- The Most Important Thing:
From the Canon for Congregational Development and Mission
- How can I help?
A Q & A with Asher Walden, A Diocesan Growth Coach
- Learning for the Whole Diocese
- Resources of the Month
- Upcoming Church Growth Events
The Rev. Cn. Dr. Rob Droste
Canon for Congregational Development and Mission
In my work around the diocese, I engage diverse congregations. While each is faithful and beautiful in its own way, and some are wonderfully quirky, many struggle with articulating a purpose that energizes and inspires their people to action. Churches usually have a mission statement, but it is typically only loosely connected to actual decision-making. Few people know it by heart.
This lack of inspirational clarity really gets in the way. Every organization has to agree on its purpose to be healthy, and that purpose needs to be inspiring enough to get people to sacrifice time, money and energy for it. Lack of clarity about purpose leads to ineffective growth attempts.
Here’s how that works in church. Some believe that the primary purpose of the church is to provide care, comfort and stability for its members, keeping things “the way they’ve always been” and holding on for a better day. Others believe passionately that the church should work primarily to change unjust social structures; they press hard for political activism. Others are convinced that the church should focus on providing social services, easing physical suffering in our neighbors around us.
Since all of these churches hope to grow, their strategy could thus be described as, “we want to be so comforting and stable; so politically active, visible and inspiring; so generous and helpful; or so beautiful and historic that people will be naturally drawn to us.” After all, wouldn’t everyone want to be part of churches focused this way? Unfortunately, more and more people are saying “not really.”
The problem of all of these approaches is that while each of them is legitimate, Biblically based and exciting to many already in the church, they don’t in themselves meet the one purpose that does lead directly to growth: bringing individual people “who do not yet know Jesus to the knowledge and love of him.” (BCP p. 101)
Bringing people to the knowledge and love of Jesus is an essential task of every Christian; this effort strengthens the one reaching out, while the new people bring energy and excitement to all the work of the church. Thus, this is the purpose that can and does energize and sustain all the others.
In The Way of St. Paul, we put it this way: “The Christian’s life purpose is to live and love like Jesus and help others to do the same.” These two essential ideas work best in harmony. When each is given equal time, attention and resources, everyone participating is strengthened in faith and hope, while the congregation itself gains in vitality.
Each congregation is on an adventure to explore this purpose in its own time and place. How each lives it out will be as different as the congregations themselves. But the first step is to come to consensus that helping new people come to know and love Jesus really is the place to start. It is to have faith that such work will strengthen everything else the congregation does. Our job, then, is to ask God’s help to learn how to live it out and make the effort.
How can I help?
Dr. Asher Walden
Diocesan Growth Coach
What brings you to the church?
When I was younger, I felt frustrated in my desire to be of service. I knew that I wanted to help people, and helping people was very important; but I didn’t really know how. I would have given more money to charity, if I had had any. If I had been called to pursue a career as a social worker or in medicine, I would have gotten the specialized training to help people in a very concrete way, but didn’t see that in my own career trajectory.
Tell me more.
Many Christians believe that it is enough to be a good person, and that you can model Christ for others just by not being (pardon) a jerk. But really, don’t all people, not just Christians, bear responsibility for not being a jerk?
So where is God in all this?
I felt called, out of my own experience of Jesus’ saving love, to share with others the healing and liberation that comes from being in a relationship with God. Simply trying to be a good person is by all means a good start. But I feel called to something deeper.
What excites you about the Way of St. Paul?
The Way of St Paul’s methodology provides a very practical and powerful way of showing Christian love to others in a way that requires no academic degree or ordination. Throughout our extensive coach training, we’ve learned to walk along side others, and support them in doing the work of Christ, we call this “Being Barnabas”. The Barnabas “strategy” provides a framework for investing your attention in another person in way that empowers that person, builds their confidence, and helps them (and you!) grow into the stature of Christ.
Church growth and disciple making isn’t about numbers. It’s about having a strategy to help just one other person, or one small group of people, to grow in discipleship and in faith. What we are learning and practicing is the willingness to become a blessing in other people’s lives. What we call listening and reflecting is actually a shared discernment of the movement of the Spirit.
I am deeply grateful to Fr. Rob and Terry Ann and the other members of the Way of St. Paul program, both the other coaches and the churches that have taken the plunge. The church is on a mission, and I feel blessed to be a part of it.
Learning for the Whole Diocese
The Way of St. Paul is designed to support congregations as they experiment with new ways to think about and stimulate growth. Based on the idea that the purpose of the church is “to live and love like Jesus and to help others do the same,” they walk with their coaches to explore living out both parts of the statement and report on the experience. After all, this learning is not only for The Way of St. Paul teams – it’s for every congregation in the Diocese of New Jersey and the Episcopal Church as a whole.
Teams: First Steps
Here are some preliminary reports on what some of our teams are starting to do in their two weeks of work. All of them attended the kickoff September 16, where they learned the basics of The Way of St. Paul growth approach and began their very first efforts to put them into action.
One of the mainstays of the program is called The Barnabas Method, outlined in Becoming Barnabas: A Ministry of Coming Alongside by Bob Logan. This approach actively encourages developing the current and emerging leadership in the congregation.
- St. Peter’s, Perth Amboy. (Coach: The Rev. Angie Cipolla firstname.lastname@example.org)Their team will attend the next parish vestry meeting. They will pair up with vestry members and use the Barnabas Method to come alongside and encourage and support vestry members in their ministries. This will help them clarify their challenges and next steps in each of their ministries.
- St. Andrew’s, Lambertville. (Coach: Dr. Asher Walden email@example.com) The team will meet together for dinner during the month of September, where they will review the day’s material with two members of the group that were absent. They will each begin practicing the Barnabas Method with each other, family and friends.
- St. Stephen’s, Whiting. (Coach: Michael Redpath firstname.lastname@example.org) Two team members who pray with people in the broader community are developing leave-behinds that they can give to people with whom they pray. One side will have some prayers, the other information about St. Stephen’s, particularly about its healing ministries. Another member is reaching out to members of St. Stephen’s who have been absent to research what happened and how St. Stephen’s might have better met their needs. Last, they are updating the parish website to be more current about healing ministries and prayer resources.
- Trinity, Woodbridge. (Coach: The Rev. Anne-Marie Jeffery email@example.com) The team is going to replace small talk at coffee hour with a more robust discussion format based o the Barnabas Method. The team will also work together in a variety of ways to improve its Sunday morning welcome process.
- Good Shepherd, Rahway. (Coach: The Rev. Greg Bezilla firstname.lastname@example.org)Their team is now discerning which of the various challenges they face they want to address first. Their initial assessment is that the parish needs to increase the number of people involved in ministries and how to establish a growth strategy around Christian formation.
- Calvary, Flemington. (Coach: The Rev. Matt Tucker frmatt@ccbtown) The team will, among other activities, engage the Barnabas Method by each practicing intentional encouragement of members of the congregation.
- St. Peter’s, Clarksboro. (Coach: The Rev. Amy Cornell email@example.com – Team Leader The Rev. Bob Fitzpatrick firstname.lastname@example.org) The team will explore, in its first month, all of its available options to reach out into the larger community.
- Christ Church, South Amboy. (Coach: Paul Wolfgang email@example.com ) The team is now calling all of the “lost souls” who have disappeared from the community in the past few months, using the information they gain to explore next steps.
Resources of the Month
Research has shown that one of the most important practices that will strengthen a congregation is time spent daily with the Bible. We’re not talking about a lot of time, either- 15 minutes per day can and does make a major impact on spiritual growth in individuals and congregations.
With that, we recommend two apps this month.
This free Bible app offers significant resources, including a “Verse of the Day,” artwork for sharing and multiple free programs for studying various topics from a biblical perspective. If you set up a free account, become friends with all of us in the Congregational Development department, Way of St. Paul coaches, and more.
Another free Bible app created by bestselling author Francis Chan (Crazy Love) and the animators of the Bible Project, Read Scripture breaks down the entire bible into a few chapters at a time – just right for 15 minutes of reading and prayer – and includes a psalm each day as well. The developers also provide a short animated video explaining each book of the Bible (sometimes more than one per book) to aid in understanding.
Below is a YouTube video that shows an overview of the whole thing. It’s a great resource for individuals, small groups, youth groups, weekly Bible studies and more.
Upcoming Church Growth Events
November 11, 2017 ~ Lay Empowerment Day
This event is intentionally scheduled to provide the laity with the information and materials that will be presented to all clergy at the Annual Clergy Conference (November 13-15)
The Leader’s Heart
featuring The Rev. Jay Sidebotham, Episcopal priest, cartoonist, and Director of RenewalWorks
What does it mean to be a spiritual leader in the community?
How are Vestries and other groups spiritual communities?
How can we build a culture of discipleship in the Diocese of New Jersey?
Saturday, November 11, 2017
9:00 am – 3:00 pm
Trinity Cathedral, Trenton
There is NO CHARGE to attend but registration is REQUIRED.
Box lunches are available for pre-purchase during the on line registration process
January 6, 2018 ~ Joining Jesus on His Mission
Greg Finke, author of Joining Jesus on His Mission and Joining Jesus: Show Me How, will alter the way you see your life as a follower of Jesus and take you beyond living your life for Jesus and to living life with Jesus. Simple, powerful and applicable insights show you how to be on mission and recognize where Jesus is already at work in your neighborhoods, workplaces, and schools. You will feel both relief and hope.
Saturday, January 6, 2018
9:00 am – 4:00 pm
Holy Trinity, South River
FOR WAY OF ST. PAUL TEAMS ONLY
January 20, 2018
The Department of Congregational Development and Mission of the Episcopal Diocese of New Jersey: helps congregations change the way they think about growth and grow in new and healthy ways.