Best Practice #1: Get People Moving on Their Spiritual Journey
It is not the form of the spiritual jump-start program that determines whether or not people get on track with a process that will lead them into a growing relationship with Christ: rather, it is how the program is executed. Based on our review of the top REVEAL churches, three key strategies make all the difference.
Key Strategy 1: Make the destination clear.
People leave these jump-start experiences crystal clear about two things. First, they know that the church’s top priority is to do everything within its power to help them grow into devoted disciples of Jesus. Second, they know how the church defines what it means to be a disciple.
Key Strategy 2: Make the spiritual jump start non-negotiable.
A newcomer does not warm a pew long before realizing that participation in the jump-start program is expected and assumed. From verbal announcements at weekend services to written collateral about church priorities, the jump-start pathway is prominently featured as a centerpiece opportunity and implied necessity for congregants.
Key Strategy 3: Make the senior pastor the champion.
The senior clergy strongly promotes and encourages newcomers to make attending the jump-start program a top priority and, in most cases, teaches one or more of the sessions. Especially when it comes to casting the vision of the church, this is not something typically delegated to the staff or volunteers.
Getting People moving
Alpha is a series of sessions exploring the Christian faith. Each talk takes a look at a different question around faith and is designed to create conversation. Alpha is run all around the globe and everyone is welcome. It runs online, in cafes, churches, universities, homes you name it. No two Alphas look the same but they generally have three key things in common: hospitality, a talk and good conversation.
Whether it’s a group of friends gathered around a kitchen table, or a quick online catch-up, times of connecting are important. It’s no different at Alpha. Whether in person over a meal or virtually with a cup of tea, all sessions start with a time to connect, relax and build friendships.
The talks are designed to engage and inspire conversation. Each talk is around thirty minutes long and given by a speaker or played as a video. They explore the big issues around faith and unpack the basics of Christianity, addressing questions from Who is Jesus? and How can we have faith? to Why and how do I pray? and How does God guide us?
One of the most important parts of any Alpha: the chance to share thoughts and ideas on the topic, and discuss in a small group. There’s no obligation to say anything and there’s nothing you can’t say (seriously). It’s an opportunity to hear from others and contribute your own perspective in an honest, friendly and open environment. To see an introduction video go here: https://youtu.be/fViYK_Xb3Wg To explore more on hosting an Alpha, go here: https://www.alpha.org/
The Way of Love
Materials available in Spanish and English.
What is the Way of Love?
The Way of Love is a way of life. More than a program or curriculum, it is a return to the ancient pathways and Rules of Life that followers of Jesus have observed for centuries. They knew the power of commitment to a core set of practices – Turn, Learn, Pray, Worship, Bless, Go, Rest – and the power of gathering in a small group where you find love and support for living into these commitments. If we hope to not only worship Jesus but to grow more like him and bear his redeeming love in the world, we can adopt a rule of life like the Way of Love and find a community with which to practice it.
What is a Rule of Life? How Do I Begin?
A Rule of Life is an intentional commitment to a set of practices that provide guidance, rhythm and inspiration for living a beautiful, meaningful and holy life. As we place these practices at the heart of our daily lives and join with companions who share the commitment, we grow more and more in the unselfish, hope-filled Way of Love that Jesus embodied in the world.
Exploring and Living the Practices
We invite you to take time exploring these practices for living a Jesus-centered life. Sit with the words from scripture and from the Book of Common Prayer, pray over the practice, reflect and discern where God is calling you, and note the “Helpful Terms” at the end if you want to learn a little more. And remember: no one follows Jesus all alone. The ideal way to live the Way of Love is in a community of love, support and accountability.
Invite Welcome Connect is a ministry of relational evangelism and congregational empowerment allowing churches to become places of genuine connection for inviting the faith journeys and stories of everyone.
Invite Welcome Connect enables deeper journeys of Christian discipleship and places the Spirit of Christ at the heart of each church's hospitable mission of spreading the Good News. Invite Welcome Connect has circulated throughout the Episcopal Church and, to date, has been implemented in 43 dioceses, at three Episcopal seminaries, and in three universities.
Designed to accommodate congregations of all sizes, the ministry of Invite Welcome Connect crosses all social, economic boundaries, and explores the ways creativity and relational ministry go hand in hand in effecting culture change. The assessment tools, surveys, checklists, and ministry materials are designed to be adapted based on the interests and needs of a particular locale.
In speaking of her work, Mary Parmer writes, “We need to be agents of imagination in our communities and empower people to take risks, trying new things for the sake of the gospel.” https://vimeo.com/212948186
To explore Invite Welcome Connect further and to download The Checklist – Ideas and Resources booklet and to take an inventory of your church’s ministry of hospitality and incorporation, and to find a wealth of resources for each area of Invite Welcome Connect go to their website at: http://www.invitewelcomeconnect.com/
Invite Welcome Connect Offers Consultant Coaches
The Invite Welcome Connect ministry has a variety of entry points and ways to embody the ministry. We have trained a group of Coach Consultants to assist you in a variety of ways from assisting in running planning and strategy meetings to phone check-ins and encouragement. Consultant Coaches have a wealth of knowledge of resources and support for congregations in turning obstacles into opportunities.
Contact the Congregational Support office to engage a Consultant Coach to empower your congregation into jump starting a new cycle of growth and vitality. Contracts vary from $250 to $500 to assist you in building an Invite Welcome Connect ministry in your congregation.
Sometimes we don’t see our congregations as visitors do. If you would like to engage a trained Mystery Worshipper to do a Welcome survey of their experience at your church contact the Congregational Support office and we’ll assign you a Mystery Worshipper who will: Visit anonymously, fill out a standard Welcome form from Invite Welcome Connect, and mail it to your church office with Mystery Worshipper in the return address.
They will “speak the truth in love so that we may in all things grow up into Him who is the head, that is Christ.” Ephesian’s 4:15.
The impact and usefulness of the checklist will be increased if you do not try to “fix” things in advance. The day of the visit will be known only to the Mystery Worshipper.
Juntos en Misión es un nuevo recurso en español para ayudar a los ministerio de recién llegados. Se trata de una serie de videos de cinco partes para congregaciones de habla hispana.
Share Faith Dinners Materials available in Spanish and English
Developed by the Diocese of Texas, Sharing Faith Dinners invite people to gather around a meal and participate in life together.
At each dinner, a moderator will prompt participants to share stories of their faith journey with printed questions. Sharing Faith provides a welcoming and safe way to engage one another, articulate our faith and build relationships.
Sharing Faith Dinners are designed for groups of 8-12 people who share a meal, get to know one another and share stories of faith through engaging questions. Share faith helps people to step off on their spiritual journey or to deepen insights and relationships that have enriched their lives for years.
The process of sharing stories helps to deepen our own personal faith. Hearing others’ stories of God’s presence in their life brings us into deeper relationship with each other and with God.
Sharing Faith has a role for everyone.
Congregational coordinators help recruit hosts who provide a gathering place for a simple meal for the evening; moderators help guide the evenings questions and answers and encourage participants to bring a listening ear and an open heart.
There's a place for you at Sharing Faith.
Decks of the Share Faith Cards with the Share Faith questions in English and Spanish are available from the Congregational Support Office at the Diocese of Long Island.
Go here to download the event outline, communication materials, host and moderator guides, questions and invitations in both English and Spanish. http://www.sharingfaithdinners.com/
More Ideas from Renewal Works
Colossians 1:28 It is Christ whom we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone in all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Christ.
Expect all parishioners, new and otherwise, to take part in a member incorporation class, sometimes called an inquirers or a newcomers class. It can be offered seasonally, tailored to a one-time presentation, or turn into an ongoing small group that runs all year long. One critical element is to invite people to share their own story, their spiritual biographies. There should be engaging teaching on the role of scripture, tradition and reason. Understanding the role of baptism and the Eucharist in spiritual growth is critical, and introduction to the Book of Common Prayer as a resource for spiritual practice is key. The intent is to provide a context where people can experience community. The goal of such a course is to provide easily identifiable on-ramps to the life of the community, welcoming those who are just beginning to explore the relationship between their own spiritual journey and the life of the community. It also serves as an opportunity to draw in people who may at one time have been part of the parish community and have drifted into wide orbit. Many congregations design such a course on their own. Standing programs like Living the Questions or Alpha can also be useful.
Invite every ministry in the church to identify “on-ramps” i.e., ways that newcomers to the congregation can enter into spiritually enriching participation in the life of the community. For those whose spiritual journeys have stalled or who have disengaged, these on-ramps can provide a critical way back into the life of a vital community. One church always had an empty chair present at its meetings, an indication that they were always expecting new members to be part of the conversation. Communication tools like a website or weekly emails from clergy can help make sure that those points of entry are always identifiable and accessible.
Give a copy of “Jesus Was An Episcopalian” by Chris Yaw to every new member. This book offers an engaging, light-hearted introduction to the Episcopal Church, with focus on the role of scripture, tradition and reason. It successfully demonstrates how our ancient faith has relevance for contemporary culture. For more information on the ministry of Chris Yaw, go to www.chrisyaw.com. There are, of course, other introductions to the Episcopal Church which could also be used. Go to www.forwardmovement.org, www.episcopalchurch.org or www.comeandgrow.org for additional resources.
Serve, Serve, Serve:
Challenge every parishioner to be involved in at least one service project each year, with the motto “Everybody can.” In many churches, the only specific thing people are ever asked to do is make a financial donation. While finances are important, many churches have found value in elevating expectations for service addressing the needs of the world, for pastoring the community, specifically in acts of service which are clearly catalysts for spiritual growth. As people are challenged to identify a ministry to which they are called, and as they participate in it, the community deepens in relationship.
Commit to begin every church meeting and ministry with prayer. This is a good example of how the spiritual renewal process is not about expanding program, but rather about making a spiritual cultural shift. It is about seeing all that we do in the church as an opportunity for deepening of relationship with God and others. One church approached the tiresome project of cleaning the church basement by beginning and ending the workday with prayer, transforming the task into ministry. Another church, which ran a fundraising fair for years, gathered all the volunteers the day of the fair for prayer, asking God for blessing on the efforts that day and for all those who would be assisted by those efforts.
Give copies of Forward Day by Day to every parishioner and challenge parishioners to use it daily. Put it in the annual budget. In one church, the Altar Guild met in conversation about how their ministry could grow in the coming year. They decided to challenge their members to read Forward Day by Day each day. For more information on Forward Movement resources, go to www.forwardmovement.org
Plan parish-wide retreats to explore spiritual growth. The intent of such a gathering to be held at least once a year is to draw together members of the community who might not otherwise connect and to explore the power of their common life. Such gatherings should include opportunity for worship, engagement with scripture, and honest discernment about what God is calling the community to do and to be. Develop a committee to work and pray in preparation for such a gathering, so that it can be a more engaging event.
The reasons for the seasons:
Take advantage of the church calendar to reflect on spiritual health and vitality. Both Lent and Advent are especially appropriate times to ask questions like: “Where am I in my relationship with God, myself, other people and the world around me? Which dimension offers me the greatest opportunity to learn and grow? What steps will I take in the next six to nine months to renew and strengthen that dimension of my spiritual life? With whom will I share this plan and ask them to help me be accountable for this growth?” Actually each of the liturgical seasons has something to teach about the journey of faith. Invite people to discern the significance of each season for their own spiritual development.