Church Interior

Frequently Asked Questions

What is The Vinery?


An initiative nurturing congregational thriving in ministry with their university neighbors, and a greenhouse for cultivating dynamic cohorts of university proximate congregations.




Where did The Vinery come from?


The Vinery: Awakening Faith and Flourishing at the Intersection of Church and University, is a brand new initiative of Mere Christianity Forum cultivating congregational thriving in ministry with nearby universities. It is generously funded by a grant from the Lilly Endowment and the Thriving Congregations Initiative.




What needs does The Vinery address?


Young adults are less involved in churches in the United States than in any previous generation and relatively few congregations are engaged in awesome ministry with college students and young adults, much less entire universities. Churches need innovative resources for developing vibrant university ministries and they need a group of peer congregations to learn with as they grow in faithfulness and effectiveness.




Is the Vinery affiliated with a particular Christian denomination?


The Vinery is not affiliated with a particular Christian denomination. We invite applicants from across the Christian theological spectrum to apply.




Who is The Vinery for?


Congregations that long to become a dynamic hub of vibrant ministry serving people from a neighboring university that is within a mile or two of their church or a <10 minute public transportation ride. Congregations that are already doing great ministry with its university neighbors, but interested in a process and partners to help take their ministry to the next level. Congregations that are not yet thriving in university ministry, but have set a strategic priority of investing in its university ministries, especially with college aged young adults, in the next three to five years. Collegiate ministries that are established and thriving, and sense a call to evolve into a congregational ministry.




How does The Vinery work?


We invite congregations to join us in a dynamic process of: Listening deeply to their university neighbors and members of their broader community through interviews, surveys, and anecdotal story sharing Reflecting on their congregation’s history, theology, and practices; building on vital strengths and addressing liabilities, particularly around issues of injustice Reimagining their congregation’s story of thriving in ministry with young adults, university neighbors, and their broader community as they discern God’s leading and enact purposeful design.




What is public narrative sharing?


Our process is grounded in the methodology of Public Narrative sharing developed by Marshall Ganz. Public Narrative is a leadership practice of storytelling and mobilizing others through exploring the values, challenges, emotions, and outcomes involved in identity formation.




What do you mean by congregational thriving?


Three core characteristics of congregational thriving identified by the Lilly Endowment Inc., that The Vinery process will help congregations do well as they engage in vital university ministry: 1. Recognize their changing social and cultural contexts 2. Exhibit clarity of values and mission 3. Cultivate Christian practices




What are The Vinery’s member benefits?


1. Annual in-person retreat with full cohort of Lead Teams 2. Annual in-person on-site visit with peer Lead Team for mutual learning 3. Bi-Monthly virtual cohort learning experiences 4. The Vinery resource manual for Congregational Thriving in University Ministry (online and physical resources) 5. Membership in emerging network of churches committed to thriving university ministries 6. Hard skills training for community listening; congregation based theological reflection and discernment; just, equitable, and inclusive university ministries; and Marshall Ganz framework for public narrative sharing 7. Monthly Lead Team Leadership Coaching




What congregational capacity requirements are there for participation in The Vinery?


Strong candidates are congregations that demonstrate a willingness to engage in the following: - Self-reflection on their mission, values, theological resources and trustworthy ministry practices. - Cultural competence around issues of race, justice, equity, and narratives of dominant culture in their congregations and in ministry with their university neighbors. - Financial investment in covering expenses for participation in a 24 month cohort experience and emerging network of congregations committed to dynamic university ministry. - Developing a lead team to guide their congregation through the multi-step process, representing their congregation in The Vinery cohort, and communicate their work consistently to their congregation. - Time for retreats, listening sessions, and congregational engagement during the two-year Vinery cohort experience.




What is expected of a lead team from member congregations?


1. Guide their congregation through the multi-step process of listening, reflecting, and reimagining their congregation’s story of thriving in ministry with young adults, university neighbors, and broader community. 2. Represent their congregation in the Vinery cohort community; and communicate the vision and their work to their congregation consistently. 3. Attend monthly coaching sessions and collaborative learning calls with a Listening Cohort. 4. Record and share their journey with members of The Vinery team at least quarterly.




What financial investment is required of The Vinery member congregations?


1. $200/monthly Vinery Cohort membership fee 2. Travel expenses for attending annual Vinery cohort retreats (January/February) 3. Travel expenses for attending one mid-year peer Lead Team gathering in July (alternate year a peer team will visit your congregational context) 4. Funds necessary for investing in specific university ministries (to be discerned by each unique congregation through The Vinery process) *This is a heavily discounted cost thanks to generous grant funding from Lilly Endowment, Inc.




When are The Vinery’s 2022 gathering dates?


*The locations for the Opening Retreat and Mid-Year Peer Learning Cohort are being confirmed and will be announced in August of 2021. Opening Retreat > Jan 30 - Feb 2 Mid-Year Peer Learning Cohort > July 17-20 Learning Cohort Communities > Select Tuesdays, 10am - 12pm EST