SIX-MINUTE STUDY #92
New technology is not the perfect answer to church revitalization challenges, but it can be a huge help to stay connected with parishioners and newcomers. Communication using the Internet, whether it be through an e-mail newsletter, Facebook, Twitter, blog or webpage, is an effective way to reach out to people. It is often quite inexpensive (as compared to mail-outs) and the platforms are getting easier to navigate.
Check out this article from ChurchNext entitled, “Use Technology to Reach Out to Homebound People in Your Parish.”
SIX-MINUTE STUDY #91
Only 10 days until the start of Advent! Festive seasons like Advent, Christmas and Epiphany are opportunities to explore faith in new ways for our regular attenders and guests. Here are some ideas that can be adapted to use in various settings, many of which may be suitable for multi-generational gatherings. Consider posting links on your church's Facebook page, website and Christmas newsletter. Encourage people to explore scriptures, giving and prayer in a different way during this holy and happy season.
Church of England - Advent Liturgy Resources
Anglicans Online - Advent Resources
Lutheran (ELCIC) - Advent, Christmas and Epiphany Resources (lots of links!)
Primates World Relief and Development Fund - Advent & Christmas ideas
SIX-MINUTE STUDY #90
Advent begins in just 18 days! Recent Canadian statistics show that Church attendance triples — from 25% to 65% — across the country during the Christmas holiday season. University of Lethbridge Sociology researcher, Reginald Bibby says it shows that faith matters. How can we engage church-goers (especially visitors) with a faith experience that is relevant and authentic? Here are some ideas for your festive seasonal planning:
Anglican Church of Canada - Advent 2017 Resources
Anglicans Online - Advent Resources
Episcopal Church Foundation - Vital Practices - Advent
SIX-MINUTE STUDY #89
Keeping an open mind can lead to a shift in attitudes in a church community. As disciples striving to grow more and more like Christ, we cultivate within ourselves a sense of openness. God`s Spirit is on the move `creating a new thing` and that`s how we gain fresh perspectives.
Dr. Peter Coutts is the author of `Choosing Change: How to Motivate Churches to Face the Future`.`
Read his article, ``Encouraging Attitude Change in the Congregation`` to explore how we foster this shift in point of view.
SIX-MINUTE STUDY #88
Some people have compared church ministry to a hockey game: Twelve players on the ice in desperate need of a rest and hundreds in the stands in desperate need of exercise. The ratio of active parishioners to inactive parishioners is not that extreme, but it is certainly lop-sided. How do church leaders encourage more people to be part of the missional ministry team? Ultimately, it is about taking a discipleship approach.
Here’s a great article called, “ Why Don’t People Volunteer at Church?” written by Mike Schreiner andKen Willard (from Lewis Center for Church Leadership of Wesley Theological Seminary).
SIX-MINUTE STUDY #87
Scrambling for a creative feature for All Hallow’s Eve, All Saint’s or All Soul’s Days? Here are a couple of great options for all ages to help congregation members actively engage with these special days.
Check out the Building Faith web link called, “Ideas and Resources for Halloween and All Saints' Day.”
Also, the Episcopal Diocese of Newark – “All Saints & All Souls”
SIX-MINUTE STUDY #86
What's the connection between "mission" and "outreach"? It is ultimately, so much more than ministry that hopes to attract people to Sunday worship. The key to nurturing new disciples begins with authentic relationship-building. Read more about this distinction from Junius B. Dotson, General Secretary of Discipleship Resources of The United Methodist Church, in his article "Missional Engagement: It’s All About Relationships."
SIX-MINUTE STUDY #85
The beginning steps of stewardship can begin by simply saying ‘thanks’. The Anglican Church of Canada is launching a new webpage chock full of ideas and resources. There are three main links – (1) Where to Begin; (2) Next Steps; and (3) Go Further. Inspire generosity and giving by first focusing on saying thank you to those who support your ministries. A couple of suggestions: Write a letter of gratitude sharing how your congregation makes a difference, create a simple one-page narrative budget telling the story of your parish impact on the world, and host a “Gratitude Sunday” to talk about generosity and appreciation.
Visit the page, "Giving Our Thanks and Praise" - simple and easy steps for even the smallest church to engage in stewardship conversations. http://www.anglican.ca/gifts/gtp/
Sign up to the e-mail list to receive regular tips, tricks, and help. In addition, you will receive 20 free thank-you cards just for registering. (See Where to Begin, bottom of page Sign Up)
SIX-MINUTE STUDY #84
"The congregations who do the best in church finances have a rich, full, abiding compassion for mission. They are motivated by a theology of service, not a theology of survival. Their compelling, driving spirit is one of striving, serving, loving mission." - Kennon L. Callahan, author and teacher, Congregational Development
Autumn is a perfect time to consider stewardship themes. Shift conversations to inspiring faithful living and participation in God’s mission, rather than merely funding a budget. The Anglican Church of Canada has recently rolled out a variety of resources. Some of them are:
- Ideas for a Gratitude Sunday
- Teaching stewardship from the Bible
- Parish Workshop materials
- Impactfull thank-you notes
- Stewardship bible studies
- Parish stewardship audit
- Quick discussion starters
- Stewardship themes for worship, services
- Quick stewardship activity ideas for Youth
- And more!
SIX-MINUTE STUDY #83
Harvest is here and Thanksgiving Sunday is around the corner on October 8th. It is often a time for families to ‘come home’ and share in worship. Some may be returning from their cottages after the summer season. Still others may be first-time visitors seeking meaning and a way to give thanks.
There is still time to plan something special for this celebration. Here are a few ideas from the Building Faith folks at the Virginia Theological Seminary (Anglican). Remember to promote your activities to the wider community and warmly invite newcomers to join you.
Here is, “Building Faith Does Thanksgiving: 7 Helpful Posts”
SIX-MINUTE STUDY #82
Measuring the health and spiritual vigor of a congregation is so much more than Sunday worship attendance and cash in the offering plate. Missional vitality is something more difficult to quantify, mainly because it is about supporting people to be transformed by the grace of Christ. Read the article below that was posted by the folks at the Episcopal (Anglican) Virginia Theology Seminary. Here are a couple of great questions to ask as churches endeavour to measure their ministry effectiveness. They involve building on strengths and seizing existing opportunities.
“Measuring Church Vitality: Beyond the Attendance Dance” written by Carolyn Moomaw Chilton.
SIX-MINUTE STUDY #81
Inspiration and hope comes when we hear a real-life story of a congregation overcoming challenges. So many churches are facing struggles in their community with declining population, a faltering economy and aging parishioners. Read this true story of an Anglican church in rural Wyoming, who put their missional priorities first and are thriving!
Duke University’s Faith and Leadership website posted a story written by Brigid Mander called, “Small church upholds history of outreach to make big impact on frontier town.”
SIX-MINUTE STUDY #80
Let’s face it, there are many people in our neighbourhoods who will never walk through our church doors on Sunday morning. How can we cast a wider net and connect with these folks? Congregations who host small groups that meet at different times, in various locations for particular purposes can reach new people.
Review this article, “Reach People On the Fringe,” by Will Johnston, who specializes in building up small groups.
SIX-MINUTE STUDY #79
Sometimes we think innovative approaches to mission and ministry are complicated, but they don’t have to be. Creative faith-building ideas can certainly be simple and not big budget. This means we use what we have – our strengths and gifts – to start something new. Read about a congregation that was ready to close its doors in Massachusetts. The article is called, “Simple Church blends dinner, worship and enterprise to create a new model,” published on Duke University’s Faith & Leadership website.
Be sure to read to the end for the ‘Questions to consider’ exercise.
SIX-MINUTE STUDY #78
It won’t be long when students, teachers and school staff are back in class. Local churches can join in the excitement as a new education year begins – whether it be for grade school children or college-age students. Engage the community – both inside and outside your church – through some simple and creative initiatives. Here are two articles from the Virginia Theological Seminary (Episcopal) webpage “Building Faith.”
Build a Back to School Prayer Station - posted by Christine Hides
The Sacrament of Back to School - posted by Lisa Brown
SIX-MINUTE STUDY #77
Congregations in rural areas where the population is declining face different challenges as compared to urban and suburban churches. Regardless of the context though, the principles of knowing your neighbourhood, responding to the needs of the residents, listening (to them and to God), and offering relevant ministry can lead to vibrancy and spiritual growth.
Watch this video about church leader Alistair Birkett as he shares the story of “Gateways,” a rural fresh expression of church in the Scottish Borders.
To watch the YouTube video (9:12 minutes) go to:
As you read/view this example of a Fresh Expression of church, what principles can you draw from it for your own particular church context? What resonates for you? Where is there hope?
SIX-MINUTE STUDY #76
The roles of paid clergy are shifting in our Diocese as more parishes move to part-time priests and consider new models of team ministry. By reimagining the roles of lay and clergy people (and adapting healthier expectations), some churches are discovering new vitality and expanded missional opportunities. One research project based out of Maine, reveals that three models have emerged that illustrate how vital congregations are making the adjustment: the minister as equipper of laypeople, the minister as ambassador and the minister as team member.
To learn more read, "A move to part-time clergy sparks innovation in congregations,” written by G. Jeffrey MacDonald, an article posted in FaithLeadership.com.
SIX-MINUTE STUDY #75
August is a great time to plan for leadership development for this autumn season. Congregations with vitality are always looking for ways to encourage more people to join the 'team' and expand ministry. There are various ways to approach raising up new leaders and it's not as difficult as one might think.
Here is one simple approach for one-on-one mentoring of potential new leaders. Read "Simple Strategies for Raising Up New Leaders", written by church consultant and author, Kay Kotan.
SIX-MINUTE STUDY #74
A church in exile. Several scholars describe the place of congregations in these days of immense cultural change, as similar to the Babylonian Exile. One writer for the Alban Institute, Duke University, says, “If the church is to live out its calling as a witness of the gospel it will become necessary for it to see itself as a missionary to its culture. This means discerning ways in which the church can go into its community and engage it with acts of servanthood and proclamation.”
Read more of this fascinating article, with many Biblical insights, about how Christians in exile can respond. The essay is called, “The Church in Exile: Being a Missionary to the Dominant Culture.”
SIX-MINUTE STUDY #73
A building with a pointy roof. A schedule of ancient rituals. A hierarchical institution doing social justice work. What is ‘church’, anyway? This question is becoming more and more important for us to examine and define, especially as we minister in a post-Christendom era. Fresh Expressions and the Church of England have been diving deep into this query for some time. Read what Methodist pastor Luke Edwards has to say about it in his article, “What is Church anyways?”
SIX-MINUTE STUDY #72
Delegation. We all know it is vitally important to congregational health and mission, but many of us find it difficult to do. Lay and clergy leaders who strive to deepen and expand ministry in their community need to call upon others to join in. Here are some tips on how to achieve more shared ministry in your parish context.
Take a look at pastor Ron Edmondson’s article called “4 Easy Steps To Healthy Delegation.”
SIX-MINUTE STUDY #71
An old Sesame Street song used to ask, “Who are the people in your neighbourhood?" That's a great question for every church. Who are the residents, workers, students and visitors in your community? And how can you connect with people who are very different from the make-up of your existing congregation? Firstly, it begins with an exercise of rediscovery - watching and listening with new eyes and ears.
Read this engaging article entitled, "Radical Welcome: Embracing the Other," by Rev. Stephanie Spellers, Minister for Radical Welcome at the Cathedral Church of St. Paul in Boston.
SIX-MINUTE STUDY #70
Radical hospitality is simple and effective when we host guests in our church. It also has to be very intentional, especially in terms of building relationships with newcomers. There are ALWAYS steps we can take to improve our welcoming. Read the article below from the Episcopal Church Foundation Vestry Papers, called "At the End of the Day," by Mary Parmer, with the Newcomer Ministry Project in the Diocese of Texas.
SIX-MINUTE STUDY #69
“The sermon or homily is an integral part of the Proclamation of the Word,” say the authors of the Book of Alternative Services. “It is the application of the word of God to the pastoral needs of a particular community at a particular time and place” (BAS page 175). That is much easier said than done.
Many of our lay and clergy leaders find writing and presenting the message at a public worship time a difficult task. How does one take these ancient sacred texts and bring them alive for today’s congregation? For some practical tips, read Charley Reeb’s article , “The Secret to Great Preaching,” posted on the website for the Lewis Centre for Church Leadership.
SIX-MINUTE STUDY #68
“God keep our land, glorious and free!” It’s a very special year in our nation and churches can offer spiritual perspective to Canada’s 150th birthday celebrations too. Here are a couple of websites below that may provide some inspiration and ideas for your own congregation’s involvement.
Book of Alternative Services – page 412 – Canada Day, July 1
re: Worship – National Prayers Index
Rockburn Presbyterian Church, Rockburn, Quebec
Government of Canada – 150 site
Canada 150 & Me – teaching and activity ideas
2017 KAIROS wish list
June 21 – National Aboriginal Day of Prayer – Anglican Church of Canada
This Far by Faith – Canada 150 (some interesting history videos)
SIX-MINUTE STUDY #67
Learning to be more comfortable praying out loud as a group can help members grow in their faith and devotion. A common request by parishioners is to develop their prayer-life and to discover new approaches to deeper communicating with God while in community. Here’s an article by Brad Himes, that offers some ideas on how to encourage and practice praying out loud without a service book or written prayer.
Read, “Teach Your Small Group to Be Comfortable with Group Prayer - Prayer methods that can help anyone pray out loud with ease.”
SIX-MINUTE STUDY #66
Create some excitement in your congregation with a fresh idea for Pentecost. We decorate for Christmas, Thanksgiving and Easter, this springtime feast day (June 4th) is another opportunity to celebrate and do something special. Here are some links for ideas related to decorating, children’s activities, and Pentecost prayers.
Building Faith - 7 Helpful Posts
Building Faith – Decorating for Pentecost
Celebrating Pentecost 2013 - Kids Friendly (23 page PDF)
SIX-MINUTE STUDY #65
Father’s Day is June 18th – time to plan something special for the dads in your congregations. These family days are celebrated in most of our neighbourhood homes, why not make a connection on Sunday morning? Here are some links for worship ideas related to Father’s Day.
The Church of England - Resources for Father's Day
re:Worship - Resources and reflections for worship planners and leaders
Father’s Day Ideas for Church
SIX-MINUTE STUDY #64
Taco Bell Church, a laundry ministry, theology in a pub and worship at a boxing gym. One priest in Houston is reaching people who would never attend a traditional Sunday service in innovative ways. The Rev. Sean Steele, recently launched St. Isidore Episcopal, a “church without walls” with a primary goal of small group discipleship and community service. Read more about this fascinating and effective missional approach in the article, "Church has no walls but many doors, accessible to seekers and skeptics”, by Andrew Kragie, for Faith & Leadership website (Duke University).
SIX-MINUTE STUDY #63
It's NHL playoff time and anyone who watches knows the importance of a good referee. The same goes for church conflict. When troubles arise in a congregation, any member of a church has the ability to react, respond, and help manage it like a wise referee. Read about some practical steps to cool and resolve conflict from a dedicated sports player and Episcopal priest, Scott Petersen. His article is entitled,"Conflict Resolution from a Referee."
SIX-MINUTE STUDY #62
Intentional listening is a key step in being missional in our communities. It's important to discover afresh who are the people we are seeking to serve in our neighbourhood. This means asking questions, observing the daily life of the people, and watching where God is already at work. Read about one Ontario congregation and how they began to reach out in mission. The article is entitled “Community Engagement: Where Should a Church Begin?," by Anglican priest, Matt Adams.
SIX-MINUTE STUDY #61
A new person has visited your Sunday worship time or church event. What are the things that can be done to help connect this guest with your faith community? We begin by asking the question, what can we do to serve them, instead of what they can do for us (become a member, volunteer or offering giver). People usually visit a church because there is some spiritual question. How can our congregations approach these newcomer needs? READ the article called “What’s Your Goal for Visitor Follow-Up? by Lovett H. Weems, Jr..
SIX-MINUTE STUDY #60
Christian Formation is a key building block for vital congregations. The Building Healthy Parishes Team (VSST) has named this as the first priority in its work in the Diocese for the next while. People inside and outside of the church have questions and are seeking to know more about God and about authentic faith. Read this Alban Institute/Duke Divinity School article entitled, “Encouraging Lay Theology,” by Bruce Epperly. He writes, “At our congregation, adult faith formation programs have become the major source of new members and Sunday visitors and have brought vitality to our congregation.”
CHECK OUT our easy-to-use PowerPoint presentation on Christian Formation.
SEE: “Building Blocks - Christian Formation (PPT)”
SIX-MINUTE STUDY #59
People in our culture see Sundays differently today. Whether it is because there are more shift workers, sports events, Sunday shopping or hundreds of cable TV channels – the reason does not matter. Sundays are not solely a family and faith day any more. How can churches help spiritual seekers discover God at other times and in other ways? Read this article from Congregational Consulting Group to explore this idea further. It is entitled, “Sunday May Be Sacred, But Church Is Not,” by Sarai Rice.
SIX-MINUTE STUDY #58
Holy Week and Easter are prime opportunities to connect with visitors and special-occasion worship attenders. When someone new (or newer) shows up at one of these holy day services it shows they have an interest in God, spirituality and/or your faith community. This is a potential relationship-building opening that is a gift. How can we show radical hospitality and share something of the Good News with these ‘seekers’? Here are some ideas from an article entitled, “9 Ways to Welcome Church Visitors on Easter,” written by Carolyn Moomaw Chilton, Assistant for Evangelism and Stewardship at Grace and Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Richmond, Virginia.
SIX-MINUTE STUDY #57
Learning how to lead takes a lifetime. Being a lay or clergy leader in 2017 means facing challenges and complexities in ministry like no other time. Improving our communication skills, emphasizing team-work and facilitating effective meetings are some areas in which leadership skills can be refined. Pick up some basic tips from this article called, “Keep Learning To Lead: Five Practical Lessons,” written by Gavin Ortlund.
SIX-MINUTE STUDY #56
Conflict. A helpful thing? Or a destructive thing? To be human means we will encounter tension and conflict from time to time in our lives. And certainly in the Church it is present too. How we ‘process’ the conflict and the behaviours associated with these struggles play an important role in how we manage it. Explore a fresh perspective related to our personalities that may have some bearing on helpful approaches to conflict.
“Unconventional Wisdom: Is Conflict a Bad Thing?,” comes from the experts at the Alban Institute (at Duke University).
SIX-MINUTE STUDY #55
Here’s a Holy Week-related idea to help people actively engage their faith at home. You may have seen how some churches are giving out “Lent in a Bag” resources to encourage exploration of Lenten themes outside of Sunday worship. (See St. John’s Truro, in the Diocesan and Parish Vitality Coordinator Facebook pages.) Here’s an idea to consider for Holy Week. Whether your parish hosts worship and activities all during Holy Week or not, this is a way to carry Christian spiritual disciplines outside of the church building to families, friends and neighbours. Check out Virginia Theological Seminary’s ‘Building Faith’ page link to “Holy Week In a Box.”
SIX-MINUTE STUDY #54
Exploring and sharing in spiritual disciplines is a great way for people to try new things, grow deeper in faith and build relationships with each other. A method of contemplative prayer called “Lectio Divina” is one idea. This ancient form of prayer is a model way to learn how to be more present to God and can provide an opening to discernment or prayerful listening. Try it during one of your Lenten Bible studies, ACW gatherings, prayer group sessions or even at a church meeting.
Here’s a link to an Anglican Communion site that explains what Lectio Divina is, including a printable guide.
And visit this site to read the article, “Lectio Divina and Contemplative Prayer in Small Groups,” written by Adele Calhoun.
SIX-MINUTE STUDY #53
Lent is the perfect time to take stock of our blessings and to intentionally cultivate a spirit of generosity. Throughout the 40 days of this solemn season we work on our interior life, acknowledging all that we are and have come from our generous God. In our abundance of health, wealth and faith (and time), how can we respond appropriately with a sense of gratitude and joy?
Explore these themes in a daily devotional, a Lutheran resource, “Lenten Devotional – Stewardship Principles”. The writings are based on St. Paul’s letters to the First Christians in Corinth. The document is in a pdf format, so it can be easily printed off. (It was designed for 2016, so ignore the dates.) Use these at church meetings and parish gatherings, or simply for your private devotions.
SIX-MINUTE STUDY #52
Effective communication and strong leadership go hand in hand. And it’s not as challenging as some may think. Communication begins with simple steps involving listening, and also speaking, writing, reading and actions. Here are some basic tips to in the article called “The Leader as Communicator,” by Lovett H. Weems, Jr.
SIX-MINUTE STUDY #51
Everyone who is baptized is a minister in the church. In this time of what Rowan Willams called "the Reimagination" we are rebuilding ministry and ALL ministers are required to share in this work.
Here's an article about an Old Testament account of faithful ministry where one man defined the reality of the situation, named a vision, and then engaged the people to accomplish it. Read "Ten Leadership Lessons from Nehemiah", written by Lovett H. Weems, Jr.
SIX-MINUTE STUDY #50
Church can happen in ordinary places. Here’s a simple yet inspiring story of a 27-year-old woman who is living out Christ’s mission by building new relationships through a routine activity – washing clothes. Samantha Sammis began with a group of friends to be intentional - “Love Jesus, love our neighbours, see what happens.”
Read this good news story called, “God's work unfolds at a Charleston laundromat” by Stephanie Hunt.
“Started by a young woman wanting simply to live out the gospel, loving her neighbour as herself, Laundry Matters is a vibrant community center and more. It’s church-as-laundromat, laundromat-as-church.”
SIX-MINUTE STUDY #49
Holy smoke, Lent begins in exactly one month! Do you need some fresh ideas? On March 1st., Ash Wednesday, we begin a journey together with Christ to the Cross and eventually to the Tomb on Resurrection Sunday. Here are some ideas for Lenten worship and other seasonal activities from Anglican sources:
Anglican Church of Canada - Lent 2017 resources
Anglican Church of Canada - Liturgical Texts for trial use and feedback – Includes Morning and Evening Prayer for the Seasons of the Church Year. Plus Collects and Seasonal Prayers for Years A, B and C, along with Seasonal Prayers over the Gifts and after Communion. (Revised May 2016)
Anglicans Online – Lent and Easter Resources
For more articles and our own Diocesan stories/photos, see Facebook: Parish Vitality Coordinator – Diocese of NS & PEI.
SIX-MINUTE STUDY #48
Whether it be family-sized or megga-sized congregations, small groups are required to be a vital church. They come in all shapes and varieties, but when they work well they are an integral part of "being" the church and not just "doing" church.
Let’s be clear, small groups are not just the next trendy church idea. In fact they are God’s idea and Jesus modeled some of the best examples of them in our scriptures. Read the article, “Why Small Groups? - The reason behind intentional Christian community,” by Carolyn Taketa, the Small Groups Director at Calvary Community Church in Westlake Village, California.
SIX-MINUTE STUDY #47
Leadership is the central focus for our churches as we prepare for Annual Meetings and new Parish and Church Councils. Members on these governing boards review the ministry work of the previous year, but more importantly set the course for 2017. Before we jump into the work right away it is a good idea to start the year with positive and clear intentions for this group’s ministry.
The Episcopal (Anglican) Church in the United States offers some great resources in their “Vestry Papers” webpages. Read the article, “Beginning Your Vestry’s Work Together,” by Nathan E. Kirkpatrick, and explore some ideas for starting the council leadership year off well. (NOTE: ‘vestry’ is the same as council.)
SIX-MINUTE STUDY #46
Two key components are required for healthy and effective ministry teams in congregations. One is a solid mission strategy and vision to help focus the time, talents and energies of parishioners. The other is an intentional priority of genuine relationships – both within and outside the church. (As Peter Drucker said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”)
Read what Gannon Simms, of Fresh Expressions USA has to say about “What’s Essential to a Good Ministry Team.”
SIX-MINUTE STUDY #45
Happy New Year! Lots of people in January are pondering how this year could be different, healthier and maybe even holier. Churches can offer something intentional in terms of Christian Formation, where folks can come, ask questions, and explore their spirituality in a caring atmosphere. Ultimately we long for people to grow spiritually and encounter the Christ who transforms lives. Small group gatherings are the most effective way to do this.
Read this comprehensive article by author Amy Jackson called “Intentional Spiritual Growth in Small Groups -
Understanding how we grow and change.”