Emergent Disciple to help develop congregational leadership initiatives
As today’s Disciples contend with shifts in the landscape of religious practice in America, particularly the rapid decline of congregational life as we have known it, ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) are proactively engaged in discernment around the significant change that needs to occur to support new and renewing congregational mission – all for the sake of being and sharing the good news of Jesus Christ in a new age.
The Hope Partnership for Missional Transformation has been born out of these conversations. Spearheaded by Church Extension (CE), Disciples Home Missions (DHM) and Higher Education Leadership Ministries (HELM), the Hope Partnership is a collaboration of these ministries and other general, ecumenical , regional and pastoral partners who desire to explore, design and implement new and more effective ways to accompany congregations as they seek to live out their mission and witness.
Following an assessment of the particular strengths and challenges of the denomination, the collaborators agreed resources must be mobilized immediately to meet three major congregational areas of need if Disciples and other ministries are to be successfully redeveloped and sustained:
- Physical assets must be leveraged for mission, not for the sake of the assets themselves. An increasingly disproportionate percentage of Disciples assets are being used to sustain outdated and irrelevant facilities, leaving fewer resources available to support ministry and mission. Congregations, new and established, will need help making decisions about and acting upon housing mission differently.
- Leaders must be developed, through recruitment, networking, training and support. All evidence points to the inspirational and empowering pastoral leader as the primary indicator of success of new and redeveloped mission.
- New goals for mission and transformation must be identified, embraced and pursued. Congregations who courageously discern their true call and then respond are the most likely to become truly and effectively missional.
Because no one entity possesses all the resources or the wisdom necessary to tackle these initial congregational needs, Hope Partnership collaborators are identifying individuals and teams to partner and lead out on these initiatives. For example, with a grant from Oreon E. Scott Foundation, the Hope Partnership has hired Steve Knight (www.knightopia.com) to work with a variety of general and regional partners to develop recruitment, training and networking services for leaders of new and renewing congregational mission.
A Disciple heavily invested in and affiliated with emerging Christian witness in the United States and Canada, Knight was a former international communication coordinator for Serving in Mission, internet manager for the Billy Graham organization, and correspondent for Decision magazine. He brings a fresh vision to redevelopment and new mission leadership and has strong connections to the next generation of congregational leaders, especially through his work with TransFORM Network (www.transformnetwork.org).
Knight, whose work with the Hope Partnership begins January 1, will serve on teams charged with constructing and implementing leader development training around new ways to engage missional church. The training will be piloted in April 2011. He also will organize a missional leadership learning track at General Assembly in July 2011.
Hope Partnership for Missional Transformation will be introduced more fully in the months leading up to the 2011 General Assembly in Nashville, through The Intersection (www.disciplesintersection.org), the ministries’ Web sites and other communications outlets.