There is a great deal of conversation going on at the moment amongst those who talk about such things around the budget of the Episcopal Church. I’ll let those wiser and better informed than I chime in on how to fix what’s wrong with things. Me, I have a different kind of suggestion…
The way things are trending is to suggest that more ministry “stuff” be done at the local or the network level. Ok…so how do you find out what the best stuff is, where the really good ideas are? Yes, good ministry is being done out here—so is the bad stuff. And statistically speaking there’s probably more bad and mediocre than good. How to separate the wheat from the chaff, the sheep from the goats?
One option is to use a grant-leveraged process. That is, various “big” bodies that have funding invite grant proposals from local groups that think they’re doing good stuff. Then the big body staff folks sort through them and fund the ones they think are doing the best. I think this may be a step forward because it does provide a way to look at and work with efforts that are already going on the ground.
Another option is like the grant-driven model but with a free-market twist… One initial caveat: the kinds of things that I’m thinking of here are in a few areas—chiefly communications, web app stuff, and Christian formation programs. I think this approach will work well with them, maybe not so much for other areas.
I’d recommend not purely a grant-driven model, but also a contest-based model (and it probably would work best as a both/and rather than an either/or). Here’s an example of what I have in mind: A Digital X prize for the best Episcopal mobile app. The rules would be simple. Individuals or teams would create an app that would run on both Android and iOS platforms to promote Episcopal spirituality or identity—leaving it deliberately and broadly open. The app would have to be released into the actual marketplace by a deadline. Then, a month or two later, a board would meet and—factoring in comments from actual users–cash prizes in the low thousands would be awarded to the first, second, and third place apps with perhaps some honorable mentions as well. The apps that place could have the option of being picked up by Church Publishing (or another body if there’s one that fits…).
The same could be done for Christian Formation: A Digital X prize for the best 6 Session Class for Adults on the Sacraments (or what have you). All entries would have to be open source—freely available—and, again, cash prizes would be awarded.
The rationale here is that a contest-based system would inspire people to put the work in to create some really good programs (code-wise and education-wise) that would be of great benefit to the church as a whole. The good stuff would be used whether it wins or not and the bad stuff…won’t. The contests would serve as the impetus for their creation and circulation, but the enduring artifacts would remain despite the outcome. The church is the real winner. For what it would cost a publishing house to do one program, they could crowd-source (hopefully) quite a number of quality products that could be promoted widely.
It’s a thought…