Tag Archives: Spiritual growth

Forward Today: Vitality in your church

Dear friends in Christ,

I’ve been thinking about church vitality lately, especially in this time of pandemic. Some churches seem to be getting stronger, while others are struggling mightily. It might seem like we need to reinvent everything about church for this time. But I’m not so sure. Maybe the core principles stay the same, but the way we carry them out changes.

Forward Movement’s RenewalWorks program has done extensive research on spiritual vitality in congregations. There are five best practice principles to increasing spiritual health and vitality in a congregation. Maybe this time of pandemic is an opportunity for each church to ask whether it is doing these things and whether it might be necessary to change how we’re doing them.

  1. Get People Moving. Complacency is a huge challenge in the Episcopal Church. Too many of us do not expect transformation, and we run our churches so as not to rock too many boats. Disturbing complacency and starting each person in a journey of growth is exactly what we need to do.
  2. Embed the Bible in everything. Scripture engagement changes lives. Making sure that every meeting starts with Bible study—and framing all activity at the church through the lens of scripture—will lead people to read and to study the scriptures.
  3. Create Ownership. As one pastor used to say, “I can’t read the Bible for you or say your prayers. You have to do that.” We cannot outsource our discipleship work to someone else. Each one of us needs to take on habits of prayer, study, worship, and service.
  4. Pastor the Community. What does the community outside our church need? This might be a different question than, what do we want to do? Is there a need for tutoring? Shelter? Food? Meeting space? If we can learn to know and to love our neighbors, the world will be transformed one life at a time.
  5. Heart of the Leader. If the person who preaches is faking it, everyone can tell. Lay leaders can work to ensure that their clergy leader is refreshed and renewed. And clergy can make sure that their lay leaders are called to vital work, not carrying the millstone of institutional maintenance.


You can learn a lot more about the Best Practice Principles on the RenewalWorks website. How is your church doing? Have you seen success? Do you face challenges?

The reason for us to do this work is not to earn God’s love or our salvation. That has been accomplished on the cross. No, the reason to become effective disciples is so that we might grow into the full stature of Jesus Christ and share his love with a world in need.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director



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Illustration by Jay Sidebotham.

Make Me an Instrument of Peace:
A Guide to Civil Discourse

Make Me an Instrument is a free, 5-week course designed to help us bridge the divides that keep us from moving forward. Taught by a team of experts in civil discourse, this course includes these five classes:

  • Civil Discourse in Context with Ranjit Matthews
  • Tenets for Civil Discourse with Shannon Kelly
  • Values-Based Conversations with Alan Yarborough
  • The Complexities of Policy with Rebecca Linder Blachy
  • Sacred Space for Debate with Marcus Halley


Make Me an Instrument is ideal for those who want to take dialogue between polarized people or parties seriously.

Tune in!

Listen to today’s Forward Day by Day reflection on the Forward Day by Day podcast. Find morning prayer on the Morning at the Office podcast and end your day with the Evening at Prayer podcast. Available anywhere you listen!


In case you missed it…

Downloadable addition to Hour by Hour | Forward Movement

Giving Away the Church: Reflections on Fresh Ecclesial Expressions | Earth & Altar

Slightly Frantic Liturgy | Grow Christians

Learn more about Revive


What is Revive?

Revive is a series of small group sessions that equips lay leaders to grow as spiritual leaders. Typically, lay leaders meet with a ministry leader for an opening and closing retreat and three six-week sessions to explore their spiritual lives, deepen their relationship with God and become proficient as spiritual leaders.

In a safe, non-judgmental setting, filled with warm humour, they learn a lot about themselves and others, and connect more deeply with God.

Revive is offered as a form of thanks to lay leaders who give so much to their church. Church ministry often involves important concerns for budgets, property, and people. But these concerns distract lay leaders from spiritually growing in a relationship with Christ.

Through Revive, lay leaders become confident with prayer and scripture, and they learn to see their ministry as a vocation. They also learn practical skills that are invaluable for their tasks and activities within the congregation.

What is the structure of the sessions?
Each Revive session typically runs for two hours and includes:

  • an icebreaker
  • a presentation (using the Revive video series, or presented by facilitator)
  • a discussion
  • an exercise
  • a take-home practice


The six-week sessions (referred to as Module 1, 2 and 3 in Revive materials) are usually held in the fall, winter and spring to avoid the busy church seasons of Advent, Christmas, Lent and Easter.

Here is a sample schedule for a typical full year with Revive, though you can customize to your needs:

  • Week 1 (mid-August): Letter invitation sent out. Registration begins
  • Week 8 (early October): Registration ends, Opening Retreat is held
  • Week 9 (early October): Module 1, Communicating with God, begins
  • Week 14 (mid-November): Module 1 ends
  • Week 23 (mid-January): Module 2, Engaging in Scripture, begins
  • Week 28 (early March): Module 2, ends
  • Week 35 (mid-April): Module 3, Called for Ministry, begins
  • Week 41 (late May): Module 3, ends
  • Week 42 (early June): Closing Retreat.


Purchasing Revive Materials
When you purchase Revive (here), you get everything you need to run the program, including the facilitator and participant guides, and access to 30 short video presentations. Everything you need can be downloaded and printed as needed. The full program costs $299 (USD).

To save time at the copy machine, we do offer pre-printed participant guides for an additional charge.

Ministry leaders invite as many as 12 lay leaders to participate in Revive. Together, clergy, pastoral ministers and lay people deepen and grow in their faith as followers of Christ. It is the journey of a lifetime as you revive!


Read more guest posts from Revive here.