Faith by Design: Exploiting intersections between Acts and design thinking to cultivate the conditions for innovation in the local church as an expression of traditioned innovation

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2021

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In 2021, congregational life in America feels troubled. The residue of vitality in vacant Sunday school classrooms, dated worship bulletins, antiquated committee structures, and worn pew cushions reminds churchgoers of the ways congregations once successfully capitalized on the intersection of industrialization and an evangelical spirit. However, today, the world has changed. Traditional churches that mirror a now-shuttered factory across town struggle under the weight of dated, worker-dependent, industrial expressions of congregational life. These congregations feel trapped, which inhibits innovation and steers churches toward the same fate as those factories across town. Some believe that what local churches need is a way to cultivate innovation. To do this, congregations need the tools and a pathway that leads to innovative breakthroughs. Design thinking is a process built on an accessible set of tools that can provide teams in any field the steps necessary to cultivate innovation. For the church, and specifically local congregations, innovation cannot happen in a vacuum. Churches have histories and traditions, most of which root themselves in a tradition connected to the book of Acts. As churches cling to specific traditions, they often maintain practices as traditionalism, which begets a shallow expression of tradition. In these instances, faithful innovation is necessary. However, to innovate for the sake of innovation alone represents a shallow expression of innovation. The church needs to hold together tradition and innovation in ways that give life to a shared life rooted through embodied traditions. Faith by Design explores and exploits intersections between the embodied traditions outlined in Acts and the modern pathway to innovation described in design thinking. By adapting the approaches, tools, and practices of design thinkers and then exploiting these processes' intersections with the stories of the early church in Acts, the congregations can discover and design a renewed sense of life and vitality. Faith by Design invites congregations to explore the design thinking process and practices within the rich Christian tradition in ways that will help cultivate the conditions necessary for the emergence of renewed practices and behaviors which beget life, vitality, and hope.  

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Aho, Christopher R. (2021). Faith by Design: Exploiting intersections between Acts and design thinking to cultivate the conditions for innovation in the local church as an expression of traditioned innovation. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/23632.

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