Important Ministry Shifts We’re Seeing & Other TMC Updates

“Look well to the growing edge. All around us worlds are dying and new worlds are being born; all around us life is dying and life is being born. The fruit ripens on the tree, the roots are silently at work in the darkness of the earth against a time when there shall be new leaves, fresh blossoms, green fruit. Such is the growing edge…” Howard Thurman 

Growing green edges of ministry we’re seeing in our network and beyond:

It’s been fascinating and inspiring in recent months to see how congregation and other ministry contexts are turning different types of corners into 2024 and beyond. Ministry is complex! Ministry is incredibly challenging at times! The landscape and trends in our culture can make ministry difficult and exhausting. And yet mixed in with those complexities and challenges, here are some hope-filled things we are hearing from around the country from pastors, facilitators, trusted partners, and others we’re in frequent conversation with:

  • One of our facilitators who works “on the edge of inside,” (borrowing from Richard Rohr) right at the intersection of her rather large, historic denomination and a wildly diverse church planting initiative, says she’s seeing ministry leaders and congregations settle in to the reality of the current landscape and the resources God is providing with a great deal of hope and energy. Wendel Berry’s “what we need is here” line comes to mind. She’s not alone. We’re pleased to see a growing number of pastors and congregations share this sentiment.


  • Overlapping with the above, a pastor in a rural area noted that in her region cynicism among pastors has clearly diminished in recent months, and that this has been refreshing.  Other clergy present in this particular conversation – who were from several different locations across the country – agreed.


  • On a recent call with about a dozen of our facilitators nationwide, many agreed with my colleague Jennifer Maxell that – in some contexts – people are indeed “coming back,” but that it’s important not to misinterpret why. We’re pleased to see congregations/ministries that are responding with depth, not more “to do’s.”  New paths for walking with Jesus more than new programs to keep people busy. Doing less, going deeper. Less information, more Spiritual formation.


  • We are also pleased to see the ongoing – and maybe accelerating – recovery of a “faith filled justice making” tradition that, in addition to many of the more historically marginalized traditions that have long had this at their core, is now drawing from an unexpected and beautiful combination various theological traditions, movements, and generations. We’ve actually been observing and reporting on this sort of “Jesus’s justice” Christocentrism for a few years now via annual reports and other publications, and it’s inspiring to see how it continues to evolve in surprising ways.


  • Ministry contexts settling into the above “what we need is here” are also broadening their imagination around funding and resources, wrestling with the rapidly shifting landscape of philanthropy and giving, finding local community foundations and other partners to support important ministry efforts.


  • In the wake of the pandemic, we’re glad to see many congregations becoming more intentional about right-sizing their administrative and programmatic systems so that they remain entirely in service of meeting local needs with increased agility and nimbleness. One pastor recently noted how valuable it has been for him to do more “modeling than managing” as a leader, and that their congregation is getting on board with ministries that remain loosely defined but clearly meeting needs. Less strategic planning, more strategic positioning responsiveness. Less planning, more presence (a la Adrienne Marie Brown).


  • In all of the above, congregations and other ministry contexts are rightly reconsidering their metrics and benchmarks for…. everything.

There are actually quite a few more items we could add to this list – not least important shifts in multi-vocational ministry, localized grassroots collaboration, and recalibrating of institutional/denominational relationships. But for now it will suffice to say that we’re so greatly encouraged and inspired by what the Lord is doing, and that we feel privileged to witness first-hand how the joy of Jesus is sustaining so many of you leading in this shifting and incredibly complex landscape. “Be strong and courageous. Do not fear, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you.” (Joshua 1:9)

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