Congregational Self-Images for Social Ministry

Dudley, Carl S., and Sally A. Johnson. “Congregational Self-Images for Social Ministry.” In Carriers of Faith: Lessons from Congregational Studies. Carl S. Dudley, Jackson W. Carroll, and James P. Wind, eds. Pp. 104-121. Louisville, KY: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1991.

Carl Dudley and Sally Johnson outline five congregational self-images, identified though the Church and Community Project, which shed light on the different ways churches relate to their communities and respond to human need. These self-images are: survivor churches; crusader churches; pillar churches; pilgrim churches; and servant churches. Congregational self-images, according to the writers, are both “the mirror in which members see themselves and, in turn, the shape they give to the church.” All five images cut across denominational and theological lines. They offer not only a context for congregational change and growth, but they also focus the church’s social ministry. <p> Dudley and Johnson summarize the nature of these images in terms of their primary style in response to human need: the survivor church is reactive to the crises of an overwhelming world; the crusader church is proactive to translate crises into causes; the pillar church takes civic responsibility that embraces the community; the pilgrim church cares for extended family or cultural group; and the servant church provides support for individuals who need help. The authors find that each image can uniquely shape a congregation’s ministry to the community. Their essay closes with four observations: (1) effective social ministry that begins with self-awareness enables a congregation to cooperate with others in a common task; (2) the motivation for social ministry is informed more by community concern and an affinity with human need than by a particular theological stance; (3) all five models are capable of effecting positive change, and; (4) each one possesses special gifts for ministry.