Changemaker Faith Institutions
We come to this work understanding that God is Love. Changemaking is ‘love and respect in action.’ We partner with innovative faith institutions and their community to identify, equip, and support members of their congregation in creating a culture of wellbeing and changemaking and generating innovative ideas to answer important questions:
In a world defined by change what is the role of religion and spirituality?
How can changemaking be a tool for reengaging people in spiritual life and community?
Together we create an ecosystem in our churches and communities that prepares everyone for the world of today, ensuring that every person gets the chance to:
Practice demonstrating their faith through love and respect in action – satisfying their yearning for lives of purpose and meaning.
Develop the skills they need to thrive in a world of constant change.
See and appropriate their own religious tradition as integral to a life of positive, compassionate contribution.
Build a language and community culture that enables them to better connect their faith to the other parts of their lives.
Why do we need changemaking in faith?
Against the backdrop of a new paradigm for thriving in a rapidly changing world, faith communities are concerned about the declining numbers of people who are affiliated with a faith community, as well as declining participation overall. From 2007 to 2014 the Pew Center reported that the “unaffiliated” segment increased from 16.1% of the U.S. population to 22.8%.
According to a 2009 American National Election Studies (ANES) report, in 1960, just three percent of 18- to 29-year-olds fell into the “None” category; but, by 1990 the percentage had grown to 17 percent, and by 2009 26 percent of young Americans said they had no religious affiliation. Research in 2016 by the Pew Center surfaced additional relevant trends:
One in five is raised with mixed religious backgrounds.
One-quarter of married adults are in religiously mixed marriages.
The challenge of religious intermarriage is that it is linked with lower levels of religious observance.
Those from religiously mixed marriages are less likely to say religion was salient in their lives when they were growing up.
In many ways, younger Americans are less religious than older Americans.
The “nones” (religiously unaffiliated) are becoming increasingly secular.
And, within the faith traditions there is anecdotal evidence that the drop off in participation after such coming-of-age ceremonies as Bar/Bat Mitzvah and Confirmation is worsening. While some of these trends may be impossible to reverse, there is evidence of continued longing for spiritual connection. This continuing longing provides hope that, with creativity in adapting to the new world, faith communities can turn the tide and find new ways to engage people that contribute to their spiritual grounding and to their ability to act in the world with empathy and concern.
There are high stakes especially in meeting the new learning and spiritual needs—especially of our children and youth, but in fact for every generation. In a world of constant change, with ever more interaction and complexity — one that relies on collaboration for success and contribution— the need for every person to master empathy, teamwork, collaboration and creative problem-solving has never been higher. And where more than in our faith communities is the teaching of empathy a given? Communities of intentional faith development are deeply immersed in the stories and traditions that evoke and sustain empathy and compassion to effect a vision of justice and inclusive love.
Case Study : The Changemaker Initiative with Los Altos United Methodist Church (LAUMC)
The Changemaker Initiative is a partnership between LAUMC and the global non-profit organization Ashoka. We are pioneering a new kind of church - connecting the path of following Jesus with the skills of social innovation, empowering all people, young and old, to make an impact as compassion-driven changemakers.
The Changemaker Initiative pairs LAUMC’s intention as followers of Jesus Christ to transform the world with Ashoka’s experience equipping skilled changemakers for the common good.
In partnership with Ashoka, LAUMC’s Changemaker Initiative will help translate the heartfelt compassion we bring into active, practical changemaking in the world. To learn more, visit thechangemakerinitiative.com
“This initiative is not about adding more church programs. The Changemaker Initiative is about giving you—all of us—a new lens, for seeing that we are all powerful enough to change something that is not working well. In your work, your school, the places you lead and volunteer, your life with your family. How might those things that you are doing already shift—just a little—if what your faith makes you is a compassion- driven changemaker—the way Jesus was?”
— Rev. Kathleen McShane from LAUMC
This is not a traditional process with a particular set of expected outcomes. This is a Fellowship for innovators associated with the LAUMC faith community to explore something that is emerging, that we know is coming alive but that we need to shape together. In this context, our process is focused on co-creation, on connecting with one another, sensing, being and acting together.
The goals of this Fellowship will be to enable leaders who can influence the experience of the community to:
Understand how living in today’s world – where everyone is powerful, and everyone can communicate easily across boundaries of distance and groups – creates a need for us to build an ecosystem that supports people - both in their spiritual grounding and in their changemaker journey.
Reflect on their own changemaking experiences, the values of their faith tradition and heritage, and the forces that have shaped their leadership, as preparation for the challenges ahead.
Learn from Ashoka’s experience and from one another across generations, and develop new ideas for enabling people to develop a deep connection to their faith and the skills and commitment to act on it in the world for the good of all.
Articulate and internalize the connection between a deepening life of faith and the ability to live sustainably and effectively as a changemaker.
Design new experiences and a supportive ecosystem for the young people in their communities, as well as for parents and other allies and influencers, to support young people’s changemaking and enable them to practice putting their faith in action -- expressing love and respect for others by solving a problem in the world around them.
Bond as a peer group that can support and sustain one another as they pursue new paths to support people across the generations both in LAUMC and in their lives in the world, putting their faith into action through changemaking.
Develop plans of action for building a culture and an ecosystem in the unique environment of Los Altos and Silicon Valley that is supportive of changemaking by all people. Support those from LAUMC in harmonizing their spiritual lives and their lives in the world.
How It Works: The Changemaker Journey
The initial Changemakers Fellows process will identify and equip an initial group who will explore intensively the intersection of their faith and identity as a changemaker. Along with those focused on innovating within the life of the congregation, we also will select as participants innovators who are seeking — and whose outside organizations are ready to explore — new ways of working with young people, with their employees, and with other people and organizations in the community to help build a culture and ecosystem that enables everyone to be a changemaker. We will help them harmonize their spiritual lives with their lives in the world.
Those selected will be invited into a 10-month process as Changemaker Fellows. Through this process we will also lay the groundwork for shaping the larger ecosystem in Los Altos and the Silicon Valley area to more broadly support changemaking.
We will be catalyzing change on 3 different levels:
Level 1: Inner Development of adults - the experiential mindset shift/internalizing the new framework of how the world works, and seeing themselves as powerful changemakers.
Level 2: Co-creating ideas on how they can integrate changemaking into the mindset, systems and culture of their institutions.
Level 3: Re-imagining how children and young people grow up as changemakers within the LAUMC community as well as in the broader Los Altos and Silicon Valley area.
The journey of the Changemaker Fellows (where they gather for 6 days over 10 months) is the process that catalyzes the relationships and innovations around changemaking. At the end of the 10 months, we build capacity of the participants to become Changemaker facilitators, mentors and ambassadors to deepen this work across the church, their professional and work places, city and region.
sam lewis || Bread and Butter, Broken and Shared
I’m gathering folks in Downtown Mountain View who are looking for more intentional community. A place where we take the time to share a meal with one another, to ask about the beautiful and the broken in one another’s lives, and to hear the stories of Jesus and think together how they might apply to our own real, messy, busy, and broken lives. You don’t need to be a Christian to come, you don’t even have to know anything about church.
We believe it’s better together—our eating, our story sharing, our living.
Cole Baker || Connecting lonely with those in need of housing
The absence of consistent deep multi-generational relationships negatively impact both the seniors and the young people. Seniors may feel isolated, lonely, and less connected to the younger generation whereas young people miss out on the wisdom, mentorship and nurturing a senior can provide. I am interested in creating opportunities for a multi-generational connection. Many seniors have an empty bedroom in their homes; many young people can’t afford to live in the Bay Area. The opportunity to live together, relate, share meals and build community could enhance the lives of both seniors and young people.
Bill Buchholz || Creative Aging: Determining your own future
We are all aging but few of us look forward to becoming old. Our learned beliefs about aging limit our ability to find creative solutions to problems. Society’s current way of dealing with an aging population perpetuates dysfunctional systems. We can learn to do better. The Changemaker project I sponsor is called Creative Aging. With a series of workshops, guest lecturers, small group task forces we will examine the problems affecting Seniors in our community and develop innovative ways to address them.
KIM JONES || Upstream: Empowering Teens to Thrive with Purpose
Did you know our teens are struggling with unprecedented levels of stress, anxiety, depression, and lack of meaning? As a pediatrician I was exhausted pulling these drowning kids out of the river of life. I am going upstream to mobilize parents and faith communities to focus on developing resiliency and a sense of purpose in our youth. We will empower teens to swim and thrive in all of life's currents.