Experience Something Bigger than Yourself


What if the problem of declining church attendance isn't a need for relevance, but for resonance? Thanks to a generous grant from Lilly Endowment Inc., you're invited to join us on a journey into mystery, meaning, and finding moments that resonate with church members and spiritual seekers in a secular age.

Exploring Practices of Transcendence

Relevance to Resonance is a $1.5 Million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. that will be used to explore ways that church leaders can reshape and deepen congregational life in their churches in a "secular age"—characterized as a culture in which people seek the good without God.

The grant revolves around cultivating resonance: the awareness of being alive; of interconnection between oneself and the world; of encounters with something beyond oneself.

The project will:

  1. Bring to pastors and congregational ministry a new articulation of the conditions of our current secular age;
  2. Identify the nature of the challenge those conditions present to pastoral leadership and congregational life; 
  3. Open up pastoral and congregational imaginations for the kind of leadership and shared life congregations need to thrive in our current cultural climate; and
  4. Assist pastors and congregations in beginning to deliberately reshape congregational life and ministry toward transcendence.

How the Project Works

Relevance to Resonance gathers church leaders and ministry practitioners together to discover and introduce practices that help people recognize experiences of transcendence in their daily lives. We'll do this by:

  • Recruiting 24 leaders of congregations for two Resonance Groups, where they'll meet together twice a year for two years to discern new practices, introduce them to their congregations, and reflect on what worked and what didn't;
  • Collaborating with 24 pastors and practitioners during three writing symposia, where participants will create articles accessible at a lay level that describe everyday experiences of transcendence;
  • Creating and distributing resources to church leaders who want to go beyond seeking "relevance" in their ministries to creating experiences that resonate with more and more people;
  • Convening events where church leaders, practitioners, and theologians can gather to reflect and share on what they've discovered in undertaking this work.

Why Resonance?


Relevance to Resonance draws on Professor Andy Root's three-volume series "Ministry in a Secular Age."

"What if the problem of declining church attendance is not a need for relevance but for resonance?" Root asks. Relevance is a kind of trap, he contends, that encourages religious communities to compete through resources. A better question might be: How do we experience something bigger than ourselves?

Discovering new ways to answer that question is what this project is all about.