We’re pleased to announce a new project in which ERB Senior Editor C. Christopher Smith is involved.
Cultivating Communities, a partnership of Englewood Christian Church (Indianapolis) and Missio Alliance, is a growing network of cohorts across North America, each composed of congregations that are conversant with the way of Jesus in their respective places. Our team is committed to journeying with existing congregations who desire to cultivate a deeper life together in Christ and overflow into tangible love for the communities in which they are embedded. (This project is funded by a generous grant from the Thriving Congregations Initiative, a philanthropic initiative of Lilly Endowment, Inc.)
Cultivating Communities offers helpful resources and relationships for congregations to do the hard work of maturing into ‘real communities’ that share a common life together and care about everything that is essential and necessary for life. Congregations, as part of small local cohorts, will
- learn to ask questions of themselves and to practice discernment, through the presence of the Holy Spirit;
- identify their unique contexts and gifts;
- and cultivate habits, skills, and capacities to build rich formation as a congregation… even in the midst of disagreements. Through cultivating these practices of commitment, patience, conversation, and forgiveness, congregations build trust and unity, in order to mature into the way and likeness of Jesus.
The Cultivating Communities Channel:
One facet of the Cultivating Communities project is that we have created a section of our website (we’re calling it a channel) that will focus on books and other resources that promote healthy congregational life in ways described above. You can find this channel here: EnglewoodReview.org/cultivatingcommunities
Finding Our Way After the Pandemic:
The first resource that we’re making available through Cultivating Communities is an introductory guide to Appreciative Inquiry, a conversational process that is particularly helpful in helping organizations explore and imagine how they might move forward in difficult seasons, like the present transition out of the COVID pandemic.
Is your church struggling to imagine what your life together might look like after the pandemic? Have you lost members or had members who are uncertain if they will continue to participate in the life of the church? Is it unclear what activities of mission and care you will be able to sustain, or in what ways you will be able to engage your neighbors?
You are not alone. Many churches are feeling the anxiety of these uncertain times. How do we allow the good things that God was doing in our churches prior to the pandemic to continue, while at the same time recognizing that the world has fundamentally changed and we cannot simply return to our normal pre-COVID life?
A new toolkit is not the answer; changing organizational structure is not the answer; more resources, while helpful, is not the answer. A better starting point for a renewed future is to bring an appreciative eye to the stories of our past and the realities of our present. Appreciative Inquiry is a generative conversational process for developing the power of an appreciative eye. Appreciative Inquiry embodies that which is at the very heart of the way of Jesus, being thankful for all God’s gifts and finding value in every person.
A Guide for Churches
Over the next few weeks we will be featuring other resources related to Appreciative Inquiry on the Cultivating Communities channel of our site.
C. Christopher Smith is the founding editor of The Englewood Review of Books. He is also author of a number of books, including most recently How the Body of Christ Talks: Recovering the Practice of Conversation in the Church (Brazos Press, 2019). Connect with him online at: C-Christopher-Smith.com