The Evergreen Project

I’m excited to be pulling together the team that will conceive, design, and launch this incredible initiative for the Anglican Church in North America. You can read about it at The Evergreen Project and see the available resources. But this is the story of the project’s start.

 

In the spring of 2018, I was speaking with the Rev. Canon Alan Hawkins, the head of the Development Office. We were both passionate about addressing the prevailing ‘scarcity mentality’ in many congregations and leadership circles across the ACNA. So many of our congregations have compelling visions and big hearts for the Lord and His Gospel. However, they often lack adequate funding. And further, they struggle with the challenge of raising them. We both agreed that, no matter what, the mission of God will go forward. But we also agreed that the Anglicans were going to be hamstrung by the lack of resources. We wondered: How can we help them?

 

After a few months of pondering and praying it through, I presented a plan to address this problem to the Archbishop and his Canon. The plan that we had developed was compelling and exciting. The leadership of the ACNA gave the green light.

 

The Evergreen Project became a reality.

As designed, The Evergreen Project will provide robust training and biblical teaching on the subject of Generosity and stewardship to over 1,000 congregations in the US and Canada. We are using LeaderWorks energy and innovation to produce web-based technology that will teach and train pastors, leaders, and Vestries to elevate the virtue of Generosity in their local congregations. The web-based platform will assure that many other leaders can provide wisdom and teaching from their own experience. The web platform also provides for much broader engagement and access.

 

The Evergreen Project will publish web-based, accessible, biblical teaching on stewardship, giving, outreach, and community involvement. Along with a quarterly newsletter for clergy, resources will be available for churches to use as part of a fall parish-wide stewardship emphasis. These resources will include adult bible study materials, preaching outlines, devotional content, video-based testimony preparation, and more. And all of it can be adapted for any context.

 

This effort will also develop dozens of ‘pilot’ congregations to test the material. After collecting benchmark data, pilot churches will receive specialized training to launch generosity programs in their context. With hands-on coaching to guide the process, churches will develop a year-round focus on Generosity, set a vision and strategy with Vestry and leadership, and ignite a movement in their congregations.

 

Generosity is how churches grow. Giving is at the heart of Jesus, and it was how the apostle Paul planted and built churches across the continent. Generosity breaks barriers; it crosses borders and reveals to all the God who loved his children enough to give his only Son. When a church ‘gets’ giving, people take notice. Lives are changed, and members become living disciples.

LeaderWorks is developing an entire program and plan for the over 1000 congregations in the US and Canada. We cannot do it alone. We need your help. LeaderWorks is a non-profit, 501(c)3 ministry, and your support will ensure the continued success of this ministry.

Giving Up

When I was working over the final edits for my book “Giving Up”, I tried to imagine how the cover of this book might appear. There were some obvious options: a helping hand, an offering plate, or the typically Anglican gesture of the priest receiving the offering at the altar table. But none of these images communicated the deep sense of ‘joy’ that I had hoped to convey in the book. Giving Up was all about finding joy!

 

I sent the ‘cover design challenge’ to a graphic artist friend of mine along with a one-page synopsis of the book. He runs a website that is jam-packed with images, pictures, and graphics that are often used by graphic artists. His choices were many.

 

A few days later, he emailed me his best idea: a simple graphic of a red balloon rising high above the title of the book, Giving Up.

A balloon!

 

I love balloons! A red balloon! How simple and yet, how perfect. I looked at it and smiled!

It was the perfect way to convey not only the direction of our giving and living (upwards!), but it portrayed the joyful hope that everyone has as they ‘launch’ a balloon into the sky.

 

This is a simple act of trust. Letting go and letting God move! This red balloon was a great symbol of the Spirit, worship, and a joyful heart filled with hope!

 

Giving should make you smile!

After my years in parish ministry, I felt I had some collected wisdom to share on the subject of Generosity and stewardship from a biblical and practical pastor’s perspective. It’s been my constant desire to ignite in every church an understanding of Generosity as foundational and formational for the Christian life.

 

Giving Up is about embracing a hidden but central virtue of the Christian faith: Generosity. When a person gives their life to Christ, they receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. And the character and nature of the new believer begin a journey of discipleship and change. More and more, by the power of the Holy Spirit, they take more and more of the heart and nature of the God they love and the Lord they serve. As God is a Giver, believers become givers too. And we know it is true! In Scripture and the history of the church, we see that committed believers are among the most generous. Generosity is the fruit of a life given over to following Christ.

 

Today, the impact of this book is felt in many of the churches of the Anglican Church in North America. It’s been well-received. When Rectors and Sr. Pastors purchase the book, they often buy more than one copy. They buy 12 copies for their Vestry. They buy six copies for their staff, and the group study questions make it an excellent resource for small groups or Vestries.

 

The subject of Generosity is inexhaustible, and I hope that the Lord will give me the time and patience to continue to write. There is so much more to say.

LeaderWorks is a donor-supported ministry. And I need your help to do it. LeaderWorks is a non-profit, 501(c)3 ministry, and your support will ensure our continued.

Rectors’ Summit for Vision and Planning

I love Rectors…and not just because I was one. I love the way that men and women answer the call of God to give their lives to His service in this way. Rectors have one of the unique burdens in the church today. Whether they are leaders of large churches or small, rural or urban, old or new, they carry a responsibility for the spiritual lives of the men, women, children, and families of their congregation that no one else does, and that no one else in their church can! The Rector is the spiritual head of the congregation under the headship of Christ. And just as there is only one headship of Christ, there is only one Rector of a church.

 

As I see it, the future of the province depends on the health and strength of our congregations as led by vibrant, committed, and faithful Rectors and their staff and Vestry.

 

With this in mind, in coordination with the American Anglican Council, LeaderWorks created “RSVP”; a four-day summit meeting for Rectors and only Rectors. Finding topics and presentations that each Rector could benefit from was not the only challenge we initially faced. We also wondered how we could get their time and attention?

 

The solution we came to seemed perfect and straightforward. We meet in a four-day retreat environment as peers and colleagues. We have excellent presentations about topics that are relevant to their life and leadership. But we also provide peer group sessions to share and pray together. And, with the help of the AAC, we form clergy care cohort groups after the event. All of this has proved to be life-giving for these leaders.

 

Last year, in the mountains near Colorado Springs, as the summit was winding down, one Rector told me that this moment away, with leaders and priests of the ACNA, had been the best conference he had ever attended.

 

Indeed, in a recent gathering to study the art and craft of preaching, one attendee wrote these words in his summary statement:

“As preachers, we can get stuck in a rut. It is so easy to keep doing the same thing over and over again. RSVP gave me a fresh perspective on the art and craft of biblical preaching. It was immensely informative and helpful, with a lot of practical tools and tips. More importantly, it gave a fresh perspective on the core call of the preacher. It was also helpful to build lasting connections with other rectors across the ACNA. I am leaving RSVP with a community of fellow rectors that I know I can call on for advice, godly counsel, and support. Serving as a rector can feel isolating at times, but RSVP showed me that I am not alone. My struggles are not unique to my life. I have brothers and sisters who are walking the same path as me. I am deeply grateful for the privilege to have attended RSVP.”

 

RSVP’s role in the life of the Rector seems to be gaining in strength. Enthusiasm for the summit sessions and the cohort care groups is increasing. With ample input and feedback from the Rectors, and in consultation with my colleagues at the American Anglican Council, we have settled on the development of three main topics. We have decided that these areas will provide us years and years of continuing education and professional development.

 

The topics are:

The Spiritual Life of the Leader

Preaching in the Age of Doubt

Fellowship and Covenant Groups

All Rectors are invited to attend, but in keeping with the unique call the Rectors have, only Rectors are invited to participate.

LeaderWorks helps Rectors build their skills, develop their preaching, connect to one another, and deepen their spiritual life. This work is all a labor of love from the LeaderWorks donor. Your giving to LeaderWorks will strengthen their ministry! We need your help to do it! LeaderWorks is a non-profit, 501(c)3 ministry, and your support will ensure the continued success of this ministry.

Mentor/Coach for Clergy

One of the great joys I have in my ministry is to coach and mentor clergy who need a good outsider to speak into their lives and ministry. It is enriching to hear the very earnest and sincere ordained leaders trying to sort out the challenges of modern ministry.

 

Here are a couple of different assignments that I took on over the past few years that helped individual Rectors work out of tight or troublesome times. One church rector had lost a good deal of credibility with the Vestry and senior leaders simply because he had made some poor hiring choices. The staff was losing heart. The attendance was dwindling.

 

• I received a phone call one afternoon asking if I would take the weekend and spend it with this church and its leader. I set aside time and traveled to church on the east coast to talk with this brother in Christ, to meet his Vestry, and to visit with his staff. It was apparent there was a good deal of tension. On the plane ride home, I wrote up my findings in a report that I sent to the Rector the next day. I know that what I said was as helpful as it was hopeful. I found a way to bring some language into their discussions, help the Vestry see their proper role, and bolster the courage of the Rector. Their season of anxiety and tension passed, and they have continued to gain good ground and health.

 

• In another scenario, a Rector called me because his church was facing a looming deficit as they came into the fall. He was concerned. We agreed to meet on the phone for an hour every two weeks and review some plans and efforts to inform and encourage the congregation in their giving.
We took the time to go over all of their budget challenges, their communication efforts, and even the sermons that he planned to preach in a month-long effort that we also planned. During this time, he and I became good friends, and I was eager to accept his invitation to preach a few times at his congregation.
A week after the close of the year, he texted me a note of thanks. His church had rallied near the end of the year. Some of the donors had personally called him to thank him for the warm personal notes he had sent. When the books closed for the year (he told me later), the giving for the year was up over 10% from the previous year. This put the church in a stable position to continue its ministry in the coming years.

 

• In a very recent instance, a Rector asked me to come alongside his Vestry and plan out a workable succession plan. I met with him and his Sr. Warden on a video conference call, and we spent two hours on the video call before I had enough of the ‘sense’ of the need. I wrote up some notes, and, after a few edits here and there, presented them to the Vestry one night via another video conference call.
A month later, I was asked to come to the church and work with the staff for an afternoon, meet with the Vestry during an evening event, lead a congregational workshop on Saturday morning, finish outlining a search process and profile on Saturday afternoon, and then preach and present ‘findings’ the next morning.
As of this writing, they are in the final stages of their search. They are nearly ready to issue a call.

 

I could write much more about the many leaders that I have worked with over the last few years. I have grown to love Rectors of churches and to understand their problems, heartaches, and even some of their loneliness. I do not do a lot of ongoing coaching, but I am able, happily, to help those whom I can.

If any of these stories match yours or make you think that I might be able to help you, your church, and your unique setting and situation, please get in touch with me. (I can give you several other Rectors to call to check out the work that we did together.)

I am able to help young leaders do their work when they can least afford it because of you. This is a donor-based ministry and I need your help to continue. LeaderWorks is a non-profit, 501(c)3 ministry, and your support will ensure the continued success of this ministry.

Anglican Pastor

I first started reading Anglican Pastor in 2012 and was immediately impressed by several things. First, there was a great need for an online blog that developed good material from sharp writers and pastors. Second, the editor, Greg Goebel, really seemed to have a passion for helping pastors become writers and share their best ideas in the wider church. But third, I saw that this sort of platform could grow and grow to meet all kinds of needs in our growing Anglican movement.

I became a regular contributor to the blog and received great responses from readers. Writing had never come easy to me, and each post became an exercise in patience, endurance, and a whole lot of editing. Some posts took hours to write and re-write, and I was thankful for Greg’s careful editing. But some posts just were ‘there,’ they flowed effortlessly.

As LeaderWorks began its work in 2016, I knew I wanted a blog where I could post stories and blog about ideas, ministry, and what leaders are facing today. But I also could see that there was a lot of overlap between my LeaderWorks blog and the work of Anglian Pastor. I had hoped that somehow we would be able to combine our efforts.

The relationship with Greg and I turned out to be an easy friendship, and we made the merger work. LeaderWorks publishes Anglican Pastor. Through LeaderWorks, I can provide the kind tools and practices that will help these young leaders and writers offer great content to help shape our new movement. When LeaderWorks took on the task, Greg and I agreed to set a specific course for the site: to become the ‘go-to site’ for the Anglican Church in North America. We developed a plan and set a path forward.

We found a young, bright scholar/writer in the Ph.D. program at Wheaton College to work as the Managing Editor. We redesigned the site, refreshed the logo, developed some focus for our subject matter, and recruited new writers and new readers. We began to address some clear needs that our readers had. The site took off. The Anglican Pastor website has doubled in readership in the first year.

As a publisher, I have worked with Greg and Josh to find a voice for our site amid a very noisy, globally connected world. I believe that there is so much that we can do to serve the cause of Jesus Christ through the site, I get excited every time I read through the latest blog post. We can expect to find a small publishing effort to begin very soon. The name is the best-known blog site in our movement, and our new logo is perfect! Expect great things from Anglican Pastor. I hope you will read it ‘religiously,’ as it were. It has unique content several times a week.

Faith Travel

Go! Did you realize that that word marks the beginning of the joinery of Abram and the mandate for all disciples of Jesus? “Going” is what believers and followers of God do. It is one of the markers of biblical obedience. Abram was sent by God to ‘go’ (Genesis 12). Jesus last comment to his disciples was to ‘go’ to all nations. And the apostle Paul was the church’s first foreign missionary. He was sent all around the world!

 

In other words, faith is travel!

 

My wife and I have been following this idea for nearly all of our ministry. We go. We take people to the biblical and historical places of our Christian faith. Our main trip has always been our tour of Biblical Israel, a profoundly moving experience. It changes lives and deepens faith. It’s the kind of trip that you will remember forever and long to repeat again and again.

 

The tours are beautiful experiences that focus on the biblical story of Israel with an in-depth look at the ministry of our Lord in Galilee and Jerusalem. Each pilgrimage features experienced and educated guides, as well as time for me to teach on the biblical significance of specific locations. We arrange guest talks by local guides, ministers, missionaries, and leaders. We stay in incredible accommodations and experience the cuisine and culture of this beautiful, complicated place.

 

Faith travel is very much like a great vacation at an incredible value. But in another way, it isn’t the holidays. It can be the holy-days; it a pilgrimage. It’s a journey of faith and learning that will draw you closer to your faith. Pastors go and learn how they can come back in the future with members of their congregations. Since we began making these trips two decades ago, we’ve brought over 800 travelers with us. It is impossible to measure the impact on ministries, marriages, and members of churches that these trips have had.

 

From time to time, we also lead people to other vital places linked to our historic faith. We’ve journeyed to Ireland, Scotland, England, and—soon—to Germany on a Reformation tour. We’ve taken dozens of trips tracing Paul’s journeys in Greece and Italy. Something new and unforgettable is always on our horizon. Perhaps now is your time to ‘go.’

LeaderWorks organizes these amazing experiences to serve the church. Any money generated through our travel ministry goes back into the LeaderWorks budget to continue our ministry. Join us for our next trip; your travel will help subsidize this ministry. LeaderWorks is a non-profit, 501(c)3 ministry, and your support will ensure the continued success of this ministry.