December 23, 2011

Perkins School of Theology programs put faith into practice in the community through experiences that integrate classroom learning with hands-on ministry. One example – available to students taking “Theory and Practice of Evangelism” – is a four-week immersion opportunity with New Day, a network of missional micro-communities.

Developed in large measure by Elaine A. Heath, McCreless Associate Professor of Evangelism, New Day communities bring people together across racial, ethnic, educational and economic divides. They are located in the Vickery Meadow and West Dallas neighborhoods as well as in Garland.

About a dozen students participate each semester. As part of the program, they attend a weekly community meal and worship gathering, as well as monthly outreach activities that usually include a cookout, soccer, music and games. Students also assist with English for speakers of other languages classes and activities for newly arrived immigrants and refugees.

“This assignment is valuable because it introduces students to an alternative form of church, one that is grounded in at-risk neighborhoods and that uses a team leadership approach in all aspects of church life,” says Heath, who introduced the community-based experience in her evangelism class two years ago. “The New Day model is becoming widely known throughout The United Methodist Church, and judicatory leaders across the nation are taking an interest in the model as a way forward for the church to become more missional here in the United States.”