By John W. Vest, Visiting Assistant Professor of Evangelism at Union Presbyterian Seminary.
This week I began a new course at UPSem called “Post-Congregational Evangelism.” It brings together much of the theory and practice I first explored as a youth pastor and have subsequently presented in a variety of workshops around the country. Here is the course description:
Are congregations based on anachronistic social capital models? Lee Rainie and Barry Wellman suggest that “networked individualism” is the “new social operating system” of the 21st century. Instead of focusing exclusively on attractional or program-based approaches to ministry that will have limited results in a post-Christendom cultural matrix that we cannot realistically hope to change, the church must also invest in the religious and spiritual lives that people are actively cultivating beyond congregations. This course will explore this new cultural reality and the practical implications of thinking about church as a social network. If people are no longer interested in going to church, the church must find ways of going to the people.
Here are the books we’re reading together, in the order we’re reading them:
- Seth Godin, Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us
- Paul Adams, Grouped: How Small Groups of Friends are the Key to Influence on the Social Web
- Keith Anderson, The Digital Cathedral: Networked Ministry in a Wireless World
- Andrew Zirschky, Beyond the Screen: Youth Ministry for the Connected but Alone Generation
- Kelly Bean, How to Be a Christian Without Going to Church: The Unofficial Guide to Alternative Forms of Christian Community
- Diana Butler Bass, Grounded: Finding God in the World—A Spiritual Revolution
Students will be writing reviews and reflections on these books throughout the course and I will be posting them on this blog. I hope to also make additional posts myself to provide some sense of the trajectory we are following. I am very excited about teaching this class.
If you would like to see the full syllabus, you can download it here.