Episcopal Diocese of Rochester
Joy in Christ, as a way of life

New Application and Review Process for Congregational Development Grants

You may have been hearing in the past year about churches using a new process for applying for Congregational Development Grants through the Diocese of Rochester.  If you haven’t been involved in this process, you probably have been wondering what makes a church eligible for a grant and why some churches might apply.  My goal through this article is to provide a summary of why the new process for applying for grants has been established and give an overview of the process.

History of Congregational Development Grants in the Diocese

First, I believe you need some history or background of how council got to where we are today.  Diocesan Council over the last few years has been divided into working subcommittees.  During the past two or three years, I have been part of a subcommittee that has evolved - having slightly different names and charges - but always having at least one facet focused on congregational development.

In 2010, we defined congregational redevelopment as the process of a congregation intentionally moving forward and growing. Obviously, as churches we are all interested in how we can grow in a variety of ways, not only numerically, as we see other churches around us decline.  Yet, this is an extremely broad topic to engage in for a small subcommittee of volunteers who have other jobs and families to manage.

Therefore, over the last two years Council has tried to refine the charge or goals for their subcommittees to make the tasks achievable in one year.  This past year, two subcommittees were established with specific charges pertaining to grants.  One continued to refine the process for receiving mission grants, and the second subcommittee was charged with clarifying the process for receiving Congregational Development Grants. 

To begin our work we realized that all that we do should be focused on the vision and mission of our diocese.

Our diocesan vision, mission, and characteristics:

Joy in Christ, as a way of life

Grow and develop congregations:  spiritually, numerically and in missional leadership

Radical Hospitality, Passionate Spirituality & Thoughtful Engagement

What is congregational development?

After achieving a focus on mission, our next step was to define what congregational development is.

Congregational Development is the work of the Diocese to support the growth of congregations as they seek to discover and embrace their unique ministry.  The purpose of these grants is to encourage congregational strength and vitality using the funds allocated for this purpose in the Diocesan budget.  A congregation discovering new opportunities for their growth in ministry and lacking the financial resources to meet their opportunities is invited to apply for a Congregational Development Grant (CDG).

The Committee for Congregational Development (CCD) is a standing committee of Diocesan Council with membership from the diocese at large.  Congregational development and support grants are given for two primary purposes – to encourage growth and to maintain ministries of vital interest to the diocese.

With what criteria do we evaluate applications?

The next step the subcommittee took was to develop the criteria we will use to evaluate whether a parish is eligible to receive a grant:

Council will be looking for the following criteria as part of a grant request:

  • Aligns with the Diocesan Vision, Mission and Characteristics
  • Offers a plan with clearly stated goals, outcomes and a timeline that shows a path to growth and demonstrates commitment by the congregation for a continuous, vital ministry in the community
  • Demonstrates progress towards self-sufficiency through growth, collaboration, alternative funding, and/or provides a vital ministry of the Diocese
  • Commits to participate in an annual accountability process
  • Demonstrates financial need
  • Demonstrates how this plan benefits the community you serve.

What is the application process like?

Then a consistent process was developed so parishes know the steps they need to take to apply.

  • Council will award grants by the end of April, up to 50% of available funds, and July up to 80% of available funds, and December up to 100% of available funds   
  • Applications must be submitted by February 15, May 15 and October 15
  • Contact a member of the Bishop’s staff for a preliminary screening meeting
  • Congregational Development Committee (CCD) will assign a mentor to act as a consultant and guide through the application process
  • CCD reviews the application
  • Up to three representatives of the congregation will make the initial presentation of the plan to CCD; subsequent grants will be considered on the basis of an annual review to Council and available funds
  • CCD will make recommendations to Council for authorization.

An essential part of any process for development is to establish a method to annually review progress.  This is important for both the parish receiving financial support and for Diocesan Council to confirm that the funds are being used to promote congregational development or a vital mission within the community.

Currently, there are two types of Congregational Development Grants.  One type is what council has named “legacy grants.”  These grants have been in existence for many years without a clear process for renewal and evaluation.

The other type are new grants awarded this year to several parishes who have used the new process - or met the intent of the new process as it was being constructed.  The new 2012 congregational development grant recipients will be participating in the review process in December 2012 through January 2013, and if they successfully meet the criteria will be funded for 2013.  Legacy grants will begin to use the review process during 2013.  Letters to the Legacy Grant recipients explaining this review process will be mailed before the end of 2012.  

What is the review process?

The following is the process for review for grant recipients: 

For those congregations who have been receiving a congregational development grant awarded in 2012, you will be asked to submit a progress summary to CCD before January 7, 2013.
Please use the following steps:

    • Complete the CCD Progress Summary Form
    • Gather other pertinent documentation such as: update the financial model for your projected request for 2013.

For those congregations who have been receiving congregational development grants previous to 2012, you will be asked to submit a development plan during 2013 to request funding for 2014.  Your congregation will be rolled into the process stated above for approval of annual funding.  
Please use the following steps:

    • Contact a member of the Bishop’s staff for a preliminary meeting and request a mentor if needed
    • Develop a narrative plan for congregational development
    • Complete the CCD application using the timeline above for new grant applications
    • Plan a presentation for CCD
    • Gather other pertinent documentation such as:
      • Most recent annual report, parochial report, financial model for projected request and
      • detailed narrative of your plan for congregational development

All documents needed for application and review of Congregational Development Grants may be found on the Diocesan Website.  As we use this process and the new forms, CCD and Council reserve the right to refine the definition, criteria, process and forms to make them easier to use and understand.

Since the diocesan budget is approved on an annual basis and currently there are many churches receiving “legacy” grants, until CCD has reviewed all of the congregational development grants by the end of 2013, funds for new grants will be limited.  Council and CCD welcome churches developing a new plan for vision and mission, but until the allocation of funds is clarified within the Congregational Development part of the budget additional funding may not be available.

Diocesan Council strives to clarify the grant process for both mission and congregational development grants and enhance transparency when it comes to where funds are going within the Diocese.  Council feels that alignment with a clear vision and mission for the Diocese of Rochester is of utmost importance in furthering our role as a vital, joyful partnership in achieving God’s work in the world.