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Frame in Action

Exploring Congregational Connections

No – those aren’t coronaviruses you see! They are connections between congregations! As much as we all may feel isolated these days, you have likely also been discovering just how interconnected your world is and how much we all need each other. And that goes for congregations, too. The ecology in which your congregation is located is even more complicated these days, so now is a good time to ask questions about your connections: How has your congregation connected with other congregations? What benefits have you experienced because of these connections? In what ways would you like to connect with additional congregations? How can you develop these connections (in ways that account for...
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Flourishing Congregations: Not All Are As They Appear

Amidst the endless stream of research studies, news stories, and anecdotes that rightly report on religious decline across denominations and congregations, where are the signs of congregational life and vitality, and what can we learn from such settings? These are anchoring questions for our Canadian-based research team at the Flourishing Congregations Institute at Ambrose University. When you consider the traits of a flourishing congregation, what would you include or exclude from your list, and why? In 2016 and 2017 our team of scholars with expertise in the social sciences, practical theology, and organizational as well as leadership studies set out to answer this question. We did so...
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Competition in the Neighborhood?

Why would a church ask a departing pastor to sign a non-compete agreement? In December 2018, World magazine, a touchstone periodical for a conservative swath of the evangelical world in the United States, published an exposé on leadership issues at Harvest Bible Chapel—a Chicago-area megachurch and the catalyst for a church planting network that counts some 150 independent congregations. Deep within the article, a pastor who departed from his network congregation reported that his resignation process included a pledge not to participate in a ministry “within a 50-mile radius of Chicago.” Those geographical restrictions were a clear indication that the Harvest leadership, though they may...
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From the Archives: “Faith and Political Engagement: Latina/o Protestants At the Intersection”

From the outside, Allen Temple Ministerios Hispanos (ATMH) is unimposing. Located deep in poverty-stricken East Oakland California, ATMH’s neighbors include two fellow protestant churches, a bar and a liquor store. It’s the week before Thanksgiving. Inside the Baptist church, Esther, the pastor’s wife and church leader, is finishing up the announcements for the close to 40 faithful parishioners. The church of immigrant and second generation Latino/a members will be able to participate in various opportunities to feed the poor and homeless on the days leading up to and including Thanksgiving. Esther stresses that members of Allen Temple should not approach the events with other churches...
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Working Together in Spite of Differences?

Understanding a congregation’s context is complicated these days – but never more important. The communities where congregations reside are a complex mix of changing demographics, shifting economies – and politics. Understanding ourselves and our neighbors is a critical first step toward finding new ways to talk to each other and work together. The challenges were especially apparent when ICE raided a concrete plant in Mount Pleasant, Iowa, detaining 32 workers who were in the U.S. without legal documentation.  As the New York Times reported, the fallout exposed divisions between residents and among the town’s congregations.  For some, the law is the law; while for others, a biblical...
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When Congregations Share Their Properties – 5 Principles for Good Decisions

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Feature Photo Information: Muslim women perform Ramadan prayers at Heartsong Church, suburban Memphis. Heartsong Church: Source: https://www.npr.org/2011/08/21/139831309/a-ramadan-story-of-two-faiths-bound-in-friendship. Photo by Nikki Boertman/The Commercial Appeal.   Written by Paul D. Numrich, Methodist Theological School in Ohio and Capital University My recent studies of congregations have shown me that a shared parking lot often isn’t just about parking. More than that, any kind of property-sharing arrangement, whether with outside groups or diverse internal groups, requires careful assessment of why and how, as well as careful tending of the relationship. Guiding these...
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Piecing Together Resources

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By R. Stephen Warner     During worship at Immanuel Lutheran Church (Evanston, Illinois) on Sunday, September 24, 2017, 135 newly-made quilts were blessed and dedicated for distribution to refugees through Lutheran World Relief (LWR). Thinking about how this came to be can help us see how new resources were brought together by making connections to people and organizations throughout the congregation’s ecology – piecing things together. This is also a story about rituals and spaces and what people do together – the culture of this particular congregation. And it’s a tale of how a small individual effort became something much bigger. Nine, about half, of the members of the...
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Social Engagement and the London Megachurch

The Arts and Humanities Research Council in the UK has funded a three-year study of London’s megachurches and their social engagement activities, to be complete at the end of 2016. Using the definition of a megachurch developed at Hartford Seminary Institute for Religion Research as 2000 or more people per week attending a Protestant church for worship, twelve megachurches were identified in the UK as of 2016, with ten located in London. Although there has been considerable writing and research regarding megachurches in the USA, far less has been done to study megachurches in the rest of the world. This project seeks to contribute to conversations about megachurches in the global...
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Walking with Cameras

A variation of the walking tour is a great way to explore a congregation’s context: walking with cameras. These days most people have access to photographic equipment in the form of a mobile phone, digital camera, or disposable camera. Whatever technology one employs, one should think of cameras as tools for collecting information and photographs as a way to explore questions. In preparation, it is helpful to think about what kinds of information one wants to collect. I find it helpful to have a theme or question to guide visual explorations. In what ways is God at work in your congregation, neighborhood, or city? What needs or opportunities are present near your congregation’s place of...
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Related Tools

A Walking Tour

One easy way to learn about your congregation is to take a walking tour of the area surrounding it: take note of what’s familiar and what’s not.
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Congregational Timelines

History is both a story and a resource. Collectively developing a timeline can help deepen a congregation’s self-understanding and it’s a great way to build community.

Share Your Findings

Want to better understand your congregation? We can teach you our methods for studying your own congregation!