Fear+Less Congregations Initiative

Funded by the Lilly Endowment for $1 million over five years

Mission:  To support congregations in SEEing the gifts in all individuals and the shifting values in their communities, HEARing God’s vision for wholeness, and amplifying CHANGE through partnership and mission.


Scriptural Foundation: Acts 10:1-11
Primary Theme:  Incarnational Hospitality

Incarnational Hospitality creates fear+less spaces for strangers to share their God-given gifts and to see themselves as "like all others, like some others, and like no other” ( Lartey, In Living Color, 172-174).

Primary Objectives:

  • Define incarnational hospitality
  • Identify strategies to circumnavigate the fear of the unknown and the fear of strangers
  • Examine SEEing as a resource to enhance insight, discern gifts, and identify the shifting values in community
  • Reimagine the practice of prayer as a way to build rapport, see gifts, and extend incarnational hospitality


Scriptural Foundation: Acts 10:9-33
Primary Theme:  Whole Life Stewardship

Whole Life Stewardship results from hearing God’s vision for undivided living within yourself and within the community.

Primary Objectives:

  • Define (individual and communal) wholeness, stewardship, and vision
  • Identify strategies to circumnavigate the fear of plopping (painful experience of sharing your authentic truth and being completely ignored) and the fear of appearing ignorant
  • Clarify the vision of the local church as a result of identified gifts and shifting dynamics within the broader community
  • Identify strategies required to embrace and embody wisdom gained from the Wholeness Wheel (a way to talk about the individual and collective health of each area of our personal & communal lives—e.g., social, spiritual, physical)
  • Reimagine the practice of stewardship as vision casting that actively listens for ways to cultivate wholeness in the individual and community


Scriptural Foundation: Acts 10:34-43
Primary Theme: Practicing Christian Faith through Partnership and Mission

The inbreaking of the Spirit shatters boundaries and sparks change when unlikely partners see + hear God at the center.

Primary Objectives:

  • Define mission, partnership, and center(ing)
  • Identify strategies to circumnavigate the fear of plopping
  • Introduce a theory of (individual and communal) change grounded on the principles of identity, purpose, community, empathy, and legacy
  • Recognize ways the Holy Spirit is at work in centering uncommon partners and building rapport between congregational teams
  • Reimagine the practice of mission as a form of communion that sparks change between unlikely partners


  • Each participating congregation will form a team comprised of at least five people: pastor, a lay person who is a leader, a youth or college-aged young person, a community member, and a fifth person of your choosing.
  • The learning process is 10 weeks.
    • Three experiential and high energy learning weekends will be led by West Ohio’s partner, Fearless Dialogues (SEEing, HEARing, CHANGE).
    • Following each learning weekend, a trained coach will work with each congregational team to contextualize the team’s learnings to their church and community.
    • The team will implement their plan the following week.
  • Each congregation will be placed in a pair or triad towards the conclusion of the 10-week learning process. A coach will work with the pair/triad as each congregation develops a missional engagement initiative arising from what they have learned and experienced.
  • Each congregation will submit a proposal for their missional engagement initiative. Upon approval, they will receive a seed grant for implementation. Coaches will continue to be available to congregational teams implementing their engagement plan.
  • A Festival of Learning will be organized where congregational teams can present their project and its impact. West Ohio will work to identify and invite potential new partners to the Festival of Learning who may be interested in supporting an engagement initiative.

Dates (Fridays:  6:00 – 8:00 pm; Saturdays:  10:00 am – 12:00 pm)
1st Cohort (Fall 2021):  September 10-11; October 1-2; October 22-23; November 6
2nd Cohort (Spring 2022): January 21-22; February 11-12; March 4-5; March 25
3rd Cohort (Fall 2022):  September 16-17; October 7-8; October 28-29; November 18
4th Cohort (Spring 2023):  January 20-21; February 10-11; March 3-4; March 24
5th Cohort (Fall 2023):  September 15-16; October 6-7; October 27-28; November 17

Contact Person:  Dee Stickley-Miner, dstickley [at] wocumc.org, 614-505-3960