More Congregational Vitality

web resource
The Witness: A Black Christian Collective
Drawing on the expansive Black Church tradition, this collective connects personal faith and public righteousness with current day issues of religion, race, justice, and culture from a biblical perspective.
web resource
Helping Your Church Respond to the Coronavirus
This United Methodist resource page offers a variety of information and trainings to help churches continue congregational life online.
web resource
Being the Virtual Church: Resources during the COVID-19 Pandemic
This hub of information from the Texas Methodist Foundation offers innovative ways to create community and be the virtual church during social isolation.
article
Black and Latino Startup Churches Work to Stay Afloat During Pandemic
This article highlights congregations of color that revolutionized urban ministry during the COVID-19 health crisis.
web resource
Concerning COVID-19
This website provides guidelines for compassionate congregations during a crisis, instructions for live streaming and mass messaging, plus creative worship and faith formation resources.
web resource
Vibrant Faith Catalyst
This interactive hub connects faith formation leaders with like-minded peers and a wealth of free content.
article
Faith Formation Across the Generations
This article describes various aspects of intergenerational learning. Topics include the benefits of learning together, how to host a gathering, and ways to apply it in your congregation.
For The CRG Created For The CRG
Faith Life: A Millennial Perspective

Most people can carry a casual conversation with a young adult. If that seems like a challenge in your congregation, check out the first part of this blog Relationships: A Millennial Perspective.

How about discussing values and faith beliefs with that younger generation? It’s accurate to say “times have changed.” In many parts of the United States, it’s no longer assumed that people go to worship every week. This makes conversations about faith challenging –but not impossible.

As a congregational consultant and millennial, here’s what I think you should know about millennials and faith.

We value spirituality and group connection. Contrary to statistics declaring the decline of religion in America, millennials do care about spirituality. It just looks different. Consider the Harvard Divinity study How We Gather. Thriving millennial movements like Crossfit and The Dinner Party draw upon common elements: community, personal and social transformation, purpose finding, creativity and accountability.

Action step: Evaluate which of those elements your congregation does well. Practice talking about those benefits and invite potential newcomers.

Value us through hospitality. I appreciate worship services that allow casual clothes and free coffee. It’s not about the cool leader in jeans or the best local brew. It’s about inviting us to come as we are. If it’s between wearing jeans and not showing up, it’s better to have us show up in jeans.

Action step: Take time to evaluate the new visitor experience. This list of 50 Ways to Welcome New People will help. While staying true to your congregation’s culture, eliminate unnecessary discomfort for visitors.

We are likely to question faith and require a safe space to do that. Rather than accepting doctrine or marketing, young adults prioritize exploration and personal experiences to determine their beliefs. This allows for rich, yet messy, thinking. Author of The New Copernicans Dr. John Seel explains this well. I highly recommend checking out his book.

Action step: Practice active listening and humility to prioritize relationships. This is especially important when the other person doesn’t share your beliefs. Celeste Headlee’s TEDTalk will help you brush up on conversation skills. Once you build a trusting space, it becomes easier to dialogue about faith.

For The CRG Created For The CRG
Your Congregation and Innovation

The Harvard Business Review defines innovation as “the difficult discipline of newness.” What new thing is forming in your congregation? The congregation I attended last Sunday is starting a Friday night dinner, which will end with communion. In explaining the gathering, the pastor said “We don’t have to wait for Sunday to break bread together.”

My colleague Kara Faris and I have learned about the difficult discipline of newness from 12 innovative congregations. Stories from leaders of these congregations are in the book Divergent Church.

We learned of six practices evident in various configurations among these congregations. By practices, we mean universal human activities that take on unique and often new shape in these innovative congregations.

The congregations told remarkable stories that featured creative expressions of these six practices:

  • Shaping Community
  • Conversation
  • Artistic Expression
  • Breaking Bread
  • Community Engagement
  • Hospitality

If you were given full license to innovate regarding a practice, which practice would you choose and what would the innovation look like?

If you are interested in reading the book Divergent Church email me at tshapiro@centerforcongregations.org and I will send you a copy.

To learn more about congregations and innovation, take a look at the blog From Hallowed Space to Holograms and the organization Ministry Incubators.

By the way, the congregation starting the Friday night gathering is celebrating its 150th anniversary. Innovation is not dependent on a congregation being shiny and new.

For The CRG Created For The CRG
Key Practices of Thriving Congregations

How would you describe a thriving congregation? Perhaps a thriving congregation has young people attending worship. Another thriving congregation might manage conflict well.

At the Center for Congregations in Indiana, we interact with all kinds of flourishing congregations. Here’s what we’re learning from faith communities that thrive.

 

Healthy Strategies

  • Focus on congregational assets rather than problems. Reframe observations as a positive question “What is going well?”
  • Learn to do new things. This encourages intentional growth as a community. See the book How Your Congregation Learns.
  • Help your people to live life well. Connect teachings, worship, and faith convictions to the challenges and opportunities of everyday life.

As part of our work, we captured the stories of 12 innovative, thriving congregations around the United States. Below are some of their common practices.

 

Intentional Practices of Innovative Congregations

For more information, see the book Divergent Church.

On the surface, thriving may look like growing worship attendance or conflict management. By considering the strategies and practices listed above, your congregation can take new steps to thrive.

 

For further discussion
Brainstorm strategies or practices that happen within thriving congregations.

 

For The CRG Created For The CRG
Making Youth Ministry Matter

The purpose of youth ministry is to foster the personal development of faith, theology and relationships for young people ages 6th-12th grades. This usually happens through a variety of lessons, games, resources and relationships. But how do you know if your youth group is hitting the mark?

The Center for Congregations has worked with more than 60 congregations to create vibrant youth ministries. Here’s what we discovered about the most successful congregations.

Effective Youth Ministries
• Devote financial and human resources as a priority to nurture young people.
• Equip youth to use their faith as a lens for making life plans and decision-making.
• Incorporate young people into congregational leadership and the planning process.

These larger goals will likely take time and decisions from your leadership. Below are small ways to strengthen your youth ministry.

Small Changes, Big Impact
You can make subtle changes to integrate youth into the fabric of your congregation. Recruit adult volunteers to connect with the youth and build intergenerational relationships. Allow the youth to step into meaningful and appropriate roles of responsibility. That could be mowing the lawn, assisting in worship or serving in the nursery. Small changes over time will help youth ministry become a natural part of your culture.

Looking for more youth ministry ideas? Take a look at Mark DeVries’ book Sustainable Youth Ministry or Kara Powell’s Sticky Faith.

 
article
Ten Assumptions of Appreciative Inquiry
This article provides the basic values of Appreciative Inquiry.
Cookies help us deliver our services. By using our services, you agree to our use of cookies.