1. Connect Scripture and Daily Life
Our use of the Narrative Lectionary is still quite new so the biblical fluency team will track and evaluate the impact of this approach on the congregation’s biblical fluency.
The Narrative Lectionary seeks to equip people with a deeper understanding of God’s story – to find themselves in God’s story and to find in that story the love of God in Christ. As noted above, we implemented the Narrative Lectionary during Lent 2011 and have extended it to our Fall and Winter Sermon Series. We are now aligning our Sunday and mid-week Adult Bible Studies, Sunday School curriculum and Children’s sermon with the Narrative Lectionary in order to have the congregation focus on one “big idea.”
When we surveyed and interviewed the congregation last spring, we received positive feedback about the Narrative Lectionary focus on the Gospel of John. We will know that this approach is working if:
- there are more conversations about the current Scripture/series (e.g., between children and parents/grandparents) because there is a common/shared base of information;
- more questions are being asked about the Scripture involved;
- more stories are shared about how people see the Word at work in the world around them.
In addition to attuned observation, we intend to monitor the effectiveness of this approach through survey monkey, intentional conversations, and online feedback.
The staff have devoted a portion of their weekly staff meeting to focusing on and discussing the text for the week. The pastoral staff have noticed a difference in how they engage with the text. There is a desire to “preach and teach” every week (versus rotating or sharing this responsibility) because it has prompted the passion to “go deeper.”
2. Foster Curiosity and Hunger to Go Deeper in the Word
This path will have a two-pronged approach:
- We will identify and/or develop resources that help people to understand “why” spending time with scripture is important. This will involve testimonials, video(s) and/or other tools that involve people sharing provocative stories and insights with the aim of clarifying convictions and increasing engagement.
- We will develop a “just-in-time” devotional tool that piggy backs off the Narrative Lectionary and helps create Bible study habits. Initially this will be targeted to our 3rd graders who just received their Bibles. Over time, we hope to extend this to other groups (e.g., adults).
We believe that getting people to devote time to scripture involves adaptive change, which starts with an understanding of “why” the Bible is important. We also believe it involves accountability which would be aided by easy-to-use tools and by leveraging the eagerness of third grade Bible recipients. We will know that this path is leading our congregation in the right direction if parents ask for similar tools for children in other age groups and/or for themselves. We would also expect to see increased use of Bibles by our third graders (as recognized by Sunday School teachers) and increased recollection of prior lessons (e.g., last week’s “Take Home Point”). We intend to measure use of this just-in-time devotional tool via a cohort study (e.g., we’ll provide the tool to all third graders and ask half of their parents to ensure it is used during the week, but make no request to the other half of parents; at the end of the study we will solicit feedback from all students and their parents on the frequency of use and helpfulness of the tool’s content).
Our congregants shared via the recent survey that we have strong and plentiful programs, yet participation is limited. Our aim is to identify and address the underlying motivators to engagement (i.e., if we affirmatively ask people to use a tool we have provided, will their sense of responsibility/accountability increase the likelihood it is used).
3. Approachable and Digestible Resources
In cooperation with staff who are already doing so, we intend to augment our online resources and tools (features, links, phone apps, etc.) and create corresponding opportunities for online dialogue (e.g., affinity groups) and Bible study. We will also add a recently developed guide on how to select a Bible to our website. We will track “hits” to monitor usage and invite online feedback to evaluate effectiveness.
Seventy-nine percent of survey respondents told us that they turn to the Internet as a primary source of information. Since two-thirds of our respondents were age 40-70, we anticipate that use of the Internet by our core audience (median age of 34) is even higher. Our hope is that these tools will be an effective alternative for people who choose not to use on-site Bible study programs.
- This approach will be based off the competency model around which other programs and offerings will be structured (e.g., Bible study). The premise of this model is that at the conclusion of a “program” people are equipped to do something they were previously not able to do.
- We anticipate that this path is a multiple year initiative that will involve ongoing evaluation and refinement.
- We hope that online communities will develop. We can imagine facilitating periodic face-to-face participation to deepen dialogue and relationships.