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Change Makers seek to answer community questions

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By Beth Ludlum*

"You just might be God’s answer to the question your community is asking.”

This sentiment, articulated by a ministry partner in London, captured one impulse that drives the Change Maker’s Project. Launched this summer, the Change Makers Project supports young adults in hearing God’s call to innovative ministry through mentoring, missional immersions, entrepreneurial community engagement, and vocational conversations.

At Earlsfield, some of the Change Makers learned about a community of people – 7 families – that work together and support each other. One family owns a café in a church which is where they met and later had a feast with locally sourced lamb, freshly harvested veggies, and more.
At Earlsfield, some of the Change Makers learned about a community of
people – 7 families – that work together and support each other. One family
owns a café in a church which is where they met and later had a feast with
locally sourced lamb, freshly harvested veggies, and more.

This year, 22 diverse young adults are engaged from three geographic regions: Washington, D.C., Baltimore, and Western Maryland. The Change Makers are accompanied by eight mentors, all ordained Elders in the Baltimore-Washington Conference, whose role is to foster theological reflection, spiritual growth, and vocational discernment. Each cohort had initial gatherings in May and June, and the cohorts began the learning journey with a trip together to London in July 2018.

During the London Learning Lab, the Change Makers were introduced to diverse forms of Christian social innovation in a post-Christian society. By hearing stories, interacting with social entrepreneurs, and experiencing projects firsthand, they gained inspiration and insight on the innovative process.

One day was spent with an intentional Christian community that has launched a café, learning garden and refugee welcome projects with their neighbors. On another day, the Change Makers heard and reflected theologically on historical spaces and artistic exhibitions throughout the city. Most important of all, however, were the conversations — with Christian social entrepreneurs at all stages of dreaming, creating and launching diverse projects and ministries, and with each other.

As one Change Maker later reflected, “I am feeling refreshed and energized by all the connections, stories and experiences. My mind is racing with the possibilities for holistic Christian community and what it means to live out faith every day in creative ways, centered in my story and the story of my community.”

The Learning Lab was designed and facilitated by Matryoshka House, a London-based group of Christian social innovators who have been intentionally inviting people from all faith backgrounds and of no faith background to try to do good together for their communities and the world.

A few Change Makers who were not able to attend the London Learning Lab will travel to San Antonio for a similar experience at the end of September.

The Change Makers will journey together for the next nine months. Individually, they are following a curriculum, designed in conjunction with the Matryoshka House team, that helps them think through the people, resources and ideas that will help to form and launch a social/ministry project in their communities.

While in London, Change Makers experienced a “City Hack” that involved “exegeting the city.” The activity’s goal was to help participants see how the city’s story and the Gospel story overlap.
While in London, Change Makers experienced a “City Hack” that involved “exegeting the city.”
The activity’s goal was to help participants see how the city’s story and the Gospel story overlap.

The geographic cohorts meet regularly to work through ideas and with each other for support and accountability. Each Change Maker is also accompanied by a spiritual mentor, who journeys with the young adult through questions of faith and faithfulness, vocational discernment, and spiritual impact on the world.

Wesley Theological Seminary and the Baltimore-Washington Conference arrange full Change Maker Project gatherings and create resources as additional needs are identified.

The formal process will conclude with a Missional Entrepreneurship Week, May 18-25, 2019, an experience led by experienced entrepreneurs and business experts. During that week, Change Makers will work with their research, prototypes, and tested ideas to create a sustainable ministry plan that will enable them to launch their project.

The Missional Entrepreneurship Week concludes with an opportunity to pitch their idea to investors who may pledge financial support, mentoring, connections, or other resources. More information will be published in the spring about the Pitch and Pledge event; clergy and laity are encouraged to attend and support the young adult entrepreneurs.

The CMP is a collaborative project of InspireDC, Wesley Theological Seminary, and the Baltimore-Washington Conference, generously supported by a Young Clergy Initiative grant through the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry of the United Methodist Church.

To learn more about the Change Makers and to follow their adventure, visit www.thechangemakersproject.com.

*The Rev. Beth Ludlum is an ordained Elder in the BWC, and serves as Vice President of Strategic Initiatives at Wesley Theological Seminary.

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