Tag Archives: renewal works

Groundbreaking Research on Episcopal Spiritual Vitality

Episcopalians want to grow spiritually. Research from over 200 congregations and 12,000 Episcopalians conducted by Forward Movement is summarized in a recently published paper rooted in extensive work on spiritual growth and vitality.

The RenewalWorks ministry, which is focused on spiritual vitality and fostering a culture of discipleship, has revealed much about the spiritual life of the Episcopal Church.

“We have learned that there is great spiritual hunger among Episcopalians,” says the Rev. Jay Sidebotham, director of RenewalWorks. “And we are discovering catalysts that can address that hunger. Basic spiritual practices such as daily prayer, scripture study, worship attendance, and serving the poor will lead to transformation.”

The research paper is available for free download at www.renewalworks.org/researchsummary. There is also a graphic with some of the key findings on that download page.

The research summary outlines what we are learning about the spiritual life of the Episcopal Church, including the stages of spiritual growth and practices that lead to transformation.

Among key findings:

  • Exploring Christians include 18% of Episcopalians. This stage includes seekers and new Christians. But in the Episcopal Church, some people who have attended church for decades are also at this stage.
  • Growing Christians is a stage where people have committed to their spiritual growth. 55% of Episcopalians fit in this stage.
  • Deepening Christians are those who articulate a personal relationship with God and whose life bears significant marks of their faith. This is 23% of Episcopalians.
  • Christ-Centered represents just 4% of Episcopalians. For this small group, a personal relationship with God in Christ is the most important relationship in their lives.


“Our research also shows specific catalysts that are likely to move people from one stage to the next,” says the Rev. Canon Scott Gunn, executive director of Forward Movement. “So if we want our congregations to be places where spiritual growth is happening, we need to teach and to nurture spiritual practices such as prayer, worship, study, and service.”

The research also shows the importance of the leader’s heart. “The spiritual health of the leader in the congregation is key,” Sidebotham says. “Too often clergy lose touch with their first love, with the reasons that they were drawn to ordained ministry. These challenges can have a negative effect on a church’s vitality.”

The data for the report come from the congregations who have taken part in the RenewalWorks process. This process

  • Invites congregants to take an extensive online survey of their beliefs, attitudes, and practices
  • Leads a team through four workshops to understand the findings and to implement a plan in response
  • Empowers leaders to create a culture of discipleship in their congregations


“What’s brilliant about RenewalWorks is that it is diagnostic, not prescriptive,” Gunn says. “There’s no gimmick here. The process tells leaders where people are, and then lay and clergy leaders can work together to offer opportunities for growth and depth.”

RenewalWorks is a ministry of Forward Movement, which is a ministry of the Episcopal Church. Known widely for its flagship devotional, Forward Day by Day, Forward Movement inspires disciples and empowers evangelists through digital resources, websites, printed materials, and conferences. Learn more about RenewalWorks at www.renewalworks.org or Forward Movement at www.forwardmovement.org.

Learn More about Renewal Works: March 13–14 in NC

Wondering what RenewalWorks is all about, and whether it’s time for your parish to try it? Jay Sidebotham will be holding two informational events in North Carolina in March—and they’re free! Here are the details and RSVP info from the RenewalWorks team:

We invite clergy and lay leaders to a gathering to learn about RenewalWorks and about the current state of the Episcopal Church. Nearly 200 Episcopal congregations around the country have experienced the RenewalWorks process over the last three years. That has given us some important insights into the culture of our denomination, as it has also helped congregations focus on spiritual growth and build cultures of discipleship.

The RenewalWorks process involves an online inventory taken by your congregants, exploring individual beliefs and practices, faith at work in the world, and the church’s role in all of that. The inventory is followed by workshops in which parishioners reflect on where the congregation has been, where it is and where it feels called to go. We’re looking forward to having more congregations participate in the next wave of churches, beginning in September 2017. Now is the time to begin thinking about it.

Come to a gathering at either Christ Church, Raleigh (120 East Edenton St.) on Monday, March 13th or Christ Church, Charlotte (1412 Providence Rd.) on Tuesday, March 14th beginning at 9:30 and concluding by noon. We’ll explain the background of this ministry. We’ll talk about how RenewalWorks works. And we’ll share stories of how it has impacted congregations.

RSVP: Samantha Franklin at sfranklin@renewalworks.org or cell: 919-824-9932. If you’re interested but can’t attend this session, feel free to contact Samantha or the Rev. Jay Sidebotham to talk about this work (jsidebotham@renewalworks.org; cell: 646-249-4404). Visit our website (www.renewalworks.org) loaded with information about ways to make spiritual growth the priority in your congregations.