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nary, St. Paul. Originally he created what would be a 12-month process to help congregations engage in a renewal effort. Since then, Erickson and Susan Miller, also an assistant to the synod bishop, have tweaked the process as they learn what works and what doesn’t. To date, two cohorts of congrega- tions have engaged in the process— six in 2009 and three in 2010. Erick- son and Miller are hoping to have another four to eight join in 2011. The process consists of five work- shops over the course of a year. Par- ticipating congregations send teams (a pastor plus up to seven laypeople) to learn about the “Three Great Lis- tenings”—listening to God, each other and the community. Erickson said the expectation is


that “by deepening a congregation’s engagement with Scripture and prayer, they will come to a deeper understanding of and participation in what God is calling them to do and be in this time and place.”


Changing systems


Through the workshops, teams receive tools to develop a “missional experiment” that introduces change into the congregational system with- out threatening that system. After implementing the experiment, the teams evaluate what they learned and establish plans for moving forward. Congregations are advised up front through the mission renewal process overview that “they are embarking on a long, slow journey of change, one that may well take five to 10 years” (page 25). The St. Paul Area and Metro-


politan, D.C., synods aren’t alone in committing to help struggling congregations and pastors through continuing education. The Delaware-Maryland Synod focuses its efforts on pastors and other rostered leaders through its


26 The Lutheran • www.thelutheran.org


Leadership Academy. Established in 2002, it offers pastors and other rostered leaders, especially those new to the parish, continuing education in topics like listening and communica- tion skills, conflict management and other essential leadership techniques. The Leadership Institute of the Southern Ohio Synod involves both pastors and congregational leaders. Established in January 2010, it is designed “to train leaders to grow their congregations spiritually, as nurturing communities, in mission to the world, and numerically through effective parish administration,” according the information brochure. As part of a collaborative effort


between the synod and Trinity Lutheran Seminary, Columbus, Ohio, the institute has a specialized course of study called the core curriculum to train pastors and lay leaders. Congregations agreed to a two-


year commitment and attendance at eight weekend courses. One of the expected results? That at least two- thirds of participating congregations will increase their worship atten- dance by at least 20 percent. This same idea of learning and working together is one of the approaches the ELCA emphasizes. Bouman said, “The whole idea of having directors for evangelical mis- sion is encouraging pastors with a mission mind and heart to join each other around local mission tables.” Grant money, training and spon- soring mission strategies in par- ticular neighborhoods are part of the ELCA’s renewed attention to what Bouman called “the faith practices of the disciple,” which are at the heart of renewing congregations. In these times of declining mission support for the churchwide entity, Bouman said, “we’ll have to be open and honest about what we can’t do anymore.” So what is left will be focused on trying “to calibrate the


whole fabric of the ELCA on helping plant new congregational centers for mission and renew existing ones, the leadership for them and the synod system which will help them thrive,” he said.


Bouman encouraged pastors and


lay leaders to contact their synod director for evangelical mission to talk about the future of their congre- gations and mission. “We need to continually find ways to plant new ministries. Any organism that can- not regenerate itself is a dead thing, and if we’re involved in something being born—or in the case of congre- gational renewal, being reborn— it changes us. Introducing mission introduces life into the system.” M


Resources Books


• Ending with Hope: A Resource for Closing Congregations by Beth Ann Gaede (Alban Institute, 2002). • The Great Emergence: How Christianity is Changing and Why by Phyllis Tickle (Baker Books, 2008). • Pathway to Renewal: Practical Steps for Congregations by Dan- iel P. Smith and Mary K. Sellon (Alban Institute, 2008). • Unbinding the Gospel: Real Life Evangelism (2nd edition) by Martha Grace Reese (Chalice Press, 2008).


Websites • The Center for Congregations: www.centerforcongregations. org • Natural Church Development: www.elca.org/ncd • One Body, Many Members: A Journey for Christians Across Race, Culture and Class: www. elca.org/onebody


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