Boots on the Ground Discipleship

How do you rescue discipleship from being strictly a cognitive affair to being ‘boots on the ground’? Christ Community Church of the South Hills wanted their entire ministerial staff (pastors, worship leaders, family and children pastors) to embody the importance of all work. How does Christ Community Church of the South Hills accomplish this feat?
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All Ministerial Staff Initiative

Christ Community Church requires all ministerial staff to do vocational commissions and workplace visits. This all hands on deck approach roots out natural dualistic leanings—the perception that spiritual work (like pastoring or international missions) is superior to the duties of an engineer or stay-at-home parent.

Vocational commissions are held twice a month. Imagine how encouraging it would be to have all the educators or service workers in your congregation stand and citing a prayer over their work.1

Staff members are also asked to visit the workplaces of their parishioners and pray for these spaces. For example, Terry visited the offices of one of his parishioners who is a lawyer. Terry visited, spoke with this member’s co-workers, and then prayed over the space. Typically, such responsibilities are relegated to one person on staff; but Christ Community Church wanted to send the message of a unified front, that the workplace is valued and that all of them viewed vocational commissionings and workplace visits as sacred tasks.
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Vocare Groups

Christ Community Church hosts two vocare2: one is general in nature and the other is vocation specific. In the general cohort, instructors cover the rudiments of faith, work, and economics theology—understanding of calling, work, and how “work is integral and not incidental to the missio Dei” (Steve Garber). Vocare instructors also piloted Tracy Mathews’ good work, the Call to Work curriculum3 with much success.

The vocation specific cohorts gather those who share the same weekly vocation. Cohorts have been formed with small business owners, educators, and mental health professionals. Facilitators found case studies based on real workplace events to be the best approach for leading these groups. This encourages participants to listen well before applying biblical wisdom to these common workplace situations.
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Two Cohort Initiatives

Using generous grants from the Kern Family Foundation, Christ Community Church launched two new initiatives. The first was the Women’s Empowerment Program. To date, two cohorts of women ages 22-30 years old have been immersed in a 6-month educational exploration. They discuss leadership, communication, conflict resolution, and vocation to establish a  foundation of rich theology early in their careers and position them for longevity and flourishing in the workplace.

The second initiative was the Play & Exploration cohort. Two beta cohorts learned about creativity, innovation, and entrepreneurial leadership. The six-month curriculum includes field trips to New York City, to the Google office in Pittsburgh, and to startups. Participants are assigned readings and a project to help them apply what they  learned to their vocational space. The staff member running this cohort was so impacted by this initiative that he left his post at the church to start the Center for Play and Exploration. Currently, he is taking an entire Christian school staff and an architectural firm through this curriculum.

With these initiatives, Christ Community Church is communicating loud and clear that Faith, Work, and Economics theology is not simply an intellectual affair; this rich theology must be applied Monday through Saturday in the workplace. Discipleship is truly a boots on the ground affair.

1. See Made to Flourish’s book, “Discipleship With Monday in Mind” how other churches are doing commissioning services.
2. Vocare is a Latin word meaning calling or vocation.
3. For information about this Call to Work curriculum, see info@thecalltowork.org. Both Terry Timm and Luke Bobo helped develop this curriculum.

Related Resources

Dr. Luke Bobo serves as director of resource and curriculum development at Made to Flourish. He worked for 15 years in the marketplace as an engineer before earning his M.Div. and Ph.D., eventually serving as the executive director of the Francis Schaeffer Institute at Covenant Seminary.

Terry Timm is the lead pastor of Christ Community Church of the South Hills in Pittsburgh, PA and is one of Made to Flourish’s Pittsburgh City Directors.