Informing Congregational Ministry (AM-611)
Hartford Seminary has long been committed to the teaching of congregational studies. That field is always changing, and this course offers the chance to see emerging developments. The centerpiece of the week will be a cutting-edge discussion by a core group of scholars (leaders in the areas of education, ethics, history, scripture, sociology, theology, and worship) as they consider new ways their respective disciplines might work together more effectively to inform our understanding of congregations. Students will be introduced to underlying issues, listen to the scholarly discussion itself, and reflect upon its usefulness in light of their own places of ministry.
Meeting Day, Time and Dates
Monday, 26 June — Friday, 30 June from 9:00am to 4:00pm (variable)
James Nieman, Professor of Practical Theology
860.509.9516 / firstname.lastname@example.org
- a. To learn the background history of an important segment of congregational studies during the past twenty-five years;
- b. To recognize how different disciplines bring distinctive discourses, perspectives, and limitations to our understanding of congregations;
- c. To note how these disciplines and our understanding of congregations have changed in the intervening quarter century;
- d. To experience a fresh conversation about how scholarship on congregations might now be advanced, especially through interdisciplinary work; and
- e. To engage seriously and deeply the most important insights from the week in relation to one’s own congregation.
Monday, 26 June — 9:00am to 4:00pm
Morning: Brief history of congregational studies
Afternoon: Further perspectives on congregations
Tuesday, 27 June — 9:00am to 4:00pm
Morning: Focusing on the conversation ahead
Afternoon: see attached event schedule
Wednesday, 28 June — 8:30am to 4:15pm
All day: see attached event schedule
Thursday, 29 June — 8:30am to 12:30pm
Morning: see attached event schedule
Afternoon: students prepare for Friday presentations
Friday, 30 June — 9:00am to 3:00pm (approximately)
Morning: Student presentations and discussion
Afternoon: Student presentations and discussion
The course unfolds in three main moves. First, through preparatory readings and in-class conversation, we will sample what has happened so far in scholarly work on congregations (Monday all day and Tuesday morning). Second, through listening in on the event, “Toward a New Understanding of Congregations,” we will engage what scholars in several disciplines say their fields can bring to understanding congregations better (Tuesday afternoon through Thursday midday). Third, through student reflections and presentations, we will collaborate on how the insights from the week have implications for various congregations (Friday all day). This third move will culminate in a research paper due in mid-August.
Preparation 30% of grade
The following two texts are to be read in their entirety before our first in-class session:
Carl S. Dudley, ed., Building Effective Ministry: Theory and Practice in the Local Church (San Francisco, Harper & Row Publishers, 1983).
James P. Wind & James W. Lewis, eds., American Congregations, vol. 2, New Perspectives in the Study of Congregations (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994).
[Although the Dudley volume is out of print, used copies are available online, and it can be borrowed through libraries.] Students should take careful notes and be prepared to share insights about these texts during our Monday discussion. In addition, students will write a 500 word statement introducing their present congregation (religious community, ministry setting, etc.) and the chief challenges or issues about it they would like to understand better. This must be posted to the BlackBoard course website by 19 June.
Participation 20% of grade
Attendance at and active participation in every class session during the week is expected of all students. Exceptions will only be allowed if advance permission has been granted by the instructor, and only for unavoidable absences.
Presentation 10% of grade
Each student will be allotted approximately one hour on Friday morning to present the most important insights they have gleaned from the week, incorporating the readings and the scholarly conference. These presentations should especially connect these insights to the student’s own congregation and the challenges or issues about those settings they posted earlier. Presentations should not involve the entire allotted time, but should leave space for collegial conversation of what the student presents. The aim of this time is to identify a few key items to be explored in greater depth in the final paper.
Paper 40% of grade
The key insights bearing upon congregations identified during the Friday presentation time will become the focus for the final paper. Using the advance readings for this course, insights from the scholarly conference, and at least three other written resources (from a supplied bibliography), students will explore how they have gained a better understanding of at least one key challenge or issue in their settings. Papers should be 12-15 pages in length (double-spaced, not including bibliography), and are due by 15 August.
Dr. Efrain Agosto
Professor of New Testament
Director, Programa de Ministerios Hispanos
Dr. Nancy Ammerman
Professor of Sociology of Religion
Director of Graduate Studies
Dr. Theodore Brelsford
Asst. Professor of Religion and Education
Director of Religious Education Program
Dr. Heidi Hadsell
Professor of Social Ethics
President of Hartford Seminary
Dr. James Nieman
Professor of Practical Theology
Dr. Thomas Schattauer
Professor of Liturgics
Dean of the Chapel
Wartburg Theological Seminary
Dr. Harry Stout
Professor of American Christianity
Yale Divinity School