Catalyst Information for Congregations


    The Catalyst Initiative provides a 10-month congregational cohort process of discovery, exploration, and renewal. It empowers a church to: initiate a Spirit-led vision and understanding of its community; ignite faith into action; and invigorate people to claim God’s call to empower and enliven their community. The BWC's Catalyst Initiative will enable churches to claim a holy imagination; discover ways of expressing their faith that make a meaningful difference in people’s lives; shape new discipleship systems; and develop unique metrics for measuring faithfulness. The combination of digital (online) learning sprints, three retreats, and congregational engagement will enable cohorts of churches to create contextual paths for growth in ministry and discipleship.

    Participants will learn to more deeply and intentionally cultivate discipleship, to discern and experiment, to build better relationships with one another and those in the community, to evaluate and design ministry for the most meaningful impact, to identify and leverage assets and to create alignment and systems that sustain ministry into the future. As a result, congregations will increase their skills, confidence, and resilience so that more transformed lives transform lives.

    During 2021, our pilot year, we anticipate having 16 congregations involved, and their teams of 5-7 will be organized into four cohorts.

    The Catalyst Initiative application was designed to help a church take its next right step -- whether that’s joining a Catalyst cohort, working on growing in specific ways in the area of leadership, engaging in New Places for New People, and more. We highly recommend that all congregations that want clarity on their best next step, fill out the Catalyst Initiative application.

    Catalyst Cohort Curriculum Highlights

    January-April: Getting Ready 

    The team-based application phase of the Catalyst Initiative is open to all churches. It provides a comprehensive snapshot of your congregation’s current reality and best next steps for improving your disciple-making. It includes a 360-degree assessment of your congregation and community.

    May Retreat: Orienting & Meeting Cohort

    Relationship is key as participants meet their cohort and coach, learn to navigate the learning platform, understand the scope of the Catalyst Cohort, and discover trends, patterns, and preferences using their MissionInsite data collected in the application phase.

    June Learning Sprint: Seeing Your Context

    Step outside the church doors to exegete and explore your context, walk the neighborhood, and explore the varied intersections of faith and culture.

    Summer Congregational Study: Grounding in Core Identity

    During the summer, participating congregations take a journey from head to heart to explore who we are as children of God, people called United Methodists, and members of the Baltimore-Washington Conference with the Who Are We resource.

    September Learning Sprint: Developing Empathy & Designing Hope

    Using empathy and imagination, congregations will map their neighborhood, designing the potential for future relationship and ministry, and begin to connect points of pain, challenge, potential, mission, and vision.

    October Retreat: Generating Possibilities

    Enter a process of analyzing and discernment as you examine your leaders' passions, congregation’s strengths, and community’s needs. Begin to act with playful purpose as you embark on “Mission Possible” and test ideas with a $250 seed grant.

    November Learning Sprint: Daring to Dream

    You’ll continue to imagine new ways of doing and being church and begin to find innovative ways to move beyond the drawing board and make God’s vision a reality in your community. Throughout this process, you’ll be given tools to examine the process through lenses of strategy and theology.

    January Learning Sprint: Power of Pivots and Pathways

    Discover the power in testing ideas and discipleship pathways and delve into discipleship – both corporate and personal – as you continue to seek new ways to bring the Gospel to life in your context.

    February Learning Sprint: Making Waves and Blazing Trails

    Prepare for the spiritual journey in front of your church as you examine how to “build, measure and learn,” how to keep from becoming stale, and how to invigorate your life and community.

    March Retreat: Launching Catalytic Creators

    At a launching retreat, you’ll put faith, new measurements and ideas into practice as you begin an iterative process, gain new understandings of change management, and see your ministry, with God’s help, begin to shape lives in remarkable ways.

    Resourcing for emergent projects will include microgrants and support to apply for BWC's Mission Innovation and Unified Funding grants, and other sources.

    What Each Participating Congregation Needs for the Journey

    • A Team. A clergy person and 4-6 non-staff leaders willing to engage in the process of learning and practicing over the 10-month period and beyond.
    • An Open Mind. Awareness that existing models of ministry need revisioning and strengthening and open to exploring new models of ministry.
    • Health. Sufficient financial stability and congregational trust to engage wholeheartedly in the process.
    • Eagerness To Learn. Ability to ask deep questions about their leadership and their congregation, and openness to change.
    • Stability. Leadership can make a three-year commitment.
    • Ability to Participate. Can carve out the time to participate fully.
    The Baltimore-Washington Conference has received a grant of $1,000,000 from Lilly Endowment Inc. to help establish the Catalyst Initiative. This program is funded through Lilly Endowment’s Thriving Congregations Initiative. The aim of the national initiative is to strengthen Christian congregations so they can help people deepen their relationships with God, build strong relationships with each other and contribute to the flourishing of local communities and the world.