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Students at commencement

Biblical Fluency

Kindred Lutheran Church

Location: Kindred, ND.
Denomination: Lutheran
Size: Average Weekly Attendance of 97

Download Kindred's VCP report or see report contents below:

Ministry context
Kindred Lutheran Church is a small town/rural congregation founded in 1887 in the town of Kindred which has a population of about 675. We are located about 25 miles southwest of Fargo, a midsize city of approximately 100,000 and a metropolitan area approaching 200,000. While many residents live and/or work on a farm, Kindred is also a bedroom community for people working in Fargo. The context is fluid. New, younger families are moving to the community while older members move to Fargo to receive higher levels of health care. A new school is being built which may lead to further growth. The current Pastor has been here for three and a half years.
Pre-existing practices

1. God’s story. Our story

Reading through 100 of the most important stories of the Bible together as a congregation, including adults, confirmands and Sunday school students. We read five passages from the Bible each week for 20 weeks. Weekly sermons are based on the E100 readings. They are being used in the Adult Bible Study which meets Sunday mornings. The pastor not only read along with the congregation but also modeled it for them by blogging about the daily readings. Tools for Biblical fluency were made available on the web site, through a weekly email called eConnections, as well as Facebook and Twitter.

E100 was developed by Scripture Union.

2. People of the Word 

The pastor is intentionally encouraging worshipers to use Bibles during worship, even having them join in reading aloud portions of the Scripture–and not just the Psalms. This was augmented by eliminating the lectionary inserts in the bulletins and purchasing Bibles for the pews so people could actively use the Bibles during worship. The inserts cheapened God’s Word—we tossed them in the garbage! Our children did not understand that the readings on Sunday morning actually came from the Bible. The bulletin inserts made people less familiar with Scripture, decreased their confidence in daily Bible use and caused them to look to the pastor as the only expert in interpreting Scripture. In short, the less we used our Bibles in church, the less we used them at home. We had become biblically illiterate and Biblical fluency was disintegrating.

3. Living Stones 

During Lent, we engaged in Bible reading as a congregation, starting with the Sunday School children and their families. Our theme was “Living Stones!” The pastor taught the entire Sunday School one Sunday to encourage Biblical engagement, prayer and family discussions. The children brought home a paper bag they decorated for Lent. Inside of each bag were 5 stones. On each stone the children had written a word—share, read, talk, pray, bless. We invited them to gather as a family for 15 minutes one night each week for 7 weeks and try the following: Take the stones out of the bag and put them in front of you, such as on your table, bed, sofa or wherever else you are gathering. Pick up the first stone—SHARE—and share your highs and lows for the week. Then pass it to the next person so they can share. When everyone is finished go to the next stone—READ—and have someone read the suggested Scripture passage while they hold the stone. Then pick up the next stone—TALK—and pass it from person to person as you talk about the passage and how it relates to your life. Continue with each of the other stones.

4. Dwelling in God’s Word 

Council meetings typically begin with 20-30 minutes of engagement with Scripture. We read a passage of Scripture (sometimes more than once) and sit in silence for a minute as we dwell in God’s Word, often focusing on a simple question. Council members then share in small groups of 2-3 people what they have heard. As we gather together as a large group, council members are often invited to take turns sharing what our partner shared with us—not what we shared with them. The purpose is to teach listening skills—we learn to listen to one another as well as listen to God’s Word. We also learn that to be a People of the Word means we dwell in Scripture and struggle with its meaning as a community not just as individuals.

Discoveries from listening process

1. Pastor Viewed as Gate Keeper 

Reflects the professionalization of clergy. It limits congregational involvement & discourages initiative. The Bible has become intimidating. People have a challenge making connection between Biblical stories/people and life.

2. Success of the E100 

People want to know but don’t know how to do it on their own. The E100 gave them a place to begin in bite size pieces. The sequential order helped the stories make sense by linking them into the overarching Biblical story. Multiple tools were provided, i.e. email, Facebook, Twitter, blog, website, newsletter, bulletins, reading guides, sermons, and Bible study class on Sundays. It can be a jumping off point for future success.

3. 73% of People Use the Internet for Information on Scripture 

This impacts communication and learning. Is the electronic media people use accurate, orthodox, reliable, etc.? How can the church help people identify reliable resources? How can the church use these tools effectively for Biblical literacy?

Opportunities for growth

1. Encourage People to Reprioritize and Engage Scripture

2. Give People Skills and Tools to Engage Scripture 

3. Help People Connect Scripture with Daily Life 

4. Change People’s View of Pastor as Gatekeeper  

Experiments undertaken

1. Invigoration

Five week sermon series “The Bible from 31,102 feet” will lead into Path 2 by reviewing the E100 from the previous year and give an overview of the Biblical story. At the end of sermons, the pastor will invite members to turn to the person beside them and summarize what they just heard as a means of faith formation and helping people connect the Biblical story with life.

Launch a new 5 week class entitled “Bible Tune Up” to give a basic overview of the Bible and how to read/study it. Also to provide web based tools since a large percentage of the congregation relies on the internet.

Begin sign up for the Essential Jesus. Encourage participation through lay speakers and a funny video “Sherlock Psalms in Search of the Essential Jesus.” Sign up will be on the wall in the Narthex as well as on line with the encouragement to check a box to indicate how you will hold yourself accountable. Launch 3 new adult Bible studies to accommodate people’s schedules. Also incorporate into confirmation class.

People are intimidated by the Bible. So we need to:

  • Increase the percentage of people in the congregation engaged in Daily Bible reading.
  • Empower people to be self motivated and assist them in reevaluating and reprioritizing their lives.
  • Equip people with the ability and tools to read and study on their own and part of a small group.
  • Encourage family and small group Bible reading.
  • Help us to hold one another accountable.

2. God’s story. Our story (Part 2) 

Launch the Essential Jesus in October. Each week we will invite the congregation to read 5 passages from the Bible for 20 weeks—25 from the Old Testament and 75 from the New Testament. (We'll take a break during Advent in December). Weekly sermons will be based on these readings. The Essential Jesus will be the basis of adult Bible study and confirmation. The pastor will not only read along with the congregation but will also model it by blogging about the daily readings. Tools for Biblical fluency will be made available on the web site, through a weekly email called eConnections, as well as Facebook and Twitter.

The rationale is:

  • Theological—some people have a general sense of apathy and see no purpose in reading the Bible.
  • Lifestyle—some people perceive that they are too busy and reading the Bible has no priority in their lives.
  • Practical—some people simply don’t know where to begin; they are intimidated and need a plan that enables them to read the Bible in small bite size pieces.
  • Measure fruitfulness—use an evaluative tool to measure Biblical knowledge before and after the Essential Jesus.

3. Claiming the Story 

We want to:

  • Help the congregation to make a link between the Biblical story and themselves as individuals as well as us as a congregation. Answer the questions: Where am I in the story? Who am I in the story? Why does it matter? How does it affect my life as an individual and a member of the church?
  • Be able to talk about how the story relates to their life—dialogue during sermons.
  • Be able to identify with people in the Biblical story.
  • Witness talks.
  • Purposeful and regular connection between Scripture and life as part of the sermons and adult education and confirmation.

In this way we will:

  • Make the story “mine” and “ours.”
  • Help the Bible come alive. Help people have an encounter with the living Christ.
  • Equip people so they can share their witness with others.