Title

Come and see! : experiencing different missional styles : a pilot program in shared ministry appointments.

Date of Award

5-1-2015

Document Type

Dissertation

School

Drew Theological School

Degree Name

Doctor of Ministry

Abstract

As the sole pastor appointed to minster between two God-filled and individually gifted church families, I was stunned when a parishioner asked me, "If we mean what we say every Sunday, and if it's so important, why aren't we getting the word out there?" The feeling was growing that despite their generally strong desire to "Go and make disciples of all the nations." (Matthew 28:19) we were not connecting as we possibly could beyond church walls. Since they were already experiencing some collaboration through shared ministry, I wondered if it might be possible for each church to participate in each other's missional / witnessing experiences? I wondered if there might be cross pollination between the two? Knowing that one preferred a practical missional outreach while the other preferred verbal witnessing, I wondered if we might identify different aspects that might be shared by the other as we learned more about each other? On January 19, 2014 both congregations worshiped together and representatives from six chosen missional / witnessing activities (three from each church) shared informative summations of their activity. Events included: a Habitat location in Newburgh, NY, worship at the Hudson River Gazebo in the Donohue Park in Cornwall, NY, a church dinner, the Highland Mills United Methodist Church food pantry, the playground area of a Monroe, NY mobile home park, and the Holy Week Journey to the Cross experience. Each concluded with the Biblically sourced (John 1:39) "Come and see," invitation which was the overarching theme through May 18 when the churches again worshiped together and closed the pilot program. We analyzed the data collected from the qualitative/ narrative research interviews utilizing Venn diagrams for evidence of cross pollination, for obvious changes or for transformations in either church or the pastor. By noting that each church shared overlapping values atop the same foundation of faith, we immediately better understood the unusual acceptance of each other despite their unique missional /witnessing styles. The primary observation was the increasing self-sufficiency of each church family as they grew closer in relationships. While there was little evidence of immediate cross pollination a systems, analysis indicated a ripple had been set off in each church! Church leaders and congregations will continue to seek positive ways to address downsizing issues while simultaneously focusing on making new disciples of Jesus Christ. Since shared appointments and cooperative parishes are, out of necessity, growing in popularity, it is vital to identify ways to turn these often overwhelming appointments into opportunities for lay people and clergy alike. A potential benefit of utilizing this pilot program between groups will be the opening of ears, eyes, and hearts for the movement of the Spirit. Based on this research, we hope that others may see future shared ministry appointments as Holy opportunities rather than mechanical fixes. We need this hope now, as we face the growing challenge of sharing that hope founded in Jesus Christ with others beyond our church walls.