By Melissa Lauber
*Originally posted by Baltimore-Washington Conference website.
It’s church, but better than church. Or, it’s not church, but churchy. Or it’s church, only different. It’s church as church should, or could, be church.
Defining the BWC’s new Change Maker ministry, which lies at the intersection of organized religion and social innovation, can lead church people into verbal calisthenics. It can also lead them to encounters with fascinating new ministry.
In a nutshell, Change Makers is a unique ministry of the Baltimore-Washington Conference and Wesley Seminary, funded by a grant, for young adults interested in creating ministry that expands beyond the sanctuary and draws on the best of business, government, non-profits and church to create social change.
Based on experiences at Taste and See events around the conference, several people applied to participate in a 10-month project made possible by a Young Clergy Initiative grant from the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry. It started with an immersion experience focusing on innovation in London and San Antonio, Texas. From there, they’ve begun sharing ideas and experimenting.
In May, they’ll take next steps to accelerate their social innovation and create a new expression of church. Along the way, mentors accompany the Change Makers in having vocational and theological conversations.
In San Antonio last month, five young adults from the BWC came together with leaders from London’s Matryoshka Haus, pioneers in Christian social innovation. The five had missed the main trip to London for a Learning Lab, and so this experience was created for them.
In a whirlwind week, they heard from entrepreneurs changing the culture in San Antonio, a city with immense personality and the nation’s largest disparity between its wealthiest and poorest people.
Chefs, farmers, business people, designers, artists, journalists, investors, a meditation teacher, tour guides, historians, social activists and others shared how they are bending and breaking the boundaries between business, government, neighborhood groups, education and religion to create something new that blends profit, gift, purpose, community, faith and social action.
In the BWC group, ideas for missional entrepreneurship began to bubble up.
During the week, they were immersed in the design thinking process of empathize, define, ideate, prototype and test. But more importantly, they were encouraged to let their imaginations soar.
Too often in the church, people get too busy or too focused to take the time to imagine, said Shannon Hopkins, the founder of Matryoshka Haus. The Learning Lab gave these change makers opportunities to dream bigger, exploring how current realities can better align with the Kingdom of God. With imagination, Hopkins pointed out, comes risk, experimentation, and creativity.
Everything we do contains seeds of an alternative economic imagination – where money is a means to an end; where we expect more of people, not less; and where markets and enterprise are humanizing, not demoralizing,” she said.
Hopkins encouraged the Change Makers to consider why people of faith aren’t at the forefront of social innovation and transformation.
Since 2004, Matryoshka Haus has started 13 major projects. They will continue to work with the BWC to help creative people create ministries with impact that focus on spirituality, community, beauty, justice and social change.
Upon returning from San Antonio, the Change Makers have been meeting with regional cohort groups and mentors.
In these settings, they’ll more sharply deﬁne the problems they want to address, explore the resources available to them, “ideate and iterate” by experimenting with plans and
projects that make an impact, begin collaborations, identify roadblocks, and ﬁgure out next steps.
Next May, the Change Makers will participate in a Jumpstart session that moves them further along the path romideas to action.
At the London Learning Lab earlier this year, the Change Makers returned inspired by the thought that, “You just might be God’s answer to the question your community is asking.” From San Antonio, they discovered that imagination unlocks doors, broadens horizons, opens eyes to new visions and gives God’s people wings.
It’s church. And it’s more.
New flavor of mission: We went on a taco hop of the city's best flavors. Ram Gonzalez shared how he used his financial expertise as the CEO of a new investment company to assist people who face foreclosure. He believes if you can help, you should help, otherwise, you become part of the problem. "This is very experimental," he admits. "But I'd rather live with failure than regret."