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American Religious Trends: Changing World, Changing Ministry*
Most religious leaders are well aware that the world is no longer flat. But neither is it any longer helpful to think of it as round, although it is global to be sure. How do we capture the ethereal and ephemeral nature of the emergent world in which we now are called to religious leadership? A world that, somewhat ironically from a religious perspective, has in only a few years moved from the earthiness of being “wired” to the heavenliness of “the cloud.” And what does it all imply for ministry – both in theory and in practice? Focusing on the American context, these are the questions the course addresses – the broad and dramatic demographic, socio-cultural and religious changes of the last quarter century, their implications for ministry, and promising approaches to developing new religious habits and renewed religious communities for the changing world. Classroom time will include lectures, discussion, case studies, and the sharing of students’ experience.
Monday, June 3 through Friday, June 7, 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
- To deepen one’s understanding of the challenges and possibilities for ministry in the contemporary American context;
- To explore contemporary research on social and religious trends in order to more accurately understand one’s own congregation, ministry setting and religious journey;
- To engage in sustained reflection on leadership practices and ways to approach change within one’s own congregation, ministry setting and community;
- To deepen awareness of and skills for making the interconnections among theology, ministry setting and strategic action essential to the faithful and effective practice of ministry.
- Timely and regular attendance. If an emergency comes up (and they do), call or email me or call the main seminary number (860/509-9500) and leave word. The seminary’s policy is: Two absences in a week intensive constitutes withdrawal from the course.
- Prepared and active participation in class presentations and discussions (this course is a combination of lecture, discussion and a peer learning group with the instructor as coach)
Commitment to dialogical engagement of one’s colleagues:
- Open sharing of one’s own perspectives and respectful probing of other’s perspectives
- Appreciative understanding of other’s perspective/argument before offering suggestions for further consideration
- Appreciative consideration of other’s suggestions.
- All reading assignments will be completed in advance of the class session for which they are assigned.
Grades: DMin students will be graded on the standard DMin, HP / P / LP basis. These grades mean:
- HP: Exceptional in several or most ways; such work completes all tasks, is creative and even original in content, and displays mastery of expression.
- P: Adequate in all basic ways; parts of the task are slighted, the content has minor weaknesses, and expression is competent yet not consistently compelling.
- LP: Inadequate in some ways; does not address significant tasks, shows weak or erroneous content, and expression sometimes obstructs understanding.
MA students will be graded using the standard MA, grade basis -- A through F.
Class participation: 45% of grade. Attendance at and active participation in every class session is expected of all students. Exceptions are only allowed if advance permission has been granted by the instructor, and only for unavoidable absences. In all cases, failure to be in attendance at more than one class session automatically precludes successful completion of the course. The participation grade includes active familiarity with all readings and completion of online contact hours.
Final paper: 55% of grade. The final paper integrates central insights and readings from the semester with a student’s ministry experience/setting, or with a theme/issue/situation of the student’s choice. Accordingly, there will be two options for the paper, details of focus, format and length, to be provided during the class sessions. Final papers must be sent by e-mail to the instructor by July 12th.
Plagiarism is the failure to give proper credit for the words or ideas of another person, whether published or unpublished, and is strictly prohibited. Credit will not be given for written work in this course containing plagiarism, and plagiarism may result in a failing grade for the entire course.
Reading assignments are to be completed in advance of session for which they are assigned
Monday June 3: Overview
Morning: A Half Century of Religious Change
- The Olive and the Lexus Tree: Understanding Globalization (2000 edition), Thomas Friedman. Foreword, Opening Scene and Part 1: pp ix – 144.
- A Decade of Change in American Congregations 2000 – 2010. David Roozen, Hartford: Hartford Institute for Religion Research. Online under research reports at: http://faithcommunitiestoday.org/
- “Four Mega-Trends Changing America’s Religious Landscape.” David A. Roozen. Online: http://hirr.hartsem.edu/bookshelf/roozen_article4.html
Afternoon: Leadership and Change
- Sacred Strategies: Transforming Synagogues from Functional to Visionary. Aron, Hoffman and Kelman, 2010.
Your choice of one of the following:
- Missional Renaissance: Changing the Scorecard for the Church by Reggie McNeal
- Natural Church Development: A Guide to Eight Essential Qualities of Healthy Churches by Christian A. Schwartz
- Christianity for the Rest of Us by Diana Butler Bass.
- Liberating Hope! Daring to Renew the Mainline Church by Michael Piazza and Cameron Trimble
Reflection paper: Bring to class a typed reflection paper of no more than four pages relates your reading for the day to your religious life and/or a ministry setting in which you have a leadership responsibility.
Tuesday, June 4
Morning: Generational Differences and Today’s Young Adults
- Selections from: Souls in Transition: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of Young Adults. Christian Smith, with Patricia Snell. 2009 (Online PDF)
- Selected case studies of young adult ministries, TBP
Afternoon: Stewardship and Finances
- Insights Into: Financial Giving. Available for free download under “Leadership Reports” on the Faith Communities Today website http://faithcommunitiestoday.org/
- Case Study – TBA
Wednesday, June 5:
Morning: Changing Organizational Landscape – New models of Congregations
- Scott Thumma “The Shape of Things to Come: Megachurches, Emerging Churches and Other New Religious Structures Supporting an Individualized Spiritual Identity.” in Faith in America: Changes,
- Challenges, New Directions. Charles Lippy Pp. 185-206. Online at: http://hirr.hartsem.edu/megachurch/organizationalchangechapter.doc
- Emergent Church – TBP
- Scott Thumma, “Virtually Religious: Technology and Internet Use in American Congregations” Online at: http://hirr.hartsem.edu/research/technology-Internet-use.html
- Insights Into: Congregational Conflict. Available for free download under “Leadership Reports” on the Faith Communities Today website http://faithcommunitiestoday.org/
- Case Study -- TBA
Thursday, June 6: Increasing Diversity: Opportunities, Challenges and Conflict
- Nestor Rodriguez, Hispanic and Asian Immigration Waves in Houston in Ebaugh & Chafetz Religion and the New Immigrants. Pp 29-42 SonisWeb
- Hoda Badr, Al-Noor Mosque: Strength through Unity in Ebaugh & Chafetz Religion and the New Immigrants. Pp.193-227 SonisWeb
- Robert Wuthnow, America and the Challenges of Religious Diversity Princeton University Press, 2005. Chapter 7 p.188-229 Chapter 8 p. 230-258 SonisWeb
- DeYoung, Emerson, Yancey, and Kim United by Faith. pp. 62-74; 162-180 SonisWeb
- Religious Organizational Identity and Homosexual Ordination: A Case Study of the Presbyterian Church, USA. Guest Editor: James K. Wellman, Jr. Review of Religious Research, Vol 41, Dec 1999. SonisWeb
Friday, June 7: Innovative worship and Spiritual Practices
- Innovative Worship TBA
- Diana Bulter Bass, The Practicing Congregation: Imagining a New Old Church. Pp. 7-33, 69-90 SonisWeb
- Don Miller, Reinventing American Protestantism. Chapter 4 Beyond Rationality pp.80 – 107 SonisWeb