Treasure Valley Prays

Promising Innovation: Reimagining Church Together

re-Imagining church together

This article was written about TVPrays.org and posted on the FAITH+LEAD website of Luther Seminary. It can be found on FAITH+LEAD on October 29, 2000 where you may also read more about the authors: Terri Elton and Tessa Pinkstaff. 

Following this article are some personal notes written by some of our readers. You are invited to share your own thoughts and encouragements in the comments below.

Promising innovation is collaborative with shared leadership.
Reimagining Church Together

Friday, March 13, 2020, marked the start of something new. Pastor Meggan Manlove at Trinity Lutheran Church in Nampa, Idaho, received an email that the regular regional meeting of pastors, deacons, and youth ministers scheduled for the following Monday would be switching from in-person to Zoom. When the meeting arrived, the leaders had plenty to talk about. Most of their congregations had just pivoted to online worship the day before as the world entered a pandemic. But because they were already curious about how God was calling them to reimagine church, they decided to engage in an experiment.

By the end of the meeting, the group committed to inter-congregational partnerships in three areas: daily connection and devotions, online small groups, and Holy Week worship. It was amazing how quickly their ideas became a reality. Pastor Meggan says, “A member of one congregation is a web designer and she graciously volunteered her time to create tvprays.org.” The Treasure Valley Prayers website (or tvprays.org) is a collaboration between multiple ELCA ministries in the Western Idaho and Eastern Oregon region. Its landing page says they are reimagining church together. This tagline is not merely a marketing motto; it is a missional challenge.

But the story keeps going. Pastor Meggan continues: “A retired pastor volunteered to coordinate the schedule of people—pastors, deacons, youth ministers—who would contribute to our daily devotion offering.” And within a week, the first daily devotion was published. The new website allowed people to express interest in a small group and two weeks later four women from four different congregations launched their small group. Congregations began planning and sharing prerecorded worship services for Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, and Good Friday. Something new was emerging. Building on their trusted relationships and mutual desire to meet people’s spiritual needs, the Treasure Valley Cluster shifted from being a community of support for church leaders to a platform for being church.

Though the crisis of the pandemic ignited this experiment, the seeds for it were planted long ago. These leaders knew for years that God is up to something new, and they wondered and discerned together what faithful innovation might look like for the congregations in their region. In fact, this wasn’t their first collaborative experiment; that one involved confirmation. Seven years ago, Pastor Meggan and Pastor Ken Carrothers joined forces by bringing their confirmation students together for monthly meetings. The following year Pastor Ken, who serves both Redeemer Lutheran and Grace Lutheran churches in Boise, Idaho, took the experiment even further. A neighboring congregation was in pastoral transition, so he asked his council if he could help them by leading their weekly confirmation program. They said yes. That move broke open their siloed thinking and paved the way for the collaborative approach to confirmation they have today.

These church leaders recognized a shift was taking place. They understood that the inherited models of church, which feature independent and self-sustaining congregations with their own buildings and staff, are not the future. There is an urgent need to experiment with other forms of ministry so the church can have a vibrant witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ. For the Treasure Valley leaders, tinkering with approaches to confirmation tilled the soil. Experimenting with a cluster-wide council retreat opened their thinking even more. And now they are creating cross-congregational small groups, sharing worship leadership, and expanding how they daily accompany people in their faith during a pandemic.

In his book Sustaining Grace: Innovative Ecosystems for New Faith Communities, missional leader and educator Scott Hagley writes, “Innovation is not just paramount to mission, it is a critical feature of Christian faithfulness.” The expressions of church we inherit are just one expression. From the first century to the 21st century, Hagley explains, “experiments in Christian community generate questions, surprise us, disturb us, and help us identify new possibilities for God’s presence and work in our midst.” What if a fruit of this disruptive time is deeper collaboration with other ministries? What if something new is trying to emerge? Are we actively looking for the ways God is moving in our midst? Hagley believes the church needs to encourage “ecologies for ecclesial innovation” because “the profound depth of the challenges we face will require us to innovate in relationship to God’s mission.” What we face today is like nothing we’ve ever faced before. Are we open to exploring these challenges together for the sake of the gospel?

The creation of tvprays.org and all of the other Treasure Valley innovations were possible because they cultivated a culture of collaboration. These leaders spent years connecting with each other and centering their lives on God’s word and prayer. They were ready when March 2020 arrived, and it provided the right moment for their collaboration to bear fruit as a faithful innovation experiment focused on sharing the gospel with people in a meaningful way.

Pastor Meggan and her collaborators aren’t resting on their laurels. They are looking to the future. They reevaluated their efforts over the summer months and recalibrated with long-term sustainability in mind. Daily devotions continue, with 30 people contributing content and between 50 to 100 people reading regularly. Small groups still gather weekly, and two additional joint worship services have been created. The regional leaders also partnered to celebrate the ELCA’s anniversary of ordaining women and host a cluster-wide study on Zoom. They don’t know what the next chapter is, but they do know God is stirring in in their midst. These pioneers in Western Idaho and Eastern Oregon are deepening their bonds with God and with each other as they reimagine church together.

"TVPrays has been a true gift to me in these days of increased disconnection. Pictures, poetry, scripture, music, personal stories -- all of it is Living Word for me. Thanks to all who organize and participate in every way. Maranatha!"
Kari Sansguaard
Chaplain, Lighthouse Hospice – Meridian, ID
"TVPRAYS has meant a lot to me every day. I’m excited to see what each new day will bring, who will be writing, what the topic will be, will it include a video, a favorite passage, a thought-provoking idea. It has captured the ideas of a varied number of people and I appreciate their efforts so much. Thank you for TVPRAYS!"
Connie Seymour
Member Redeemer Lutheran, Boise ID
"The devotions have been a blessing to me, both as a writer and a reader. It has been rewarding to see rostered leaders recruit their people to write devotions, as this movement celebrates the gifts that are present in our congregations. With all that is going on in our world, it has been nice to have a daily devotion in my inbox, and a website that is a place where we post joint services and other resources. I've grown in my writing skills, and watched others share their writings and ideas. This collaboration is a celebration of rostered and lay leaders working together and encouraging one another in the use of their gifts."
Diane McGeoch
Deacon/Coordinator of Learning Peace: A Camp for Kids, Nampa ID
"I’m so grateful for TVPrays. It was one of the many creative ideas which was birthed by Treasure Valley leaders to help “feed the flock” during this pandemic time. Indeed, TVPrays does feed my heart. As a life-long advocate of daily quiet time, I so value the insights and personal faith stories that have been shared. As I drink my morning coffee to help awaken my body, these devotional readings nourish my soul. Who's to say if this site will continue post-pandemic, but in the meantime it is a true gift! Thank you to all who make it happen."
Mary Braudrick
Member of Trinity Lutheran, Nampa ID
"Thank, you for this site. It starts my day off with hope and knowing we are not alone in this life on earth. Knowing God is with us and we are all in this together."
Sharon Jones
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This Post Has One Comment

  1. Linda Worden

    I’d like to add my thanks to those listed in the blog post above. TV Prays has been a spiritual lifeline for me during the pandemic.

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