Presbyterian/Reformed Churches

The Use of Appreciative Inquiry to Help a Congregation Through a Crisis Towards a More Positive Outlook: Reemphasizing Discipleship and Leadership Development

Martin Edward Spoelstra D.Min.

This portfolio was originally intended to research Discovery Church’s
journey to multisite. Over a four-month period just prior to launch of the second
site, the church dealt with a leadership and financial crisis brought on by a drop in
attendance. These changes necessitated putting multisite on hold and refocusing
energies on discipleship and mission.

The original research question proposed the use of an Appreciative Inquiry
model intended to help the congregation deal with the emotional and social shifts
to become one church with two locations. Facing new circumstances, the
Appreciative Inquiry model was modified to help the church deal with the
emotional and social concerns they had around the dramatic change in their
attendance and vision for multisite. This exercise gave an opportunity for the
Church to recall why they started as a church plant, some of the great things that
God had already done, the courage to risk once more, and step into a new future.

Out of the Appreciative Inquiry, Discovery Church embarked on the
rebuilding process that focused on clarifying their existing vision, developing
disciples making disciples, and a missional leadership development process,
eventually leading them back to the potential for multiplication.

Even To Our Graying Years: Faithfulness and Renewal In An Aging Church

Jeffrey Colarossi D.Min.
My Project in Ministry has begun a conversation that will, with God’s help, work toward the renewal of an aging congregation, Westwood First Presbyterian Church, offering a pastoral care plan to calm members’ anxiety and fear over the challenges threatening the church, and an action plan necessary for the church to be able to live faithfully, into a hopeful future, trusting in God. Engaging Biblical texts, Reformed Polity, the Spirituality of Aging, and key theologies––Practical, Vocation, Discipleship and Life-Long Learning––the project offers the church a clear vision for the future and a tangible plan to organize, energize and engage the congregation. The implementation of the project, involving the Worship and Christian Education ministries of the church, as well as the qualitative social research methodologies of self-report questionnaires and guided interviews, enabled the project to clearly communicate that vision and plan, and convey the sense of validation needed to establish participants trust, so crucial to the success of the project. The enthusiastic response, participation and support of the church throughout the process––particularly its leadership––offers a sense of confidence that the conversation will continue well into the future.


Samuel Lapsley Pendergrast D.Min.
In Utica Presbytery we have eleven Commissioned Ruling Elders (CREs) serving twelve congregations out of thirty in the presbytery. I interviewed twelve CREs who are currently serving or who have served as pastors to learn about their experience and how they evaluate their work, training, and relationship with colleagues in the presbytery. The interview results were categorized, then the group of CREs discussed the results. We developed recommendations for the presbytery in a variety of areas. In the report I interpret the results in light of pastoral theology and the history of ordination. Questions for further study emerge concerning the difference between seminary-trained pastors and commissioned elders, presbytery mission strategy for using CREs, and contextual theological education.

Over the Hill and Everywhere: How the Art of Storytelling Can Revive the Practice of Evangelism

Jon Kyle Goodman
Faith-sharing evangelism has long been an afterthought in the mainline church, abandoned to the dogmatic, coercive approaches practiced in evangelical circles. The author contends that the art of storytelling offers the mainline church an alternative approach for that practice. The author taught a course on storytelling at Alamance Presbyterian Church. Following the course, each participant agreed to seek opportunities to share their faith narratively outside their congregational context. Participants reported their activity at a closing session and in a written survey. The author concludes that teaching the art of storytelling has the potential to help the mainline church reclaim the practice of evangelism.
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