9 Innovative Ministries We Love

In the spring of 2015, McCormick Theological Seminary partnered with the Center for Innovative Ministry to create the McCormick Prize for Innovation, an award to fund innovative and creative ministries.  We received over 100 submissions from all over the country!  You can find the entire submission list (with descriptions of these amazing ministries) in our database.

Here are some of the projects that caught our eye: check out these trailblazers!

1) Urban Promise: Boatworks (Camden, NJ)


When Urban Promise: Boatworks  was created in 2009, 5 students met a few volunteers in an abandoned church to build a rowboat. The initial project was designed to connect students to volunteers who could teach them shop skills and (most importantly) become mentors as they worked together. Five years later, 50 students gather weekly in that same church, now renovated as the Camden Shipyard and Maritime Museum, to learn the craft of boatbuilding.

2) Young Prophets (Chicago, IL)

TheYoung Prophets model is an innovative ministry out of Covenant United Church of Christ, birthed in response to suburban African American teens burdened by violence, mass-incarceration and low expectations. Youth are taught to critically consider the issues affecting their communities while developing their God-given gifts and talents to become advocates and agents of change. YP started a farmers’ market sourcing organic produce from local farmers, served at the Chicago Food Depository, created public service announcements, wrote articles, and led their congregation in a mission against hunger. Aware that 700 youth had been killed in the city of Chicago since 2008, they educated the congregation, lead letter writing campaigns, researched gun legislation, visited local legislators, and testified in front of the IL state legislature. Current Young Prophets now take the lead in Covenant UCC’s large congregation on matters of justice. Young Prophet alumni have taken these critical skills of mobilizing and advocacy to their college campuses.


3) The Table Church (Washington, D.C.)

The Table Church is a new church plant that creates intentional partnerships as a way to bring about racial unity, reflect God’s kingdom, and serve the city of Washington D.C. The Table creates partnerships with historic African-American congregations: sharing buildings, partnering in ministry, and intentionally building relationships between members.  The Table has also begun training seminarians and ministers who are interested in rethinking church planting in the urban context.


4) The Interfaith Rotating Winter Shelter of Davis (Davis, CA)


Interfaith Rotating Winter Shelter of Davis is an innovative emergency shelter program. The program provides a bridge between the housed and unhoused, offering shelter in the physical, emotional and spiritual sense of the word. Founded in 2007 through a partnership of 9 congregations and a handful of volunteers, the IRWS has grown to include over 1,700 active volunteers, 40+ community groups and 30 college and high school interns. Beyond emergency shelter, the IRWS provides a homemade meal in a family atmosphere, transportation to 12-step groups, on-site health clinic screenings, art and yoga classes, and bus passes for legal and medical appointments.


5) The Largest Table (Columbus, OH)


The Largest Table is an invitation to experience God’s presence and the opportunity to share God’s love in the middle of the day, in the middle of the week, in the middle of the city. It is an open door, a warm welcome, a home-cooked meal, and a table to which all are invited.  St. John’s UCC began with a vision of creating a place in the middle of the week where people from all walks of life might gather together with a spirit of uncompromising inclusion. They offered a brief, optional worship service and then a wonderful hot meal cooked by a team of volunteers. The Largest Table serves 250-300 each week and continues to grow.


6) Matthew Homes (Chicago, IL)

Matthew Home Intro from Christ Church on Vimeo.

North of Christ Church is North Chicago, a community known for high crime, poor schools and 30% home-ownership. Christ Church developed the Matthew Home Model to re-establish a sense of community and home ownership. Matthew Home families seek to love the neighbors on their street by getting to know them and caring for them in practical ways, as God leads. Christ Church is partners with The Fuller Center for Housing. The Fuller Center is able to purchase and rehab a home then offer a reduced mortgage to new home owners. As home loans are repaid, new Matthew Homes  are added. The short term goal is to rehab 30 homes in 4 years and place at least two homes on each street to build community warmth and ownership.


7) Cookie Evangelism (Kennedale, TX)


‘Cookie evangelism’ ministry is simple. Low-wage workers’ hope can be stifled by tedium, so Galileo Church pierces the monotony by delivering gifts of homemade cookies to their workplaces on holidays and invented ‘special occasions. The congregation at Galileo Church chooses a holiday (Christmas Eve, Labor Day) and sometimes they make up an occasion (First Day of Summer! Last Day of Winter!). They pack cookies in bright paper in pie boxes and include notes of encouragement in each box. Delivery teams go out with stacks of boxes and a map, delivering cookies all over town to fast food places, restaurants, hospitals, retail stores, and more. The reversal of the transaction is startling and joyful. ‘What can I do for you?’ the worker asks the customer — and then the customer holds out a box of cookies. ‘Today, we have brought a gift for you.’ It’s a hit-and-run of good news.


8) Pree ‘n Pree (Denver, CO)

Pree ‘n Pree  meets in the narthex of Central Presbyterian Church, downtown Denver, one block north of the State Capitol.  Pree ‘n Pree innovates before the worship service begins. An original piece of wood-cut art is created that represents the theme and topic of each service – inked and hand-pressed onto a 4×6 postcard, including information about the service. The invite is sent by mail, delivered in person, scanned and emailed as a personal invitation. Pree ‘n Pree prioritizes the value of inviting people to contribute their interests and passions to the community and worship at Pree. Pree cherishes committed artist and activist as voice and symbol of God’s prophetic truth in personal ways: Writing and arranging original music; Conversations with visual artists/activists in worship (including via Skype). The impact of making personal connection in the very personal ministry of knowing God and growing in the ways of the soul is a hallmark of innovation by Pree ‘n Pree.


9) Chicago International Youth Peace Movement (Chicago, IL)

Chicago International Youth Peace Movement is an advocacy group led by Jessica Disu aka FM Supreme.  Her ministry preaches peace to young people. To minister is to serve, and FM Supreme serves by creating youth programs, events and experiences intended for young people who have lost hope and confidence of co-creating a more peaceful world. This ministry utilizes Hip Hop and Spoken Word to reach those deemed ‘hard to reach.’ FM Supreme hosts youth programming events, workshops in the Cook County Juvenile Detention Center, and visits after school programs, Buddhist temples in Thailand and Myanmar, City Council in Leeds, England.

McCormick Theological Seminary and The Center for Innovative Ministry are teaming up again in 2016!  Keep an eye out for the award application in early March!