Alternative Ministries Project

People’s attitudes, commitments, and practices with regard to religion are changing in the United States. That is one of the messages being heralded by certain research institutions. One consequence of these shifts is that many persons look beyond the church for communities and opportunities to experience spiritual meaning and nurture. These changes may create peril for established congregations, but it also creates opportunity for those individuals drawn to non-traditional ministry, or more interested in service oriented approaches to community involvement.

Earlham School of Religion has witnessed an uptick in the number of students who anticipate their ministry to be outside of the church and who, themselves, share some of the discontent with organized religion as often practiced even as they remain vigilant with nurturing their own spiritual practices.

These shifts have implications for the basic definition of ministry and the forms it takes. It will impact the places where ministers serve Without the traditional congregational structure, thought must be given to funding issues. And, a seminary that wishes to be engaged with this trend in ministry must retool its curriculum to supply these individuals with a set of skills that are not necessarily part of a seminary curriculum.

Issues such as these gave birth to the Alternative Ministry Project. Research teams including a faculty, member, a student, and an external constituent chose to in research alternative and emerging groups where people are going in addition to or instead of the church in their search for meaning, spirituality, and community.

These interview instruments were used:

Summaries of these projects may be found at the following links: