An Introduction to the Deep in the Burbs Project in Plain English

this is a sketch I did early on in the planning phases of the project.
this is a sketch I did early on in the planning phases of the project.

This research is interested in the intersection of three things: Spiritual Formation, the Trinity, and the Suburbs. There is also a fourth thing that is less of an intersection and more of a bias from which the entire conversation is viewed. This bias is the Missional Church.

In other words, I want to know if the Trinity has any impact or connection to how suburban people—specifically people in suburban ELCA congregations—think about and practice spiritual formation. I ask the question because I am interested in the missional church and I believe the recent conversation about the Trinity, and its connection to the missional imagination, is an extremely important topic for the life, health, and future of the ELCA in the suburban context.

I am pursuing this question by using a social science research method called Participatory Action Research (PAR). This method brings people together to discuss a topic that is important to them and around which they would like to make change. I, as the primary researcher, facilitate a dynamic collaborative conversation amongst the group and try to create a space in which they are empowered to dream new dreams and create change in their own community.

Here is the basic scope of the project. A group of people from three neighboring suburban ELCA congregations join together for six weeks—one meeting per week—to discuss Spiritual Formation, the Trinity, and the realities of suburban living. These six meetings happen during March, 2014. These conversations will culminate in projects that the team members create and live out during the course of seven months (April – October, 2014), in one way or another. The team members journal their experiences during that time, and then reconvene for two meetings in November, 2014, to reflect on the process and try to discern what they learned, make sense out of it, and discover what God is up to in all of it.

My hope is that this process will accomplish two things. First, I hope it will contribute to the academic study of the missional church and provide some small insight into how missional leaders can facilitate spiritual formation in a suburban context. Secondly, I hope that it will provide a catalyst for real change in the lives of the team members and their respective congregations.

2 thoughts on “An Introduction to the Deep in the Burbs Project in Plain English”

  1. Steve,
    I find many things interesting about what you are up to. Let me name a few.
    1) Suburbs – I live in the ‘burbs and have lead ministry in the ‘burbs. Curious how you think ministry in the ‘burbs is uniquely framed. (If there is a link to some place else on your blog – so me that and I will comment on that…just haven’t explored the whole thing yet).
    2) Trinitarian view of God – I’ll be curious – first – how people currently understand God and then – second – how a trinitarian view of God changes their view of faith and life and Christian community.
    3) spiritual formation – I’m working with Luther Seminary’s new curriculum and there is an element of spiritual formation in that. I want to chat more about your understanding and then what you are finding in your research.
    So, that’s all for now.

    1. Terri, thanks for the comment. The main page regarding the suburbs is here. The research project officially ends in mid-November. I, too, look forward to the results of this research.

      I will post updates continually in the mean time.

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