An Offering of the Episcopal Diocese of Indianapolis

Through a grant from the Episcopal Church, our diocese embraced a new nine month program for our congregations called “Pathways to Vitality.” Created with directly aided congregations in mind but open to everyone, participating congregations learned new ways of moving beyond focusing on maintaining the status quo to instead becoming vital congregations where disciples of Jesus Christ are energized to show forth God’s love through new ministries. 

The approach was to take small steps towards this goal, including learning theories, putting them into practice in the congregation in incremental stages with support from diocesan staff as well as peer support, and therefore experiencing immediate successes that built enthusiasm, confidence, and faith that will encourage further risk taking. Trying one small change can make a world of difference, for the world, the congregation, and the individual.

Congregational Teams

Each congregation formed a team of clergy and lay people to be part of this nine month project. While ideally every team member would attend every event, realistically was impossible, but having at least two people at each event was an achievable goal. Team members were identified by congregational leaders to be people who were interested in new projects and were willing to commit the time they would take. 

Some already were in leadership in the congregation, but others were potential leaders who just needed an opportunity to show what they could do. So some teams had lots of Vestry/Bishop Committees members, while others just one. Some team had folks already deeply involved in the parish who mixed with back-pew warmers who have been waiting for a chance to participate. The goal was for each team to have an interesting and enthusiastic mix of participants. 

The training emphasized praying deeply about who should be on one's congregational team, and then listening for who God was calling to this creative and adventurous ministry.

Revitalizing the Diocese

Over a half of the congregations in the Diocese of Indianapolis participated in the Pathways program, meaning that a significant number of our lay and ordained leadership learned new perspectives and skills, as well as gaining new energy and spirit for ministry. Nearly all our congregations that receive direct financial aid from the diocesan budget were part of the Pathways program, so they are on the road to greater vitality. Consequently the diocese as a whole has more leaders who are more equipped and hope filled, as well as healthier congregations, the foundation of any vital diocese.

Some Examples

Congregations attempted a wide range of parish Pathways projects. One focused on learning how newcomers are finding their way into their congregation, then using that knowledge to make the way easier to find and navigate. Another worked on improving the spiritual life of the Vestry as a group. More than one built new ways of identifying skills and interests of members that could be better utilized in mission ministries. Many  worked on improving or creating new outreach ministries in their wider communities. Another common theme among projects was updating or creating communication channels both within congregations and between congregations and people outside the parishes.

Go to the September Kickoff and following pages to see more specific information.