“The primary job of church is to be a spiritual community that forms people in faith.”

Diana Butler Bass, Christianity for the Rest of Us, Harper One, 2006

About Shaping the Parish

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What do we mean by “Shaping the Parish”? 

Healthy and faithful parishes don’t just happen. They are shaped by leaders responding to God’s call. Leaders willing to work hard and use proven methods of transformation.

We work with a leadership team from your parish. Together we seek ways to move your parish toward a fuller expression of the marks of a healthy parish on the home page — the daily life ministry of the baptized, a community of formation, Anglican ethos, healthy emotional climate, a vibrant parish, skilled leaders, and actively addressing barriers to needed change.

Shaping the Parish is:

  • An integration of organization development, emotional and social intelligence, and ascetical & pastoral theology and practice
  • A program long enough to develop momentum toward increased parish health 
  • The development of competent leaders 
  • A program that provides the tools to successfully shape parishes toward a healthier life.

The Diocese

The program would usually be sponsored by a diocese. We would work out the details along with Bishop’s Office.

As part of a broad approach to improving the diocesan capacity for parish development the training team would meet with the Bishop, and a few other diocesan staff and leaders, to explore how the diocese can offer the most effective diocesan system for parish development. That would usually be a meeting in the diocese lasting 1 1/2 days. The fee is included in the overall fee charged. The diocese covers expenses.

While the program is focused on teams from the particular diocese the format also allows it to serve a national purpose. Participants from other dioceses need to be welcome to register. The diocese would receive their fees which would usually be higher than what people from within the diocese pay.

Three Themes

  • Spiritual practice
  • Emotional and social intelligence
  • Change theory and methods


Over an 18 month period the parish team:

  1. Begins the program by having coaching and orienting conversations with the training staff. There is an initial parish assessment to complete and some reading to do.  Each person completes a couple of instruments on line (MBTI and FIRO B) and receives reports on the results.
  2. Six Workshop Weekends - Usually Friday 1:00 - Saturday 4:00. The second weekend is longer and includes working on Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon. Participants must attend every sessions to remain in the program.
  3. The second weekend is a human interaction workshop Information on T-groups.
  4. The team carries out at six developmental initiatives, does more reading, and is coached by the trainers.

Other formats for the program are possible. We’re glad to discuss ways that might best serve your diocese.


There are a number of ways for a diocese to approach program expenses and income. See this PDF


Focuses on making immediate, tangible improvements while building long-term health.

Equips participants for effective leadership through their own spiritual and personal growth and an increased ability to shape the parish.

Provides the methods and knowledge needed to shape a parish culture centered in spiritual maturity and emotional intelligence.

Gives you the tools to focus your energies around what works and the primary task of a parish church.

Provides for the direct transfer of learning to the participant’s leadership in the parish.

The Next Generation

Shaping the Parish moves the work of the past 40 years in the Church Development Institute (“CDI”), and other programs, to a whole new level of effectiveness.


Those who decide to participate in Shaping the Parish enter knowing that this is a decision about change, conversion, and transformation. We are joining together in a commitment to be open to change in how we manage our own emotions, thinking and behavior. We are open to new ways of providing leadership. We are involved in this program because we hope for a better parish and will act to make the needed changes. In Shaping the Parish leaders and parish communities take responsibility for their ongoing health and formation. The training staff assists by providing a supportive and challenging environment, resources, and guidance.

Our hope is that you will gain greater knowledge of who you are along with a renewed interest and wonder about your life, the church and the world. 

Making the commitment: Parishes that want to participate need to 1) recruit a team that includes the rector (vicar, priest-in-charge) and 2) secure the vestry’s approval. Parishes that complete the program receive a certificate and the continuing prayers of the training staff.

A special message for clergy: The program is about the parish’s revitalization. It’s not about the continuing education of the clergy. So, there is no personal certificate provided and no CEU’s offered. We of course hope clergy will learn a great deal. That learning however is directly about the health of your parish. 

How the program can connect to your secular work: The program is grounded in organization development and systems thinking.  We are applying to a church setting what we know broadly about the field of organization development, including change methods; coaching and people development; ways to increase buy-in and accountability, thereby improving team functioning; and effective analysis and decision-making.  These areas are critical to the health of any organization and we will be using methods and theories that can be easily transferred to different organizational settings.  A letter sent to one participant.