VALLEY FORGE, PA (ABNS 6/30/21)—“Real Connections: Ministries to Strengthen Church and Community Relationships” invites churches to move authentic relationships to the center of congregational life and ministry with the community. It equips church members and leaders to invest in deeper, more diverse relationships in a variety of contexts: within the congregation; with other churches; with community partners and residents; with people who are isolated or struggling; and across differences.
From long experience as ministry coaches and trainers, authors Joy Skjegstad and Heidi Rolland Unruh offer practical strategies for building meaningful, caring connections that address the loneliness and divisions in our society, and even within churches. Listening well, focusing on assets and valuing people’s stories can be transformative.
As churches adapt to a post-pandemic world, “Real Connections” inspires hope that everyone might find a true friend at church, that our differences do not need to separate us, and that no one has to go through life’s most challenging moments alone.
“In 1936, researchers at Harvard University began following the lives of 724 men. Known as the Grant Study, it is the longest longitudinal study of men—following their lives from age 18 to well into their 90s,” says Eric Swanson, senior fellow of the Leadership Network and co-author of “The Externally Focused Church,” “To Transform a City” and other publications.
“The clearest message that we get from this 80-year study is: Good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Period,” he continues. “But how do we form good relationships? Real Connections is a great starting place. Packed with practical examples for building caring relationships with those in our faith community or neighborhood, Heidi Unruh and Joy Skjegstad’s book not only tells us what to do but how to do it—from conversation starters to tools for creating lifelong friendships. Grab your highlighter and get ready to enjoy this very helpful book.”
Joy Skjegstad has been designing and launching community ministry programs for more than 20 years. She is in demand as a speaker and webinar presenter with special expertise in faith-based organizations, community and youth development, early childhood education, affordable housing, services for the homeless and the arts.
Heidi Rolland Unruh has researched and written extensively about church-based community ministry, including co-authoring the books “Churches That Make a Difference” and “Savoring Souls, Serving Society.” As director of the Congregations, Community Outreach and Leadership Development Project affiliated with Evangelicals for Social Action, she serves as a trainer and consultant on faith-based community development.
Founded in 1824, Judson Press is a publishing ministry of American Baptist Home Mission Societies, American Baptist Churches USA. It is committed to producing Christ-centered leadership resources for the transformation of individuals, congregations, communities, and cultures.
American Baptist Home Mission Societies partners with American Baptists to promote Christian faith, cultivate Christ-centered leaders and disciples, and bring healing and transformation to communities across the United States and Puerto Rico.
American Baptist Churches USA is one of the most diverse Christian denominations today, with approximately 5,000 congregations comprised of 1.3 million members across the United States and Puerto Rico, all engaged in God’s mission worldwide.