Becoming a 21st Century Congregation

Five years ago, I accepted the call to serve as the Minister of Evangelism for the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada. Shortly after my arrival, I concluded that a major reason Disciple congregations find evangelism efforts less than effective is that many long established congregations continue to utilize 20th century evangelism methods in the 21st century. A new century requires new approaches. As I traveled from Disciples congregation to Disciples congregation, I quickly discovered that too many of our churches resist transitioning from the 20th to the 21st century. Attempting to do evangelism in the 21st century using a 20th century model is the equivalent of trying to maneuver a major Interstate with a horse and buggy. When you encounter a speeding eighteen wheeler—goodbye horse, buggy and its occupants.

Although my experience is with Disciples of Christ congregations, I suspicion that the information in this article applies to many churches without regard to the name of the church or its denominational affiliation. The materials may be used in a two to three hour meeting format. Naturally, the foci are encouraging a local congregation to embrace diversity and change and commit to intentional evangelism in the 21st century. Conducting a workshop usually involves securing five basic tools—a laptop computer, projection system, newsprint (with assorted colors markers), Bibles, (one for each workshop participant)
and handouts of my presentation. Beginning mid-morning with a short devotion, breaking for lunch, and ending mid-afternoon with a prayer works best relative to the format and duration of the workshop. As the process is designed to be Spirit led, it is imperative to consult God’s Word and seek His presence and guidance in prayer.

The workshop content is divided into equal parts and each part has a time related element. For instance, this particular workshop on being a 21st Century Congregation is divided into five sections, with each section lasting about 30 to 40 minutes. Between each section, I allow a 5 or 10 minute break to take care of personal necessities. Participants are encouraged to stretch, walk, converse with one another, or engage in personal reflection as they deem necessary. With the above mentioned process, a starting time of 10:00am with a 45 minute lunch break would take us to a 2:00pm ending time.

For a this particular work on becoming a 21st Century Congregation, three of the sessions would include Becoming A 21st Century Congregation, The Signs of a Vital Congregation, Mission, Vision and Planning. In addition to these three sessions, there would be bible study session on a related biblical text and the final session would be a concluding session to tie the day’s activities up. I normally do not employ games or novelty activities as a part of my workshop.

I usually use a PowerPoint presentation when I conduct a workshop. Here is a link to a PowerPoint file containing some of the basic slides that I would include on a workshop about becoming a 21st-Century congregation. (Requires MS-PowerPoint or a PowerPoint file viewer)

If any of the materials in this article have been helpful to you, please feel free to incorporate any of these techniques along with the accompanying slides for your own purposes.

Posted in Invitation, Mission.

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