Retreats, Conferences, Workshops
“Reversing the Decline” — A power point presentation
Let’s re-imagine the church. There are many involved in the effort from different quarters and different denominations. This re-imagining involves what I am seeking to do in this book through effective community ministry, membership drives and storytelling. We are increasingly drawn to look for justice and respond to human suffering, we seek to draw together as we do that, and then we cannot help but tell our stories as we do.
In recent years, I have led retreats, conferences, and workshops in a number of places. As a result I have been encouraged to write “Reversing the Decline”as a supportive book to help supplement these presentations.
The Diocese of Montana
It began with an invitation from the Bishop of Montana, The Rt. Rev. Frank Brookhart to be the main speaker at the annual Clergy Conference for the Diocese of Montana in April of 2013. He asked me to lead a three day clergy conference covering community ministry, membership drives, and storytelling. The material was well received.
Keynote Speaker at the Annual Convention:
Bishop Brookhart asked me back again to be the keynote speaker at the annual convention of the Diocese of Montana at Kalispell in the fall of 2013. Again, the material was well received.
Tour of the Diocese:
It was a great deal of fun to prepare and present to a very appreciative audience materials about which I have such a deep passion. It is gratifying to know that the work I am doing is appreciated. The testimonials below speak of that appreciation.
“Fr. Paul Bresnahan’s presentations and congregational consultations have had large, positive and resurrectional results in the Diocese of Montana. His ideas for church development are theologically sound, effective and easily grasped. His masterful story-telling, humor and humanity make him a delight speaker and leader. Highly recommended.”
~ The Right Rev. C. Franklin Brookhart, D.Min., Bishop of Montana, The Episcopal Church, PO Box 2020, Helena, MT 59624, 406.442.2230 firstname.lastname@example.org
“Working with Paul Bresnahan was one of the most delightful times of my life”.
“Bresnahan offers fresh, creative, constructive advice for church growth and wellness. His energy is contagious”.
“Knowledge, experience and vision make Paul Bresnahan invaluable for church leaders – clergy and lay alike”.
“Fr. Bresnahan has a treasure trove of wisdom concerning church growth & wellness”.
“When I think of Paul Bresnahan, I think of C.S. Lewis’ book Surprised by Joy. That’s what Fr. Paul brings to the table – JOY.””
~ The Rev. Clark Sherman, Chair of the Evangelism Committee, Diocese of Montana
“Paul Bresnahan has a wonderful way of blending knowledge, humor and authenticity into his presentations that helps engage his listeners right from the start. Using real life case studies in a power point presentation, his message about membership and growing vital faith communities becomes immediately relevant and useful. We continue to glean ideas from his presentation late last year and are using his suggestions as opportunities arise.”
~ The Rev. Terri Ann Grotzinger, Rector, Church of the Holy Spirit, Missoula, MT
St Gabriel’s Church, Douglassville, PA
As I was preparing material for the Diocese of Montana, I was implementing this same model for Membership Development at St Gabriel’s Church in Douglassville, PA where I was serving as an interim priest. We developed a membership management team, and planned and executed a membership drive during the summer and fall of 2012. Within six months we saw a significant increase in both membership and contributions. Interestingly, we also saw an increase in ministry efforts on in community and congregation. Again the work was fruitful and very much appreciated. Several people have written the following about the work:
“Even though he is a BOSOX fan, I still love Paul Bresnahan. In all other matters of life, he is quite informed”. After many years using the “Consecration Sunday” model of Stewardship at our church it was clearly time for a change. Father Paul was serving as our Interim Rector during an extended search process, and one of many gifts he shared with us was his “Membership Development” program. His program was easily customized for our specific needs and gave us a planned roadmap for both Membership and Stewardship. A great way to convey that everyone who wants to be, is a member of our church, while at the same time obtaining their financial commitment to St. Gabriel’s. I believe this new program was the beginning of turning around our giving as well as bringing a positive energy and joy to our congregation. Ultimately leading to calling a new Rector in 2013 with whom we continued this Membership Development program.
~ Bill Strickland, Sr. Warden 2010 – 2014, St. Gabriel’s Episcopal Church, Douglassville PA
Father Paul’s membership program grew our congregation into a deeper spiritual understanding of being active members in God’s church. The tri-fold membership form developed by him gave us examples of how to participate as full members of St. Gabriel’s. We experienced an increase in members and energy under his leadership.
~ Marilyn Rittenhouse, Membership Committee, St Gabriel’s Church, Douglassville, PA
St Paul’s, North Andover
Currently I am serving as the interim priest at St Paul’s Church in North Andover, MA and have presented some of these materials to the vestry there. We have yet to implement a membership drive, but the material was well received.
Father Paul presents his ideas for revitalizing the Church in a succinct, actionable plan. His sharp rebuke of the policies that have led to the decline and failure of mainline Christian churches is not only well thought out and articulate, but his alternative is a call back to the primary mission of spreading the Good News that Christ is Risen.
~ Bill McKenna, Senior Warden, St Paul’s, North Andover
Where others give theories and excuses for declining church membership, Fr Paul presents a solid framework based on a lifetime of practical experience for parishes honestly seeking to reverse the trend. Combined with a wonderful sense of humor and story telling skills, Fr Paul’s presentations and workshops have been enlightening and effective. Participants leave with clearly identified actions and new perspectives.
~ Rich Gorzela, Jr Warden, St Paul’s, North Andover
The Anamchara Fellowship
There is a relatively new phenomenon growing within the church of a dispersed community of like minded individuals who follow a Celtic mode of discipline of worship and spirituality. They follow the Northumbrian “Celtic Daily Prayer”and are part of this emerging church that is both progressive and transcends denominational structure. Typically they have a “Gathering”once a year. In the spring of 2014 they gathered at the retreat center of the Order of the Transfiguration in Cincinnati. The order is made up on monks and nuns who are not cloistered by remain in their marital and work lives as they were before affiliation with Anamchara. To be an Anamchara is to be a soul frined. The movement is growing very impressively.
In May of 2014, I was invited to present a Quiet Day with the theme being “Storytelling”. Again the material was very well received.
This past May the Anamchara Fellowsip invited Paul Bresnahan to be our Retreat Leader. While a few Members had met Paul in Montana, the majority of the Fellowship were not prepared for what we received. Paul fully engages with the people that are in his care. Our Retreat is always scheduled for the end of the week, but Paul came on Monday and watched and listened. When our retreat time arrived he knew his audience and was well prepared to guide us on our continuing journey. Paul is a storyteller. He weaves his story with the stories of Scripture and somehow connected our stories as well. He encouraged interaction between the participants and himself. He was Pastoral yet challenging. The fact that he is a fellow Red Sox fan did not hurt either! Our time together was Blessed.
~ Barbara Conroy, Abbess, The Anamchara Fellowship
I originally heard Paul speak in 2013 at the Montana Diocesan Convention. The topic was growing the church in 21st Century America. His method was to approach all concerned citizens in a small town to rectify a common societal problem –the homeless. He basically enlisted their aid to do Christ’s work without telling them it was Christ’s work. He thinks outside of the box. His delivery is with wit and charm subtly hiding the down to earth wisdom beneath.
~ “Brother Morgan” William Schatzabel, The Anamchara Fellowship
Peabody Community Health Center
One of the most interesting recent challenges I have recently received was from several physicians who work at a local community health center. One of the physicians was a former parishioner. They serve a population that is somewhat impoverished. The staff and the doctors also serve below pay scale for comparable positions in for profit medical centers. The physicians asked me to help identify our mission and develop a sense of collegiality and teamwork among the staff. Interestingly most everyone showed up for the work retreat.
I approached the challenge through the art of storytelling and shared my own journey from poverty and my efforts on behalf of the poor, the homeless, and the marginalized throughout my career. In effect what I presented was a challenge that build effective teamwork based on the intrinsic value of doing the work for not for what it does for us but for what it does in service to others.
Father Paul engaged our community health center in a retreat that went beyond my expectations. Because of his personal life story, he described the main issues faced by our patients in a way that compels us to advocate for them. What I valued the most was his step-by-step narrative of the anticipated needs of a patient during a medical encounter. There I found the motivation to move forward.
~Dr. Marie Andrine Constant, Physician, Peabody Community Health Center.