VIP Overview

The Vitality Improvement Program for Small Congregations (VIP)* is a 3-year grant-funded program through Trinity Wall Street in order to provide reduced-cost consultation and training to cohorts of small congregations (ASA 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.
Each diocese will be asked to form a team to shepherd the diocese and their congregations through the three year program and beyond. The diocesan team will invite congregations to apply to participate in the VIP program for a total of 7-10 congregations per diocese participating.
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Participating congregations will form a Parish Vitality Improvement VIP Team to lead the congregation through the 3-year program and beyond.


Cohort-Based Model
Using a cohort-based model to bring data-grounded tools and processes to those who need it most, allowing them to focus on improving vitality and sustainability. We will focus on the unique needs of small congregations by attending to the unique needs of the cohort.
Data-Grounded Assessment and Strategy Development

Providing tools and consultation that enable congregations and their dioceses to ground their missional discernment in objective data, including assessing their own vitality and sustainability strengths and weaknesses, identifying missional opportunities and challenges in the neighborhoods they service, and discovering and addressing their own blind spots and biases. Each diocese will receive a subscription to MapDash for Faith Communities, the Missional Opportunity Index, the Congregational Vitality Assessment Judicatory Platform, and will participate in the Judicatory Vitality Assessment (development to be funded by this grant).

Vision-Grounded Experimentation
Assisting congregations in clarifying their vision and mission and in using rapid experimenting to develop new ways of being and doing Church in support of the clarified vision and mission.
Communities of Guided Learning and Practice
which successes can be celebrated, challenges can be processed, and progress supported and sustained. We be convening them at several levels: communities formed among participating congregation project teams, among participating judicatory project teams, and among joint congregation-judicatory teams.
Resourcing and Resource Development

We 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 soon-to-be-developed Judicatory Vitality Assessment.

Pay-It-Forward Financial Model
Grant funding will be used to elevate the first cohorts from simple surviving to becoming vital and sustainable congregations, which would generate sufficient resources to pay into a fund to support future cohorts. As each congregation improved its vitality and sustainability, grant-funded support would be gradually reduced and eventually eliminated at the end of this 3-year round of the VIP project. The contributions we are asking of participating dioceses ($10,000/year) and congregations ($750/year), both payable monthly, while small compared to the $1.2M cost of the project, are a significant part of this pay-it-forward model.
Diffusion of Innovation
will be achieved through the above communities of practice, webinar and podcasts, conferences and workshops, and other venues.
Systemic Sustainability
We believe congregational sustainability is contextual. To achieve long-term vitality and sustainability, congregations must effectively engage their neighborhood and diocesan contexts. Therefore, we will be assisting congregations to determine whether it is possible for them to be self-sustaining. For example, if it is essential that their diocese has a presence in a declining community, a congregation might become a supported mission of the diocese. Likewise, if a congregation determines that the reason there are missional opportunities in the neighborhoods they serve that they are not effectively engaging, we might assist the congregation in developing effective strategies. In either of the above cases, we might assist the congregation in becoming a resource hub for the community, helping them find ways to leverage their property and building(s) to bring needed resources into their community. Such a resource hub could creating a sustainable symbiosis, in which low rental fees would make it financial possible for nonprofit community service organizations and government agencies to locate locate services on the congregations property in the local community that the congregation serves, while those same fees would help the congregation sustain its own presence in the community.

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