Every congregation says they are “friendly", but are we really?

It is said that ‘genuine friendships are becoming more rare – and thus, of greater perceived value – than any other aspect of modern church life.’ National Back-To-Church Sunday is Sept. 18th so it’s a great time to step up the ministry of hospitality. We all have it in us - the ability to grow friendships - and sometimes we need some helpful hints to draw us out of our shell.

Author Karl Vaters shares some insight on this in his article, “4 Steps to a Friendlier Church (The G.I.F.T. Plan).”,%202016

For more articles and our own Diocesan stories/photos, see Facebook: Parish Vitality Coordinator – Diocese of NS & PEI.


     September 18th. is national Back-To-Church Sunday.

Posters, signs and newspaper ads are great, but personal invitation is the most effective way to invite guests to join us for a church event. Researcher Dr. Thom Rainer says his studies show that most people come to church because of a personal invitation, and that 7 out of 10 unchurched people have never been invited to church in their whole lives.

Michael Lukaszewski is the Founder and CEO of Church Fuel, a youth minister, church planter, senior pastor and church consultant. Read his article, “7 Ways to Get More People to Come to Church.”


      No one enjoys conflict, but I heard someone say once that we should “never waste a crisis.”

Congregational conflict can cripple healthy church life or it can provide an opportunity for leadership and parishioners to grow to a new level of Christianity maturity. We wonder though, “If conflict is so helpful, why do many people work so hard to avoid it?” Explore why people avoid conflict and what are the helpful approaches in these turbulent times in Rev. Dr. Joyce Mercer’s article, “6 Ways to Keep Congregational Conflicts Constructive.”

      Summertime is a perfect season to dream, discern and plan.
If you are hoping to increase ministry capacity and try some new things this autumn, your church’s team may need to be re-cast. What do lay leaders on a ministry team need? How can you prepare for success? Author Jill Fox says, “The best leaders share responsibilities and help make their team members’ jobs clear, relevant, and fun.” Check out the Lewis Centre for Church Leadership’s article, “Ten Hints for Leading Volunteers.”


      We can’t be everything for everyone all the time!

Christians striving to be authentic as church always highly value relationships. We model this upon Jesus’ selflessness. If we look at the Gospels closely, we’ll also notice Jesus invested in relationships in a variety of ways. Friendships within the Faith Family may be categorized into four different groups. Author Mandy Smith says most relationships will fall somewhere on the scale between “I’m here for you” and “You’re here for me.” Read her article, “I'm Here for You . . . Kinda”  to learn about this spectrum of relationship investment.


      Greek historian, biographer, and essayist Plutarch said, ``What we achieve inwardly will change outer reality.``
Church leaders (both lay and ordained) can lead in their congregations more effectively when they are emotionally and personally in a healthy place. There are a number of great books to help to explore, heal and transform the inward life. Here are a few more for your summer reading list:
ü  ``Emotionally Healthy Spirituality`` - by Peter Scazzero.
The subtitle states, `` It is impossible to be spiritually mature while remaining emotionally immature.``  Here is what most people do: Avoid conflict in the name of Christianity; Ignore anger, sadness, and fear; Use God to run from God; and Live without boundaries. In this best-selling book Scazzero outlines the signs of emotionally unhealthy spirituality and seven ways to break through to the revolutionary life Christ meant for you. (There`s a section on contemplative spirituality, the daily office and how to develop a rule of life.)
ü  ``Changes That Heal: How to Understand the Past to Ensure a Healthier Future`` - by Dr. Henry Cloud.
To become mature image-bearers of God, says Cloud, we must learn to do four things: - Bend to others - Set healthy personal boundaries - Accept both the good and bad in life - Develop the traits of adulthood. With solid scriptural insights, this book helps readers form healthy relationships with themselves, others, and God - relationships that will bring new richness and purpose to life. (Dr. Henry Cloud is a clinical psychologist.)
ü  Here`s an article by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend, related to their best-seller book called ``Boundaries.`` The article is called, `` What Do You Mean “Boundaries”?``  Define your intangible boundaries and recognize them as an ever present reality that can increase your love and save your life. In reality, these boundaries define your soul, and they help you to guard it and maintain it (see Proverbs 4:23).


Leadership is key in churches that are striving to do ministry in a vital, mission-minded way. Lay leadership AND Clergy leadership.

Here are a couple of books to consider for your summer reading list.


ü  ``The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable`` - by Patrick M. Lencioni

Don`t let the negative title scare you. This is a very positive book about the effectiveness of teamwork. (Hint: Trust is at the centre of it all.) This is particularly important for Parish Councils, Executive Committees, etc.


ü  `` Courageous Leadership: Field-tested strategy for the 360 Leader`` - by Bill Hybels

One of the top church leaders of our time, Hybels says too much is at stake for you not to maximize your spiritual gift of leadership. Unpack the tools, tasks, and challenges of your calling. You'll discover the power of vision and how to turn it into action.


ü  Here`s an article on Stephen Covey`s book, ``The 3rd Alternative.`` (He wrote the best-seller, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.”) Its premise is that leaders who are able to cultivate a mindset that can entertain wildly divergent ideas not only encounter less conflict, but also come up with more inspired answers.


      “If you look the right way, you can see that the whole world is a garden.”
― Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden
Leaders’ willingness for a fresh perspective can make all the difference in our Parishes as we strive to be vital and mission-oriented in ministry. A healthy, optimistic and open attitude can envision possibilities, while a negative, closed attitude sees only the status quo and the ‘glass half empty.’ Author, Dr. Peter Coutts says, “The most effective way to help people change their attitudes is by helping people reflect on and revise the beliefs at the center of an attitude.”    
Read the Alban Institute article below called, “Encouraging Attitude Change in the Congregation.”


      Most of the churches in our Diocese would be categorized as small. 

These congregations typically have under 100 weekly worshippers, on average. There are two types of small churches: a “family-size” church, with fewer than 50 active parishioners, and “pastoral-size” church with approximately 50 to 100 congregants. Although fewer in number than "program" or "corporate" churches, these churches have unique opportunities to build community and serve in mission.   


Read the article below called, The strength and beauty of small churches,” written by Lisa G. Fischbeck.


      It’s been said that the church is both gathered and scattered.

We tend to do the gathering bit quite well in our local congregations. The scattering and discovering God at work in the neighbourhood part is more challenging for us. We hear remarks that reinforce this inward-looking perspective, like “We don’t have enough people to take this risk. We won’t survive.” Or “We have to get our house in order first.” Meanwhile the Spirit is in the community calling us outward.   


Read the article below called,, “Roadblocks to God’s Future,” written by Alan J. Roxburgh.

      Things grow in the summer. Even congregations.
It won’t be long and we’ll be picking one of the first fruits of the season, strawberries. Summer can be an opportunity for organic growth in our parishes, if leaders cultivate some new approaches. Not everyone goes away over July and August. How can we emphasize our commitment to worship and be ‘spiritually fruitful’? After all, God does not take a summer vacation from us! 
Read Ann A. Michel’s article called, “Avoiding a Summer Drop in Worship Attendance.”

      Father’s Day, June 19th – Another opportunity to gather people together.
We’ve got Mothering Sunday and Mother’s Day. How about celebrating the Christian dads in your community? It’s not easy being a parent these days, especially one who strives to have an active faith. Churches can encourage and support families during these special days.  
To help congregations who want to invite fathers to worship this Father's Day, the Church of England has published (visit the link below):
·         Updated resources including sample Service of the Word, prayers and readings to use in church services and
·         Suggestions for services and events from around the Church.


      Summer small groups. What to do? Take a Sabbath break or do something special?

Table discussion feedback from last year’s Diocesan Synod gathering clearly named that Christian Formation and education are greatly needed. Church leaders (lay and ordained) may be wondering how to work on this and maintain small group momentum over the summer months. Here is an article from with some helpful suggestions.


Read Managing Editor, Amy Jackson’s piece called, “3 Ideas to Prepare Your Small-Group Ministry for Summer.” Before the summer months hit, make some plans for your small groups.


      What’s the buzz? Tell them what's a-happening.

Every congregation has strengths. Whether it be in musical talents, a unique location, culinary skills, festivities organizers or dramatic actors. Every church has been abundantly gifted by God and is called to use those strengths to build up the church. Often we need to promote ourselves more, tell others about it and create “buzz” in the neighbourhood.


Take a few minutes and review this article from The Alban Institute called, “Shine Your Light: How to Build Buzz and Reach Your Community.”


      Having money helps, but it’s not necessary. Actively participating in growth initiatives in our parishes does not mean you have to have a gigantic budget or a large team. Mission on a shoestring is possible. Author and Church leader Carey Nieuwhof wisely says, “Vision always precedes resources. If you’re waiting for people and money to show up so you can get on with your mission, you’ll wait forever.”


Take a few minutes and review this short article from Carey Nieuwhof, called “10 Church Growth Strategies That Cost Zero Dollars.”



      “People just aren’t committed like they used to be”

Winnipeg Lutheran minister, The Rev’d. Erik Parker explores why much of our effort to attract people back to church is not very effective, and how a cultural shift in terms of commitment is the reason. He says, “…I think it is because the core foundation that brings most church communities together is fundamentally at odds with what people who are looking for churches are seeking today.”


Here is a thought-provoking article from this Canadian millennial minister, called “Why Nothing Seems to Get People Back to Church – The Issue at the Core of Decline.”



       Mother’s Day can be one of the most highest attendance Sundays of the year, and it isn’t because of all the mothers there. It’s because of the non-church-going family members – the spouses, adult and young children, who come with mom! Yes, it is a ‘greeting card holiday’, but there is no doubting it is an important family day in all of our communities. Churches have great opportunities to engage newcomers on this special day, May 8th.  (It’s not too late to make plans!)


Here are a couple of links to Mother’s Day worship resources:


       Spring. Time to prepare the soil and get ready for planting. Many church leaders in our Diocese are seeking to sow seeds for growth this season. Duke University Professor, L. Gregory Jones says, “Transformative change, rooted in tradition and the preservation of wisdom, cultivates the adaptive work that is crucial to the ongoing vitality and growth of any organism, Christian institutions included.”


Here’s an article from Dr. Jones, senior strategist, theologian and former Dean of Duke Divinity School. It is called “Seven tips for cultivating traditioned innovation in leadership teams.”



       “Hard times in the Maritimes!”  An old familiar saying that acknowledged the challenges folks in these parts faced. Some might say that in some areas, this applies to the church. But what if we viewed our struggles in a different light? This reality could cause us to despair, or instead inspire us to approach this as an opportunity for “courageous discernment”. 


Here’s an article from the Alban Institute, called “Hard-Times Leadership.”


       The happy and holy season of Easter speaks of resurrection, new life and a fresh start.

For many parishes this is a time of reflecting on who they are as church and where God is calling them. As we pray in our Easter Vigil Collect (BAS, p. 329), “Renew your Church with the Spirit given to us in baptism…” Here is an article that may inspire you further, to consider being “spiritual entrepreneurs” as you seek to renew your approach to mission.



       Okay, it’s here. Holy Week is rolling along and typically one of the biggest attendance Sundays, Easter, is almost upon us. It’s been my experience that the small things can have the greatest impact on visitors and returning Anglicans.  Here is a brief article outlining some easy and inexpensive things to keep in mind for this wonderful opportunity to build relationships with new people. As the authors say, “Do all you can to keep this Easter from being a ‘one-morning stand.’ ”



       We are only a few days away from Holy Week and our thoughts turn to special worship. One hymn lyric says, “There is a longing…”   What is worship anyway? How do we invite and encourage people to engage in this corporate endeavour? And precisely why do we worship?   Check out this interesting article from the Lewis Center on Church Leadership: “Worship Game Changers” by Tom Bandy and Lucinda Holmes.



       From time to time I discover an article or website that inspires within me a fresh understanding of church ministry. Here is a link to an article called,“Next Generation Leaders," by Susan Beaumont​.  There are interesting variations between the generations as we approach the 'ministry of all the baptized'. Younger people long to share their gifts and serve, but they have different expectations about what that looks like.



       From time to time I discover an article or website that inspires within me a fresh understanding of church ministry. Here is a link to an article called, “7 Ways To Grow Church Attendance By Increasing Engagement,” by Carey Nieuwhof. I’m not so keen on the title, because our focus should be on being missional, not just getting more people to sit in pews on Sunday. However, the teaching tips do offer some good ideas on how to move folks from being simply spectators to more active participants in the local church. It helps describe discipleship.



       From time to time I discover an article or website that inspires within me a fresh understanding of church ministry. Here is a link to an Anglican Journal article entitled “The Four Kinds of Leaders We Need.” Author John Bowen names them as: the traditional pastor, the palliative care leader, the turnaround leader and the pioneer leader. Lay leaders should be interested in this too, as they seek to find direction for their parish’s ministry and priorities, and especially if they are looking for a new rector.



       From time to time I discover an article or website that inspires within me a fresh understanding of church ministry. Here is a link to an interview with The Rt. Rev. C. Andrew Doyle, a bishop from Texas entitled, “Imagining the Church of the Future.”  He talks about giving leaders (lay and clergy) space to be creative, innovative and adaptable.   Bishop Doyle says culturally relevant missional thinking is required and that we can take a lesson from Apple. READ ON:   


    print the page

Click to view more articles in Parish Vitality Coordinator