Lessons from Willow Creek

Forward Movement is pleased to announce the creation of RenewalWorks, a major initiative to revitalize Episcopal congregations and individual spiritual lives. Based on work that has taken place in the last ten years, RenewalWorks measures spiritual vitality in congregations and then helps local churches map a path to increase spiritual depth.

“Our historic mission is to reinvigorate the life of the church, and I cannot imagine a better way to do that than to encourage congregations to go deeper in spiritual engagement,” said the Rev. Scott Gunn, executive director of Forward Movement. “Across the Episcopal Church, we see that the congregations that are thriving are places where discipleship is central. RenewalWorks has the capacity to change lives, grow churches, and reverse the decline in numbers in the Episcopal Church.”

Starting July 1, the RenewalWorks staff will be led by the Rev. Jay Sidebotham, who is concluding his ministry as rector of Church of the Holy Spirit, Lake Forest, Illinois.

“I’m excited to begin this work, as we seek growth in our churches by focusing on the spiritual growth of the members of those congregations,” Sidebotham said. “It’s all about deeper relationships: with God, neighbor, self, and the world.”

Sidebotham previously served St. Bartholomew’s, New York City; St. Columba’s, Washington, D.C.; St. Luke’s, Durham; and St. Martin’s, Providence. He is well known for his cartoons about church life and his animation work on the television cartoon Schoolhouse Rock!

RenewalWorks is based on research that began at Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Illinois. The program has since been adapted to an Episcopal context and piloted in 50 congregations across the country.

Parishioners take a survey that benchmarks their scriptural engagement, outreach mission work, daily spiritual practices, and core Christian beliefs. When results come to the congregation’s leaders, lay leaders participate in a series of workshops about the strengths and challenges revealed by the survey. RenewalWorks will offer and recommend resources to congregations and individuals on discipleship, mission, and evangelism.

The next round of surveys will begin with participating congregations in the fall of 2013. For more information, visit renewalworks.org.

Adapted from Forward Movement

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