A Lilly Endowment grant
The Vibrant Congregations Project (VCP) partnered with congregations from 2009-2014 to a) study how congregations develop vital, vibrant ministries in six critical areas and b) to develop resources for congregational leaders (ordained and lay) based on that research and study. The project, funded by the Lilly Endowment Inc., will report outcomes by 2016.
The six areas of congregational life Luther Seminary focused on include the following:
The VCP grant sponsored three kinds of activities. First, it supported four congregation-based research explorations (in the areas of vocation, stewardship, biblical preaching, and Bible study). Each exploration included between seven and twelve congregations and involves a three-part process of 1) discovery, during which congregations take an inventory of their current attitudes, habits, and practices in a given area; 2) experimentation, where congregations introduce intentional change based on what we have learned in the first phase in order to try out new patterns of being and acting; and 3) assessment, during which congregations evaluate various experiments to determine how effective and portable their new practices and patterns are.
Second, the VCP will take what we are learning from our research with congregations and develop four web-based congregational resources. One of these sites will be focused on Vocation. Three focused on redeveloping sites in CYF, Congregation Mission & Leadership, and Stewardship.
Third, the VCP has supported intentional conversations a) with faculty at Luther Seminary to enhance our curriculum revision and implementation in light of what we are learning and b) with external partners and church leaders to improve our processes and share what we are learning.
Therefore, the three primary goals of the grant as it has evolved over the past four years are:
- to understand more fully how communities of faith grow and thrive in critical dimensions of congregational life,
- to share what we learn as widely as possible, and
- to shape our curriculum and pedagogy to train congregational leaders prepared to lead their congregations in renewal.