New Episcopal Communities

Frequently Asked Questions

General questions

Q. What do you mean by New Episcopal Community? 
A. You can find a working definition of an NEC here

Q. I’ve got an initial idea for launching a new ministry. What should I do first? 
A. There are many great places to start. First, let us know how to help you! Feel free to reach out to someone on our staff to talk your idea through and plan for next steps. When the time is right, share your idea with people in your church and in your diocese. As you roll forward, attending a Discerning Missional Leadership Retreat and getting a coach will be crucial. 

Questions about Grant Funding

Q. Is my vision for new community eligible for funding from New Episcopal Community grants?
A. There are many beautiful visions for new ministry emerging in our church, and we don’t want to box eligibility for these grants in too tightly. However, we also know it may be helpful to give you an idea of what our grant readers have in mind when the definition of a New Episcopal Community was written. Here is a guide that may help. Don’t hesitate to contact Katie Nakamura Rengers, Staff Officer for Church Planting, if you have questions, at

Q. I am planting a new ethnic community, but we plan to share space, resources and some leadership with a hosting established congregation. Are we eligible for funding?
A. Yes. We know that our ethnic faith communities often start as a ministry of, or in partnership with, an existing parish. It is very important to us to support and learn from new ethnic communities! Our grant readers will base their recommendation on your need for external sources of funding and the viability of your ministry plan.

Q. Our existing church has been thinking about starting a satellite new worshipping community in a different location. Would we qualify for funds? 
A. Absolutely! We’d love to see more Episcopal churches have multi-sites and would like to connect people starting these new ministries to share what we are learning. 

Q. I am a lay person who might be interested in leading a new community/ministry. Do I have to be ordained to do this work? 
A. No. There are many types of NECs that can be started by lay people. Let us know how we can help. 

Q. Our diocese might not be able to match dollar for dollar funds. Does that disqualify us? 
A. Not necessarily. We recognize that excellent NECs can get started in dioceses where financial matching is impossible. There are other ways that a diocese can demonstrate support and, in the grant application opportunity is given to describe what that support looks like. Significant diocesan “buy-in” is required in every case, because we have observed that this is critical ingredient for getting a new community off the ground.

Q. Who reads my grant application? 
A. Your application will be read by members of the Advisory Group on Church Planting and Redevelopment, as well as by outside readers who have long experience in the world of church planting and mission development.  The Advisory Group is an ethnically and geographically diverse group of lay leaders, priests and bishops who are passionate about equipping and supporting missional initiatives in the Episcopal Church. 

Q. When will I find out the results of my grant application? 
A. There are several steps involved with approving an application for funding.  First, your application will be read by the Task Force on Church Planting.  You may be contacted by the grant readers if any clarification or additional documents are needed.  Grants approved for funding by the Task Force then must be referred to the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church for final approval.  Executive Council meets approximately two months after each grant deadline, and you will be notified of their decision soon after. 

Q. What is the grant readers looking for in grant applications? 
A. Though there is certainly no “formula” for the perfect grant application, here’s an idea of what the grant readers are looking for: 
1. That your proposal meets the description of a New Episcopal Community as defined in the Application Guide – There are many wonderful ministries out there that are worthy of funding!  Our task is specifically to fund New Episcopal Communities.
2. A developed ministry plan and evidence of strategic thinking.
3. A realistic and contextual plan for sustainability. Discern a definition of “sustainability” that fits your context and show a plan for how the ministry might continue past this grant cycle. Base your budget on realistic numbers and show a plan for how the ministry can continue beyond this grant cycle.
4. Evidence of Diocesan Support. The healthiest ministries have the solid support of their diocese and strong channels of communication between their planter and diocesan leadership.
5. Knowledge of your mission field, based in lived experience.
6. Strong communications plan
7. Willingness of the point leader to be assessed, coached, and to participate in our community of learning.

Q. What is required of all ministries receiving NEC funding?  
A. There are a few important requirements for ministries receiving NEC funding: 

  1. Every point leader of a New Episcopal Community must participate in a Discerning Missional Leadership Assessment Retreat (see the question on this for more information) 
  2. Every point leader of an NEC must receive coaching, at least monthly, from a trained, certified coach (this is different from a mentor).  The best coaches are outside of your local and diocesan context and are not a part of any supervisory loop.  It is the leader’s responsibility to contact, covenant with, and pay their coach.  Grant funds can be used to pay your coach, and we highly recommend that Dioceses co-invest as well.     
  3. Every point leader of an NEC is expected to participate in the Genesis Movement and the community of learning that is forming with it.  We want missional leaders to support and learn from each other, and the wider Episcopal Church wants to learn from you!  Opportunities to engage include our monthly online trainings, the Genesis Gathering, listening and participating in the Genesis Podcast, and staying in touch through regular updates on your progress.   
  4. Solid financial accounting for the grant at the end of the granting period.   

Q. What are the Discerning Missional Leadership Retreats? 
A. Self-knowledge and assessment of one’s own particular gifts for leadership are immensely important for deciding whether or not you are called to start a new community from scratch. 

We want to make assessments available to anyone currently leading, or considering point leadership in a new worshipping community.  These discernment/assessment events take place in small groups of about 15 people and last 3-4 days.  They involve reflection on missional theology, conversations about the life of a church planter, neighborhood exegesis exercises, and an in-depth behavioral interview process.  At the end of the week, you will be offered feedback and a recommendation of “it’s a fit,” “it’s not a fit,” or “it’s potentially a fit.”   

Depending on location, the cost for a Discerning Missional Leadership Retreat is about $700, plus travel expenses.  NEC grants can be used to help with this cost.  We also highly encourage dioceses to invest in helping their leaders attend an assessment, as self-aware leaders with particular gifts will propel new communities forward.   

Q. Am I required to attend a Discerning Missional Leadership Retreat in order to receive a grant? 
A. Every point leader of a community receiving NEC Seed, Growth or Harvest funding must have an assessment.  Ideally, this assessment happens at a Discerning Missional Leadership retreat through the Episcopal Church.  A grant application may be submitted before the point leader has been assessed, but the distribution of funds is contingent on the leader being assessed. 

Point Leaders of ministries receiving Discernment Grants do not have to have an assessment in order to receive funding.  However, Discernment funds can be used to help cover the cost of an assessment.  

In some cases, the leader of a community applying for a Growth or Harvest grant has already had an assessment by some other means.  Please include this information in your grant application, and the Task Force will talk with you about whether or not a Discernment Retreat is necessary. 

Q. Do you host Discernment Retreats in languages other than English, or do you offer interpretation services?
A. Unfortunately, though we have had many leaders of color attend our discernment retreats, we have not yet created a version in a language other than English. Our discernment teams remain humble about that fact that, even if we speak the same language, our ethnic leaders will bring different cultural assumptions and best practices to church planting work than Anglo leaders. Therefore we strive to make our teams as diverse as possible.

We are willing to arrange for interpretation at our discernment retreats, but we are not convinced that this offers the best and most hospitable experience. If your church planter is not comfortable attending in English, we will work with her/him to create alternate ways for them to meet this grant requirement!

Q. When is the next Discerning Missional Leadership Retreat? 
A. We offer about four DML Retreats each year.  Click here for an updated calendar of events.

Q. Do I have to “pass” the Discerning Missional Leadership assessment in order to receive grant funding?  
A. The feedback you receive at a DML Retreat is the honest, loving opinion of six or seven experienced planters about whether or not your gifts for ministry match the ones we believe to be helpful in the leader of a New Episcopal Community.  We understand that this feedback reflects the way you showed up at a particular place and time, and that the assessment team is able to spend only limited time with you.  Because of this, feedback is given with humility and is not understood as a “litmus” test for your future success as a church planter.

The NEC grant readers will not directly receive a copy of the feedback offered to DML Retreat participants.  However, grant applications do ask the point leader to reflect on the feedback they received and how it has shaped their strategy for leadership of the New Episcopal Community.  Participants are strongly advised to share feedback from their assessment with their Bishop, and the Diocesan Endorsement form asks whether this conversation has occurred.  

Q. What qualities are helpful in a church planter? 
A. Though no one can accurately predict 100% of the time whether a particular leader will succeed at starting a sustainable, new church community, we have found that there are certain qualities that are very helpful in this work.  Among these are: 

  • Having the vision and intrinsic motivation to start a new worshiping community 
  • Emotional resilience and the ability to manage conflict and personal failure 
  • A strong base of social relationships that support the call to leadership 
  • Entrepreneurial interest and experience 
  • A high capacity risk taking 
  • Strong cross cultural skills 
  • The ability to build a successful team, gather people into a shared vision and leadership 
  • Grit, including the perseverance to pursue long-term goals 

Q. How do I join the NEC email list?   
A. Subscribe to our email list to receive occasional updates about grant deadlines, online gatherings and events. 

The Rev. Katie Nakamura Rengers

Staff Officer for Church Planting

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