The Public Church Framework & Best Questions [Blog Collection]

Below is a collection of blogs written by Hub staff to help congregations and innovation teams gain better understanding of the Public Church Framework.

Our goal is NOT to help faith communities create flashy programs. Our goal is to help faith communities build a learning culture in which congregational leaders are champions in leading and managing improvement, innovation, and change. A learning culture allows faith communities to get out of their comfort zone to move out to the neighborhood, actively listen to the people’s stories, and comfortably act upon these stories.

Yes, it is possible for your faith community to hold strong to its core values while continuously improves and innovates!

  1. Introduction to the Public Church Framework:
    Ezekiel and the Public Church: Everything Will Live Where the River Goes 
  2. How to start working on each artform of the Public Church Framework:
    Best Questions in the Public Church Framework
  3. A guide to Accompaniment:
    Accompaniment — Being The Church Beyond The Walls

More blogs will be added on this page as Phase Two of our project unfold. We try our best to respond to the needs/challenges of our partner faith communities by providing useful, relevant resources. 

Accompaniment — Being The Church Beyond The Walls

By Jeremy Myers, PhD

 

The Public Church Framework begins in accompaniment. This sounds and looks great on paper, but we have found many leaders and congregations struggle with this artform. They struggle with putting it into practice. They even struggle with the word. So, it is important to explain what accompaniment is, what it is not, why it is important, and how it might be practiced.

What is it?

icon_three arrows going outwardAccompaniment is the word we use to describe the first artform, or movement, of the Public Church Framework. It is used to describe a faith community’s movement out into its neighborhood or context. It assumes a desire to know the neighbor, and their story, in their own words. It assumes our neighbor is not just “everyone in God’s creation”, but is also those who live right next-door — people, institutions, systems, watersheds, grove of trees, herds of cattle, and other creatures around us.

Accompaniment takes seriously the location in which our faith communities are planted and challenges us to do the intentional work of getting to know these places and those who call these places home. We do this become we believe God is already at work bringing about redemption in these places. Accompaniment is a way for us to uncover the work God is already doing in our neighborhoods. Accompaniment happens as our faith communities engage their neighborhoods and neighbors in order to (1) hear how they are already experiencing wholeness, healing, redemption, reconciliation and (2) how the faith community might come alongside their neighbors as they seek these things. If our faith communities want to proclaim good news into people’s’ lives, then we first have to do the hard work of listening to our neighbors’ stories.

What is it NOT?

Accompaniment is often misunderstood in some particular ways. Therefore, it is helpful to be explicit about what accompaniment is not.

  1. Accompaniment is NOT searching for a problem to solve. It is not a way in which we look for something to fix.
  2. Accompaniment is NOT market research. We are not conducting a survey in order to discover what type of church our neighbors wish to join.
  3. Accompaniment is NOT agenda-driven. It is not a process of listening to others in order to find ways they might fit into the work you are planning. Accompaniment prioritizes the neighbor and their story.

Why is it important?

The artform of accompaniment is important for several reasons. Some theological and some practical.

It is important theologically because we confess faith in a God who accompanies creation. The God of scripture creates a world of accompaniment where humans, other creatures, vegetation, climate, etc. accompany and provide for one another — for better or worse. God’s creative word that brings about this creation becomes incarnate in Jesus Christ who is God’s word accompanying (dwelling with) us. God’s spirit continues to free us and empower us to be in accompaniment with one another. Therefore, accompaniment becomes the way in which we live out God’s mission in our world and specifically in our neighborhoods.

Accompaniment is also important for practical reasons. The reality is that fewer people are seeking to be involved in faith communities. If we wish to play a meaningful role in people’s’ lives, then we will need to seek them out and engage them in the places where they live their lives rather than expecting them to show up in our places. Lastly, if faith communities want their members to learn to live into God’s mission in their daily lives, then faith communities will need to practice this together. Our faith, and Christ’s love, compels us to accompany our neighbors.

How is it practiced?

There are endless ways to practice accompaniment and the Public Church Framework resists prescribing best practices. It is the work of God’s people to learn how to put accompaniment into practice in ways that match their context, their neighbors’ needs, and their own assets. That said, here are a few ways to get started.

  • Neighborhood Prayer Walk — Learn to practice the Ignatian Awareness Examen, a contemplative prayer exercise that guides you through an examination of your day as you prayerfully seek moments of desolation and moments of consolation. Moments of desolation are times of sorrow, brokenness, fear, anxiety, etc. Moments of consolation are times of hope, healing, courage, peace, etc. Then use this same method as you walk through the neighborhood in which your faith community is situated, asking God to show you the places of desolation and consolation in that neighborhood. Practice this with other members of your faith community and your neighborhood. Together, map the locations of those places of consolation and desolation.
  • One-to-Ones — Learn to practice one-to-ones. These are intentional listening meetings between two people with the sole purpose of getting to know the other person, their desires, passions, interests, and heartaches. Here is a helpful tool from the Episcopal Church that explains the one-to-one relational meeting and offers some great questions. Their questions to be used “with neighbors and people not in your church” are particularly rich questions for accompaniment. 
  • Listening Posts — Identify places in your faith community’s neighborhood where people gather. Places where you need to be present to meet these neighbors and hear their stories. Find ways to be in the places more often. These are great places to meet people for one-to-ones.
  • Neighborhood Storytellers — Identify the storytellers in the neighborhood. These are the people with long institutional memory about the history, events, and dynamics of the neighborhood. Take time to meet them. Schedule a one-to-one with them. Learn from them. Remember to actively seek out the storytellers in your neighborhoods who are marginalized — people of color, the poor, immigrants, etc. These folks are storytellers as well and have important perspectives of life lived in the neighborhood.
  • Show Up — Find out when important gathers are happening in your faith community’s neighborhood and show up at those gatherings. These might be festivals, neighborhood association meetings, school board meetings, election debates, etc. Show up and listen.
  • Visit — Pick some of the questions for neighbors and people not in your church from the one-to-one guide and then boldly start knocking on doors in the neighborhood around your faith community. Kindly ask if them might have a few minutes to answer a couple questions – no strings attached. If they participate, then make the most of that opportunity as a segue into a relationship with that neighbor.
  • Gather Find reasons and ways to gather people from the surrounding community either in your faith community’s space or in other spaces in the neighborhood. For example, host a debate for local candidates during election season. If there is a tragedy, gather the community together in a public space to lament and mourn. Learn more about Friendraising then partner with a local non-profit and see if they might let your faith community host a Friendraiser for their non-profit.
  • Environmental Audit Learn what the environmental issues might be in your neighborhood. What watershed is your faith community located in? What does it mean to be in an accompaniment relationship with creation in your neighborhood?

 

icon_ a starBest questions?

Again, we resist prescribing best practices for accompaniment or any of the artforms in the Public Church Framework.

Although the ones listed above are a pretty good place to start, it is vital that your faith community discovers how it can do this work in a way that matches the assets and needs present in your context. We are willing to share what we consider to be the best questions of accompaniment. What are the practices your faith community will develop in order to be able to chase after and answer these questions? These questions can also be found in an earlier blog on Best Questions in the Public Church Framework.

 

  • What is our neighborhood or parish (geographical location)?
  • Where are our listening posts?
  • What are the places and spaces in our context we are in relationship with and have a history with?
  • What are the places and spaces in our neighborhood we are curious to learn more about?
  • Who are the neighborhood historians — people who know the history of this place?
  • Who is our neighbor? What are the demographics of our neighborhood (race, socioeconomic, single family/rental units, age)? How do these compare to the demographics of our faith community?
  • How are our neighbors experiencing hope & joy?
  • How are our neighbors experiencing anxiety, fear and heartache?
  • What are our neighbors’ hopes, dreams and desires for our shared neighborhood?
  • Who cares about the things and people our faith community cares about?

 

icon_happy faceCommit to Action

  1. The most important thing is to get out there and start doing this work!
  2. You do not need to perfect it before you start doing it! 
  3. Move out into the neighborhood, ask good questions, and listen!

Resources on Young Adults

Hub writing icon_a penHUB WRITINGS

[BOOK]  Liberating Youth from Adolescence by Jeremy Myers (2018) — Jeremy Myers calls the church to challenge the dominant societal view of adolescents as “underdeveloped consumers” who can only contribute creatively when they mature into adulthood. Myers argues that young people are innately creative creatures called by God to love and serve right now.

 

Articles icon_a page of newspaperARTICLES & RESEARCH/REPORTS

[RESEARCH]  Millennial Studies — A collection of studies on Millennial done by Pew Research Center

[ARTICLE]  “10 Things that won’t attract millennial” by Frank Powell (2017) — Discusses about needs for young adults to engage in Christian community

[ARTICLE]  “Church of England Resurrects Tradition to Attract Millennials” by Meredee Berg (2017) — A perspective on the return of disciplined, reverent worship service in the U.K.

[RESEARCH]  Deloitte Millennial Survey (2018) —  7th annual Millennial Survey (sample size = 10,000 international) to show trends

[RESEARCH]  “Religions Among the Millennials” by the Pew Research Center (2010) — Explores the behaviors, values and opinions of the teens and twenty-somethings that make up the Millennial generation.

[ARTICLE]  “The Hearts of Millennials” by Martin E. Marty (2017) — A discussion on “public religion” and how Millennials’ focus on larger issues in our culture.

[RESEARCH]  The millennial generation: A demographic bridge to America’s diverse future — A report generated by Brookings Institution’s meta-analysis of census data as well as other demographic studies.

[BOOK]  You Lost Me by David Kinnaman — David Kinnaman reveals the long-awaited results of a new nationwide study of 18- to 29-year-olds with a Christian backgroun

Other Communities Icon_ human symbols standing in a circle embracing a lightbulbOTHER COMMUNITIES

How We Gather — One of the most widely-read documents in seminaries and community startups;  a 2015 student-led exploration of how Millennials are finding and building communities of meaning and belonging has morphed into a ground-breaking study of organizations that are effectively unbundling and remixing the functions historically performed by traditional religious institutions.

The Millennial Impact Report — For more than 9 years this group has been researching how Millennials engage with the causes that are important to them.

Authenticity and Christian community

In our learning with faith communities and young adults, the word “authenticity” found its way into many conversations and interviews. There are big important words that sometimes can risk losing their impact as they become more commonplace in our vocabulary. Authenticity is one of these words and it is worth pausing and digging deeper into how this word lands and shapes Christian faith and community.

A big thank you to Rev. Mark S. Hanson, with Augsburg’s Christensen Center for Vocation and former bishop of the ELCA, for putting thought to paper and sharing his reflections on the notion of “authenticity” with our learning community.

 

Reflections on Authenticity

by Rev. Mark S. Hanson

What words would you use to describe your congregation? When I ask that question I hear a variety of responses but rarely the word “authentic”. Yet when I listen to young adults describe the communities they value, authentic is the word I often hear.

It is more than a choice of words. I hear in the longing for authentic community a criticism of churches that seem more preoccupied with institutional survival, denominational identities, theological categories and structures of authority than with being communities of faith in which one can be vulnerable in one’s humanity and transparent about one’s identity without fear of judgment or exclusion.

It is understandable that a generation that has grown up with intense debates and divisions over who is fully welcome to participate in and lead Christian communities would long for communities that begin not with establishing criteria for acceptance but with a commitment to a radical hospitality that welcomes all.

Furthermore, I hear in the calling for authenticity a rejection of the pervasiveness of a culture of self-deception and manipulation. A culture that is often labelled “post-truth” is rejected as being antithetical to authentic community in which “my truth” and “your truth” are heard and respected. The violation of trust through sexual misconduct by those in positions of authority contributes to this distrust and disconnect from the church.

What might the longing for authenticity mean for a congregation? I believe it calls for a clear commitment that our first priority is to attentive listening rather than “we need more young people in order to help our church survive.” The yearning for authenticity begins with empathy for the challenging circumstances of another person’s life. It calls for appreciative curiosity and compassion rather than judgment. For many, authentic community will occur only after trust is established, expectations are named and wounds from painful relationships begin to heal.

Is there validity in the perception that in worship our words of confession and absolution, our pleas for Christ’s mercy and our prayers of intercession can be heard as more formulaic than heartfelt, more prescribed than authentic? The desire for authentic worship calls for more conversation than simply offering the option of contemporary or traditional worship.

I do not find it helpful to label people “Nones”. Think about what we are doing. We are describing a person as “no-one” in relationship to how we define ourselves as people of faith, religious, church members etc. An authentic community begins by letting others describe themselves in terms of their own convictions and self-understanding.

In the longing for authentic community, I hear a rejection of a culture that ascribes power and privilege on the basis of economic prosperity, gender and racial identity, sexual orientation and citizenship. I think Millennials are seeking communities –Christian and others- that are fully human which is to say communities growing more and more into the image of God whose vulnerability led God to experience the fullness of our humanity in Jesus. It is understandable why many young adults seem far more interested in Jesus than in the church. For Jesus embodies authenticity. In Jesus birth, in his tensions with family, followers and those in authority, in his weeping and pleading for mercy and in his death we see our own humanity. Jesus faithfully, graciously and tenaciously extended the embrace of God’s reign of forgiveness, love and reconciliation to those deemed unworthy, unacceptable and unlovable. It is Jesus who calls us and the Holy Spirit who empowers us to be the Beloved Community for which so many yearn.

As I listen and learn from those calling for greater authenticity I want to explore questions such as these:

  • When authenticity becomes the highest ideal for which one strives and the basis upon which others are judged, what becomes of a sense of wonder, mystery and humility in response to humanity’s complexity and capacity for both good and evil?
  • How do we create safe space for people to speak the truth of their lives without making authenticity, vulnerability and transparency rather than the grace of God freely given on account of Christ the basis for our being community?
  • How is social media serving the longing for authentic community and changing faith communities?
  • Is it possible that a priority given to striving for authenticity can lead to a life more turned in on myself than turned outward to my neighbor and God’s creation? How can the focus on authenticity keep us connected to those for whom daily bread, the cessation of violence and the search for a safe haven is their daily task?
  • How do we explore the tension created by a culture described as “post-truth”, a generation yearning for authentic community calling us to respect “my truth” and “your truth” and the gospel proclamation that Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life?
  • How does baptism, the sacrament of beginning and belonging, shape the yearning for authenticity in personal lives and community?

I am grateful that the Riverside Innovation Hub provides a marvellous context for continued conversation on how a longing for greater authenticity might transform lives of faith, communities and ministries.

Rev. Mark S. Hanson

Christensen Center for Vocation

Augsburg University

New Theological Education Opportunity for Innovation Coaches

We have an exciting theological education opportunity to now offer those hired on as Innovation Coaches with Augsburg’s Riverside Innovation Hub. Luther Seminary is partnering with us to make a seminary education available to interested Innovation Coaches at no cost to the student.

This would mean once the Innovation Coach positions have been filled in mid-April, those interested in taking advantage of this opportunity would apply to Luther Seminary to begin classes in the fall of 2018. Innovation Coaches would take a part-time class load during their 10-months of employment with Augsburg’s Riverside Innovation Hub, with their coaching work also counting towards class credit. They would complete their degree in the year/s following, depending on the chosen program.

Additionally, Luther would award a $5,000 stipend to those students who have completed a year of service.

Find more information about applying to be an Innovation Coach here.  For more specific questions about this educational opportunity, please contact Luther Seminary.


Elizabeth Schoenknecht, Director of Enrollment Services

eschoenknecht001@luthersem.edu

651-641-3422

Application information:  Luthersem.edu

Outline for Theological Education Component

Admitted and enrolled participants earn a Master of Arts degree while on staff with the Riverside Innovation Hub. Those interested in obtaining a Master of Divinity are encourage to contact Luther Seminary Office of Admissions to learn about further requirements for the degree.

Master of Arts concentrations offered: Ministry in Innovation and Leadership; Children, Youth, and Family; or Christian Ministries

 

Year 1:

Fall Semester – 1.5 classes  (.5 is Christian Public Leader – credit for being in context)

J-term – 1 week long intensive class

Spring Semester – 1.5 classes (.5 is Christian Public Leader – credit for being in context)

Summer – 1 week long intensive class

 

Year 2:

Full time course work to complete Master of Arts program

(those interested in the Master of Divinity would have 2 additional years including internship)

 

Fully funded; participants who have completed a year of service receive additional $5,000 stipend. 

 

Now Accepting Innovation Coach Applications

The Riverside Innovation Hub (RIH) at Augsburg University seeks to hire eight full-time Innovation Coaches for a 10 month period beginning August 2018 and concluding May 2019. Innovation Coach positions will be open to young adults (ages 22-29) who have a passion and curiosity to grow in the areas of spirituality, leadership, community, and intercultural competency.

Innovation Coaches will participate in training hosted by RIH that will equip them to guide two local Christian faith communities (selected to be Innovative Ministry Partners) through an accompanying and listening process in relationship with young adults in their unique contexts. This process will conclude with Innovation Coaches facilitating discernment work with their faith communities to create an innovative ministry idea to be submitted for a sub-grant through RIH in spring 2019. Participating faith communities will implement and adapt their innovative ministry ideas, with sub-grant funds, over the following two year period, after the Innovation Coach role has concluded.

In addition to working directly with local faith communities discerning their call in ministry with young adults, Innovation Coaches will be able to participate in intentional living communities together. Housing will be provided through Urban Homeworks Urban Neighbors program which emphasizes community, learning and inter-cultural competency.  This full-time postion pays competitive wages and is benefits eligible. Additionally, for those interested, the opportunity to pursue a degree program at Luther Seminary is available, at no cost. Those that choose to take advantage of this opportunity will begin classes part-time during their time as an Innovation Coach. Read more here!

We are thrilled to be offering this new leadership development opportunity for young adults and are excited to welcome them to the Riverside Innovation Hub team!

HOW DO I APPLY?

Interested individuals can apply through Augsburg’s online application process.  Applicants must submit a resume, cover letter and responses to four essay questions that are listed in the application. Essay questions should each be 500 words or less. All three documents can be uploaded to the application as word document or pdf.

The deadline for applying is March 1, 2018.

Apply to be an Innovation Coach

 

WHAT HAPPENS AFTER I APPLY?

Selected candidates will participate in the interview process. Accomodations for interviews can be made for those currently living outside the Twin Cities metro area (or in different time zones). Offers will be made the week of April 15, 2018. Innovation Coaches need to be ready to begin training August 6, 2018 with move-in days with the Urban Neighbors program the first week of August.

Learn more about Urban Neighbors

Innovation Coach Opportunity

The Riverside Innovation Hub (RIH) at Augsburg University seeks to hire eight full-time Innovation Coaches for a 10 month period beginning August 2018 and concluding May 2019. Innovation Coach positions will be open to young adults (ages 22-29) who have a passion and curiosity to grow in the areas of spirituality, leadership, community, and intercultural competency.

Innovation Coaches will participate in training hosted by RIH that will equip them to guide two local Christian faith communities (selected to be Innovative Ministry Partners) through an accompanying and listening process in relationship with young adults in their unique contexts. This process will conclude with Innovation Coaches facilitating discernment work with their congregations to create an innovative ministry idea to be submitted for a sub-grant through RIH in spring 2019. Participating congregations will implement and adapt their innovative ministry ideas, with sub-grant funds, over the following two year period, after the Innovation Coach role has concluded.

In addition to working directly with local congregations discerning their call in ministry with young adults, Innovation Coaches will participate in intentional living communities together. We anticipate being able to post more details about this and other exciting opportunities available to Innovation Coaches in the coming weeks. You are invited to spread the word to young adults you know who might be excited about this opportunity.

The application process will open the end of January and be available on our resource page.

Stay tuned for more information!

Discernment Questions for Faith Communities

Consider these questions an opportunity to engage your leadership, young adults and other key people in your community as you discern your faith community’s possible call into deeper ministry with young adults. Have some cups of coffee. Make time for a happy hour. Imagine and wonder where God is present in these questions and what that might mean for your faith community.

 

Describe your faith community’s capacity for risk-taking. What do you think your faith community is willing to risk or sacrifice in order to pursue a clear call from God?

 

How would you describe your congregation’s current relationship with young adults and attitudes about young adults?

 

Who in your faith community (staff and members) could be potential champions and leaders for a new effort to innovate ministry with young adults? Who would you want on your team to steward this partnership?

 

How are you equipped to support an additional person on-site during the coaching phase? Consider space availability, access to printing and communication systems within your congregation, culture of your staff and congregation.

 

What relationships do you have outside your faith community that could be an asset to innovating ministry with young adults?

 

Innovation by nature will involve success and failures and a willingness to take risks that may or may not produce the hoped-for outcomes. What do you imagine faithfulness to look like whether experiencing success or failure in this work with your faith community?

 

What do you sense God is already up to…

  • In your faith community?
  • In your community?
  • With young adults you know?

 

If you have the opportunity to talk (but mostly listen) with young adults consider asking them…

  • What gives you hope? What gives you anxiety?
  • What matters most to you?
  • What has or would draw you to be a part of a faith community? What has or would make you want to stay connected to a faith community?
  • What has or would make you not want to engage with a faith community? What do you think keeps your peers away?
  • How is God or faith influencing your life in the public places you live, work and play?

Innovative Ministry Partnership for Faith Communities

In order for this work to have the greatest impact, we have crafted several different pathways for interested faith communities to participate in the Innovative Ministry Partnership.

On Jan. 15, 2018 our Innovative Ministry Partnership Application was made available for faith communities with a willingness and capacity to explore their call into deeper ministry with young adults. Applications for Track 1 opportunities closed Apr. 15, 2018. Still interested? We accepts Track 3 applications on a rolling basis.

 

Innovation Ministry Partner Faith Communities – Track 1 (Closed)

  • Work with the Riverside Innovation Hub for four years from the summer of 2018 through the summer of 2022.
  • Year One (summer 2018 – summer 2019): Commit to working 15-20 hours a week with a Riverside Innovation Hub young adult Innovation Coach who will walk with your faith community through a year-long process of reimagining its ministry with young adults.
  • Submit a sub-grant proposal at the end of Year One to the Riverside Innovation Hub to receive $25,000-$30,000 for innovative approaches to ministry with young adults in your context over the following two years.
  • Years Two – Three (summer 2019 – summer 2021): Manage the funds granted to your faith community and implement your plan for engaging young adults in your context in new and innovative ways.
  • Year Four (summer 2021 – summer 2022): Work with the Riverside Innovation Hub to evaluate the three previous years of learning and creating in order to learn what worked and what did not. Faith communities will also work with the Riverside Innovation Hub to share collective findings through written projects and seminars.
  • Attend regular learning cohort meetings and trainings offered by the Riverside Innovation Hub throughout the four years of partnership with the Hub.
  • Track 1 faith communities need to be located within a 30 minute drive of Minneapolis in order to be accessible to our Innovation Coaches.

Innovative Ministry Partner Faith Communities – Track 2 (Closed)

  • Identical to Track 1 with two main differences…
  • First: In Year One, faith communities will identify their own young adult Innovation Coach from their community to guide the faith community through the work of reimagining its ministry with young adults. The faith community’s Innovation Coach will participate in training at Augsburg during the weeks of August 6-24, 2018 with other Riverside Innovation Hub coaches, be a part of an Innovation Coach cohort, and invited to attend all workshops and training aimed at equipping Innovation Coaches in Year One.
  • Second: No funding will be available to Track 2 faith communities. However, they will participate in all other aspects of the partnership with Track 1 partners. They will be included in all training & learning cohorts throughout the partnership, create their own ministry proposal in Year One, implement and adapt their ministry in Years Two and Three, and participate in evaluating the learnings in Year Four.
  • Faith communities may choose to be considered for Track 2 on their own because they believe they have the resources internally to support the work or they may be located more than 30 minutes from the Twin Cities. The Riverside Innovation Hub may choose to invite faith communities who apply to be Track 1 Partners to consider Track 2 based on the fact that there are a limited number of spots available for Track 1.

Innovative Ministry Associate Faith Communities – Track 3 (Open)

  • Some faith communities may share a deep passion and curiosity for this work but not currently be in the position to dedicate the needed resources of time, leadership, and potentially funding to commit to a four-year partnership with the Riverside Innovation Hub. An Associate Faith Community is committed to following the project, eager to be a part of the learning the flows from it, and willing to commit to being a regular participant in the learning opportunities offered through the Riverside Innovation Hub.
  • Associate Faith Communities would commit to attending Hub Seminars and workshops as the project unfolds and have opportunities to learn alongside the efforts taking shape at Partner Congregations.