Congregational Vitality: The Board Game

In March 2015 North Park Theological Seminary, in cooperation with the Start & Strengthen Churches Congregational Vitality team of the Evangelical Covenant Church, launched a certificate in congregational vitality. The certificate is a collaborative initiative between the seminary and denomination to put the expertise of church and academy in service to current students and pastors.

The 12-credit certificate is comprised of courses in Foundations of Congregational Vitality, Leading Healthy Missional Change, and Strategic Ministry Planning, capped with an elective of choice.

Box Cover

Board game, created by Kendall Churchill

Kendall Churchill (MDiv, NPTS), pastor at Calvary Covenant Church in Evansville, Minnesota, is part of the certificate’s inaugural cohort. For his final project in Foundations in Congregational Vitality, Churchill developed a board game, now being promoted by the denomination. The game allows users to simulate the vitality pathway. According to Churchill,

“A major goal of congregational vitality is helping people understand what vitality is and how it works. I designed a game to help churches explore that concept. As a church begins the vitality pathway, people are given a lot of information to process. My game instructs users in the different types of churches, healthy missional markers, the pathway, and consequences of choices in each type of church. Playing the game helps users better understand the state of their own church and the consequences of upcoming choices.”

Churchill names the congregational vitality courses a “huge asset” in his ministry, giving him tools and confidence for church leadership.

Kendall & Tracy Churchill

Kendall & Tracy Churchill

“[Prior to completing the course] I didn’t feel ready or called to take a leadership role but that class gave me both confidence and a new perspective. Coming to Calvary Covenant as my first call was made much easier. The classes gave me language and perspective to understand church culture. The particular tips from the classes regarding starting in a rural church have been invaluable.”

While his design is intentionally simple, Churchill says users “can expect to find a depth of meaning” as they play the game. “I highly recommend playing it twice – once to understand the game play mechanics and a second to grasp the meanings behind the game play.” Churchill’s wife Tracy, graphic designer for the project, notes that the absence of words on the game board and pieces was also intentional, making the game accessible to non-English speaking congregations.

Find more information on the congregational vitality pathway board game, including ordering instructions here. Learn more about North Park’s Certificate in Congregational Vitality here and here.

Not So Happy Holidays? Ministering to the Grieving in a Season of Joy

With generous support from the Good Shepherd Initiative, North Park Theological Seminary has inaugurated a series of webinars to provide resources for students and pastoral practitioners alike.

Elizabeth Pierre

Elizabeth Pierre

On November 16, Elizabeth Pierre offered a workshop titled, “Not So Happy Holidays? Depression, Grief and Hope in the Festive Season.” Pierre is an experienced pastor and clinical counselor who teaches in pastoral care and counseling at the seminary. 

Professor Pierre discussed how the expectation of joy during holiday seasons can be particularly difficult for those enduring grief, loss, and significant illness. Moreover, the focus on family can exacerbate new or existing feelings of anxiety, depression, and trauma. In light of this, she offered practical suggestions for supporting parishioners, lay leaders, and clergy during these busy, and often stressful, seasons.

According to Pierre, acknowledging these emotions is the first step towards healing. Professor Pierre recommended careseekers and caregivers to practice self care and spiritual disciplines that encourage holistic health. Additionally, she advised pastors and church leaders to connect with local support networks such as shelters, hotlines, and other social services to ensure that care is as comprehensive as possible.

Professor Pierre recommended several excellent resources for providing pastoral care to those grieving during holiday seasons.

  • “Blue Christmas” services provide a safe space for acknowledging losses and receiving prayer and pastoral care. Models are available for liturgy, prayers, and meditations for those who are grieving. See, for example, resources provided by the United Methodist Church and the Clergy Leadership Institute.
  • All Our Losses, All Our Griefs by Kenneth R. Mitchell and Herbert Anderson is an essential tool for engaging sorrow and pain and providing care and safe spaces for ministry. Mitchell and Anderson’s text is required reading for Professor Pierre’s pastoral care and counseling class and is suited to all types of grief and loss.

Nearly fifty people joined the students and faculty in attendance via livestream, participating actively in Q&A and discussion. In reflecting on the event, Pierre says,

“One question I was asked was, ‘Where’s the hope?’ Good question. The hope is ultimately in our Immanuel, Christ who journeys with us. And we offer this hope when we journey with others, right where they are.”

A spring webinar is planned through a continued partnership between North Park Seminary and the Good Shepherd Initiative.

View Pierre’s webinar, “Not So Happy Holidays?here, through the ECC‘s YouTube channel.