Being Church

Being Church

Getting Started

Being Church consists of six group spiritual exercises of approximately an hour each. Each segment incorporates prayer, reflection, and discussion and is designed to be self-led, inviting congregations and communities into a deeper understanding of their own particular gifts and challenges. Useful for retreats, study series, leadership training, visioning exercises, or Advent or Lenten reflections, the series re-energizes our collective journey of creating authentic, transformative faith communities today.

Being Church was designed to be done as a collective community process without the need for an instructor or leader’s guide. Even so, we still strongly suggest that each of the six segments be facilitated by someone whose role has been assigned ahead of time. We estimate that each segment can take from 50 to 90 minutes, depending on how much time is spent in discussion.

History of Project

In 2013, the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts invited fourteen small congregations to be part of a study to learn about what helps churches grow and thrive, and what hampers positive efforts to change. Working with the Diocese and the Hartford Institute for Religion Research, the congregations identified projects they believed would help to energize their churches, and received mentoring support in trying to implement their ideas. The Mission Institute agreed to capture some of the most compelling learnings from this collaborative project for wider dissemination. The result is Being Church: A Video Parable Study Series

Being Church is a six-part video parable study series created by the Mission Institute in collaboration with the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts. Christian congregations and communities can use the thought provoking, scripturally rooted content to deepen their journey into being Church. Central to the series are stories of people engaged in the transformative and often difficult work of building community right where they are. The way in which we engage with these stories is very much like the way we read parables of scripture, as a lens to discover something deeper about ourselves and to reflect on that. These video parables invite us to reflect on the struggles, fears, hopes, and courage of people bringing new life to their churches and neighborhoods. Seeing how people discover unique gifts and opportunities along the way, propelling them into new relationships, and changing them in the process.


Taking Risks

What happens when a church that once was well integrated into a community begins to lose that connection? Perhaps because of normal rhythms of migration, or due to a widening disconnect and failure to be relevant. Does this sound familiar? How do you or your church respond? See how one church met this challenge by simply sitting out on their steps, inviting children into a safe place to play, and encouraging each other to take a risk and step out of what is known into something new.



Honoring Vulnerability

What is the difference between knowing and being known? Often times we see one another on Sunday mornings, exchange Christ’s peace, and share a cup of coffee. Yet, how often do we actually take the time to get to know one another or let ourselves be known by another in our community? In this piece we see how one church took the concept of a simple dinner and created space to strengthen relationships, deepening people’s experience of community. 

Defining a New "Us"

Us and them. How many times have we approached outreach and ministry with that frame: “we” reaching out to “them”? What if we didn’t make that distinction so clearly?  What if that distinction didn’t exist? The community of Christ Church/Iglesia de San Juan gives us a beautiful window into what church outreach and ministry looks like by helping us see who “us” really is.

Reimagining Power

In this parable, two priests offer their insights into what it means to question and reshape power in a congregation. Who is making the decisions to reimagine power and why? What might be gained or lost? By trying to live into a different model of power, how might these leaders be helping shape a new Church or a new future?

Beginning Again

This video parable is different from the other four. We join St. Cyprian’s Church as they begin to ask questions about what is next. Questions such as, is it possible to make new traditions? Can we have different ways of being church that don’t do away with the traditions we love so deeply? How do we look to the future while honoring the past?

What's Next

Now that you have journeyed through the series, what is next for your community? How might these parables and reflections ignite your community to be Church? This last session invites you to dream big, to take risks, to be vulnerable with one another, and to imagine new possibilities for your church or community. Brainstorm a plan, identify a first step, and share it with the larger congregation. Ask for help if you need it!

Start here and move clockwise


There are many people to thank for all their hard work and dedication to the Being Church: A Video Parable Study Series. The Mission Institute is deeply grateful for everyone that had a hand in shaping this project. The following names are by no means exhaustive but are merely our attempt to give credit where credit is due. Thank you to all who brought this series to life!