just weren’t as pretty as they had been. Invasive plants had moved in, aggressive natives, like honeysuckle, sweet gum and pine had started growing like weeds. We had been clear from the beginning that the site was to be shared with anyone who came our way, whether they wanted to be part of the church or not. And wonderfully, one person who came our way was an amateur horticulturalist, a woman passionate about restoring land to native flora and fauna. We got to talking.

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July 25, 2019 by Jerry Campbell

St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Medford, Oregon, will dedicate their new parish center on Saturday, July 27. This new building will welcome all who see it, day or night, with an accessible drop-off area leading to an elevated courtyard. From there, visitors will access the church entry, relocated parish offices, or the new Parish Center. Inside the facility, an elevator to all floors, clear signage, and flexible space will improve the experience for everyone, whether they are a child in Sunday School, a mid-week volunteer, or a member of the community visiting us for a meal.

St. Mark’s has been working toward this occasion for many years, and the Capital Campaign was just the final piece of a complex puzzle that made this day possible. Vision, planning, saving, investing, risking…all played major roles in leading up to this day.

In a previous decade, St. Mark’s embarked on a capital campaign that fell short of its goal. With the blessing of the congregation, the donated funds were saved and invested in anticipation of a day when their initial vision might be fulfilled. These carefully reserved funds formed a vital piece of the puzzle. Over the years, with a vision toward the future of an expanding mission, St. Mark’s had purchased property adjacent to their campus as opportunity and means presented themselves. It was a stretch to do this, but their vision overcame reluctance and the church acquired four parcels of land that were put to work in carrying out the mission of the congregation by providing: office space, meeting space, food storage, Sunday school classrooms, a community garden – and equity that might be put in service of a greater vision at some time in the future. These real estate holdings formed a second piece of the puzzle.

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July 22, 2019 by Alan Bentrup

Last time we started talking about practices to build our confidence around evangelism.

There’s a good basic list of resources available on the Episcopal Church’s website. One of those great resources is a “Prayer Walk.” Prayer walking is a great starting point, but I think walking can do much more.

There’s a term, “walk-up evangelism,” which is the type of evangelism many people think about. You walk up to someone and start telling them about Jesus (or telling them that they need Jesus). That’s not what I propose. What I’m talking about is “walk-around evangelism.”

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July 18, 2019 by Lisa G. Fischbeck

The resident in the church house was getting tired of cleaning up the mess left behind by field mice in the kitchen. She also wanted some company. So she asked if the church might get a cat. The altar guild was having similar challenges with mouse detritus in the sacristy and was ready to support the idea. With the altar guild on board, the vestry was quick to assent.

The resident and I started visiting the local animal rescue. We knew that any cat we adopted would need to be tolerant of kids, so once we narrowed the possibilities down to two or three, we invited a 5 and 9-year-old from the church to go with us. Each cat was given the kid test for playful interaction and kindness.

The result was Smoke, the Advo-cat.

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July 17, 2019 by Cathy Hornberger

This month we offer five resources on strategic thinking. 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. Do you know the difference between your congregation’s mission and vision? In his webinar entitled Strategic Thinking for Congregations, Donald Romanik talks about the ever-increasing pace of change and how strategic thinking can help congregations effectively plan for the future.

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July 16, 2019 by Linda Buskirk

For many years, books about healthy congregations focused on how to do what we’ve always done better, or at least in a more attractive way. One book capturing attention today asserts that what we’ve always done is not likely to work, no matter how well we do it.

Canoeing the Mountains: Christian Leadership In Uncharted Territory, by Tod Bolsinger, takes a frank but hopeful look at the opportunities for adaptive leadership within the church today. The title is a reference to the ways that explorers Lewis and Clark had to adapt to the unexpected reality of the Rocky Mountains as they sought a riverway to the Pacific.

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July 12, 2019 by Annette Buchanan

Many of us who were raised in the church as children I believe started out with good stewardship habits. Our parents ensured that we placed our loose change or dollar in the collection plate. Similarly, our Sunday school teachers collected our offerings and dutifully recorded them. We were proud to drop the coins in the plate and for the times when we even considered keeping the money to buy a treat, the stern rebuke from parents and teachers would set us on the right path.

So here we are years later and stewardship for many congregations is a challenge. There are many reasons why our stewardship goals are not met. They include fewer parishioners in our congregation, older and some younger congregants on fixed income, and many congregants who are financially challenged for a variety of reasons.

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Topics: Stewardship
July 8, 2019 by Lisa G. Fischbeck

I figured the Memorial Day concert and cookout would be a good way for folks to experience the hospitality of the church.

We had invited Will Parker, now a student at Yale Divinity School touring for the summer, to provide a concert “for kids of all ages”. We debated about hosting an event on a secular holiday (unlike Independence Day and Thanksgiving, Memorial Day does not appear in the church calendar). But while we knew that many would be out of town for the Memorial Day weekend, we also knew that those who were still in town would be looking for something to do. We promoted the concert among the folks of the church, encouraging them to invite their friends. We promoted it on social media, paying a bit extra to send the ad out into the 10-mile radius of the church. And, for the first time, we posted it on the “Next Door” list serve. Neighbors near and far are welcome, we said.

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July 5, 2019 by Joe Merlino

I recently visited a parish that was considering embarking on a capital campaign. During our conversation, members of the committee shared that they had engaged in a series of visioning, clergy search, and strategic planning initiatives over the last several years. The initiatives included one-on-one meetings, group conversations and surveys. In two cases they hired consultants to facilitate these initiatives, each of which included some form of discernment. However during our conversation it became very apparent that the committee’s level of clarity regarding the processes they used and the practices they engaged in were unclear. So were the outcomes they had hoped to achieve. Given that, there was a general level of frustration as well as a strong desire to bring something tangible to the congregation that showed forward progress. Moreover, there was a reluctance to engage in what they perceived to be another redundant process of discernment. With deference to the best intentions and heart-felt contributions of everyone involved, their collective efforts proved to be less productive than expected. Hope and enthusiasm shifted to frustration and caution, and I felt a genuine feeling of concern for their predicament.

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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 26, 2019 by Mary Cat Young

It is not uncommon to hear the question: “How do we get Millennials (aka Young Adults) into our church(es)?” This question, however, misses the goal if you are a faith community trying to connect with young adults and invite them to join you in following Jesus. The motivation behind this question is misguided. Masked as an attempt at evangelism, the real question being asked is “how do we get young adults to buy/invest/tithe into our communities and the work of our church institution.” My response to this is to re-think the question.

Why not try these on instead: What is it about my experience of faith in this community that I want to share with young adults? What are we doing here in this church, at this time and place, that young adults would want to be a part of, be companions in, be leaders of? How is my relationship with God leading me to invite others to know the joy of following Jesus? And how does inviting young adults to be a part of this faith community nourish, equip, encourage me to do that?

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