As West Ohio Bishop Gregory V. Palmer has stated, “A church that is not intricately connected with their neighbors might want to reconsider their identity.” For more than 1,000 congregations of The West Ohio Conference of The United Methodist Church, their identity is rooted in their respective contexts -- urban, rural, suburban, and/or Appalachian -- and tied together by their distinctive Wesleyan ethos. Yet most struggle to address the societal and cultural changes in their communities in ways that lead to mutual flourishing. Undergirding this reality is a desire to develop ministry that is faithful, agile, and contextual to the changing world around them. West Ohio’s response to this yearning, through a mutually generative partnership with Fearless Dialogues, is the Fear+Less Congregations Initiative (FCI). The FCI seeks to guide congregations through the shifting cultural landscape in ways that clearly define their vision as followers of Jesus and inspire an innovative approach to community connectedness. To achieve this, FCI will invite congregations across the Conference’s contextual spectrum into a multi-week educational encounter to learn and practice the values of incarnational hospitality, whole-life stewardship, and missional engagement, culminating in congregational partnerships for mission-based ministry. A festival of learning will provide opportunity for each church to share best practices, as well as garner financial support from interested community partners. Finally, select FCI congregations will be invited to become training hubs for other West Ohio churches. The Fear+Less Congregations Initiative seeks to create an environment that encourages personal and congregational transformation, allowing churches to choose hospitality over division, assets over deficiencies, and love over fear.
Fear+Less Congregations Initiative