There are no quick fixes or easy solutions to growing a faith community, but flight is possible.

The book cover for "Piloting Church: Helping Your Congregation Take Flight."
Credit: Courtesy of Chalice Press

Learn how to take flight—and land safely! Cameron Trimble combines her love of flying and her love of church renewal in Piloting Church, a straightforward, faithful book. By applying lessons she has learned as a pilot to congregational planning, she challenges the individual and the church to assess their flight plans, learn to read conditions, and practice, practice, practice until bad weather or even engine failure will be manageable for your community of faith.

I saw Cameron Trimble in action a few years ago at an event hosted by the Center for Progressive Renewal, of which she is the executive director and CEO. She was energetic, faithful, and compassionate. All of these things come through in her book. As a minister, she has led congregations and consulted with many churches in the United States, and her learnings can definitely be applied to our Canadian context.

Piloting Church is a fairly quick read at 136 pages, but is packed with stories, ideas, exercises, and discussion questions. It could be used by an individual minister or church leader, but could also be studied and engaged with in a community of faith. This is the type of book that could be used as a study resource, or by a board or council looking to renew and revitalize their local ministry.

Trimble is clear that there are no quick fixes or easy solutions to growing a faith community. Faith communities are made up of people with various visions, faith backgrounds, and expectations. With checklists inspired by aviation protocol, a flight route can be mapped, new training can be acquired and practiced, and, through all of this, flight is possible.

It isn’t just about individual churches doing well. Trimble is really interested and invested in the success of the Christian movement, often referring to the importance and imperative of creating successful Christian communities. “The stories we tell ourselves about God, the world, and each other are bound in theological wrappings…. Your theology drives the shape of your congregation” (page 80). And it matters that Christian communities of faith are thriving.

The real goal is living out the gospel within your context. Trimble acknowledges that she doesn’t have all the answers, but she has been trained by other pilots. They have taught her to understand the basics and to always improve her skills and increase her experience. The practice of flight is what makes a good pilot. After each flight, pilots debrief and recognize the things they will do better next time.

“It would be a shame if you allowed yourself to get away with merely existing, coasting along through life with no focus or vision for making a positive difference.” (Trimble, 64)

This is a helpful and accessible book. No, it will not solve all the challenges your community of faith is facing. But it will offer hope, direction, and inspiration to imagine what might be possible if we’re able to learn from mistakes, learn from others, and be open to taking flight.

The Rev. Bronwyn Corlett is Program Coordinator, Ministry Recruitment, at the General Council Office. Find out more about the call to ministry in The United Church of Canada and also follow us on the God's World Needs Leaders Facebook page.

The Rev. Cameron Trimble was the theme speaker of the inaugural Annual meeting for the Western Ontario Waterways, Antler River Watershed, and Horseshoe Falls Regional Councils in the spring of 2019. Her book Piloting Church: Helping Your Congregation Take Flight (Chalice Press: St. Louis, MO, 2019) is available through UCRDstore.ca.

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