Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure. —Philippians 2:12b-13
Life in the church is not a spectator sport. It is not entertainment. It is not a product to be consumed. Everyone has “skin in the game.” Everyone has both the freedom and the responsibility to pursue his or her own spiritual growth. Leaders assist this process by establishing the expectation that every individual in the community will grow in their relationship with the church, in their personal spiritual practice, and in service. As one church put it, “If you come here you will grow.”
Some basic steps to create ownership:
1. Empower people to be the church
2. Equip people to succeed in their ministries—coaching, thanking, encouraging, challenging
3. Hold people accountable. Build relationships in small group or one-on-one connections where people can talk about their own spiritual journeys.
Some examples of this best practice principle at work:
1. Articulate the expectation that everyone in leadership needs to grow in his or her own spiritual lives. Dedicate a vestry meeting (or a portion of an annual retreat) to share personal plans for spiritual growth. Form vestry prayer partners so that each member is praying for another member and their spiritual goals. Adopt this tagline for your church: “If you come here, you will grow.”
2. Promote daily devotional practices, like Forward Movement’s daily meditation books with reflections for each day of the year.
3. Encourage people to take RenewalWorks For Me, our individual assessment which provides a spiritual plan based on results of the assessment. If folks choose, they can receive 8 emails, over 8 weeks, which suggest practices they can undertake which correspond to their place in the spiritual continuum. Our favorite price: free.
RenewalWorks not only provides ways in which congregations can assess “where” members are in their spiritual journeys, the program can help congregations put programs and opportunities in place to foster and deepen the spiritual lives of members. Then as more and more members move toward “Christ Centered” lives, they will begin to invite others to join in their parish life and ministries and that will lead to numerical church growth. —The Rev. Meredith Potter, Deacon (Meredith served as Professor of Congregational Development at Seabury Western Theological Seminary)
Ironically, we are seeing that happen more and more even in the past week with the pandemic. People are realizing that the church is not about a building but about the community that makes up the Body of Christ. Reaching out to isolated parishioners and continuing outreach efforts where possible have been shared responsibilities as people see to live into our shared mission: “to life up all as Christ calls.” —The Rev. Hillary Raining, Rector, St. Christopher’s Church
RenewalWorks gave my congregation and me the following:
• a focus on “nurturing faith” as our prime directive,
• an identification of areas of spiritual life that need our attention,
• a set of internally-defined initiatives for learning and outreach
• a group of long-time and new leaders who are “owning” the outcomes of our initiatives
I could not have achieved this without the RenewalWorks congregational survey,
parish team, and structured workshops. RenewalWorks has been a huge blessing to me and my congregation. We have much more work to do but we are launched. —The Rev. Erika Meyer, Rector, Good Shepherd Church, New York City
Additional examples and resources
1. Develop spiritual paths for parishioners. Articulate a Rule of Life for your parish. It can be quite simple. For example, one church in Chicago developed the following Rule of Life:
WORSHIP more than you don’t
SEEK a deeper understanding of your faith
SERVE others in the name and manner of Jesus
GIVE as generously as God has given to you
2. Create a prayer for the parish that everyone knows and embraces. Offer this prayer as a congregation before sermons and other gatherings.
3. Plan a retreat for the congregation, along the lines of Soulworks from St. John’s, Memphis or St. James’ Madison Avenue
4. Encourage and challenge lay leaders to become leaders in the liturgy, for instance, officiating at the Daily Office.
5. Forward Day by Day reflection available daily
6. ChurchNext provides online courses to invigorate your spiritual life
7. Pertinent Forward Movement resources