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Fresh Start

Fresh Start is a collaborative effort of The Episcopal Church, through the Office for Ministry Development and the Church Deployment Office, and Cornerstone, a ministry of The Episcopal Church Foundation. Over the past seven years, clergy and laity from across the country have developed Fresh Start to equip congregations and clergy to grow during their ministry. Fresh Start contributes to healthy systemic change in dioceses, congregations, and clergy.

Statement of Purpose

Fresh Start seeks to strengthen the relationships among Episcopal clergy, congregations, and dioceses during critical periods of transition in clergy leadership of the congregation.


Fresh Start is a diocesan-led program for clergy in new cures and for lay leaders in the congregations where they serve, which enables ministry by:

  • assisting with transitional issues which affect both clergy and laity during a new ministry;
  • sharpening skills for congregational development;
  • strengthening collegial relationships among diocesan clergy, as well as relationships between clergy and their congregations; and
  • deepening trust between the clergy, congregations, the Bishop, and the diocesan staff.


Shifts in congregational leadership can be a problem and an opportunity for clergy and communities. Recent statistics indicate that the turnover for all Episcopal clergy averages slightly over six years. Over 1200 congregations will experience calling new clergy leadership each year. Recognizing that the first years in a new relationship are a critical, formational opportunity, Fresh Start equips and trains diocesan staff to guide clergy and congregations in these transition periods.


  • Strengthens bonds between clergy and congregational leaders so that their ministry together is a fresh start.
  • Increases participant's capacity to minister to each other and the wider community.
  • Strengthens the bonds between clergy, congregations, and the diocese.
  • Broadens the scope of a bishop's teaching ministry to clergy and congregations in the diocese.
  • Provides an opportunity for clergy to experience each other's openness to God and to deepen their capacity to be ministers of Jesus Christ.


Fresh Start is a program in which issues of transition affecting both clergy and congregations can be discussed openly and honestly. It is a set of 25 curriculum modules, each designed to be adaptable to your diocese's circumstances and program format. The modules offer a menu - you have the flexibility to pick and choose the ones you wish to use, or you can offer the complete set. Each module includes a statement of purpose, Biblical/theological underpinnings for the topic being covered, a teaching component, and a "desired results" component.

The series will be available in hard copy, with graphics suitable for use as overheads, handouts, or slides; and on CD-rom in a PowerPoint format.

Foundational Modules

  • Getting to Know You - Builds community and lays the groundwork for understanding the issues.
  • Exit and Entrance Issues - Explores the tasks/issues inherent in and assists participants in understanding the dynamics of leaving and saying goodbye.
  • Systems Theory as Applied to Congregations - Introduces family systems theory and provides some common concepts with which to understand the dynamics of congregations.
  • History Taking and Understanding - Encourages participants to pay attention to the people and events which have shaped their congregations and themselves.

Supplemental Modules

  • The Bishop - Outlines some of the issues the Bishop might wish to address with her/his new clergy and offers an opportunity for new clergy to get to know their bishop.
  • Conflict Management - Introduces ways of viewing conflict, judging the intensity/seriousness of the conflict, and responding to these various levels of intensity.
  • Conflict Management and Church Size - Explores the relationship between the size of a congregation and the way it fights.
  • Congregational Development 101 - Combines a review of church size theory and examines the leadership style required in a new.
  • Goal Setting for the Future - Reminds participants that goal setting begins with articulating where you've been and where you are now and offers suggestions for setting this task within a religious context
  • Importance of Family and Friends - Explores the relationship of a clergyperson's work to the people who love and support that person and stresses the importance of personal and professional support as a key to wellness and vitality.
  • Managing Change - Explores the variables in managing change and discusses how leadership styles affect these variables.
  • Models of Leadership and Authority - Explores the five levels of leadership and examines participant's own leadership styles in relation to the congregations they serve.
  • Mutual Ministry Reviews - Seeks to break the employee-employer model, offers a regular review process which is theologically based, and offers guidelines for when and how to conduct them.
  • Negotiated Relationships - Looks at how clergy can respond to prior congregational expectations and negotiate a relationship with the congregation in light of the clergyperson's particular gifts, skills, and expectations.
  • Planned Re-Negotiation - Explores what happens when you are unwilling or unable to fulfill an agreed-upon (or sometimes unspoken) expectation and strategies for dealing with the "pinch" that inevitably comes.
  • Power Analysis - Introduces participants to a power analysis of a congregation: what power is, how it is amassed, and ways of understanding and dealing with it.
  • Profile vs. Reality - Explores how the parish profile compares to the reality found upon arrival, what the congregation wants versus what you bring, and what to do about the discrepancy.
  • Reinventing Leadership - Stretches our understandings of what makes for good leadership.
  • Role Clarity - Seeks to clarify the roles implicit in certain job descriptions and acknowledges that, in ministry, "being" is as important as "doing."
  • Spiritual Formation in Transition - Encourages participants to talk about how they maintain their own lives with God during the stresses and strains of transition.
  • Strategies for Achieving Personal Balance - Focuses on the prevention of undue stress and burnout and explores clergy support groups as one means of maintaining balance.
  • Strategies for Organizing Your Professional Life - Explores learnings from the areas of organizational development and time management .
  • Understanding Church Type - Addresses the issue of respecting both our tradition and our need to reach beyond traditional constituents and invite non-Episcopalians and even non-Christians to experience God's presence in our worship.
  • Understanding Stress and Burnout - Introduces participants to issues of wellness, stress and burnout and focuses on coping with the "disease of the over-committed" and strategies for self-care.
  • Vestry Retreats - Explores the vestry retreat as a way of fostering collaboration between clergy and their vestries and discusses the content and logistics for retreats.

Additional components

  • A comprehensive resource guide (bibliography) covering general topics related to transitions issues and specific topics related to each module
  • An ongoing evaluation process designed to encourage diocesan facilitators to assist in developing future modules and program components. The evaluation will measure the effectiveness of the materials, the impact n relationships between clergy and their congregations, and the aspects of the project that have long-term benefits. .

How can my diocese participate?

Fresh Start will be made available to all dioceses through Training Conferences beginning in 2000. Fresh Start is designed for diocesan personnel who can facilitate the program with clergy in their diocese. It is best executed by officers in congregational development, deployment, or education.

What are the qualifications to participate?

  • The support and commitment of the Diocesan Bishop
  • The availability of a qualified person (with skills in facilitating and in group process) to become the facilitator in a diocese
  • A commitment to participate in the evaluation process, an integral part of this program
  • - A passion for this type of ministry

More Information

If your diocese would like to learn more about Fresh Start and how to assist clergy and congregations during times of transition, please use the submit form below or print out and complete the form below and return it to:

The Rev. Dr. Melford E. Holland, Jr.
Coordinator for Ministry Development
Episcopal Church Center
815 Second Avenue
New York, New York 10017

FAX: 212-682-5594


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