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How is your congregation oriented to the community?: Mission Orientation

There are four basic ways of relating the congregation to its community, according to a study of congregations in Hartford, Connecticut (Roozen, McKinney and Carroll, 1994).  These orientations align closely with theology, but vary slightly. These orientations stem from perceptions of God’s actions, the faith community’s role in society, where action is located (in this world or another), and whether or not the congregation is the primary actor or a passive responder.

4 Mission Orientations

  • Sanctuary – the congregation’s presence is for providing a sacred space and safe haven for the world
  • Evangelistic – the congregation’s role is to seek individuals who need salvation, changing the world one person at a time
  • Civic – the congregation’s task is to promote and preserve what is good in the world
  • Activist – the congregation’s mission is to change the structures of the world that cause suffering and injustice

Curious to know what kind of orientation your faith community has? Use the survey below:

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For each of the following statements, indicate whether it is Basic, Quite Important, Somewhat Important, Not Really Important, or Contrary to your congregation’s sense of mission.

  1. Providing adult education that brings laity face to face with urban problems, racial discrimination, world poverty and hunger, and other social issues.
  2. Providing for members an earthly refuge from the trials and tribulations of daily life.
  3. Cooperating with other denominations and faith groups to achieve community improvements.
  4. Helping people accept that their condition and status in life is determined and controlled by God, and that therefore one has only to accept it and live the best life possible.
  5. Promoting social change through the use of organized, collective influence or force
  6. Helping people resist the temptation to experiment with new “pleasures” and “lifestyles” so prominent in our secular society and media
  7. Providing aid and services to those in need within the local community
  8. Maintaining an active, organized evangelism program; inviting the unchurched to participate in the life of the congregation
  9. Actively reaching out to members of other religious groups with an invitation to participate in the life of the congregation
  10. Encouraging the pastor to speak out in public and from the pulpit on controversial social, political, and economic matters
  11. Preparing church members for a world to come in which the cares of this world are absent
  12. Encouraging members to make specific declarations of their personal faith to friends, neighbors, and strangers
  13. Providing financial support to political or social action groups and organizations
  14. Maintaining a proper distance between the congregation and governmental affairs
  15. Helping people to understand that they are “agents” of God’s hope, responsible for actualizing the good and humane as they share in the development of history and society
  16. Fostering a sense of patriotism among the congregation’s members
  17. Encouraging members to reach their own decisions on issues of faith and morals.
  18. Involving the congregation corporately in social and political activities.
  19. Organizing social action groups within the congregation to directly accomplish some social or political end.
  20. Protecting members from the false teachings of other churches and religious groups.
  21. Listening to what the “world” is saying in order to understand what the congregation’s ministry should be about.
  22. Encouraging and inspiring members, as individuals, to become involved in social and political issues.
  23. Encouraging members to adhere faithfully to civil laws as they are mandated by governmental authorities.

From David A. Roozen, William McKinney, and Jackson W. Carroll, Varieties of Religious Presence (New York: Pilgrim Press, 1984), p. 84-86.

Ellen Childs
About the Author
Dr. Ellen Childs holds a Ph.D. in sociology from University of Notre Dame. She is Website Director at StudyingCongregations.org