Growing Healthy Congregations
These days, growing a congregation can be a daunting challenge. While some Episcopal churches have experienced growth in the number of people who have committed their life to Christ and joined in God’s mission to the world, many have not. For the latter, vitality can seem out of reach.
Rest assured that it’s not. There are many approaches that, when made a priority, work to grow churches. The Department of Congregational Development and Mission is committed to developing the best of those resources and helping you put them into action.
We hope you’ll consider using the resources outlined here. All of them have helped congregations large and small gain health and strength. Engaged with commitment, they can work for you, too.
Lenten Program 2017
ChurchNext’s Speaking Our Faith™
ChurchNext’s Speaking our Faith™ is an engaging five-session, video-based class for groups that is designed to get participants talking to one another about faith. In five sessions (video and discussion together typically take about an hour), it will build essential skills to help our churches grow and support our diocesan theme of Know Your Story, Live It Boldly. As a Lenten series, it’s also an excellent preparation for participants to renew their Baptismal Covenant at Easter.
For more information, check out the ChurchNext Blog. A detailed preview of materials and video will be available January 7 at www.churchnext.tv. The entire package will be available the first week of February.
Your Church Growth “Dream Team”
The key to turning around your church or building it for the future is skilled and knowledgeable leadership. The Way of St. Paul, our flagship diocesan church growth program, rests on this powerful principle.
Over an 18 month period, each Way of St. Paul congregation fields a team of 6-10 people, including the clergyperson in charge. (Teams from small congregations can be even smaller.) During that time, they learn how to function as a team, motivate healthy change in a congregation, and execute growth-oriented projects specific to the congregation.
Along the way, each team member will grow in his or her own spiritual life, deepen relationships with each other and with God, and learn valuable leadership skills applicable to every area of life. The ultimate goal? Form disciples of Jesus Christ for the 21st century in our Anglican/Episcopal tradition.
The Congregational Development Toolbox
Based on 10 years of research that uncovered key characteristics of flourishing congregations, RenewalWorks will inspire your congregation to rediscover who Jesus is, and what it means to follow him. Through self-reflection, sharing and workshop discussion, RenewalWorks challenges parishes to refocus on spiritual growth and to identify ways that God is calling them to grow.
Using RenewalWorks, churches create specific congregation-wide growth initiatives which clarify expectations for clergy, lay leaders and individuals. Ultimately, RenewalWorks is a great way to deepen your congregation’s relationship with God, with neighbor, with self and with the world.
1) Adult Formation – Form deeper disciples with teachings on scripture, theology, and life issues.
2) Sacramental Preparation – Prepare people for baptism, confirmation, marriage, membership, and other passages.
3) Build Effective Leaders – Courses on leadership, stewardship, outreach, and Christian Education help you prepare volunteers, teachers, and leaders.
Presentations and Retreats
The Department of Congregational Development and Mission provides a wide variety of trainings and presentations for vestries, small groups and parish meetings. Topics include:
- Church Growth in the 21st Century
- Applying Adaptive Leadership Techniques
- Using Appreciative Inquiry to Energize a Congregation
- Becoming a Disciple-Making Community
- Mastering Mission/Mission Clarity
- Shared Ministries and Mergers
If you don’t see a topic here that you need, contact us. We tailor unique trainings all the time.
The Canon for Congregational Development and Mission: The Rev. Cn. Dr. Rob Droste
Canon Droste is available for Sunday morning guest preaching and for one-on-one consulting with rectors, vicars, priests-in-charge and interims. He’s also available to lead retreats for vestries, mission boards and other leadership groups.
As someone who was a parish priest for 14 years, I know how challenging it can be to grow a congregation. Sometimes even the best efforts don’t produce the outcomes we had hoped for. The work can be quite discouraging at times. There’s no silver bullet or magic wand to wave.
Still, even the most challenged congregation can find new joy, energy and passion in its Christian journey. We can grow in numbers and resources, as we:
- Discover (or re-discover) what God is up to in our neighborhoods
- Enter (or re-enter) into active participation with what God is doing
- Boldly re-claim the principle that God is interested in making disciples of Jesus Christ, and that God invites us to join in that effort
We’ve already begun populating this site with useful resources, available below. I welcome your questions and suggestions, and hearing about anything you’ve found helpful.
The Rev. Cn. Dr. Rob Droste
Canon for Congregational Development and Mission
The Episcopal Diocese of New Jersey
Each recommended book is linked to its page on Amazon,com, for quick and easy purchase.
A Collect for Growth
Great for Parish or Colleague Study Groups:
Buttry, Daniel. Bringing Your Church Back to Life: Beyond Survival Mentality. (Valley Forge, PA: Judson Press, 1988)
Coutts, Peter. Choosing Change: How to Motivate Churches to Face the Future. (Herndon, VA: Alban Institute, 2013)
Ferebee, Randolph. Cultivating the Missional Church: New Soil for Growing Vestries and Leaders. (New York: Morehouse Press, 2012)
McNeal, Reggie. Missional Communities: The Rise of the Post-Congregational Church. (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers, 2011)
McNeal, Reggie. Missional Renaissance: Changing the Scorecard for the Church. (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers, 2009)
McNeal, Reggie. The Present Future: Six Tough Questions for the Church. (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers, 2003)
More In-Depth/Important Academic Works:
Bosch, David. Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission. (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1991)
Bevans, Stephen and Schroeder, Roger. Constants in Context: A Theology of Mission for Today. (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2004)
Bevans, Stephen and Schroeder, Roger. Prophetic Dialogue: Reflections on Christian Mission Today. (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2011)
Van Gelder, Craig and Zscheile, Dwight. The Missional Church in Perspective: Mapping Trends and Shaping the Conversation. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2011)
Guder, Darell, ed. Missional Church: A Vision for the Sending of the Church in North America. (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1998)