God’s story, our story : a narrative approach for discovery of congregational identity and purpose
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Many North American Mennonite churches live in a climate of confusion and anxiety struggling to understand who they are and why they exist. This project explores how a congregation’s self-understanding is shaped by stories they tell and live. The context for this project was my ministry leadership in three Mennonite congregations during pastor transitions. I started the project by researching ecclesiological themes of importance to these congregations: sixteenth-century Anabaptism, missional ecclesiology, and narrative theology. I crafted and implemented a process of engagement utilizing these themes allowing congregations to take steps toward discovering identity, purpose, and a hopeful future. I conducted ethnographic research and facilitated congregational interaction with their stories, ecclesiological themes, and the defining narrative of scripture. This resulted in a narrative summary, written identity, and purpose statement for each congregation. The outcome of this narrative approach for ecclesiological understanding is seen in the clear, hope-filled identity and purpose statements developed by these three Mennonite congregations.