- identifying their unique ministries;
- building vital congregational teams; and,
- creating vitality projects utilizing practical financial and administrative skills.
Prayer, scripture and reflection led by The Rev. Dr. James Lemler, Pathways Chaplain and Moderator, provided the foundation for the work. “We realized that technical skills are essential and they relate to issues of agency, healthy practices, inner work of leaders as well as the overall health of congregations,” said Lemler. “We grounded each learning experience with spiritual reflection to link adaptive inner work with technical skills.”
Throughout the course of the pilot program, each parish’s Vitality Team utilized adaptive and technical skills to design and implement a Vitality Project to meet the unique ministerial needs of their congregations. “This peer-learning model is based upon action and reflection providing participants with the opportunity to intentionally integrate lessons into their congregational lives,” said Hickman.
All Saints: Data and Formation Journey
“We learned there are two camps at All Saints,” said Lee Little, Vitality Team member. “One group tends toward less spiritual depth and the other towards more spiritual depth. The opportunity for All Saints is to create Christian formation programming that targets the middle.”
Good Samaritan: Building from the Ground Up
To this end, Good Samaritan’s Vitality Team developed the congregation’s first organizational chart and identified common values, expectations and processes for its ministry teams. With these tools providing the foundation, the Vitality Team developed job descriptions for each ministry team.
“We are at least 12 months ahead of schedule as a church plant,” according to The Rev. Dr. Gray Lesesne, Good Samaritan’s Church Planter. “Because of the Pilot Parish program and the work of our Vitality Team, we are building a lay leadership structure to create sustainability and to share the opportunities and challenges of our new ministry throughout our growing congregation.”
St. Timothy’s: Jesus feeds. We feast. We feed others.
Their initial task was to learn as much as they could about each other utilizing a simple parish survey. From the survey, they learned that the congregation craved more fellowship opportunities as well as the creation of a new brand identity, website and parish photo directory.
“We learned the value of risk taking, communications and pre-planning,” said Aimee Rose Formo, Vitality Team member. “If we trust each other and invest the time, something good will come of our efforts.”
Central to each parish’s learning experience has been The Rev. Erin Hougland, Pathways Priest. She has supported each Vitality Team and Pilot Parish in the design and implementation of their Vitality Projects as a resident priest.
“This residency program has been good for each congregation and provided Erin with priestly formation and leadership opportunities giving her the confidence and skills necessary for future parish ministry,” said Hickman.
The lessons learned from the work of the Pilot Parishes may be adapted and enhanced for other congregations in the future. “We believe the experiences of these parishes will help the Diocese create more transformative programming that supports sustainability, vitality and innovation in our congregations,” said Hickman.
The Pathways to Vitality Initiative is made possible through a generous grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. and is part of the National Initiative to Address Economic Challenges Facing Pastoral Leaders.