Get People Moving
Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. —Romans 15:7
This, of course, suggests welcoming and incorporating newcomers. But it means much more. It’s about communicating to everyone in the congregation, new and not so new, that that person is on a spiritual journey. It’s an invitation, a call, and a challenge to take the next step, wherever a person may be in that journey. The leader offers guidance, but spiritual growth as an expectation needs to be part of the culture. No one, however stalled or dissatisfied, gets a pass.
Some basic steps to get people moving:
1. Make the goal of spiritual growth clear
2. Make work toward that goal an expectation for everyone in the congregation, those who are new and those who have worshiped with you for decades
3. Make the leader the champion of that goal
Some examples of this best practice principle at work:
1. Provide ways for people to begin to read scripture on their own. Encourage a daily quiet time. Forward Day by Day is a good place to start. You may want to encourage people to start with the Gospel of Mark, using A Journey With Mark from Forward Movement, or N.T. Wright’s, Mark for Everyone, or a similar resource. Participate in The Good Book Club to join our Presiding Bishop and others across the Episcopal Church reading the Bible together.
The most important outcome of the work was not discovering our Spiritual Vitality Index or seeing what percentage of our congregation was in which stage of faith development, though both those metrics were helpful. We engaged our community in talking about the longing to go deeper with God and to root ourselves in relationship with Jesus Christ and one another, to study the Holy Scriptures, to cultivate skills to think theologically through action and reflection. We shifted our programmatic offerings to respond to the demonstrated needs and desires of our community as demonstrated through participating in the RenewalWorks inventory. —The Rev. Canon Elizabeth Marie Melchionna, formerly on staff at St. John’s Cathedral in Denver, now Rector of Chapel of the Cross, Chapel Hill
We have a membership committee that help congregants find their vocation. When someone new joins the parish, they are assigned a parish partner to help them get active in the parish in the first year. Additionally, we continually help people who have been members for years become more engaged in ministries they may not have considered yet. . —The Rev. Hillary Raining, Rector, St. Christopher’s Church
The whole idea of 40 days was to invite people into the life of prayer but bot set ourselves up to say this is what we are doing from now on. So, if it turned out that people were interested in daily Morning Prayer or Centering Prayer those things could continue but if they faded over the course of this time, we could discontinue them without anyone feeling like they or we had failed. It also meant people could try things on without feeling they had made an endless commitment. —The Rev. Ryan Fleenor, Vicar, St. James’Church, Madison Ave, NYC
Additional examples and resources.
1. Use Transforming Questions (a curriculum offered by Forward Movement) or another comparable introductory class. Another free curriculum is called Christian Essentials, available from Christ Church Charlotte. Other churches have found Alpha to be a transformative resource.
2. Incorporate instructed eucharists regularly in the Sunday schedule (ideally quarterly), and provide other opportunities to learn more about the eucharist. Our research with Episcopal churches shows that it is a key catalyst for spiritual growth.
3. Have everyone in the parish read a book together, like Jesus was an Episcopalian by Chris Yaw or Being Christian by Rowan Williams.
4. Pertinent Forward Movement resources.
5. Forward Day by Day reflections posted daily
6. Grow Christians: a community of disciples practicing faith at home
7. Learn more about saints with Lent Madness