Congregational Science: Imagining Stability and Change in Churches
When: June 10, 2021, 9:00 am - Thursday
Where: Ezell 211
Churches, congregations, and fellowships of faith are social systems comprised of people. Over time and in their context, these social systems remain stable in some ways and change in some ways. Pastors (ministers and ministry staff), Thinkers (theologians and social scientists), and Leaders (elders or board members) in congregations take great interest in how congregations change and remain the same. Congregational science explores the mechanisms of stability and change in congregations through theories of social science. This session will apply four different social science theories with an aim toward better understanding the mechanisms of stability and change on congregations.
Dave Morgan, Lipscomb University, “Church of Origin”
Social scientists cite the influence of family of origin experiences on later development. Whether we hope to recreate the patterns learned in our families, or we intentionally seek to change them, it is beneficial to explore and examine past family experiences. Understanding the church as the Family of God invites considering church of origin experiences as a powerful influence on emotional maturity, differentiation, and spiritual formation as well as influence on how people view themselves, view others, and view God. This paper will explore a framework for describing and understanding the influence of one’s church of origin.
Jackie Halstead, Abilene Christian University & Selah Center for Spiritual Formation, “Externalizing the Congregational Problem-Saturated Narrative”
The theory of Narrative therapy articulates the belief that the stories that people tell themselves and others are powerful influences on the ways they understand the world, live their lives, and define their identities. This paper offers a blueprint by which a consultant can work with a congregation within the Narrative Therapy paradigm. Interventions will be designated that have as their purpose the eliciting of the problem-saturated story and guiding the congregation in the creation of a richer, deeper alternative narrative.
Marsha Vaughn, Adler University, Chicago, “The Stories We Don’t Tell: Or, What Exactly is ‘Our History’?”
The “narrative” metaphor has grown in popularity in the last few decades, applied to both theology and family systems (and organizational functioning in general). Narratives are told and re-told over time, and they vary based on the storyteller, the circumstances, and the audience. This paper will use ideas from narrative therapy to propose a theory about why some stories hold more sway than others, and raise questions about the consequences for choosing some “identity-shaping stories” over others.
Chris Gonzalez, Lipscomb University, “Shared Obliviousness in Congregations”
It is impossible for any social system to have awareness of, give attention to, and engage its energy into everything that matters. Social systems organize into social patterns that highlight information that is in line with its priorities while obscuring information that is not prioritized. Churches and congregations are not immune to these social processes. This paper will use Paul Rosenblatt’s theory of shared obviousness in families and apply it to religious congregations, exploring mechanisms of shared obliviousness in congregations.
Chris Gonzalez, Lipscomb University, Convener
- Dave Morgan, Lipscomb University, “Church of Origin”
- Jackie Halstead, Abilene Christian University & Selah Center for Spiritual Formation, “Externalizing the Congregational Problem-Saturated Narrative”
- Marsha Vaughn, Adler University, “The Stories We Don’t Tell: Or, What Exactly is ‘Our History’?”
- Chris Gonzalez, Lipscomb University, “Shared Obliviousness in Congregations”