Congregational Research and Development
How do congregations address such pressing concerns as cultural and ethnic diversity, dissent from church teachings, religious pluralism, the practice of economic justice, the changing roles of women in society, and the inclusion of marginalized or unrecognized cultural groups? The healthy engagement of congregations in the public life of their communities requires solid contextual analysis, careful historical and theological reflection, and creative practical strategies. At the start of a new millennium, new cultural contexts create enormous challenges and tremendous opportunities for the public role of congregations as well as for the shape of congregational mission to and interaction with its community.
The central activity of the Congregational Research and Development (CRD) project is contextual ecclesiological research. By bringing together a community of scholars, teachers, students, and congregational leaders, the Center hopes to deepen our understanding of the manifold contours of contemporary culture and, by doing so, to find better ways of living out the gospel as a church in diverse settings and among diverse populations. Research-based strategies for nurturing more publicly-engaged congregations help future religious leaders find creative methods for helping congregations not only survive, but thrive.
The Project hosts the following resources:
♦ Articles, books, media, and bibliographic resources in the areas of Congregational Development, Evangelism, and Practical Theology
♦ Current and ongoing research of scholars, students, and congregational leaders in both new church development and congregational transformation
♦ Information, plans, and strategies for model church development projects
The Project sponsors conferences that bring together students, congregational leaders, scholars, and expert practitioners to learn together and share resources in new church development and congregational transformation. The conferences link theological reflection with strategic practice, and feature guest speakers, workshops, small group interaction.
The continuing efforts of the Project support a network among leaders of faith communities nationwide. The Project acts as a clearinghouse for sharing cutting edge resources and for learning from the experiences of practitioners in order to share that information and experience with others engaged in congregational development.
The research, educational and networking activities of the Project all converge in its hands-on efforts at working alongside congregational and denominational leaders:
♦ To identify and research potential sites for new church development and congregational renewal
♦ To mobilize technical, human, and financial resources in the service of congregational renewal and birthing
♦ To engage in the actual creation and development of faith communities throughout New England.
An example of the ongoing work of the Congregational Research and Development project is the Pub Church. The Pub Church had their first “official” gathering on April 26, 2008, at Tommy Doyle’s Irish Pub in Harvard Square. The start of The Pub Church was preceded by a six month period of planning and discernment with a small group of interested persons. As the congregation rotated among different Boston-area pubs, they realized they wanted to have just one place as their pub church home – that place is the Dugout Cafe where the pub church has been gathering weekly since September, 2008.
People’s desire to have a church they felt good about participating in, unlike other churches they had experienced, was the inspiration behind the pub church. It started with the simple vision of “participating with Spirit.” The discernment of what that means and what that looks like is an ongoing process to which all pub church participants contribute.
To learn more about the Pub Church, click here.