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April 5, 2024 Impact story

Pivot Program Launches Faith Communities into New Awakenings

After six months of participating in ECF’s online Pivot program, five faith communities from across the country completed the experience with excitement, energy, and a sense of abundance for what’s ahead. As the congregational teams shared their learnings with one another during the final virtual meeting, they called the journey “an awakening,” “a renaissance,” “energizing,” and “a foundation.” This final zoom wasn’t the end of the program, but instead a launch into the next phase of their local ministry.

The Pivot program, designed by ECF’s Adaptive Ministries Team, is a year-long, cohort-based online learning experience that allows smaller, under-resourced communities of faith to discern what God is calling them to be in their particular place and time while building relationships with other congregations from across the country. The experience is a way of pivoting mindsets into becoming truly relevant places of worship, community, and faith in local areas.

Over 60% of Episcopal congregations have fewer than 50 people attend on a Sunday. The Episcopal Church is a denomination of small congregations and yet these communities often feel like they’re failing, like they’re not enough. Developed over two years thanks to grants received from Trinity Wall Street, the Pivot program was designed to combat this feeling of scarcity and give concrete and practical methods for increasing local impact and vitality.

The program walks faith communities through three main lessons:

  • Know Your Faith Community – discover the gifts and strengths of your congregation
  • Know Your Neighbors – learn the demographics and assets in your neighborhood
  • Know Your Mission – find where these two concepts converge to define mission

An insight from the Pivot journey for Joan M. from St. Gabriel the Archangel in Portland, OR was, “For me personally, the word energized is a key word here. In the past I have looked at what the needs were, where the holes were, instead of looking at the abundance.”

During the online experience, leaders from these five faith communities built relationships, shared insights and learnings, laughed, prayed, and rejoiced together. Each virtual meeting began with smiles and waves as cohort members greeted their new friends from different parts of the country. In one especially moving moment, Ginger from St. Gabriels said to Maria of St. Raphael’s, “Maria, it's good to see the change in you because at the beginning you were frustrated and sad and just didn't know what to do. Now, I've never seen you quite as enthusiastic. It’s so wonderful!”

What’s next for these communities? The ripples from the Pivot program will permeate each of the participating faith communities and success will look different for each of them. St. Raphael’s in New Jersey is launching a new social media campaign called “I am St. Raphael’s” highlighting individuals throughout their community, raising awareness of the church’s presence in their small town. St. Gabriel’s is dreaming up new uses for the vacant field they own, discerning its use in the wider neighborhood. Christ Episcopal in Louisiana is discussing new missional uses for an empty house on their property to address needs in their neighborhood. St. Augustine’s in Louisiana is already seeing their community pull together to address much needed repairs to the church and parish hall, taking back pride in their small piece of the Episcopal Church.

Linda U. from St. Gabriel’s reflects, “The one thing I've taken away is that our mission has only just started. Pivot has given us the foundation, but we have a lot of work to do going forward.” In six months, leaders from these communities will reconvene with the Adaptive Ministries team at ECF to check in, share progress, and continue to build relationships with one another.

ECF’s mission is to lead Episcopal faith communities into the future as a partner for transforming ministries, and the Pivot journey is a new and exciting way to do just that! You are invited to take the Pivot Preview online course to learn more about the program and to see if Pivot is right for you and your community.

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