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Increasingly, all kinds of congregations are actively externally focused. I’ve observed this since 2008. The change is remarkable. Really!

The energy is so powerful. The conversations exciting. The possibilities abundant.

At the Center for Congregations, we receive calls daily from congregational leaders and members inquiring about outreach.

    “We want to start a partnership with the local public school.”
    “Our congregation has started a new mental health support group.”
    “How do we establish a separate 501 (c) 3 related to job training?”

The academic work of the missional church movement has filtered down to the local congregation in positive ways.

There’s a generational shift too
Many young adults find it deeply meaningful to be of service to others. Congregations with young adults are looking at social service and social entrepreneurship. I have been in contact with numerous congregations that have active young adult membership. The focus of these congregations is faith formation, relationships and community engagement. I’m convinced the appearance of these creative, often flourishing, congregations are underreported when we talk about the state of congregational life.

It is ironic that sociological studies report that congregations are declining when their social impact is increasing. Ram Cnaan writes about the effect of congregations on their urban communities. This kind of outreach must be intensifying across the country. Check out Cnaan’s book The Other Philadelphia Story: How Local Congregations Support Quality of Life in Urban America at http://thecrg.org/resources/the-other-philadelphia-story-how-local-congregations-support-quality-of-life-in-urban-america.


Tim Shapiro by Tim Shapiro

Tim is president of the Indianapolis Center for Congregations – the parent organization of the CRG. He began serving the Center in 2003 after 18 years in pastoral ministry. He holds degrees from Purdue University and Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary. Tim has served as alumni-in-residence at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, a commissioner at the Presbyterian Church (USA) General Assembly, and studied family systems theory under Edwin Friedman.

tshapiro@centerforcongregations.org