Revitalizing Our Churches: Welcoming and Connecting Ministries

by | Jul 20, 2020

At the beginning of 2020 we launched the Strategic Plan at our annual convention. Included in the roll out was a list of three measurable objectives, tied to the plan’s three areas of focus, that we covenanted to prioritize during the plan’s first twelve months. Under Church Revitalization, the objective is to provide church health assessments and revitalization strategies, and introduce them to ten representative congregations. Soon after Convention, we gathered leaders and parishioners from across our diocese for the purpose of identifying the vital signs of parish health and the concrete metrics behind those vital signs in our context here in the Diocese of Washington. 

February was a busy month of meetings and harvesting our collective wisdom. After much grace-filled discussion, the revitalization team discerned seven vital signs and a list of concrete metrics. March brought us an interruption, a pandemic which has changed the way we do just about everything in daily and communal life. Yet even as the diocese responded to the crisis in our midst, the team kept firming up those vital signs and testing the metrics, observing and testing how they might work in these unexpected pandemic days.

Diocesan staff gathered in the beginning of July to review where we stand with our first twelve month objectives and to create a new set of goals, short-term for the fall and longer-term for next year. As a result, the Revitalization Team is making the final refinements to the vital signs and metrics before sharing them with the broader diocese. Watch for the vital signs and metrics package to drop in a month or so!

One vital sign our collective wisdom identified is that growing and healthy churches have robust Welcoming & Connecting Ministries. This vital sign speaks to a parish being strategic about how to welcome new guests and help them become connected to next steps like ministry opportunities, small groups, and parish communications. For a parish to gauge how well they are doing with this vital sign, we can look to measurable things like what percentage of parishioners are active in welcoming new people, and whether the database of new contacts is growing. This vital sign has everything to do with planning for first-time guests and bringing them back for more.

There’s real value in recognizing that we all share this welcoming and connecting work, lay and ordained alike. As you think about this in your own parish you might ask, “Who is talking about this and strategically planning our welcoming efforts?” or “What identifiable next steps do we offer, and what invitations are we prepared to make to new people?” Having so much of our worship and ministry happening online adds a whole new dimension to making these kinds of vital connections. As an initial step, we’re hosting two 90-minute discussions August 12 and 19 on welcoming and connecting ministries with a special focus on how we do these online. Learn more about the discussions and register.

In these pandemic days, we have seen lay leaders and ministers stepping up to make sure our pastoral contacts are happening and offering technical skills and talents for our online challenges. That’s a trend which can exponentially expand a parish’s reach and impact. This is such exciting stuff for our parishes. As someone still relatively new to the diocese, I would love to chat, have a virtual coffee, get your thoughts and dream together. Hope to see you, soon.

The Rev. Todd Thomas
Missioner for Revitalization and Young Adult Ministry