Ministry Strategy and Programs
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V. The Proposed Ministry Strategy of The Eos Network:
Methods for Recognizing and Responding to the
Needs and Interests of Our Members and the Wider Society






          


   

Through our ministry strategy, we hope to enable our members to live active and fulfilling lifestyles that include healthy personal relationships, enriching spiritual activities, constructive and rewarding employment, relaxing recreation, and active participation in civic and political organizations.  We will encourage each local community to adopt the following perspectives and methods as they pursue this objective.



A.  The Goals of Our Ministry Strategy
The overall goals of our ministry strategy are similar to those set forth in our mission.


Helping Members to Cultivate a Holistic Rhythm of Spiritual Disciplines

The first goal is to help each other to practice a well-rounded rhythm of spiritual formation that includes all of the various types of disciplines.  We will also encourage each other to adapt this rhythm to our unique lifestyles, needs, talents, and interests.  As we cultivate this rhythm, we will seek God's presence through diverse types of experiences in order to gain insight into the many complex and mysterious ways in which God relates to individuals, to society, and to the natural world.  We hope that through these experiences we may develop all of the capacities needed for meaningful growth – the habits of thinking, feeling, aspiring, and acting that are the hallmarks of spiritually mature persons.

Integration of Spiritual Views and Values into All of Our Roles, Relationships, and Life Projects

The various types of disciplines are integrated into a full spectrum of ministry programs (see below).  These programs are intended to help us to discern, in all seasons of life, how our spiritual views and values may be integrated into our most significant roles, relationships, and projects, including our family life, friendships, ministry efforts, career, community involvement, political participation, artistic expression, and other types of hobbies and recreation.

The Establishment of a Broader Rhythm of Living  

In this way, our ministry strategy will help our members to establish a broader rhythm of living that draws us toward greater depth and meaning in every aspect of our lives.

Service to the Wider Society and the Environment

As we cultivate this broader rhythm of living in our ministry programs, we will empower each other to serve society and the natural world in our personal lifestyles as well as our involvement in civic and political life.  By doing so, we hope to help each other to participate more fully in God's designs for just, holistic, and sustainable development in all societies.

Recognizing and Appreciating Diversity

Diversity of Fellow Members
In all of our programs, members are called to develop an awareness and appreciation of the unique interests and spiritual journeys of others who walk with them in their spiritual quest. As we share the wisdom gained from diverse experiences, we may discover how we can be enriched and edified by recognizing and honoring the different paths that we have traveled in search of meaning and growth. This process of celebrating and learning from the drama of each other’s faith journey will form the core of our community life.

Interfaith Awareness
Members may also gain insight into similarities between their practices and the practices of other faiths. The different types of spiritual disciplines are woven into the observance of persons in practically all religious traditions. They will thus provide members with a background of experiences that will enable them to explore the "experiential world" of those in other faith communities.





B.  Two Frameworks that Guide Our Ministry Outreach

      Our ministry strategy is guided by two frameworks.  The first is the eight types of spiritual disciplines.  The second is a profile of important characteristics of our members.  Together, these frameworks provide an outline of several broad areas of ministry outreach.  Within these areas of outreach, we will plan specific events, such as service projects or retreats, that include one or more types of disciplines.

1. Framework I: The Eight Types of Spiritual Disciplines

    The eight types of spiritual disciplines include contemplation, ritual, theological reflection, faith-sharing, spiritual mentoring, witness, service, and disciplines of the body.  Each type is defined and discussed in section IV.B of our Spiritual and Moral Vision. The different types of disciplines serve two functions in our ministry strategy.  First, they outline several broad areas of ministry outreach.  Second, they serve as components for the specific ministry programs, such as retreats and weekly worship services, that are included within these broader areas of outreach.  Ministry programs may focus on one type of discipline, such as contemplation or service, or they may weave several types of disciplines together into a more complex format. 

2. Framework II: Member Profiles

    As stated above, the second framework is a profile of the most important characteristics of our members.  By naming and understanding these characteristics, we will more effectively recognize each other's spiritual needs.  We can then create programs that better connect with our deepest concerns, needs, and aspirations. 

Developmental Stages and Needs
For example, we will use the 'life-stage' developmental theory described in our views of the human person (see section III.C) in order to adapt programs to different age groups. Activities will be tailored to address the specific opportunities and challenges facing children, teenagers, young adults, middle adults, and the elderly. Special programs and rites of initiation could be created in order to help individuals to experience the richness of significant life transitions – both those that we keenly anticipate and those that make us anxious and fearful. From a developmental perspective, we hope to make our life journey a faith journey in which we may discover the presence and guidance of God in all stages of life.

The 'hierarchy of needs' theory -- also described in section III.C -- will help us to adapt activities to the most pressing needs of different individuals and groups, regardless of their age.  These needs may involve physical security and safety, self-esteem, or a sense of belonging and support.  Individuals' most important needs shape their priorities, and they choose daily activities according to these priorities.  Thus, if we hope to creatively engage members in our programs, we must understand each other's most critical needs and concerns.  

Major Life Changes
In a similar way, we will adapt programs to address major changes in members' lives.  One may, for example, get married, start a new career, become a caregiver for an elderly relative, or experience the loss of a spouse.  Our programs will help individuals to face the challenges and envision the opportunities that accompany these significant transitions.

Members' Vocations: Their Roles, Relationships, and Life Projects
We will also create programs that will help us to express our views and values in our most important roles, relationships, and life projects. We will help each other to discover the spiritual dimension of all of our relationships. As we discuss above in our Spiritual and Moral Vision,' our programs will first and foremost help us to relate to God -- to perceive the presence and guidance of God in our lives. These programs will also help participants to cultivate the values and develop the skills that enable them to form rich and rewarding relationships with siblings, parents, children, spouses, boy- and girlfriends, colleagues, fellow citizens and civic group members, and spiritual friends.  In a similar vein, our ministry programs will help members to express their deepest convictions through the various roles they play in their day-to-day lives as mothers, fathers, civic leaders, ministers, employees, and so forth.  A variety of programs will be adapted to the needs of those in specific roles such as parents and public leaders, and for those in the same or similar careers.

As we cultivate the spiritual dimension of all of these roles and relationships, our spiritual views and values will be expressed in all of our major life projects, including our participation in economic, religious, political, civic, recreational, and cultural institutions and activities. Our programs should thus help us to gradually weave our spiritual and values into all aspects of our lifestyleWe may then, with the help of God's grace, come to recognize the full scope of our personal vocation: the unique cluster of roles, relationships, and life projects through which we develop our gifts and talents in service to God and others. 

Special Talents and Abilities
Ministers should also be attentive to the 'special' knack that an individual may have for a particular skill.  Whenever possible, they should help members to use these skills to serve their community through some sort of ministry program.  For example, a person with keen psychological and spiritual insight might be a good spiritual mentor.  An extraordinary speaker may be called upon to preach at rituals and share his or her spiritual journey through acts of witness.  Hobbies and recreational talents are just as significant as those abilities that seem more directly related to ministry.  Good athletes, for example, can lead groups of persons in 'contemplative' types of exercise that are both centering and energizing.  Persons who are gifted in knitting or crochet can lead a service project in which they help the elderly or homebound to develop a new hobby.  

This aspect of our member profile clearly shows how community members are not merely a passive audience for programs created by ministers.  They can take the initiative to create their own forms of outreach through which they minister to each other.

Personality Types and Learning Styles
Other important factors that will shape our programs include participants’ personality types and learning styles. We will create programs tailored to persons with different personality types, such as introverts and extroverts. To reach persons with different learning styles, we hope to communicate key insights and attitudes through a variety of media, including texts, images, discussions, and physical activities.

As we adapt programs to each of these characteristics, we will encourage participants to value their natural attraction to certain types of programs but also explore less familiar and more challenging ways of deepening and expressing their faith.

Gender and Sexual Orientation
Issues related to human sexuality shape our lives in many ways.  We must therefore be attentive to the special needs and circumstances that individuals may experience because of their gender.  A sensitivity to gender differences will be reflected in all of our programs.  Some programs will focus exclusively on the ways in which one's gender may affect one's spiritual quest.  Persons of different sexual orientations must also receive special attention as they struggle with the challenges posed by their lifestyle.

Each of the subgroups within these categories share some physical, psychological, and/or cultural characteristics that affect the ways in which needs are expressed and addressed in the process of spiritual growth. We will try to be aware of these social characteristics as we plan and coordinate our programs. In order to do this most effectively, we will try to include a broad diversity of persons in the planning and administration of ministry programs.

As is emphasized in our Spiritual and Moral Vision, we are committed to a policy of nondiscrimination in all of our ministry programs. We also affirm that persons of different genders, races, classes, sexual orientations, and ethnic groups have the same basic psychological needs, though they may address them in diverse ways. We thus propose to have one basic ministry strategy but many different modes of engagement as we minister to the diverse individuals and groups that will comprise our membership.

Economic Class and Ethnicity
On a more explicitly social level, we will also be attentive to members' economic class and ethnicity in our ministry programs.  One's level of income has a significant influence on one's day to day concerns.  It will therefore affect one's spiritual practice.  In our various programs we will help members to cultivate an awareness of the ways in which their economic situation influences their lives and their perceptions of others.

In a similar way, our programs will attempt to acknowledge and celebrate the diverse customs and styles of spiritual observance that are honored by different ethnic groups.  We will also highlight the many challenges that some groups face because other groups discriminate against them.  This type of oppression will be a major issue in our service projects and in our political outreach.

Political Views, Causes, and Affiliations
Finally, we will be especially sensitive to the political views, causes, and affiliations of our members.  We will not dictate positions that members should hold on significant public issues.  Rather, we will help them to integrate their spiritual views and values into all aspects of their participation in public life.  More specifically, we will provide many opportunities for members to deepen their understanding of politics and the public policymaking process.  We will also encourage them to cultivate skills and attitudes that encourage constructive political dialogue and action.  


C. Areas of Ministry Outreach: Integrating the Disciplines and Member Profiles

Drawing from both frameworks -- the eight types of spiritual disciplines as well as the diverse characteristics of community members -- we have identified several essential areas of ministry outreach.  




Proposed Areas of Outreach


1. Ritual and Worship
It is proposed that common worship be sponsored on a regular basis by Eos communities. The format of services may vary, but should include songs, readings, one or more homilies, as well as other ritual components that are intended to celebrate the presence and guidance of God in our communities. Ritual coordinators should also work with other ministry leaders in order to create rituals that may be integrated into other areas of ministry outreach. For example, life-stage and life transition ministry programs may incorporate formal rites of passage into their activities. These rites would represent through symbols and symbolic actions the passage of participants into new stages of life with new sets of opportunities and responsibilities.

2. Small Group Ministries
It is proposed that small group ministries form the core of the activities and fellowship of Eos communities. Most of the programs described below will be offered in a small group format.

Members will be particularly encouraged to participate in small faith-sharing groups.  In these groups, participants discuss with each other the most significant experiences in their inner lives and in their relationships with God and others.
  The basic format of a faith-sharing group involves two steps.  The first is a reflection upon some specific text, symbol, experience, or idea.  In the second part, participants discuss how this theme relates to their personal lives.  These groups may also practice any of the other types of spiritual disciplines, or they may simply get together for social or recreational events. Optimally, they should meet at least twice a month, depending on participants’ schedules.

3.  Religious Education Programs
In religious education programs, Eos communities will help persons to systematically explore our views, values, and practices, and to apply them to their lives.  Structured classes may be offered for youth, for adults who wish to join an Eos community, and for adult members who wish to continue to refine their spiritual perspectives.  

4. Support Groups and Pastoral Counseling
Support groups will also sponsored by Eos communities. They should be led by persons who have been trained as counselors or somehow certified as counselors by The Eos Network. These groups are intended to provide an opportunity for persons struggling with some significant life issue to share their experiences and to provide encouragement and support to each other. Groups may meet to share their struggles with substance abuse, relationship problems, the effects of physical or emotional abuse, grief, terminal illness, or any other life crisis that members may encounter. Group and individual pastoral counseling services will also be available. Pastoral counselors provide mental health services from a faith perspective.  They help clients to deal with difficult situations by employing counseling strategies that integrate clients' spiritual views, values, and practices.

5. Individual and Group Spiritual Guidance
We will offer opportunities for persons to participate in individual and group spiritual direction. Spiritual direction is basically spiritual mentoring, a process in which participants closely examine their lives, trying to discern God's presence and guidance. In an individual format, a spiritual guide or mentor will help another individual to explore in detail their awareness of God in their everyday lives. In groups, one participant may share some significant experience or insight.  The rest of the group may then help him or her to explore its meaning within the context of his or her spiritual journey.

6. On-Line and Printed Journals for Cultivating a Rhythm of Spiritual Formation
We will provide members with formats for journaling that they may use in order to plan and reflect on their spiritual practices.  The goal of these journal formats will be to help members to establish a rhythm of spiritual formation that is carefully adapted to their unique personalities and lifestyles.  The formats will first ask members to describe spiritual activities that they plan to do either by themselves or with their faith community.  They will also be asked to identify the different types of spiritual disciplines that are integrated into these activities.  They will then be asked to reflect on these activities after they have participated in them.  Specifically, they will be encouraged to explore how the practice of some disciplines may motivate and prepare them to engage in other types of disciplines.  Over time, we hope that members who use these formats will be able to experience the dynamic relationships between the different types of spiritual disciplines.  They may then integrate the different types of disciplines into a rhythm of spiritual formation that will help them to structure their spiritual quest.  Finally, the formats will ask members to identify those disciplines that are especially attractive to them.  As they identify these disciplines, they may then be able to adapt this rhythm to their talents, interests, and temperament.

We hope to make journals available in both on-line and printed versions.  All participants will be encouraged to discuss their journals with a spiritual mentor (see item 5 above).  If participants are unable to find a spiritual mentor in their local community, we will try to provide them with a mentor who can correspond with them over the telephone or via e-mail.

7. Vocational Groups
The purpose of vocational groups is to help members to discern how they may witness to their spiritual views and values in their most significant roles, relationships, and life projects.  These groups are founded on an understanding of vocation that includes the full spectrum of one's relationships and endeavors.  Some groups will focus on members' careers.  They will be comprised of persons in the same or similar careers who would like to explore how they can integrate their career into their spiritual journey.  Other groups will focus on family life.  They will provide individuals with opportunities to clarify their roles within their families.  As they explore these roles, they may discover new ways to promote the formation of healthy relationships among family members.  These family-focused groups may be composed of fathers, mothers, couples, grandparents, or siblings meeting separately, or entire family groups meeting together.  A third type of group will help members to identify the specific roles that they might play in their faith community's ministry.  Participants may, for example, use these groups to decide if they are called to be leaders in youth ministry or in the life transition groups described below.  A fourth type will focus on other types of institutions such as civic organizations.  Members may participate in these groups in order to identify which organizations they will join.  They may also explore ways to become more meaningfully involved in organizations to which they already belong.  In addition, students may use these groups to identify extracurricular activities that seem most suited to their interests and abilities.

All of these groups will be intended to provide an ongoing conversation about the challenges of integrating one’s views and values into all aspects of one's lifestyle.  We hope that they will enable members to discover how they may serve God and their communities more fully and faithfully. 

8. Life Transition Groups
Life Transition Groups will prepare persons for significant changes in their most important roles, relationships, and life projects. Participants will learn how to understand various life transitions in light of their personal development. They will also be introduced to the ethical and spiritual values that may be important to them as they move through significant life changes. Various methods for discernment, or making important life decisions, will also be presented and discussed. We will organize groups that focus on such transitions as career development, marriage preparation, childbearing and rearing, separation and divorce, and retirement.

9. Life Stage Ministry Programs
Life Stage Ministry Programs will incorporate the different types of spiritual disciplines into a series of programs designed to address the needs of persons at different life stages. We will attempt to coordinate distinct ministry programs for grade school children, adolescents, young adults, middle adults, older adults, and the elderly.  For example, developmental theories highlight young persons' needs for a sense of belonging and achievement.  Our programs for adolescents may thus include challenging service projects that build friendships through teamwork and a shared sense of accomplishment.  These projects would also develop participants' capacities for empathy and compassion, which are the foundations of healthy relationships in all stages of life.

10. Gender Awareness and Gender-Specific Programs
While we affirm the equal dignity of men and women, as well as their co-responsibility for leadership in all social institutions, we also acknowledge the significant differences that do exist between them -- physically, psychologically, and culturally. We thus propose to sponsor programs that are created specifically for each gender. These programs will be designed to give members support and guidance at times in their lives during which their gender may be a very significant factor in their development. Certainly adolescence is one of these times, as is the time during which they are trying to find a suitable partner for marriage. The time of preparation for a career is extremely important as well, as gender issues in training and employment are problematic in practically all cultures around the world.

In general, we will encourage gender awareness in all of our programs; that is, a sense of how women and men may experience needs differently and have different interests and styles of "spiritual questing" as they grow in their faith journeys.

11.  Sexuality and Relationships
We will also sponsor programs that will promote methods for cultivating healthy sexual relationships that are grounded in a mutual desire for each another's personal growth.  Additionally, we will sponsor activities specifically designed to help individuals to meet others who share their most important views and values.

Gay and Lesbian Outreach
We recognize that homosexuals face extraordinary challenges in their everyday lives.  We will thus sponsor special ministry programs that help them to deal with these struggles as they move forward in their spiritual quests.

12.  Programs for Dealing with Diversity
All of our programs must help members to recognize and appreciate the diversity within our membership.  We will especially focus on the ways in which our diversity may serve as a source of strength and vitality in the life of our community.  We will also sponsor specific programs that enable us to better understand how v2arious types of diversity shape the everyday lives of individuals.  These might include differences in temperament, ethnicity, vocation, and sexual orientation.

13. Service Groups
Service groups perform acts of personal service through forms of outreach such as comforting the sick, ministering to the homeless, visiting the elderly, or mentoring underprivileged children. They may also help to build housing for individuals and families struggling to buy a home, or they may work to raise money for some charitable cause. Generally, these groups serve others by personally helping them to meet their daily needs for sustenance, shelter, comfort, and companionship.

14. Political Education and Action Groups (PEAGs)
As we state in our moral and spiritual vision, we believe that the goal of all political life is the promotion of the common good – the welfare of all social groups and the ecosystems that sustain them. For this goal to be achieved, all citizens must participate in the democratic process. The Eos Network provides an opportunity for members to do this through our Political Education and Action Groups (PEAGs). PEAGs are small groups of individuals who come together to engage in political dialogue and action.  These groups will form the core of our public outreach.

The first goal of this ministry program is to educate PEAG members concerning the structure and dynamics of democratic political institutions. The second is to orient them to skills that facilitate constructive public dialogue. The third is to provide them with opportunities to engage in political dialogue on a variety of political topics, including candidates, political parties, and public policies. If they wish, these groups may try to reach a consensus on a candidate or policy that the wish to advocate in the public square.  The fourth goal is to help PEAGs to coordinate strategies for advocacy.  As they speak out in the public square, these groups may build coalitions with PEAGs from other Eos communities.  They may also combine resources with other organizations that share our values and goals.  

In order to facilitate the formation and activities of these groups, we will provide them with a variety of resources, including creative software applications that will provide step-by-step guidance for engaging political dialogue and effective political action.  For a full description of all of the programs in our proposed public ministry please link to this section of the web site by clicking on the highlighted title.

15. Music, Art, and Book Clubs
Music, art, and book clubs will provide opportunities for members to explore the connection between their faith and various forms of creative expression. Members may form clubs by consulting with a ministry leader regarding themes for discussion. While practically any theme would be acceptable for a discussion group, ministry leaders should ensure that groups remain balanced and open in their presentation and discussion of spiritual topics.

16.  Informal Discussion Groups or 'Salons'
Members may also get together on a more informal basis to discuss topics of their choice.  These topics may be related to philosophy, religion, the arts, economics, psychology, or any other interest that a group of members may have in common.

17. Fitness Clubs and Athletic Leagues
Fitness clubs and athletic leagues will provide ways for people to help each other stay active and physically fit. They may be formed for all ages and for any sports that members desire to play. In these programs, we will stress long-term fitness as the goal of any sporting or fitness activity. We will also place the highest value on good sportsmanship, participation, and fair play.

18. Social and Recreational Activities
Our communities will also sponsor social and recreational events such as dinners and dances. We hope that having fun together will be an integral part of Eos community life. Let’s face it, life is difficult. Most of our lives are fairly hectic, and many of our activities are structured events. It therefore seems essential that we include in our programs opportunities for members to "let their hair down" and have fun in a positive and constructive way. We will especially encourage communities to plan recreational activities that creatively incorporate learning and teamwork. Group dance lessons or cultural events may be included in this type of event, along with nature outings such as canoe trips or whitewater rafting. Our goal is to get people interacting and feeling good about themselves and about each other.

19. Seekers Groups
Seekers Groups will be informal discussion groups designed for those who wish to explore basic spiritual issues such as the existence of God, the views, values, and practices of different faith traditions; and the dynamics of spiritual development. These groups will provide good opportunities for interested nonmembers to learn more about our views, values, and practices in a relaxed and open atmosphere. Participation in these groups would not in any way obligate one to join an Eos community. Individuals are free to come and go from these groups as they please.


D.  Planning Specific Events in Each Area of Programming
Within each programming area, we will plan specific events, such as service projects or weekend retreats, that include one or more types of disciplines.  Of course, some events, such as social activities, are not explicitly spiritual and may not include any types of disciplines.