Frequently Asked Questions

The following is a list of questions frequently asked by applicants for the Vitality Improvement Program (VIP) for Small Congregations.

Question not answered here?

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What is the Vitality Improvement Program (VIP) for Small Congregations?

The Vitality Improvement Program for Small Congregations* is a 3-year program designed to provide reduced-cost consultation and training to cohorts of small congregations (i.e, congregations with an ASA between approx. 30-70**) and their dioceses that will allow congregations to assess and develop strategies to improve their vitality and sustainability with the assistance of their dioceses.

*The VIP project is made possible by a grant from Trinity Wall Street Philanthropies.


How does the VIP define a small congregation?

By Average Sunday Attendance.

For the purposes of the VIP a small congregation is a congregation with an ASA (Average Sunday Attendance) of between approx. 30 and 70.

What is the purpose of the VIP?

The purpose of the Vitality Improvement Program is to equip congregations (especially those who are historically underrepresented) to survive and thrive in turbulent times through data-grounded discernment.

We do this by assessing their vitality and sustainability, identifying their missional opportunities and challenges in their neighborhoods, and coaching them in developing and implementing adaptive strategies. These processes enable them to address their weaknesses and leverage their strengths in order to effectively engage identified opportunities in ways that make their ministries sustainable in the long term.

What is the goal of the VIP?

Our goal is congregational vitality and sustainability assessment and improvement.

We will engage congregational participants and their diocesan support teams in assessing their potential for congregational vitality and sustainability improvement, as well as assist them in developing vitality/sustainability improvements strategies and track the impact of those plans on the vitality and sustainability of those congregations.

What benefits will dioceses and congregations get from the VIP?

  • Identifying congregational and diocesan strengths and weaknesses.
  • Naming missional opportunities and challenges.
  • Identifying, accessing, and applying resources and strategies, aligned with congregational and diocesan vision and mission.
  • Employing data to assess and confront questions of long-term vitality and sustainability.

What is the process for applying for the VIP?

The application process is entirely online.*

Click here for Application Packet

*While not required, dioceses may supplement their application with addition information, if desired.

Can we get a PDF version of the Application Form to use a reference while preparing to complete the Online Application Packet?

What is the total cost of the VIP?

The total cost of the VIP over 3 years is $1,182,500.

What is the annual cost of participation for dioceses and congregations, and what percentage is that of the total cost of the program?

Cost per Diocese: 2.5% ($10,000/yr. or $835/mo.)*
Cost per Congregation: 0.2% ($750/yr. or $65/mo)*

* If your diocese or congregation is so financial impaired that the required contribution is beyond your reach and this is the only thing that is keeping you from applying, please let us know at via email here. We can make no promises at this time but we are seeking funds from other sources for partial scholarships.

If the VIP is grant-funded, why is FaithX requesting participation contributions for diocese and congregation?

Participation contributions are important for two reasons:

First, TWS Philanthropies asked FaithX to build into the project the capacity to continue accepting new cohorts into the VIP beyond the 3-years of grant funding. To accomplish this, TWS and FaithX agreed upon a “Pay-It-Forward” financial model, in which we would set aside an increasing amount of proceeds each year to fund the cost of bringing additional dioceses and congregations into the program. Participation contributions are one part of that model.

Second, several years ago FaithX was asked to provide a third-party-funded program project similar to the VIP, in which demographic/analytic tools and consulting services were provided to several dioceses with zero participation contributions required. The result: there was little motivation from participating dioceses to engage the program in a meaningful way. So after investing nine months of our time and a considerable amount of the funding organization’s money, they decided to cut their losses and terminate the program. This experience provided us a hard lesson about the need for a financial commitment from participants to encourage serious engagement.

Some perspective on the $10K diocesan participation fee. If you were to forgo the VIP program and pay the subscription fees and setup costs for the CVA and MapDash only, you would be paying $13-14K for the first year and $6.5K/year thereafter. On the other hand, if your diocese participated in the VIP, you would receive subscriptions to both these tools, the new Judictory Vitality Assessment (to be developed in the first year of this project), and more than 200 person-hours of consulting and training over a 3-year period.

Financial Assistance: FaithX itself is contributing $30,000 (2.5%) toward the cost of the VIP project, in large part to minimize the amount of participation contributions and provide some assistance

What are the primary funding sources for the VIP?

  • Trinity Wall Street: 67.7% ($800,000)*
  • The FaithX Project: 7.6% ($90,000)
  • Other Sources: 2.5% ($30,000)*

Episcopal Church FoundationDatastory.

Click here to download the grant application narrative and budget

Why is the VIP project important at this point in time?

Today’s congregations exist at a pivotal point in the history of the church, an existential crisis of accelerating change and deepening uncertainty driven by forces both inside and outside the church.

We believe that congregational vitality is the defining issue for the church in this generation, if not this century, and that congregations – especially small congregations – and their judicatories are rapidly becoming unsustainable in their current forms.

Only those with a clear vision, who ground their discernment in data about themselves and the communities they serve, and who are willing to take the risk of experimenting with new ways of being and doing church will survive and thrive in these challenging times.

What strategies does the VIP employ to achieve sustainable improvement in congregational vitality?

Congregational Triage and Selection
FaithX will assist each judicatory’s missional leadership team in undertaking protocols to identify and recruit 7-10 congregations that represent a cross-section of race, language, and socioeconomic status, including historically under-resourced people groups, as well as identify congregations that are open to improving their vitality and sustainability in ways likely to have a significant impact on their surrounding neighborhoods.

Data-Grounded Strategic Missional Assessment and Planning
This cyclical process lies at the core of the Vitality Improvement Program. Missional assessment involves internal self-assessment of congregational vitality and external identification, validation, and prioritization of emerging missional opportunities and challenges in surrounding neighborhoods. Missional Strategy Development involves modeling strategies to engage identified missional opportunities, testing those strategies experimentally in iterative pilot tests, and adaptably implementing those strategies.

Communities of Practice
Cohorts of guided learning and practice in which successes can be celebrated, challenges can be processed, and progress supported and sustained, among congregation project teams, judicatory project teams, and among joint congregation-diocese teams.

Resourcing and Resource Development
FaithX will bring to congregations and their dioceses critical tools to assist them in strategic missional assessment and planning, including: (a) MapDash for Faith Communities, an interactive, online demographic analytic platform, developed with our affiliate, Datastory; (b) the Congregational Vitality Assessment, developed in partnership with the Episcopal Church Foundation; and the Judicatory Vitality Assessment, to be developed as part of this project.

Diffusion of Innovation
This will be achieved through the above communities of practice, webinar and podcasts, conferences and workshops, and other venues.

Can we contact FaithX for advice about completing the VIP Diocesan Application?

YES. We would like very much to engage with VIP applicants to answer questions and help you think through your Diocesan Application.

Is there any flexibility in the ASA criteria?

YES. In fact, based on input from some of you, we have expanded the acceptable ASA range to 30-70. If you think you would like to include one or more congregations with an ASA of less than 30, please contact us here. Otherwise, when completing the Online Application form treat all ranges as though they are 30-70.

Do we have to select our participating congregations before we complete the VIP Diocesan Application?

NO. The congregation selection process occurs AFTER participating dioceses are chosen. FaithX staff will work with you to help you select the congregation most likely to benefit from VIP.

Contact us here.

If one of the congregations we are considering does not have an ordained leader. Is it mandatory that selected congregations be led by an ordained person?

NO. What we are looking for is a leader with the authority to commit the congregation to active participation in the VIP process and to select the members for the congregation’s Parish Vitality Improvement Team. If a potential VIP congregation has a rector or priest-in-charge, the commitment of that person will be essential to success. If it does not have a rector but does have a lay leader that has the necessary authority, time, and energy to commit the congregation to the goals of the VIP project, that is acceptable. 

What if our diocese would like to include more than the 7-10 allotted? Is that possible?

YES. However, we would likely have to charge the diocese an additional fee per congregation (to be determined).


How long is the VIP and what will be happening in each phase of the program?

The VIP is a 3-year program.


What will be the criteria for acceptance of dioceses?

  • Number of congregations with ASA between approx. 30-70.
  • Sufficient diocesan and congregational human resources to form a team representative of the diocese.
  • Adequate staff support of diocesan team.
  • Sufficient engagement of bishop.
  • Missional mindset: sense of hope and possibilities, and willingness to engage strategies and alternative ways of being and doing church.
  • Financial Commitment: $10,000/year.

What will be the criteria for acceptance of congregations?

  • ASA between approx. 30-70.
  • Sufficient lay leadership involvement to form a Parish Vitality Improvement Team.
  • Adequate staff support of the congregational team.
  • Sufficient engagement of rector or priest-in-charge.
  • Missional mindset: sense of hope and possibilities, and willingness to engage strategies and alternative ways of being and doing church.
  • Financial Commitment: $750/year.

How many dioceses and congregations will be accepted?

  • 5 dioceses
  • 7-10 congregations per diocese (35-50 total)

If more than 5 dioceses meet the criteria for them to participate in the VIP program, what will happen with the others?

We will seek additional funding to expand the VIP program in Year 2.

Meanwhile, if a diocese has the resources to pay for the full cost of their participation in the VIP, we would consider allowing their participation in Year 1.

If my congregation or diocese would like additional training, coaching, or consultative assistance beyond the scope of the program, how much would that cost?

Fee for services beyond the program scope: $250 per hour.

My organization would like to become a major financial or in-kind supporter of the VIP. How would we go about that?

To inquire about how your organization could become a financial or in-kind supporter of the VIP, contact us here.

Meanwhile, if you would like to make a one-time or recurring donation to support the VIP, click on the link below:

Support VIP

Can an Episcopal province or consortium of dioceses participate in the program as one organizational unit?


Cost per province or consortium may vary depending on number of dioceses in the combined unit.

Can judicatories from other denominations participate in the VIP project?

Not at this time.

However, if you think your denomination might be interested in funding a VIP project for their small congregations and judicatories, contact us here. 

My organization would like to partner in or financially support the VIP project. How can we do that?

Contact us here.

Or click on this link: Support VIP

*The VIP project is made possible by a grant from Trinity Wall Street Philanthopies.