I’ve been on this journey as part of the Forge Tribe for about 5 years now. We’ve been through several residencies with individuals, but what we thought was success we soon discovered that it was more of a temporary fantasy. As we began to look at running another residency, the idea of partnering closely with churches began to feel like something that we were being called towards.
Two local churches were almost immediately interested in the concept of the partnership. We have also begun to discover new relationships with potential partners and rekindle old relationships with churches or other ministries that are also interested in a partnership model.
Going back into the systematic church was odd at best. One of the churches has been resistant to working with “outsiders” and the idea that we were living in a post-Christian world was met with “Nonsense, all my friends are Christian.” Having to explain that that kind of thinking is actually the problem was an interesting task. But we found that there were people who were actually interested in learning about the Imago Dei and how the idea of a “sent and sending” God actually manifests itself in us as the Missio Dei.
The other partner church was more receptive, with at least one person having recently become a Christian. They are showing signs of real transformation. We are also seeing that this group is reaching into groups of people around them and engaging a more diverse population. This group also has a wider range of occupations, everything from local government officials, financial advisors, warehouse workers, etc.
As we’ve been connecting with these churches, we’ve also been bringing these churches together. We meet often with leaders at both churches and Hub leadership on a regular basis, which helps us to stay in sync and learn from each other.
One of the future partnerships that we are excited about is a campus ministry club that works in public high schools. The group is called First Priority and they are active in 22 local churches, working with youth ministers and 17 local high schools. The local directors of First Priority were past residents, so they are very familiar with Forge. We are focused on creating a sort of mini-Residency built around BELLS and discussing how we could conduct that as part of First Priority in their high schools. As part of that we are also planning to conduct an introduction session to BELLS and Forge for the 22 churches that are already working with First Priority.
For us, working together with churches and ministries is a stronger and healthier model. It seems to have greater visibility to future potential residents. In the past it felt like we were either recruiting or training individuals, and it always felt watered down. With church partnerships there is more weight, it seems more sustainable; as one residency begins, there are more potential residents waiting for the next class to begin. We also have a visibility to greater numbers of potential partnerships through an organization like First Priority. We have an opportunity to get in front of 22 churches and introduce them to Forge and see where things go from there. Without partnerships it may have taken years to gain an invitation to speak with these 22 churches and a lot of networking. As a Forge Hub we are excited to develop our current and potential partnerships and we see an opportunity to have a real impact in our community.
- Dave Scott, Forge St. Louis