Our Identity

We are Disciples of Christ, a movement for wholeness in a fragmented world. As part of the one body of Christ, we welcome all to the Lord's Table as God has welcomed us

- Disciples of Christ identity statement

to join in a denomination-wide study between now and the General Assembly in July 2015. Mix and match the suggested elements for your own blend...
and make sure to share the results!

Identity-SermonsWorship

This approach is an exploration of the concepts of movement, wholeness, welcome and table. The four videos provided are about 4 minutes long and accompanied by group discussion questions or can be used with an individual study guide. All materials are provided under the "Preaching" tab below.
Identity-Video

Blending the concept and story approaches, sermons are a great way to explore together the concepts of movement, wholeness, welcome and table. Several sample sermons, a readers' theater service and other historical background materials for pastors are provided under the "Video" tab below.
Identity-BookStudy

Stories are often the best way to enter a discussion on faith. The new book "Whole: A call to unity in a fragmented world" is a series of personal stories and reflections by General Minister and President Sharon E. Watkins. Each of the six chapters is followed by discussion questions. A guide for a shorter four-week study is posted under the "Teaching" tab below.

Some Suggested Approaches:

4 Week Plan

Have a midweek study using the short book study plan.Use a video in worship followed by a sermon on that same concept. Repeat for all four.Have a culminating brainstorming session with your board and evangelism team to work on a slogan.

Use the "telling tactics" materials with your evangelism committee to revamp your presence in the community.

8 Week Plan

Start with the short book study (four weeks) either during the week or in a Sunday School setting or with other groups (elders, deacons).Follow with four weeks featuring a Sunday sermon and worship emphasis on a topic and a midweek discussion group using the videos during the same four week period. (i.e. Movement sermon on Sunday, movement study on Wednesday, etc.)Have a culminating event to come up with your own congregations' slogan or identity statement.

In Week Nine turn your evangelism or communication teams loose with a revamp of your presence in the community using the "telling tactics" materials.

12 Week Plan

Use the book and questions as written for a six week study in small groups.The following week have a retreat-style meeting of two to three hours to view videos and discuss in small groups (20 minutes) with sharing in the larger gathering after each discussion.For four consecutive weeks, highlight an identity concept in worship and the sermon.

Have a wrap up session at a potluck (emphasizing welcome and table) where your congregation comes up with a new slogan for your own church.

Hand it off to a communications/evangelism committee to revamp your community presence using the "telling tactics."

  • Summary

    Often we Disciples tend to describe ourselves in the negative, by what we are not:  we’re not hierarchical, like the Catholics; we don’t baptize infants, like the Methodists; we don’t require acceptance of any formal creed for membership in the church, like the Presbyterians. 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. Identity Initiative PowerPoint overview

    Our identity statement

    • We are Disciples of Christ, a movement for wholeness in a fragmented world. As part of the one body of Christ we welcome all to the Lord’s Table as God has welcomed us.

    What does that mean?

    • We practice unity and inclusion at the Lord’s Table for the sake of mission and for the sake of the world as the one family of God. Most congregations do this by celebrating communion every Sunday. That’s why we use a chalice as our logo.
    • We practice believer baptism – that a person makes the choice to follow God’s call rather than the choice being made for them as an infant. Baptism is the basis of membership in the Church and also a mark that every person is called to serve God – the idea of the “priesthood of all believers.”
    • We honor our heritage as a movement for Christian unity by cooperating and partnering with other faith communities to work for bringing about wholeness – healing and justice – in the world. This is what it means to be “ecumenical.” One example is our cooperative work with the United Church of Christ in Global Ministries for the past 25 years and our newer effort to share staff in the area of family ministries.
    • We are called to study and read scripture for ourselves. Rather than having tests of faith and creedal statements, we critically and thoughtfully study scripture, taking into account the history and background – the context – in which it was written.
    • We also honor the heritage of Christian unity by staying together in covenant as a witness to the world that even when we disagree we can still make room, welcoming all to the table as Christ has welcomed us. Our spiritual ancestors were fond of saying, “unity, not uniformity.”
    • We move to answer God’s call for justice particularly in the areas of care for the earth, the challenges for women and children, poverty and hunger and immigration. We seek to do this work in cooperation with other people of faith. Some say we “get dirty for Jesus” as a way of conveying the hands-on mission orientation of many of our faith communities.

    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.

    We’re a movement whose time has come!

  • Teaching

    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 individuals
    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 templates
    Download or order the Discover the Disciples brochure
    Unity Feast program activity and study from Council on Christian Unity

  • Preaching

    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.

  • Telling Tactics

    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.)

    Supporting the "ask"

    Order or download the Discover the Disciples brochure
    Electronic resources

    • If your faith community already has a website, make sure you have the following information. People not connected with your congregation can get an idea of whether they might find a home in your group. It also gives members the opportunity to invite others to view the information and/or the other persons can get to know the church online before accepting the invitation to attend in person. Your website is as important as keeping up with building maintenance in making a first impression.
      • Affirmation of Faith (such as preamble of The Design)
      • Disciples identity statement or Disciple mission/vision statements supported by scripture (such as Acts 1:8 and Micah 6:8)
      • Chalice logo, preferably on home page toward the top (electronic files available on the disciples.org website under "who we are/chalice")
      • Link to Disciples.org and your region's website; possibly camps or other Disciple organizations like racial/ethnic ministries as appropriate; maybe a page of links to various general ministries that are emphasized in your congregation, such as Reconciliation Ministry or Global Ministries
      • Symbols and/or logos and other graphics that convey our identity such as a communion table, open doors, mission projects (Before posting photos of children on the web, make sure their parents/guardians have signed a permission form.)
      • What makes your congregation unique in your area, particularly how you move out into the community (your mission emphasis, style of worship, partnerships with other congregations/missions/organizations etc.)
      • Current events (that are kept current!)
      • Worship times
      • Study opportunities (bible studies, women's/men's/youth groups, Sunday School/Worship and Wonder, etc.)
      • Directions/maps
      • Contact information
      • Example of welcome video: Madison Avenue CC in Covington, Ky.(Dec. 2013)
    • If your faith community doesn't have a website, put one together using the content list suggested above. There are a number of free or low-cost services that may suit your needs, such as those listed on this review site. The sample layout above can be done in WordPress. The Christian College of Georgia has a group that may be of help.
    • Facebook is a simple interface to use should you decide to set up a fan page for your church. This works fairly well for your internal audience, but is not as effective as a web page for conveying your congregation's identity. Group pages require more monitoring as those are more likely to be spammed. Customizeable Facebook cover photo
    • Congregations that use projection in worship can add some of this identity information to slides before or after the service to inform visitors and reinforce member learning. PowerPoint slides

    Print resources

    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.

    Advertising

    Before the advent of the Internet, placing advertisements in newspapers and even on local television was a viable and helpful way of spreading the word about organizations.
    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

    Events

    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.

  • Video

    Defining Our Identity: A Video Overview

    Movement

    Table


    Welcome

    Wholeness


Additional overview video by Melissa Smith, Seattle University School of Theology

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