In late 2019 I approached The Rev’d David Browne from The Parish of Dalby and asked him if we could work on a preaching plan for 2020. He graciously agreed, and from there we invited The Rev’d Scott Windred from The Parish of Sunnybank to join us. What has emerged from this initial request is a fruitful collaboration across Regions, as we resource, encourage and support one another.
Along with The Rev’d Zoe Browne, who is Honorary Assistant Priest at Dalby, we meet online via Zoom three weeks before a new sermon series begins to write sermons and prepare resources. This means that we meet every five to eight weeks or so depending on the liturgical calendar. Between planning meetings, we collaborate online via Zoom, phone calls or Facebook Messenger.
We stay with the rhythms of the Anglican Church’s lectionary, aligning our sermons and Bible study resources with the set scriptures, while marking key days such as Trinity Sunday, Pentecost and so on. We also try to cater for our communities by keeping in line with school holidays and local events.
Together we look at the lectionary and identify patterns, centering our series themes around these. For example, we might look at the readings for Lent and identify an overarching theme that we want to explore during this period, such as “God is a promise keeper”.
As we plan, we seek to include a mix of topical, exegetical and character studies so that our congregations can engage with the scriptures in a richly comprehensive way.
A primary benefit of approaching this so intentionally together is that we each bring different gifts. By sharing these individual strengths, such as Bible literacy, teaching resource innovation, pastoral insights, graphic design creativity and editing skills, we’re able to create resources that are as a whole much stronger than their individual parts.
We use a Google Sheet (spreadsheet) for each lectionary year and corresponding sermon series, so we can all access the content easily. Our series content variously includes:
- Preaching and Bible study plans (prepared by all of us).
- Bible study booklets (prepared by all of us).
- Kids’ Talk videos (prepared by Zoe).
- Kids’ Church resources (prepared by Zoe).
- Youth Bible study booklets to suit teenagers (prepared by Chris and Zoe).
- “Family Time” resources for use at home during the week (prepared by David).
- Social media graphics, which are images/illustrations with brief text (created by Chris and Scott).
- Posters (created by all of us).
We use the free design platform Canva to create the graphics and the booklets.
Going on a planning and prayer retreat once a year for at least three days is both productive and fun. In September 2021, we went to Tamborine Mountain for our retreat, with financial assistance from the Parishes and Other Mission Agencies Commission (PMC). While on retreat we reflected on what we could do better. For example, we realised that we needed to print our Bible study booklets much earlier, so that our study leaders could better engage with the content.
During our retreat we also decided upon the sermon series and Bible study themes for 2022 and worked on the associated design elements. For these components, the in-person planning time was more productive. As David said in his retreat report:
“By pooling our gifts, passions and energies, we were able to complete our planning for the year ahead in a few days…It was good to share our lives in a safe space with a shared desire to bless the people in our parishes.”
As well as supporting each other by sharing teaching content, we also encourage each other in other ways. This sometimes means chatting to each other on the phone in the car to check in, or calling each other when someone sends the occasional “it’s been a tough day” message. We also schedule weekly Zoom catch-ups for brainstorming the given week’s sermon, and to chat about family life and ministry. As we’re all friends, we know that we can trust each other.
Another benefit of our collaborative model is that our respective congregations have a strong sense of journeying with a wider Diocesan community. Our parishioners especially feel connected to each other upon discovering that other congregations are wrestling with the same questions. I also love to hear my parishioners say things like, “It feels like we know Zoe from her Kids’ Talk videos.” It’s also wonderful being welcomed at Dalby and Sunnybank like I’m part of the community.
When we’re all using the same lectionary readings week to week, it makes complete sense for us as peers to share the workload, the digital and print resources, and our unique gifts. We maintain the identity and needs of our own communities, while also supporting and encouraging them in their faith formation.
Top 10 tips for implementing a cross-parish resource collaboration group
- If you are looking at implementing a similar model, consider asking parish priests with whom you can build trust and rapport. A smaller group (three to four people) is more manageable.
- Meet online (e.g. via Zoom) to overcome distance and travel time.
- Prioritise and schedule a regular meeting at a mutually convenient time. Doing this in advance helps keep the routine.
- Divide up tasks based on people’s skills and interests.
- Instead of deciding on a weekly theme, look at the lectionary readings across the given liturgical season to identify a broader thematic pattern and explore this in the sermon series. A mix of series lengths (of four to 10 weeks) is dynamic.
- Be gracious and flexible with group members when needed – people’s energy levels and outputs can fluctuate.
- Think about the best platforms to use, such as Facebook Messenger for chats; Zoom for online meeting; Google Docs and Sheets so content is easily updatable and accessible; Canva for design tasks; iMovie, Filmora or DaVinci Resolve for video editing and YouTube for hosting; printable Word Docs for sermons; and, social media channels for promotions/invitations.
- Chat on the phone outside of group meetings for both informal check-ins and pastoral support.
- Go on retreat together once a year for at least three days to plan and pray for the year ahead.
- Know that it’s okay to make mistakes, to learn by trial and error and to allow specific initiatives/elements to run their course. Having this kind of entrepreneurial mindset keeps things fresh and interesting.
If you have any questions about this model, please contact any of the clergy involved in this initiative via email:
The Rev’d Chris Bate (All Saints’, Booval): email@example.com
The Rev’d David Browne (St John’s, Dalby): firstname.lastname@example.org
The Rev’d Scott Windred (St Barnabas’, Sunnybank): email@example.com
Editor’s note: If you have a story to share about how your parish is collaborating with other Anglican parishes, schools, Anglicare or ministries, the editor would love to hear from you. Please email Michelle McDonald via firstname.lastname@example.org.Jump to next article