Pivoting Into Innovation
There is no doubt that we have all learned more than we expected to as we have navigated the last two years together. Church life has changed, and innovation and resilience have become a more integral part of our everyday life. Churches that would have never considered using technology for meetings or streaming services now cannot imagine a time where they no longer offer streaming as an option to their community members. The energy that has been put into embracing technology is allowing us to reach people who were unable to feel connected before for a variety of reasons. This is the case both for community members engaging in church life as well as church leaders engaging in developmental programs across the wider Church.
If you are aware of ECF’s Congregational Leadership Initiative, or CLI as it is commonly called, you are likely aware of the important work they are doing equipping lay and clergy leadership. In 2020, like many others, they had to switch to a fully online format for their programming. In 2021, they moved back to gathering in person, but not all participants were able to be present. That sparked the thought, how can we utilize technology to engage more people? Time, health concerns, and travel are only a few of the factors that can limit a community’s participation in programs that might offer them resources to develop leadership and, in turn, benefit the entire community. While technology is not without its own faults and connectivity complications, it alleviates some of the stressors of in-person opportunities. It is from those ponderings that PIVOT was created.
PIVOT began with a stage of discovery. Leadership did a lot of listening through both surveys and interviews. They not only talked to participants and faculty of previous CLI cohorts, but also reached out to professionals throughout the Church who have experience overseeing multiple congregations. That gave them the unique understanding of the diversity of the church and the uniqueness of experiences of particular communities. The discovery phase also allowed the ability to investigate content and structure possibilities to optimize the experience for participants.
Based on the assessments, it was time to move into curriculum design. In this pilot year, it was important to find the right balance of material. The goal of having enough material for communities to work with and learn and grow from must be balanced with the understanding that the mental load for information gathered virtually is different from information gathered in-person. The curriculum for this summer consists of three modules: Know Your Faith Community; Know Your Neighbors; and Know Your Mission. Faith Communities will engage with these modules over the course of three days to gain knowledge to strengthen their communities.
The process moves into its third phase this summer. Not only will participants have the opportunity to learn and grow, but leadership will be able to learn and grow alongside them. The goal is to learn as much as possible as this process moves forward so that the program can continue to develop to be the most beneficial to those who participate. As that happens, leadership will continue to assess how the program can best translate into digital content so that technology can be used as a tool and not as a distraction.
There are five faith communities engaging in the pilot this summer. There is a great deal of excitement at the opportunity to learn and grow alongside these partners in ministry. Hope permeates for what this learning could mean for PIVOT and possibly other programs in the future who might have the ability to learn from this process.