Called to Lives of Meaning and Purpose

The Called to Lives of Meaning and Purpose Initiative aims:

  • to deepen and enrich the lives of Christians by equipping them to discern and live out their callings.
  • and to enhance the vitality of congregations by developing new ministry models for inspiring and supporting the Christian callings of their members.

Innovation for Vocation
Fuller Theological Seminary

The Hub on the Hill
American Baptist College

Soundings Project
Baylor University

Innovation Hub for Congregation Sustainability
Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference

Regent Exchange
Regent College

Life is Calling
Samford University

Communities of Calling Initiative
Collegeville Institute

C3 Initiative
Vibrant Faith

The Myrtle Collaboration
Louisville Seminary

Creative Callings
Boston University SOT

Baptized for Life
Virginia Theological Seminary

The inVocation Project
Hope College

Called to Lives of Meaning & Purpose
Whitworth University

The Called to Lives of Meaning and Purpose Initiative, launched in 2018, is generously funded by Lilly Endowment, Inc. The Initiative funds 13 innovation hubs from across North America, along with the Collegeville Institute, which serves as its coordinator. The coordination effort helps these hubs work with congregations in launching ministries that help Christians discover and claim how God is calling them to lead lives of meaning and purpose.

Called to Lives of Meaning and Purpose Initiative


abby building

In 2019, our focus is on innovation: What is innovation and what does it mean to be an innovation hub serving congregations? We have planned four modules for hub team members to participate in via Zoom meetings.

Six meeting times will be offered in each module, thus creating several small groups. For each module, participants will: 

  • Sign up for one meeting time (team members can choose different meetings, too). Click the meeting time on the module section below to sign up.
  • Prepare the pre-meeting work (approximately 1-2 hours): listening to an interview with an expert on innovation in churches; reflecting on scripture through the lens of innovation; and reading or viewing stories about innovation.
  • Participate in a 1-hour Zoom meeting with 5-6 other participants and a facilitator from the Coordination team.

If you have experience or resources on innovation that you can share, please let us know. Hubs are welcome to use any of the resources provided here with their congregations.

2019 Coordination Activities

Module 1: Introducing Innovation

April & May

Module 1: Introducing Innovation

What do we mean by the term “innovation”? How can we explain to congregations what we mean by innovation?

Pre-Meeting Work

Please listen, read, and reflect before the Zoom meeting:  

Listen

Interview with Greg Jones, Faith and Leadership, Duke Divinity School


The same interview is posted here in two different file formats.

Readings

Greg Jones, Preserving Tradition and Leading Change

Floyd Thompkins and Byron Bland, “Every Church an Innovator”

Victoria Atkinson White: We create in community


Scripture reflection

Mark 2:1-12.

There are interesting issues of translation in the very first verse: is Jesus in a house, in his own home, or does the house symbolize the early house churches (where the risen Lord was felt to be “at home”)? The following questions play with the idea that innovation in congregations can be a little like taking the roof apart for the power of God to become manifest—highly effective, if a little unsettling. The second-to-last portion here marks another interesting issue for translators, the theme of ordinary people’s “rising” in Galilee after their encounters with Jesus. This theme becomes apparent for readers who heed the angel’s invitation at the end of Mark, to “Go to Galilee. There you will see him.”

The friends of the paralyzed man go to great lengths to bring him into the presence of Jesus. In doing so, they bring up issues of calling: the paralyzed man has a call to agency and freedom; the friends have an unstoppable call to assist him. Where are congregations experiencing a call to assist particular groups that they discern may be “paralyzed,” unable to answer God’s callings on account of societal neglect, misunderstanding, or marginalization because of youth or age or unjust discrimination related to race or immigration status? Who needs entry into Jesus’ presence?

The friends stage a remarkable intervention by digging through the roof of the home where Jesus is. What surprising innovations or improvisations are being called forth among the congregations to help people gain access to a more direct, liberating relationship with Christ?

What role does forgiveness play in this work?


Zoom meeting dates

April 30, 1:00 pm, 2:30 pm, 4:00 pm (CST)

May 1, 8:30 am, 10:00 am, 11:30 am (CST)


Discussion Questions

How does innovation relate to concepts and practices you are already familiar with?

How do your pastors and congregations talk about innovation or change, when they talk about it?

What language do they use for processes of making changes?

What do you want to know more about, with respect to innovation?


Additional Resources

Shannon Hopkins, Matryoshka Haus

Design Thinking

Kendra Creasy Dean – Princeton Theological Seminary, innovation lecture at Fuller Seminary; see also Ministry Incubators

See Faith and Leadership resources on:

Module 2: Innovation in Congregations

June

Module 2: Innovation in Congregations

What are stories of innovative congregations?

Pre-Meeting Work

Please listen, read, and reflect before the Zoom meeting:  


Listen

Interview with Kara Faris, Indianapolis Center for Congregations
Co-Author, Divergent Churches

The same interview is posted here in two different file formats.

Reading

Innové Studios, Colonial Church Case Study by Amy Sherman.
Maggy Barankitse, Love Made Me an Inventor
Rev. Michael Mather, “Excerpt from “Having Nothing, Possessing Everything,”
The Kuhnekt Initiative builds relationships among church members


Scripture reflections

1 Thess 1:2-5

Note the order here: work of faith, labor of love, steadfastness of hope.

What makes doing new things in congregations a work of faith? How are the new things you are contemplating deeply faithful?

Love of what (or love of whom) is pushing you to make these changes? What are you learning about the labor of love?

What practices help you to maintain steadfastness of hope?

How would you describe the Gospel (“not in word only”) that is longing to become known through your congregations?

Matt 13:52

Some of the hardest work of congregations is in discerning what old ways to hold on to and what new things deserve attention and energy. Note that the master of the household is not bringing things out for himself, but in order to serve others.

What are some important principles for determining what is truly “treasure” (what to leave behind and what to bring out, in the present context)?

How might a process of innovation be an instrument for precisely this discernment?


Zoom meeting dates

June 11, 1:00 pm, 2:30 pm, 4:00 pm (CST)

June 27, 8:30 am, 10:00 am, 11:30 am (CST)


Discussion Questions

What are the motivations for innovation among the pastors and congregations you are working with? What language are you using with your congregations, in relation to innovation? Tell a story about a connection you are seeing between vocation and innovation.


Additional Resources

See Faith and Leadership on: Congregational innovation

Some particularly good stories include:

PCUSA faith community takes flight, celebrating Appalachian music and culture

Art and faith converge at a hybrid church/community arts center

A small rural church is bringing together people affected by the opioid epidemic

A Christian social enterprise offers healing to survivors of violence and abuse

Chris Russell, Fresh ExpressionsInterview

Videos:

Kit Ford, Do Good X Fellow, FTE

Ted Talk: Jeffrey Brown: How we cut youth violence in Boston by 79 percent

Module 3 Innovative Organizations that Work with Congregations

July

Module 3 Innovative Organizations that Work with Congregations

Each congregation selected for admission into the Communities of Calling Initiative is expected to:

What can hubs do to encourage congregations to be innovative with their work on vocation?

Pre-Meeting Work

Please listen, read, and reflect before the Zoom meeting:  


Listen

Interview with Stephen Lewis, Forum for Theological Exploration


Reading

Faith and Leadership: Stories on institutional innovation


Scripture reflection

Paul cannot control what the Philippians do; he can only try to give them encouragement and counsel from a distance. The verb “determine” in the sixth line means literally, “to prove through testing or experimentation.”

How does love lead to knowledge and insight?

Discerning what is best is done through a process of experimentation, interpretation, new insight, and moving forward again. What qualities and practices does a congregation need in order to engage such a process over time?

Paul adopts the widest possible angle for describing the point of the Philippians’ faithful actions (“the day of Christ,” “for the glory and praise of God”). What framework is important to your congregations in thinking about the goal of their innovations?


Zoom meeting dates

July 12, 8:30 am, 10:00 am, 11:30 am (CST)

July 16, 1:00 pm, 2:30 pm, 4:00 pm (CST)


Discussion Questions

How has your institution been innovative in the past and what about this project is pushing you to do something new now?

Tell a story about a way in which your institution is innovating, in order to work well with your congregations in this project.


Additional Resources

See Faith and Leadership on: Institutional innovation

Harvard Divinity School students on innovative leaders: How We Gather

Module 4: Theories of Innovation: Theological, Biblical, and Business Modules

August

Module 4: Theories of Innovation: Theological, Biblical, and Business Modules

What are good theological resources on innovation? What are other good resources?

Pre-Meeting Work

Please listen, read, and reflect before the Zoom meeting:  


Listen

Interview with Scott Cormode, Fuller Seminary


Reading

C. Kavin Rowe, Traditioned innovation and Pentecost

Joy Bronson, ABC 2018 gathering (video)


Scripture reflection

Mark 6:30-44

This very familiar story recounts a series of improvisations, from a planned quiet getaway, to the unexpected arrival of a crowd, to a long day of teaching, to an unforeseen need to feed people. Not everyone finds it easy to shift gears from one expectation to another.

What is the theological grounding for faithful improvisation and innovation in this story?

What seems to guide Jesus’s unfolding decisions?

What one thing in this story reminds you of something you are encountering as you guide congregations in processes of innovation?


Zoom meeting dates

August 14, 8:30 am, 10:00 am, 11:30 am (CST)

August 27, 1:00 pm, 2:30 pm, 4:00 pm (CST)


Discussion Questions

How does innovation relate to important theological commitments of your congregations?

What theories and models of innovation have proven useful for working with your congregations?

How are you making the theological and biblical connections? Is something missing?

What are you learning about innovation from the congregations themselves?


Additional Resources

See Faith and Leadership on:

Several good resources include Disruptive Innovation, David Odem; Interview with Roger Martin, author of The Opposable Mind and discussions of books on innovation by Alan Deutschman and David Bornstein

Module 5: Innovative Approaches to Vocation in Congregations

December

Module 5: Innovative Approaches to Vocation in Congregations<br>