“The vision I have of the Anglican Church in this Diocese is of a people who come together to worship God and proclaim Jesus Christ and who are transformed by His presence.” — Archbishop Colin Johnson
This Diocese is about building communities of hope and compassion through building healthy, sustainable, vibrant parishes. We have identified seven aspects of healthy churches that flow into one another as people enter the traditional model of church. Each aspect is supported by congregational development research and knowledge.
A parish with a clear vision and purpose, coupled with an attitude of radical welcome, is essential to people whose first encounter with church is through public worship services. Faith development is foundational to spiritual growth and is nurtured in various ways, such as study of Scripture, often in small groups. In this context, gifts discernment is a logical next step as God calls people into service. Equipping people for service often requires training lay leaders. Equally important is a volunteer/lay leader-friendly organizational culture and structure. Annual ministry evaluation provides critical information to set priorities and goals for the coming year. Results from the evaluation inform the vision, which brings the church full circle.
Each congregation has its own identity, culture and dynamics, so it will be important for you to review the material and choose what best suits your particular needs and context. For example, one way to look at congregational life is to focus on Congregational Health. Healthy congregations are essential to reflect Christ’s love in the world. A healthy church grows:
• as a cohesive community of faith;
• as a deep spiritual resource for all seekers;
• in the faith and maturity of its members;
• as a strong witness to the world;
• and, if the demographics allow, it will grow numerically.
Numerical growth and congregational vitality are not necessarily synonymous. However, mission-focused, effective churches “tend to grow as a consequence of what they offer their members” (Don Posterski, 1993), and much depends upon geographic and demographic context. Our call remains: “Here I am. Send me.”
Where to start
- A good place to begin is with a Ministry Evaluation, which helps you take stock of all the areas of congregational life and assess your overall effectiveness and health.
- It is essential then to have a clear and commonly agreed on Vision for the ministry and direction of the parish.
- Next, attend to your liturgy and worship to make sure it’s a worthy response to God’s love.
- No matter how large or small your congregation is, or how many people are moving into your area, attention must be paid to your ministry of hospitality and welcome.
- Be intentional about Small Group ministry, since individuals will most likely deepen their spiritual lives through the relational connections they make with others.
- A Gifts Discernment process is next, since research shows that churches can come alive when the community affirms each others gifts and abilities.
- Then it is important to equip people for their ministry by matching their gifts with the needs of the parish and training and supporting them.
- Then it is time to review what you have been doing and take stock with a Ministry Evaluation.
Resources that address demographic shifts
Resources that address leadership and leadership in transition
• Fresh Start for Congregations
The Diocese of Toronto is blessed with a skilled staff team. We also have more than 40 trained volunteers who are available to assist parishes in a wide range of planning, visioning, evaluation and policy implementation exercises. These staff and volunteers are available for consultation and resource information. Please contact the Congregational Development Department for further information.
Here are some of the essential ingredients of good congregational health. Each link provides an avenue to continue to assist in congregational health development:
Passionately focused on God and the gifts and faith development of parishioners
Sense of purpose and direction
- Ministry Evaluation
A community that embraces diversity, creates a sense of belonging, manages conflict and works toward healing and renewal
- Justice and Advocacy Initiatives
- Mission: see the Mission Possible materials and the Mission-shaped Intro course
Have functional structures
- The Alban Institute supports congregations through consulting services, research, book publishing, and educational seminars.
- The Episcopal National Church Congregational Development Resources.
- The Alban Institute and the Indianapolis Center for Congregations joined together to help congregational leaders connect with resources they need to gain insight into challenges and to encourage transformation in their communities of faith.
- Church Toolbox is a free resource for the wider church sponsored by the Diocese of Virginia Commission on Congregational Development.
- Centre for Ministry Development is an independent, non-profit organization whose core purpose is to bring the Good News in new ways to the people of God.
- CDI (Congregational Development Institute) – a leadership training program for clergy and lay leaders of the Episcopal Church and Anglican Communion.
- Natural Church Development is an assessment resource for healthy congregations. Contact Bill Bickle at NCD Canada, FORDelm Inc, Box 271, Port Hope, Ontario L1A 3W4. Call 1-866 945-8741 or 905-753-2420.
- National Church Life Survey (Australia) is a research site focused on church data analysis for Catholics, Anglicans and Protestants.
- Healthy Congregations: A Systems Approach, Peter L. Steinke, Alban Institute, 1996.
- Breakout Churches: Discover How To Make The Leap, by Thom S. Rainer, applies the principles of Good to Great, by Jim Collins, to church growth.
- Willow Creek Community Church is a mega-church with a lot of resources to share.
For more information, please contact Dave Robinson, Director, Congregational Development, 416-363-6021 ext. 224 (1-800-668-8032).