A week ago, I was in New Orleans meeting with the Network of Ministry Innovators. We are a group of 32 persons in varying places within The Episcopal Church asked to mine our own experiences to try to figure out how the denomination can identify and spread best practices for congregations, with an emphasis on creating new congregations and redeveloping existing, declining churches. I was honored to be a part of the group and to hear the stories of others. I hope that our work, which is still ongoing, will be of benefit to the church.
In brief, we did find some common threads. These included a deeper understanding of how important it is to receive coaching. Or as we came to see it, if professional atheletes have a coach guiding them in every single game, why do we think those in ministry don't need someone from whom they can routinely get input. That outside perspective on what is being done and why is invaluable. We also so how much context of ministry matters to the particular froms that ministry will take. And one more key learning was how important support from the diocesan level is to the success of new initiatives.
We also looked at the nuts and bolts of getting the word out about a church, welcoming newcomers and more. But we all agreed that church's should do what they do as it is the right way to be the Body of Christ and not just something we do to get more people or money.
This is just a thumbnail sketch of what we discovered. Next we will look at the vehicles (websites, books, conferences, etc.) for sharing the best practices as we discover others. We aren't looking for a new thing exactly, as the church has long done many things right even as we drop the ball in some areas. As one participant, Simon Bautista Betances put it, "Innovators point us to the past to show us the way to the future."
The Rev. Frank Logue, Pastor