Places of Promise

Finding Strength in Your Congregation’s Location

Traditionally we think about context as location.  In this view:

  • Community context determines who we were, what we are, and what our future holds.
  • Congregations are passive—location has the upper hand!
  • Leaders use contractual language about location—our location is a piece of real estate with a specific land value, appraised as a retail outlet might appraise a location.  It’s a commodity.

Instead—Think about context as place.  In this view:

  • Location is God’s gift to us.  The congregation is in this place at this time for a reason—God’s reason.
  • Congregations can achieve strength and effectiveness in their present location.
  • Leaders use birthright language about location—God claimed this place for us; the place claims us as people of faith.  We have inherited this place from those who first worshiped here, and we have an obligation to use it wisely and care for it.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How did our congregation come to be in this location? What is our birth story?  Why has God planted us here?
  2. What significant things have happened in this location that continue to shape our ministry?
  3. What do we believe are the strengths of our location?
  4. How would we describe our theology of inheritance using birthright language?
  5. What steps can we take to build on the strengths of our location?
  6. Who is in our community that we can reach out to?

Download leader guide for exploring the strengths of your congregation's location. PDF icon

Read the book: Cynthia Woolever and Deborah Bruce, Places of Promise: Finding Strength in Your Congregation’s Location (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, January 2008).

3 Myths about Context

Myth 1: Congregations affiliated with the major denominations are uniformly spread across the country. Learn the facts.

Myth 2. Congregations around the country attract similar types of new people. Learn the facts.

Myth 3:  Congregations in growing communities are more likely to grow than those in stable areas.  Learn the facts.