- Disciples of Christ identity statement
Often we Disciples tend to describe ourselves in the negative, by what we are not: we’re not hierarchical, we don’t baptize infants, we don’t require acceptance of any formal creed for membership in the church and so on. The following material is an effort, in positive statements, to focus on who we are and on ways to convey that to those inside and outside our church.
These traits were summed up by former General Minister and President Dick Hamm when he identified the marks of a faithful church as true community, deep Christian spirituality and a passion for justice.
Explaining the Disciple identity takes effort at several levels.
First, the people within our faith communities need to have an understanding of the shared traits of the movement. For this, the Council on Christian Unity has developed videos and accompanying study guides. Focusing in the identity statement, the words movement, wholeness, table and welcome are lifted up as central concepts for the Disciples way of working in the world.
VideosStudy guide for groups based on movement, wholeness, welcome, table videos
Guía de estudio | 정체성 함양: 학습 안내 | Guide d'étude
Additional overview video by seminarian Melissa Smith
Study guide for Stone-Campbell history
Disciples of Christ in One Sentence paper by Newell Williams for Roman Catholic dialogue (2014)
Vacation Bible School curriculum from Disciples Home Missions
11 x 17 poster (PDF) | 18 x 24 poster (PDF)
PowerPoint slide template - standard | wide
Download or order the Discover the Disciples brochure
Unity Feast program activity and study from Council on Christian Unity
Explaining the Disciple identity takes effort at several levels.
Pastors can share these basic traits and key words in their sermons, liturgies and other communications to help members become more comfortable with the concepts and language. Many congregations choose to use the preamble to The Design as a way of connecting with Disciple theology during worship. Some use the identity statement in various forms. Pastors might consider a sermon series based on the principles behind the identity statement as well or studies based on movement, wholeness, table and welcome. Videos and study guides may also be used.
Once our members have a grasp of our distinctive mix of attributes, we need ways to make these clear as we connect with those who have not discovered the community we find so meaningful. Invitation from individuals is proven to be the single most effective way to connect a new person to the community, but there are also other ways to help support our members to make the "ask." (Sample illustrations below are available to be customized for a small fee by the designer at Designs To Go.)
Order or download the Discover the Disciples brochure | order Chalice stickers
It is helpful to have a printed resource available to welcome visitors to your worship. These printed resources can become outdated quickly, so take a look at what you have to make sure it is up-to-date.
Refer to the website list above for the kinds of information to include in a visitor brochure. Some churches put the majority of this information in the bulletin. Some laminate a card and put next to the hymnal in the pew. For churches that project information such as song lyrics and other worship materials, PowerPoint slides before and after worship can convey the information.
Posters are also a way to continue teaching the congregation and familiarizing visitors with Disciples. 11x17 poster (PDF) | 18x24 poster (PDF)
Added note: Be mindful of the visitor not knowing how you do certain parts of worship. For instance, what words you use for the Lord's Prayer or whether you hold communion elements or take them as they are passed. In addition, make sure it is clear all are welcome to participate in communion.
New avenues: If you have funds for advertising, you might look beyond the traditional paper, television or billboards. In Oct. 2014, Facebook initiated hyperlocal advertising that can appear on the mobile devices of anyone as close as only a one mile radius up to an entire metroplex. Check into other localized options through cable firms and the like.
Depending on your community, placing advertisements in newspapers and even on local television may be a viable and helpful way of spreading the word about organizations. For example, recent public relations research shows that reaching individuals in rural communities is still best done through newspapers even in the age of electronic communications.
Newspapers: In smaller communities (10,000 or less), local newspaper advertisements may still be effective. If the decision is made to use a newspaper advertisement to invite individuals to attend your faith community's services, make sure you include the time and the address. The chalice and identity statement ("We are Disciples of Christ, a movement
.") should also be included if your congregation does not have an existing logo and tagline. Also include your website address. This will give prospective visitors a chance to view your congregation's priorities and make them more comfortable with the decision to spend an hour or two of their time with you.
In medium to large communities, newspaper advertisements are not as effective partly due to the wider geography of the readership. In addition, the majority of people get their news from electronic media (websites, television, etc.) Sometimes newspapers will offer insertion services by zip code which allow you to target people geographically closer to your meeting place, but you also run the risk of being lost in the Home Depot and Macy's circulars. Prices vary by your community, so a call to the advertising department of your local newspaper will be in order.
Color insert sample | Black & white insert sample | B & W ad sample
Television: Advertising can be targeted geographically through cable packages, but is a fairly expensive project to have a well-produced advertisement and also purchase air time. Every market is a little different, so you will want to investigate that for your context.
Some congregations are using free public access channels to broadcast talk shows and services, but, again, you need to see what is available in your area and determine the viewer numbers.
Billboards: Again, depending on your context, billboards may be a viable paid-advertising alternative particularly if you place them in areas that are on main routes to your meeting place. Make sure the text is minimal so it can be as large as possible. In most instances a graphic (preferably including a chalice), a seven word (or less) invitation or "teaser," and website address will be about all that will be legible to someone driving by at 55 mph. No matter what, the minimum letter size is 18 inches tall. Billboard design tips are readily available with a quick web search, such as these from DesignMyBillboard.com | Additional billboard sample
One way some congregations combine mission and outreach is to have events on site, such as a neighborhood block party for a community garden inauguration. An event can give your members an opportunity to invite individuals to a non-worship event so the visitor can feel comfortable in the environment, particularly if their only experience with church is a wedding or funeral.
Defining Our Identity: A Video Overview
Additional overview video by Melissa Smith, Seattle University School of Theology