What Are Learning Communities?
Imagine 25 pastors and marketplace leaders from your city engaging together to discover how their churches can equip their congregations to become faithful followers of Christ in their everyday work — whether paid or unpaid.
Learning Communities are the most in-depth training we offer pastors in our network. We bring pastors and marketplace leaders together in a collaborative, laboratory learning environment centered around transforming ideas and best practices.
The aim of our learning communities is to equip churches to infuse this message throughout their congregational life and practice. Across three sessions, pastors and congregational leaders learn from local thought leaders, assess their congregation on various dimensions, design action steps to more robustly integrate faith, work and economics, and receive coaching along the way.
The learning community gathers for three interactive learning sessions over the course of six months, led by Made to Flourish faculty and speakers who are recognized thought leaders in their fields. See the sessions tab for more details.
These three gatherings focus on:
- Establishing a biblical foundation for connecting faith and work
- Reviewing church culture and programs
- Cultivating a leadership development pipeline
- Completing church assessments
- Creating a customized implementation plan for each church
Conference attendees also visit a church or business where Made to Flourish principles are being practiced and making an impact.
Objectives and Deliverables
- Deeper understanding of vocational stewardship and its place in spiritual formation
- Greater insight into the role of the church for the economic flourishing of the community
- Customized implementation plan for your congregation
- Enhanced preaching and teaching on vocation
- Empowered and deployed congregants on mission in their community
- Regional relationships of encouragement and accountability
- Full attendance at all sessions
- Completion of reading assignments
- Completion of Vocation Infusion Plan
- Participation in exit evaluation
$2000 per church (not including travel and lodging expenses, if necessary).
Scholarships and payment schedules available.
The Learning Community (LC) is a unique educational experience. Over the course of three sessions, participating pastors and congregational leaders will learn from recognized thought-leaders, visit with practitioners on the leading edge of this movement, and wrestle with their own practical plan for implementing these learnings in their own church community. And perhaps most significantly, they will do all of this while rubbing shoulders with others who are wrestling with the same issues in the same city/region.
Here is a brief snapshot of the content you’ll be discussing in the Learning Community:
Session 1 – Theological Foundations of Faith, Work, and Economics
In this session, we seek to lay a theological foundation for the whole project. We will explore the Grand Biblical Narrative (Creation, Fall, Redemption, Consummation) and its relevance to our world and our work. We will see how our work is a central aspect of our call to love God and neighbor. In the words of Steve Garber, “Vocation is integral, not incidental, to the missio Dei.”
Session 2 – The Church for Vocational Discipleship
Building on the Foundations from session 1, we now explore the ways in which this reframes the ministry of our local churches. If our vocational callings are central to God’s mission in the world, in what ways are our churches aiding (or hindering) this goal? How should a commitment to vocational stewardship affect the various aspects of local church life (preaching, liturgical practices, spiritual formation, evaluation criteria, etc.)?
Session 3 – The Church for Vocational Mission
The church is called to join God’s redemptive mission “far as the curse is found.” This includes seeking the flourishing of the communities in which he has placed us. In this session we focus on the central role of economic exchange and the role of the church in fostering a flourishing economy.
|SESSION 1||SESSION 2||SESSION 3|
|TOPIC:||Theological Foundations of Faith, Work, and Economics||The Church for Vocational Discipleship||The Church for Vocational Mission|
|TEACHING THEMES:||Insight for vocational stewardship from each of the four Biblical paradigms of Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Consummation||A critical evaluation of church culture, including its mission, liturgy, pastoral practices, discipleship, and communication systems||A critical evaluation of church ministries/outreach and community engagement|
|LEARNING OBJECTIVES:||Biblical Understanding of Vocational Stewardship||Transforming Church Culture||Individuals and Churches on Mission|
|SPIRITUAL FORMATION EMPHASIS:||Whole Persons:Personally Transformed Workers||Whole Churches:Churches for Whole-Life Discipleship||Whole Communities: Discipleship “For the Life of the World”|
|Foundational Biblical Insights||The Church as An
|How Churches and Commissioned Congregants Revitalize Communities|
|VOCATION INTEGRATION EXAMPLES:||Individual(s)
Shaped by FWE Theology
Shaped by FWE Theology
Shaped by FWE Theology
By “congregational leader,” do you mean a businessman/businesswoman?
No. This person can be working in the business world, but could also be working in another sector: government, the nonprofit world, healthcare, media, art, education, etc. We also consider stay-at-home parents as potential congregational leaders, believing their vocations are vital to society, even though they are unpaid. You can also consider inviting a retired person who had some sort of marketplace career to be your congregational leader.
I am the senior pastor and know that I cannot make all of the three retreats. Should I apply?
Yes. We would love to have senior pastors participate as much as possible, but we understand that this can be difficult given their very demanding schedules. We suggest either you share the pastor “slot” with a selected associate pastor or delegate a member of your pastoral staff to be your representative at the retreat you cannot attend. This should be the pastor/staff member you envision as the person who would have the most responsibility for championing and implementing any new vocation-related initiatives at the church.
I’m not entirely sure why our church was recommended—we have interest in vocational stewardship but very limited experience. Does the LC accept “newbies” to this conversation?
Yes. We’re not necessarily expecting that participants will have already implemented a lot of initiatives to help congregants integrate their faith and work. We are looking for church leaders committed to such integration, eager to learn about practical implementation ideas.
We already “get” this at my church and have begun implementing initiatives to help congregants live missionally through their work. Will the LC have something to offer us?
Yes. In the past the LC has been composed of a mix of newbies and more experienced pastors/practitioners. Each has learned much from our faculty, field trips, and peer-to-peer discussions.
We are a church plant. Can we still apply for the LC?
Yes. We have had church planters in prior LCs and they got a lot out of the experience.
We are a multi-site church with several “campus” pastors. Which of us should apply?
In this scenario we recommended you send two selected pastors, and one marketplace congregational leader, who will carry the vision for vocation infusion at their respective campuses and across all the church’s sites.
What are the criteria you use to determine who gets accepted into the LC?
As indicated in the Application Form, we’re looking for church leaders highly committed to implementing what they learn in the LC in their congregations. Additionally, we’re aiming for the maximum amount of denominational, racial, ethnic, gender, and church-size diversity—such diversity has been a source of strength in previous LCs. We also want to be sure that your team is highly committed and has the time to invest in the LC—to fully comply with all the requirements of membership (i.e., attendance at all retreats, completing the homework, readings, and Vocation Integration Plan).
Learning is far richer in relationships. Discipleship is about imitation, not information. So when I am life on life with other people, the material becomes more than just head knowledge. The Learning Communities provided a space for that relationship building. The learning went far deeper. That is valuable. This approach also brought accountability. The infusion plans gave us help with assessment and action. Not just learning content, but giving us a schedule and plan for bringing about real transformation in the church. — Claire McClun, Hillcrest Covenant Church
The Learning Community cohort proved to be invaluable to both myself as well as our team. We were in the process of launching a new church plant in Atlanta and we wanted to ensure that vocation through a kingdom lens was inextricably woven into the discipleship DNA of our church. This time of learning also helped our team identify the ways in which the evangelical church has failed to holistically disciple her congregants with respect to vocation. This failure has served as the antecedent for exploitative and broken economic structures leading to gross injustices perpetrated upon “the least of these”. Overall, the Learning Community cohort gave us the language necessary to communicate what it means to seek the welfare of our city and its relation to our welfare. — Darryl Ford, Ikon Community Church
The Learning Community (LC) was a rich experience for our church – a gift, actually! Specific highlights were the exposure to leading FWE (Faith, Work, and Economics) thinkers, authors, and doers in the ministry design phase and the generous sharing of materials and networking among participants during the training, launch phase, and beyond. Having just completed our first program year of FWE Infusion, we are grateful to the Made to Flourish Network and the LC process and partners for giving us the tools we needed to bring this work to life! Thank you! — Mary Lou Erlacher, Cornerstone Church
The Learning Communities were very timely for us as a church and personally. We had reached a place where we were certain that discipleship was much broader than indoctrination and devotions but were not sure how to make the connections to the normal routines of life. The Learning Communities pushed us forward in breadth and depth to the nature of connecting faith to our daily activities, especially those who spend the bulk of their days entrenched in work. The dialog, lecture, exploration and readings are invaluable to the body of Christ. — Delano Sheffield, Macedonia Baptist Church
The Learning Community was a time of crucial learning for me and my team. We were able to grow in our understanding of vocational stewardship that has deeply impacted our work and ministry at Mill City Church. The time of networking with other leaders as well as the presenters was very valuable and meaningful. We are seeing our church members step into their vocations with Kingdom purpose! — Stephanie Williams, Mill City Church
The Learning Community was instrumental in our church’s shift to more holistic discipleship. Before the Learning Community we all agreed that God cared about our whole lives, but we didn’t have a vision for how to make disciples who lived out this truth. At the Learning Community our imaginations were inspired and the fruit of that was channeled into practical initiatives that have made us a church that is more faithful to the whole gospel. — Trevor Lee, Trailhead Church
Click on your city and you will be taken to a page with more detailed information. We will be adding many additional cities here throughout the year.
- Seattle – Began November 2017, completed
- Cleveland – Began March 2018, completed
- Orlando – Began May 2018, completed
- Atlanta – Began September 2018, completed
- Dallas-Fort Worth – Began January 2019, completed
- Denver – Begins December 2019
- Twin Cities – Began 2017, completed – Next Learning Community begins January 2020
- Kansas City Began January 2018, completed – Next Learning Community begins January 2020
- Research Triangle