Church and community

An Evaluation of the Community Foundations Curriculum for Enhancing Interpersonal Relationships Among Church-Based Small Group Participants

Author
Sten-Erik Armitage D.Min.
Abstract
The purpose of this applied research project is to evaluate the Community Foundations curriculum in the context of the local church as a potential means to address the problems that emerge in the church through the foundation of the unscriptural societal value of individualism and the subsequent epidemic of loneliness. The project seeks to determine the overall effectiveness of the curriculum in three key areas: grounding the community in understanding the significance of what it is to be “in Christ,” providing opportunities for small groups to cultivate a desire to both know and be known within the context of a trusted community, and finally to cultivate an environment wherein a burden of care is embraced and felt within said community.

The research centers on qualitative interviews with participants in the Beta launch of the Community Foundations curriculum. The Beta launch occurred between Spring 2018 and Fall 2019. Three hypotheses geared around the key areas addressed above are presented and evaluated through the content of the recorded interviews.

The research results indicate deeper and more sustainable relationships were cultivated through these small group experiences as well as a new appreciation for the value of shared story in the context of community.

Know their suffering : facilitating a deeper understanding for the local church of the plight of the working poor

Author
Weatherly Overall Weatherly
Abstract
"Many middle-class church members are devoted to acts of mission. Despite good intentions they suffer from insufficient poverty intellect for understanding the circumstances of those they serve. This project encourages a deeper understanding of the working poor, thus increasing the practical and relational efficiency of outreach. A six-week small group experience combines biblical, theological, and Wesleyan foundations, with emerging trends and efforts to increase the awareness and knowledge necessary to have more authentic relationships with those in poverty. The results are that greater poverty intellect can reduce inaccurate assumptions and increase the depth of mutual understanding and engaged interaction between the classes." -- Leaf [2].

Connecting with our community : when service and discipleship go hand in hand

Author
Elizabeth A. LeMaster
Abstract
"This project was created to discover how the church can serve the people of its community while helping members live out their call to discipleship. Examination of the words of Jesus in Matthew 25: 31-46 through the lens of missional theology established that caring for our neighbors is vital to our faith and discipleship. To evaluate community needs, the author used qualitative research tools including data collection, independent experts, and purposive and snowball sampling. Demographic information and community needs were also assessed through data collection using MissionInsite. The congregation was educated on the needs of the community and their call, as disciples of Jesus Christ, to care for those needs through a sermon series. Analysis of the data suggests that a church-sponsored Family Resource Center to connect people with resources is important. However, the author concluded that this is not the sole focus for the church. Jesus' teachings, our Wesleyan heritage, and United Methodist theology suggest that the church is called to be in relationship with its community through which the hope and unconditional love of God is shared." -- Leaf [2].

Samaritan community reading project : engaging congregation and community in love of God and neighboring

Author
Autura Eason-Williams
Abstract
"How does a church, capturing God's vision of shalom, model a commitment to social holiness as a neighbor intentionally gathering neighbors to respond to a practical need in the neighborhood? The author embarks on a Christian service project, in which Capleville United Methodist Church and its neighbors implemented Samaritan Community Reading Project, which included an eight-week summer book club for families of pre-k through kindergarteners and the installation of a free library and community bookcases in the neighborhood. Parent surveys, reading logs, and reading autobiographies were collected to help facilitate relationships with new neighbors and gauge program effectiveness." -- Leaf [2].

Healing begins with hospitality

Author
Jay D. Cooper
Abstract
"The purpose of this project is to help congregations form relationships among themselves and their communities around the premise that healing begins with hospitality. With the goal of personal and communal wholeness, this project aims to reclaim the biblical practice of hospitality and to help the modern church widen its understanding of how God heals in the world today. My contextualization of this premise stems from working with a local Parkinson's community, serving as a drug court chaplain, volunteering at an adult respite program for persons with Alzheimer's and dementia, leading a local church staff comprised of 104 people, and serving as the Senior Minister of a large membership United Methodist congregation. The author has created a leadership guide for practical ways every congregation may implement a practice of relating healing and hospitality. The author provides a helpful approach to biblical healing and hospitality through two contexts, but which is reproducible in various settings." -- Leaf [2].

A processional of hope : developing cross-sector collaborations between local churches and public schools as an act of social justice

Author
Chad B. Anglemyer
Abstract
"The author researched public school and local church collaborations as a means of vitalizing and improving community life. The author conducted [on site] investigations, [which included] interviews with school administrators and clergy involved in collaboration. [The author used] scholarly resources [related to] Christian spirituality [and] community organizing . . . [Additionally, the author relied upon] biblical studies focused on Ezra-Nehemiah and the return of the exiles to Jerusalem during the Persian Period. Research shows that post-exilic Jerusalem was an imperfect community as are the present-day communities hosting church and public-school collaborations. Nonetheless, churches grow and behavioral and academic climates of schools improve when in healthy collaboration." -- Leaf [2].

HOW EVANGELICAL CHURCHES IN THE CHICAGO METRO AREA ARE ENGAGING MUSLIM COMMUNITIES

Author
Michael Urton D.Min.
Abstract
This project examined how local evangelical churches in the Chicago Metro area are engaging local Muslim communities. It asked a main research question along with two additional questions to frame the study. The main research question was how are specific local evangelical churches in the Chicago Metro area engaging local Muslim communities? The two additional questions were used to answer the main research question in a more precise manner. The first one was what are some of the challenges that these local churches encountered when engaging Muslims? The second was what lessons can be learned from the experiences of these congregations when mobilizing churches to engage Muslims?

This study began by stating the problem of attitudes towards Muslims in the West with special focus on evangelical Christians in the United States. It then discussed the important role that evangelical churches in the United States have in engaging the Muslim community.

A theological/biblical basis along with a philosophical foundation from a review of precedent literature supported this project. This foundation can assist evangelical Christians in knowing the lengths they can go in their engagement with Muslims, as well as realizing the distinctives that they must maintain.

Data collections were conducted for this study to explore the research questions. These included twenty-one semi-structured qualitative interviews with people at seven different churches, participant observations of events that these churches did with Muslims, and a collection of documentary evidence. The data from this study was organized into findings and suggestions were made for how they can be implemented by churches in their interactions with Muslim communities.

Liturgical Drama in the Church: an Application of Daily Scriptural Living

Author
Alma Lee Langley-Ward D.Min.
Abstract
The main purpose of this research was to study the validity of using liturgical drama as a vital tool of expression to help make Scripture come alive for the application and transformation of lives, first of the researcher’s local congregation and eventually of other churches. The researcher wrote and directed a play based on Luke 1:26-35 using members of the Greater Friendship Missionary Baptist Church as actors and crew. The entire church was a participant of this research as the play was done during a Sunday morning worship service as part of the liturgy. The mixed-method approach presented the most viable pathway for this study and the researcher surveyed a cross-section of the congregation both as actors and audience members. The essential elements considered in using this method involved selecting the Scripture passage; observing the participants during rehearsals to determine their level of understanding of their roles and the motivation for their actions; and administering a survey to measure and analyze the effectiveness of the play in increasing biblical knowledge and inspiring transformation that would produce daily scriptural application. For a more objective case study, the researcher chose those members who presented with a limited understanding of Scripture and were interested in learning through their participation in the play. Rehearsals ran once a week for six weeks with additional rehearsals during the final week. The focus of the observation was on the conduct of the cast from week to week. The researcher assessed each cast member for transformation and changes in behavioral patterns. The findings suggest that using liturgical drama as a model for teaching the Word of God can be an effective teaching tool. The researcher claims that there is still hope of liturgical drama being a key part of the liturgy and worship

Creator God, Humans, and Artificial Intelligence: Framework to Address Theological and Relational Issues

Author
Tinku Thompson D.Min.
Abstract
Technological advancements are happening at an accelerated phase. Five decades ago, no one even owned a personal computer. A decade ago, smartphones did not exist. Today there are 2.71 billion smartphone users in the world, which is more than thirty-five percent of the world’s population. Many developments have happened in the field of Artificial Intelligence (AI), Robotics, and Mixed Reality. AI is the term used to describe a machine’s ability to simulate human intelligence. Characteristics once considered unique to humans like learning, logic, reasoning, perception, and creativity are now being replicated by technology and used in every industry. The problem this project addressed is the lack of a theological framework, and especially the absence of a framework highlighting the character of the biblical God, by which to analyze, interpret, and evaluate AI and its implications for human life in a theologically informed manner. In response to this problem, the researcher explored and identified biblical themes of eight attributes of God from the Bible and the relationality between the creator and creation. A study of current literature on the recent development of AI/robotic technology and the responses and concerns raised by Christian organizations or groups in the form of official statements related to AI, theology, and God were analyzed. The researcher collected data through a survey conducted among young Christian students and interviews conducted among pastors and Christian leaders, Christians, and non-Christians working in the technology industry. The researcher then developed a framework that addresses unique characteristics of God as the creator of all creation in comparison to humans as creators in light of technological advancements in AI/robotics.

The Impact of Presence and Touch on Church Growth

Author
William Charles Berg D.Min.
Abstract
This project addresses the problem of discovering whether, when churches move to be physically present in their communities and engage in appropriate touch through serving, there is a corresponding impact in confession of faith and church growth. To answer this problem, the researcher began with the incarnation and trinity as a model of presence and touch. The researcher reviewed the Gospels to identify Jesus’ use of physical presence and touch in His ministry. The researcher also looked at the impact of presence and touch on the early church in the Book of Acts. He reviewed literature that focused on the importance of presence and touch and its influence on conversions and church growth. The researcher then interviewed senior and associate pastors of seven growing churches. Next, the researcher surveyed congregants from these seven churches. Both the interviews and the survey focused on how serving in the community through presence and touch impacts conversions and church growth. This study revealed that within the seven churches involved in this research there is, indeed, a direct connection between presence and touch and a growth in professions of faith and church attendance. Through his examinations, the researcher identified seven principles of how serving through presence and touch affects churches. As part of their missions, the majority of churches today serve their community in some capacity. Like any organization, the church is limited in time, gifting, and finances. Thus, knowing the effect of a ministry helps the church wisely allocate resources. This project sought to provide the church insight on how its use of presence and touch when serving the community results in conversions and church growth.
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