The College for Bishops Leadership Institute was established to provide educational resources for new bishops as well as trending information resources for all bishops. Organizational Leadership focuses on specific resources related to essential leadership skills:
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Stewardship & Sustainability
Church growth consultants are fond of noting that when average church attendance exceeds 80 percent of sanctuary capacity, crowding begins to limit a congregation’s growth. This rule of thumb, often called the “80 percent rule” has been so commonly cited by consultants that it is now invoked by many a minister or lay leader as a reason for a congregation’s failure to grow or as proof of the need for a second service or a new facility. Lately, though, more and more people are asking how and where the 80 percent rule originated and what research supports its validity.
The point of the Christian life is not about following the rules. People are always motivated by desire. The point of the Christian life is to put us in touch with our deepest desires and to move us to aim our misdirected desires straight toward God’s heart of love. The Christian life is about healing the will, so we come to do the right thing because we want to. This article is from the Episcopal Church Foundation Vital Practices September issue on Practical Stewardship.
The Divine Office (TDO) at St Augustine By-The-Sea Episcopal Church in Santa Monica, California is like a kind of day monastery, where people will come to work and worship. Instead of going off to a monastery, having a wonderful retreat and coming home and realizing, after a day, a week, all that good feeling and connection is gone, what if we brought monastery-like experiences into our everyday world? What if we wrapped and enveloped our work lives in prayer?
Bearings Online recently started a series on the lives of rural Christians and the rural Church. They reached out to a variety of writers in rural America, resulting in essays and interviews that reflect a struggle to bear faithful Christian witness, which is often messy, difficult, and decidedly against the norms of the dominant culture. While rejecting nostalgia for the small town life and churches of the past, many writers in this series are proposing something new, in some cases breaking from church traditions in order to affirm and build the Body of Christ.
Are the limits we have accepted both on the economic structures of congregations and the inclusion of some people in ordained ministry, limits that arise from the expectation that ministry comprises a professional class, the desire of the Holy Spirit? Or have we, in a search for social status and economic security, accepted limits on our imagination that are getting in the way of innovative responses to God’s call to the whole church in ministry? Fr. Mark Edington, the author of Bivocation: Returning to the Roots of Ministry, wrote this article for Alban at Duke Divinity.
The financial well-being of the parish is one of the most important fiduciary responsibilities of the vestry; however, many vestry members do not have a financial background and may feel intimidated by a discussion of numbers. This ECFVP article is intended to give a basic grasp of the concepts and a format for a financial report that can be easily understood.
Our self-worth and our self-image are all tied up with our money in ways that can be hard to untangle. An important aspect of taking charge of money in our lives is understanding how we feel about it. Exploring where those feelings come from can lead us to a more grounded, intentional relationship with the money that ows through our lives. And as a church leader, how you relate to your money has a lot to do with how your congregation thinks about and manages money, as well. This article comes from the ECFVP’s current issue on Church Finances for Uncertain Times.
A 146-year-old Baptist congregation hopes a smaller footprint will allow the church to redefine its mission and identity while saving its historic sanctuary. Scores of mainline Protestant and Catholic churches are making similar, often painful choices. Faced with crumbling infrastructure and costly maintenance that consumes an increasingly large slice of church budgets, congregations are looking to downsize and at the same time reimagine a different vision for ministry.
Simple building questions (fixing the gutter or repairing windows) often don’t have simple, straightforward solutions. In many cases, while immediate building problems are being repaired, deeper problems are discovered. Congregations need to be aware of this possibility and to be prepared to invest the time, energy, and frustration to address the emerging deeper problems. This article from Alban at Duke Divinity School offers the guidance to help as you begin addressing any building issue—whether it be gutter repair or redesign of interior space or major additions or renovations.
Sometimes we allow our facilities, not God’s purposes, to become the primary beneciary of our work and resources. Time, effort, and money that could be freed for engaging in mission go into sustaining the building. This is especially problematic for smaller congregations that are just making ends meet. The congregation begins to exist for the sake of keeping up the building as a monument to their faithfulness rather than the building being a tool that can be expended in the mission of God.
Repetition is the key to learning. It may be a little ironic that many church leaders complain that their congregations just don’t seem to get it when it comes to giving and stewardship. And yet they never talk about stewardship outside of a commitment campaign conducted in a perfunctory way over a couple of weeks in the fall — a campaign culminating in “The Stewardship Sermon” — the one and only time each year when stewardship is preached from the pulpit.
Looking for tools and resources to help new and returning vestry members? Here is a list of resources for your vestry toolbox that staff at the Episcopal Church Foundation (ECF) believe to be particularly helpful. This article is part of the January 2018 Vestry Papers issue on Vstry Essentials.
Current economic circumstances mean that most of us are having to operate under very tight financial constraints. But we will not get to the next season of ministry by focusing exclusively on the expenses. We have an opportunity to focus on what impact we are called to make. With that clearly in mind, we must learn how to see all the ways that impact can create value.
Are key leaders in your church covering project costs out of their own pockets? Lewis Center Director Doug Powe says owning up to the true costs of ministry prevents new leaders from being blindsided and helps the congregation embrace a stewardship model that funds all ministries — not just those supported by particular donors.
Sponsored by the Virginia Conference of the United Methodist Church, the Ministry Accelerator is a model, borrowed from the business world, that is designed to introduce ministries to the principles and skills that help spur growth. Accelerators are similar to incubators, but they focus on growing established organizations rather than launching new ones. The goal is that organizations learn how to be self-sustaining, adept at transforming their communities and willing to mentor and inspire newer ministries down the road.
Smaller congregations can easily squander their last resources for ministry attempting to keep up with the mounting demands of an aging facility. Such churches must decide for the people of God rather than their present building, before it’s too late. This article is excerpted from Small on Purpose: Life in a Significant Church (Abingdon Press, 2017) by Lewis A. Parks and was featured on the Lewis Center for Church Leadership newsletter.
Many congregations have spaces that are not needed for the liturgical, educational, and social life of the parish. It is perfectly all right to make such spaces available to outside groups, but in order to make a rational decision about how much to charge for the use of your space, it is necessary to have the answers to three important questions. This article is part of the Episcopal Church Foundation Vital Practice’s September issue on Stewardship.
The church has never been good at talking about money. From lightning strikes to televangelists, there’s a sketchy history there. But money is also a practical reality and communicating about money is important. Your church has an opportunity, not just to pay the bills, but also to help your congregation have a healthier and smarter attitude toward money. Here are some tips to help your church better approach that dreaded topic of giving.
While we talk about listening a lot in the church, we don’t always do it. But that’s exactly what Episcopal Church Foundation (ECF) did this summer in an effort to learn more about the challenges facing part-time clergy leaders in small Episcopal congregations. ECF issued an open invitation to part-time leaders from churches that average fewer than 60 worshippers each Sunday, and on two summer afternoons, its program staff listened as 40+ leaders from churches across the country discussed their challenges, and the support and resources they need.
When you serve a scrappy church, you know all too well that this might be the month you must close shop because the bills have been piling up for too long and yet every month, without fail, scrappy churches survive and do ministry. A scrappy church is energized by the faith of its people, it has an outward-looking focus, it is flexible to change, and it serves its community. There is a certain magic that happens in scrappy churches, but it comes at a cost.
What do giving trends have to do with the generosity of faith communities? More than you might think. In this ECFVP webinar, Marcia Shetler, Executive Director/CEO of the Ecumenical Stewardship Center, presents a big-picture view of giving in the United States and six trends that are shaping generosity—including church giving—today.
What exactly is the practice of Episcopal evangelism? Here is a practical definition collectively crafted by members of the Presiding Bishop’s Evangelism Initiatives Team, the Task Force for Leveraging Social Media for Evangelism, and many more partners: We seek, name and celebrate Jesus’ loving presence in the stories of all people – then invite everyone to MORE. #EpiscopalEvangelism. This article from the Episcopal Church Foundation Vital Practices is part of a full issue on Evangelism and Discipleship which can be found here.
American culture is intensely individualistic. Given this context, it’s no surprise that a lot of talk about money and stewardship is focused on the individual. Scripture, on the other hand, tends towards a more communal culture. Many times, when we read a passage and hear the word “you,” the original language was indicating “you all,” but our minds hear “you” singular. How might we make stewardship more communal? What might communal stewardship look like in congregations?
How can the Church help youth claim a vital faith? No question is more critical to the future of the Church. The Lewis Center for Church Leadership offers this synopsis of 50 ways a congregation can strength ministry with teens and their families.
Two of the greatest and most important social institutions in America are the public school and the church. Most communities in America have a school and a church, usually more than one of each. These institutions have shaped a significant amount of our culture. Both schools and churches are deeply interested in helping people learn and work together toward wholeness and better character. It makes sense for these two great institutions to work together to improve communities.
What do the current trends in church attendance mean for church leaders? Whether your membership and ASA are up or down, vestries need to act now and make sound decisions about the future. This means being open to change, adapting to new environments, and engaging in conversations about how to not just survive but be useful and thrive. Where will your congregation be in the Episcopal Church of the future?
This handout accompanies a series of webinars on congregational development produced by the United Methodist Church (available at http://www.umcdiscipleship.org/webinars). Topics studied include: Congregational DNA, Discovering Your Congregation’s Niche, Discovering Your Discipleship Process, and Worship, Small Groups, and the Next 12 Months.
“How does a congregation live into its sacred role as a healer?" That’s the question congregational leaders at St Luke’s/San Lucas Episcopal Church in Chelsea, Massachusetts use to guide their ministry. Recently honored by their city for all they do to “advance the cause of Chelsea and its people,” the members of this small church in a densely populated and economically challenged city are realizing their mission of living the love of Christ in worship, fellowship, hospitality, and service to the community.
Many congregations think of themselves as “too poor” to aspire for an endowment. Yet the very fact that there is no endowment can rule out a potential gift from a member or a person in the community who loves the church and wants to express their appreciation. Because an endowment structure hasn’t been created, donors sometimes have concerns about how funds will be used: Will my gift simply be spent on operating costs? This recent article from ECFVP tells how one small church found a way to build a legacy for future generations by establishing an endowment.
Looking for a magic bullet for your annual giving this year? A way to increase giving at your parish in 3 easy steps? This isn`t your webinar. Annual giving is a vital ministry at your parish and, like any ministry, successful strategies are often dependent on who is in your pews. This webinar will provide a concrete, yet adaptable, "how to" for successful annual fundraising. Participants will come away with an overview that is both rooted in the spirituality of giving and relationship driven while also receiving strategies that have proven success.
Episcopal priest Betsy Randall doesn’t invite people who are unchurched to worship or to hear her preach the Gospel. Instead, she asks those who don't know Christ to pick up a hammer, paintbrush, or garden hoe and serve. It just happens that during the life-changing days focused on nails, paint, and dirt that the Holy Spirit escorts them to a seat in the pew and their Christian journey begins.
Keys stand for in for all kinds of questions about access, ownership, and trust. The giving of keys signifies trust and can mean a great deal to someone whose ability to take responsibility is called into question by prevailing social and church norms. Giving out keys can create tremendous anxiety in those who have understood their vocation, at least in part, as being about keeping the church safe, clean, and secure. Who gets the keys to your buildings?
Many congregations dream of being places of radical welcome, but that vision is not sustainable through tithing alone. It’s time to think differently about how to accomplish such work, writes the executive director of Leadership Education at Duke Divinity. Instead of starting communities that require leadership, space and more, what if we focused on the work that needs to be done? The economic model would focus on the mission rather than the creation of yet another congregation that would need to be self-supporting. The efforts that prove to be effective and sustainable over time would be models that others could replicate in places where the work is needed.
Small membership congregations are often worried about the future. They struggle to get visitors to join them in worship. Those that do attend come only occasionally. The cost of maintenance, salaries, benefits and more is everrising. The children of the congregation grow up and join the fast growing big churches. What is a leader of this church to do? First, remember the distinctive gifts of a small church.
Crowdfunding—in its mainstream Internet form, at least—has existed since 2008. But the church has always funded its ministry through small gifts from a large number of people. While the initial shine of the “crowdfunding revolution” has dulled, it has gained a respectable status among the many ways to fund new ventures, whether business-related or charitable. Crowdfunding is no savior for religious giving but it does present a clear opportunity for church-related giving to expand its focus, audience, vision, and reach.
Many churches can no longer afford a full time priest with benefits, or they struggle so much to afford one that they barely have energy for other ministry. And yet it can feel depressing to go to part-time clergy: Are we declining? Will we close? These questions can haunt. And yet, as both clergy and congregations grapple with this question, the larger questions come up: What do we pay a priest for? What do we really need a priest to do?
The traditional pastoral model is built upon a set of very expensive assumptions about post-bachelor education and a full-time compensation package. Increasingly congregations are unable to afford this model but still deserve excellent pastoral ministry. Here are some alternatives to the traditional ministry model.