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Discernment: Theology and the Practice of Ministry

Discernment is a journal of practical theology. In language accessible to the church, it presents peer-reviewed work by scholar-practitioners describing Christian ministry in a broad array of contexts, exemplified by: congregational life; a particular ministry within a congregation (children’s ministry or youth ministry, for example); mission contexts, whether single or multi-congregational; ministry in cross-cultural settings; or Christian ministry in an extra-congregational environment (for example: disaster relief, care for the poor, or care for children and families). See the Aims and Scope for more information about the journal's coverage.

Current Issue: Volume 3, Issue 2 (2017)

Introduction

This issue of Discernment contains a diverse set of articles, each connected in some way to adaptive change. We begin with “Shared Leadership in Congregations: How to Construct a Holding Environment to do Adaptive Work.” For some years it has been commonly understood that those studying businesses have considerably more funds for research than those studying congregations. Zachariah Ellis has carefully researched the concept of shared leadership in the business literature and found a way to appropriate that knowledge for the ecclesial environment. Since most American congregations need to make changes that are adaptive work and not technical fixes, they need appropriate structures and methodologies. Ellis helps us imagine how this might best work using shared leadership.

In “Practicing Missional Hospitality at a Suburban Church,” Kevin Stewart clearly describes a common scenario in which many suburban congregations currently find themselves. To help such churches engage in the necessary culture change—adaptive work, not technical—Stewart constructs an intervention in which he trains and involves his congregation in missional hospitality. He outlines a theology of such a hospitality and then transparently describes the real-world challenges of enacting that hospitality.

Not all ministers arrive at a congregation that is at a happy or healthy place. In “Fostering Healing through Narrative Transformation,” Randall Carr records the context and history of a congregation that, though starting well, eventually found itself in severe conflict. Even years later the surviving remnant found itself stuck in this narrative of conflict and experiencing “the loss of a sense of identity and purpose.” Carr accessed the work of Paul Ricoeur to devise an intervention in which he could lead this congregation through a transformation of their narrative to a new story connected to the larger reconciling narrative of God. He details the process and how his congregation worked through it, then considers what he learned in the process.

For many, intergenerational ministry is a potential adaptive transformation to better connect all of the generations within a congregation for the sake of unity and faith formation. The hope is that these intergenerational connections will help all generations maintain a lifelong faith. To help those leaders and congregations exploring intergenerationality in the church, Dudley Chancey and Ron Bruner have assembled “A Reader’s Guide to Intergenerational Ministry and Faith Formation.”

Articles