Re-centering with RenewalWorks

by | Mar 31, 2015

What if being a Christian meant deepening your relationship with God?

What if being a Christian meant walking ever closer with Christ?

What if parish life supported those things?

It does. It should. It can.

In 2013, the Diocese embarked on a journey called RenewalWorks. Based on a decade of cross-denominational research in which over 500,000 Christians and 2,500 parishes have participated, RenewalWorks is an Episcopal planning tool that assesses the spiritual vitality of a congregation.

The process is simple: 1) survey the beliefs and spiritual practices of parish members, 2) assemble a team to make meaning of the results, and 3) tweak congregational offerings accordingly.

The goal is lofty: align congregational resources to support the spiritual lives of their members.

We imagine church to be about spirituality. Of course, that’s what it was created for. And yet, as in any institution, some of our practices have veered off course. Some of the things we do in our parishes we do out of habit, not because they meet a current need. Some we do for their attraction value, not because they inspire us to go deeper. And in many places, we have programmed around resource constraints rather than challenging ourselves to something more. RenewalWorks asks us to re-center. It requires us to revisit the basics of what church was meant to be: an institution committed to deepening the spiritual lives of its members.

Most of us think of church as an art. For sure, it strikes the same emotional and spiritual chords. It enlivens and inspires us, brings us to the highs and lows of our human experience. But church, as an institution, is also responsive to the science of organizational development. There are things that work better and worse; there are proven ways to be in deeper or more shallow community; there are organizational tenets that direct effective resourcing and policy. Just as artists learn technique for brush and color, we benefit from technique for church.

RenewalWorks guides us through five best-practices of thriving Christian community

  • Inspire the heart of core leaders so they can actively inspire others
  • Get people moving so they can grow to a different level of relationship with God and each other
  • Embed the Bible in everything so people understand how their everyday is connected to our faith tradition
  • Create ownership so that people understand they don’t “go to” church, they “are” the church
  • Pastor the community so people can share God’s love and experience themselves as the hands and feet of Christ in the world

So far, 18 EDOW parishes have participated in RenewalWorks. In doing so, they have explored whether – and how – their Sunday experience is connected to congregants’ spiritual development. And they have had mixed results. For some, the process has been course-affirming. For others, course-changing. But in each, RenewalWorks has started new conversation. It has helped God breathe new life into tired dialogue. It has shifted the lens back to the basics of Christian life.

The Diocese will sponsor RenewalWorks again this fall and in fall of 2016. It’s not the right initiative for every parish; but to discover whether it’s right for yours, contact Joey Rick.