Watch and Wait

I think maybe I’m part Druid or Celt or something like that, this need of mine to live according to the seasons, to float on the rhythm of the seasons not just of nature but of the church year.  To bob along, oh now it’s winter so I must retreat and rest, hibernate in the house, reading and cooking.  Oh, it’s Lent so I must add a discipline, be more disciplined, seek my God with more intent, listen for God with more intent.  I will bob along in this until the warmer weather takes me outside and shows me crocuses and the early daffodils, grasses growing in our meadow, more light, warmer sun on my face. “Point the top of your head into the sun 15 minutes a day,” said my endocrinologist. “I know your dermatologist won’t agree but you need the sun, your vitamin D level is low.” “Point yourself toward the Light,” says Lent. Now I will hibernate, even with low vitamin D levels, until I can turn and feel the sun warm on my head.   

Yesterday was Ash Wednesday and so now it is Lent. Lent and winter fit together. Gray skies, less sun and warmth; where is the Light? “Be still in your overstuffed chair, read the daily offices, cook when you must, kiss the cat who is dying, watch and wait, watch and wait,” say the saints and spirits. And so I do, and so we do, as we journey toward the Light.

I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church, to the
observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance;
by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and
meditating on God’s holy Word.

(Episcopal Book of Common Prayer, pg. 265)

People often see evangelism as a warm weather sport for extroverts. I suppose it has those moments. At the last church where I worked I loved being out on the sidewalk on a beautiful Sunday welcoming people to church and chatting with passers-by, inviting them into church. Getting some vitamin D into the top of my head. But evangelism also has a winter season, one more suited for introverts perhaps. It’s also the Lenten season when we focus inward so that we can again focus outward when the Light changes and comes again. “Be still in your overstuffed chair or at your prayer desk,” say the saints and spirits, “seek God and yourself, be still and know, watch and wait, watch and wait.”

Pray for the church, the world, others, and yourself. It’s okay to hibernate and wait.

Lent with St. Benedict

Over the years I’ve used many tools, tricks and resources for my Lenten discipline. I bet you have too. I usually add something in Lent rather than subtract. I found, years ago, that subtraction just didn’t work for me. At about the same time my rector suggested that I add something such as reading a book, physical activity or writing. And pretty consistently this has worked for me.

The one I’m going to add this year is from the Episcopal Diocese of Northern Michigan. I’ve always found them to be good faithful folks who produce good materials. It’s on the above link about half way down the home page. It’s a simple resource of daily prayer in the Benedictine tradition, at 9 am and 3 pm. In the monastic tradition these are the services of None and Terce. They’re short and beautiful. The art on the pages is also beautiful. I will try to add some time of stillness at the beginning and end of each service.

If you’ve never explored the Rule of St. Benedict I encourage you to do so. My introduction to it was from the writing of Sister Joan Chittister, especially her books “The Rule of St. Benedict: Spirituality for the 21st Century” and “Wisdom Distilled from the Daily.”

I invite you to consider this practice, or another, for your Lenten journey this year. You might want to invite a few friends to join you either through Zoom or social media, or in just knowing that you’re all doing this together at the same times each day. You could also offer it on your church’s website or social media pages so that you are opening it to your larger neighborhood. Keep it simple. Short introductions might be necessary and then the service itself. Even through social media you can add some time of stillness. It’s great evangelism!

Enjoy and Happy Lent!

Carolyn M. Chilton

Coach (for Clergy, Clergy Spouses and Partners, and Lay Employees of the Church) and Congregational Consultant

How Are We Going to Raise Money During This Pandemic?

What are you doing about your annual stewardship campaign right now? Yes, in July in the midst of a pandemic!  Most of our churches have their annual campaign in the fall, but the time to begin is now. The stewardship house you want to build in the fall will be stronger if you begin to lay the foundation now.

1. Focus on relationships

Strong stewardship programs are built on vibrant relationships. How can you do this at this time?  Can you have porch parties or other types of outdoor picnics or parties for small groups of people? Can you have Zoom coffees or parties? At the event someone can speak for a few (emphasis on few) minutes about all the wonderful things that are made possible by people’s generosity. Do not ask for anything.

2. Stay in touch with your donors

Donors want to know that their money is being well spent to further the mission of the church.  You can send them a card that says thank you and gives them some information on what the church has accomplished. Use pictures with captions or tell a story about a life changed because of the work of your church.

3. Have a Thank You phone-a-thon

Members of the parish or your stewardship committee can call other parishioners and say thank you for their gifts of time, talent and financial resources.  Your callers should tell them quickly and simply about something wonderful that is happening. You can check in to make sure they are doing well.  Do not ask for anything.

4. Give Your Donors Information

Donors want transparency about the financial workings of the church. It helps to build trust. Put a report in all your digital communications and in your newsletter or bulletin. It doesn’t need to be long, but it should give information on income received versus projected and expenditures. Consider including a short story about a life changed, a new program you’ve been able to start, an update on a program – share some good news!

Show donors that you are a vibrant church. Create a culture of generosity, gratitude and giving in your church. Donors want to be part of a church that is positive, making a difference and helping them to grow in their own faith journey.

5. Map out the Fall Campaign

Build a strong foundation by starting to plan now for your campaign. Donors notice good planning. Here are some things to decide and do now: the dates of the campaign; a theme perhaps; begin work on your case or vision statement; decide how you will make contact with people and ask for their support; decide if data is needed to help you begin to frame your campaign.  You will need to be especially creative this fall as you plan gatherings and how you communicate.


By trying these ideas now, you will set the stage for life-giving stewardship in the fall. The key, of course, is nurturing relationships and connecting with all who generously support the church’s ministry.

Here is an article I wrote this spring about church financial health during this pandemic.


Contact me if you have questions or need some brainstorming help.

Carolyn M. Chilton 

Step 1: Sunday Visitors

Just say the word “evangelism” and many people run screaming into the Sunday School closet saying “Not me, not me!” Or as a friend of mine once said, “I’m terrified that God is going to call me to be a street corner evangelist.”  Stop all this.  It’s not like that.

Evangelism is about relationships.  Let’s start with Sunday mornings and look at one scenario.  This is an easy one.  You’re in church, and you don’t know the people sitting near you.  It is your job to speak to them, because yes, Jesus said ‘Go’ even to you.  Do this:

  • Speak to them before the service starts, if possible.
  • Keep an eye on them during the service to see if they need help with finding pages in prayer books and hymnals.  If they do, hand them yours, open to the right page.
  • Speak to them at The Peace.  This includes children.
  • Invite them to communion.
  • Introduce yourself after the service; introduce them to at least one other person; introduce them to the clergy person; walk with them to the fellowship time and introduce them to more people.
  • Ask if you can have their phone number or email so that you can tell them about upcoming events.

You can do this.  “But,” you say, “I have to talk to my friend Joan about planning the meeting for next week.”  Great.  You can do that too, but you do this FIRST.  If you don’t start speaking to the visitors there soon won’t be any people left to have a meeting for!

Next post: What to do about those visitors on Monday.

Do You Need a Coach?

You and your church are back from the busy Advent and Christmas seasons and ready to tackle Epiphany with Lent around the corner! It can be especially busy for clergy and lay employees.  How are you managing your time and balancing family, work, and self care? Did you make some Epiphany resolutions about self-care?  Do you need a time and way for your soul to catch up with your body? 

After 30+ years as a lay employee of the Episcopal Church, I continue to serve in many ways, particularly in coaching and spiritual direction with clergy and lay employees.

I am in the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia and can meet you at many locations around the diocese if you’d like to ask me questions. I can also set up a video phone call.

You may be familiar with spiritual direction, or have a spiritual director.  Coaching is a bit different.  What is it?

  • Coaching is a purposeful dialogue in God’s presence between the two of us, that helps unlock your potential and enrich your ministry and leadership.
  • I will:
    • Seek to create a safe space where you can share, reflect, try on new ideas…
    • Help you ask questions and unlock the answers.
    • Use deep listening, empathy, curiosity, and  give feedback.
  • You set the agenda – what is working well or not so well? What are the outcomes you hope for? I adapt the strategy based on what you want out of this.

I am also available to lead vestry and staff retreats, mutual ministry reviews and strategic planning sessions.

Learn more: email me.

You can read a fuller bio of me here.

Carolyn Moomaw Chilton


Involving New People in Your Church

There are certain times of the year when churches are more likely to see an increase in the number of visitors.  One of them is early fall when summer is over and the program year re-starts.  Now that we’re a month into that, it’s time to think about how you are beginning to incorporate new people into the life of your community.

First this:  What we are NOT about in the church is filling empty volunteer slots or looking for warm bodies to do a job.  What we ARE about is building disciples of Jesus Christ.  We are forming Christians in education, worship and service.  It’s important to keep a holistic picture in mind.

Prayers for VolunteersOne of my favorite newsletters is from the Lewis Center for Church Leadership.  They recently had this article about incorporating new people.  The five points in the article are very good.  But….I’m going to add a few of my own.

  1. Ask people what they like to do and then match them with a group or opportunity.
  2. Introduce them directly to one of the people in charge or involved and say clearly why you are doing this. Ask that person to take the new person under their wing to help them learn the ministry and meet people.
  3. Explain to them that this is ministry and why this ministry is important.
  4. Let them “try on” the ministry.  Let’s say they are interested in the altar guild and flower arranging.  Let them try it for a month or two and then follow up and see how they’re doing and ask if they’d like to continue.
  5. Be very clear about the commitment and expectations.  Staying with our altar guild example, you might say that they’ll be on a team that sets up the altar and flowers one Saturday a month and it takes about 2 hours.
  6. Follow up and stay in touch.  Be gracious if they say they don’t like what they’re doing and want to try something else.
  7. If they want to join a small group or study group, again make clear introductions, be clear on commitments (perhaps this might involve purchasing a book…), and follow up with them.

I bet you have some best practices at your church.  Share them with us!

Carolyn M. Chilton 

New survey ranks welcoming top factor in church choice

The Barna Group, on behalf of United Methodist Communications, recently published the findings of a new study  on spiritual “seekers” and their top motivations for considering a church.  The top reasons? Knowing that everyone will be welcomed (32%), making friends and nurturing friendships (29%),  during difficult times (28%) and learning more about God (27%). Less motivating are opportunities for Bible study, volunteer opportunities, discussions of issues and topics and the provision of child care. (Download the  helpful infographic here.)

Looking for genuine community

“The findings point to a desire for genuine community,” said Dan Krause, general secretary of United Methodist Communications. “About three-quarters of those who might visit a church said that having friendly and welcoming people might cause them to continue attending.”

The model of waiting for people to walk through our doors on Sunday morning no longer works as the

primary model for inviting people into our church.  We have to go where people are, build community there and invite them to join us at our church.  Where do you find these spiritual seekers?  Two-thirds spend free time at restaurants and coffee houses, especially high-income earners and those without children, while parents are more often found at parks. More than 90% use smartphones and Internet daily, while 83% use social media every day and about half watch TV or listen to radio.

“This data provides insights into how and where churches can connect with people who may be looking for a faith community where they can belong,” said Krause. The infographic gives quick insight to this finding.

The survey included people aged 25-49 who consider themselves spiritual, socially conscious and seeking meaning in their lives, but who are not affiliated with a church.

The study was conducted in November 2017 and included 606 interviews with a nationally representative sample of U.S. adults drawn from an online panel. Individuals on the panel were screened to identify people who met criteria identifying them as a “seeker.”

(This article is adapted from the original from United Methodist Communications and Leading Ideas from the Lewis Center for Church Leadership.)

Give Up Your Scarcity Mindset for Lent

Lent is the season when the church calls on us to focus on our spiritual life, and those things that get in the way of growing in our relationship with God, the world, and others.  Many of us give up something.  Many of us take on something.

And if you’re like me, perhaps you are just figuring out your Lenten discipline as your eat your Shrove Tuesday pancakes! And so…I share this…

I’ve just discovered a wonderful resource for Lent – a Gifts gratitude calendar – developed by Laura Stephens-Reed, a pastor and church coach and consultant.

Look at the questions she poses.  Do they sound familiar?

“I don’t have enough time to do all the things.”

“I don’t have anything worth contributing.”

“Our congregation is so much smaller and grayer than it used to be.”

“We’re gonna have to send these church budget requests back to committees to be pared down, because our projected giving is down 10%.”

She goes on to write:

[These sentiments] play in loops in individuals’ heads and reverberate through sanctuaries of all sizes. They are the product of scarcity thinking, of focusing on what we don’t have. The scarcity mindset is rampant in our culture, manifesting in the beliefs that we need to guard what we have and prepare for the worst possible scenario. And unfortunately, while we worship a God who created the universe out of a dark and formless void and follow a Savior who was all about opening up the law and the bounds of community, this thinking has trickled down into our churches. The result is that many of our people are afraid to dream and reach out, instead turning inward and wondering how long our congregations will be able to hold on.

(You can read the full article here, and access her other writing and resources.)

Our God is one who created out of scarcity a world full of abundance and a people full of faith, love, hope and creativity.  What if this year for Lent you gave up thinking that you’re no longer doing effective ministry? What if you gave up seeing the scarcity and instead focused on the abundance? What might you find for your work in God’s abundant world? Can you make abundance contagious?

Blessings for a Holy Lent!

Carolyn Moomaw Chilton


Asking the Right Question

We’re headed into the season when many church councils and vestries hold their annual planning retreat.  If you’re interested in leadership and consultative help contact me.  I’d love to meet you and talk about your hopes, goals and dreams for 2019.

A planning retreat can take many forms, and I will work with you to design what best suits your needs.  A common approach is looking at and evaluating your church’s past and present ministries , and then looking into the future to set new goals and strategies.

A tweak that I sometimes put on this is to look at your present ministries first, then look back a few years, and then forward into the future.  Why? I find that starting with the past can, simply, take too much time.  Rather we start with where your are right now, look then back for some context and perspective, and then forward to what do you want to be and do in 2019.

The Lewis Center for Church Leadership offers great resources, and their e-newsletter is one of my favorites.  If you don’t follow them I recommend you take a look. One of my favorite sections is “The Right Question”.  This section of the January 2 newsletter offers another approach with different questions that might frame a planning retreat.  Here they are:

The Right Question: Leaders do not need answers. Leaders must have the right questions. 

A few years ago, the Lewis Center staff were all asked to respond to four questions as a way of determining the shape of the Center’s next chapter. Perhaps these questions can help in your situation.
1. Raise? What acts and activities could profitably be raised above their current level? 
2. Reduce? What acts and activities could be reduced from the current level of time and energy? 
3. Eliminate? What acts and activities could be eliminated? 

4. Add? What things could we do that we are not now doing that, if done well, would take us to new levels of mission effectiveness? 

The form of the retreat is important.  The fact that you this type of planning is even more important!

Contact me for more information.  New Year’s Blessings!

Carolyn M. Chilton

Welcoming Visitors at Christmas

The major seasons and feasts of the Church year are important times to be sure you’re hospitality and welcome are in top form.  Below are links to two articles I’ve written about welcoming church visitors at Christmas.  I hope they’ll be helpful to you and your church.  It isn’t too late to implement them!

7 Ways to Welcome Visitors on Christmas Eve

Practical Tips for Welcoming Visitors at Christmas

Blessings during the Advent season, and Merry Christmas!