Crafting a Congregational Narrative for the College Church of Christ in Fresno, California
Author(s)Locke, Jason W.
The Book of Romans
Christian Denominations and Sects
Critical and Cultural Studies
Ethics in Religion
Liturgy and Worship
Missions and World Christianity
Religious Thought, Theology and Philosophy of Religion
Speech and Rhetorical Studies
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AbstractThis thesis describes a ministry project in the College Church of Christ in Fresno, California. In this project I led the congregation through a narrative crafting process in order to clarify the church’s identity and increase its capacity for mission. In recent decades, the College Church moved away from some of its founding characteristics yet failed to clarify a new sense of identity. It subsequently had difficulty acting with a unified sense of purpose and instead moved increasingly toward fragmentation. Data for crafting the new narrative came from three weeks of group interviews. My research team conducted these interviews in the church’s six adult classes, called shepherding groups. Well over half of all adults in the church responded during the sessions. The interviews consisted of a form of questioning called appreciative inquiry to elicit and build upon the positive memories and feelings about the past. I inserted the eschatological trajectory of Romans 8 into the process in hopes that the resulting narrative and congregational identity would be consonant with God’s unveiling plans for the world. I chose this passage as a significant representation of Paul’s theology and a crucial tool for shaping the church’s view of eschatology—two needed elements in this process. Repeating themes appeared in the group interviews, and I used these to assemble the narrative. In so doing, we reinterpreted the congregation’s history and injected a new appreciation for the mission of God. This thesis describes the project, shares the resultant narrative, and explains the results and potential implications of the project.