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Students at commencement

Biblical Fluency

Gloria Dei Lutheran Church

Location: Northbrook, Ill.
Denomination: Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA)
Size: Worship attendance average is 125 per Sunday

 Download Gloria Dei's VCP report or see report contents below:

Ministry context
Gloria Dei is located in a northern suburb of Chicago. The congregation membership demographic is families with children, empty nesters and retired persons. Many members commute into Chicago for employment and/or travel for their jobs. Northbrook has very strong schools and extensive opportunities for children to be engaged in sports, dance, music and theater activities. As a faith community, Gloria Dei is actively engaged in serving the community with strong partnerships with the local food bank, youth service organizations and other community groups.
Pre-existing practices

1. Small Group Bible Study

We started groups in the Fall of 2010. Five to six groups meet throughout the week at different times and locations. Groups have two leaders each that facilitate the conversation. The weekly content is also tied to the preaching texts for the Sunday morning worship experience. Between 50 - 70 adults members are active in small group study.

These are not designed as ongoing groups. They form for the prescribed number of weeks of the series (10 weeks at a time). In the two years we have done this, we have used the “Essential 100 Challenge” and the “Essential Jesus Challenge,” both from Scripture Union. Some short-term groups have spun off of these initial groups as well. These groups have provided a vehicle to engage people in Bible Study who have never done so before.

2. Worship & Preaching

Realizing that worship is often the only touchstone for folks and their engagement of scripture, an intentional shift has been made to more of a teaching style of proclamation. Worship and Preaching follow a “missional lectionary” or selection of scripture.

This practice has fit well with the preaching texts coming from the curriculum for the small group Bible studies. It allows the preacher to build on the experience of reading and studying together, as God’s grace, mercy and love are proclaimed.

3. The Development of the Formation & Learning Missional Team

In the renewal work of the congregation, one of the core teams’ of the new congregational structure is the Formation & Learning Missional Team. This team comprises the leadership of all of the formation ministries. It naturally, is a place of planning and discernment for its work, but is also focused on opportunities to collaborate with the other missional teams that make up Gloria Dei’s structure. In addition to oversight of traditional education ministries, the Formation & Learning Team focuses on the formation and strengthen of spiritual practices not traditionally taught in a Sunday School or Adult Forum setting.

Discoveries from listening process

1. Skepticism and Curiosity about the Bible

People at Gloria Dei exhibit a healthy skepticism and curiosity about the Bible. This matters because it creates a great entry point into an engagement of scripture, and pushes everyone as hearers and learners.

2. Importance of being part of a Bible Study Group

Many who thought they could not make time in their lives for Bible Study, discovered that they ended up missing it in those times when the groups were taking a break and not meeting. It felt good, when groups reformed, to be back in the discipline and the relationships of the group.

3. Determination to Move beyond a Childish Understanding of the Bible

Adults are ready to move beyond their childhood understanding of the Bible.

Opportunities for growth

1. Building on Congregational Engagement of the Bible

2. Developing Strategies, Ways to Speak about, Teach, Preach, Live out the Connection between God’s Word and the Daily Life of a Follower of Jesus

3. Equipping and Strengthening Congregational Leaders in their Comfort, Ability and Desire to Engage with the Bible

Small Group, Sunday School, Council, Ministry Team Leaders.

Experiments undertaken

1. Small Group Bible Study - “Essential Jesus”

We are currently engaged in the Essential Jesus Challenge and will continue to build on that ministry and its connection to Gloria Dei’s worship life this Fall and Winter.

A culture of small groups of people studying, praying, and sharing life together has begun, but still needs time to be nurtured and embedded at Gloria Dei. This path is still new for us and will continue to be a point of emphasis and invitation.

One question about this path is about the relationship between worship and the strength of the series that have been done. What might happen if a small group series were “unhooked” from worship? Or, what would it be like to have several different series/topics going on simultaneously? Would the interest level continue at similar levels? What would the collective congregation experience be like?

2. Connections: Bible and Daily Life

In worship and other venues, people would give “testimonials” about their understanding of scripture and how that is lived out in their lives.

This allows for an opportunity for people to give witness to God’s presence and activity in their lives; to give insight into their worldview; how God’s word has impacted them. Approaches might be in regard to: service to God, stewardship of life, care for others, faith in the workplace, faith and family.

This may primarily be something done in a worship setting, but it might also be modeled to take place in a team meeting or small group context. Strengthening and developing understanding and thinking about these connections may lead people to being more intentional about sharing faith outside the walls of the church.

 Video: A Theologian-in-Residence Experience