One of the initiatives of Pivot NW is to deploy some budding theologians and pastoral leaders in service to the grant research. These graduate theology & Industrial Organizational Psychology students will be stretched in areas complimentary to their seminary experience. To name a few; curriculum development, ethnography (study of culture of individuals and people groups), research curation, social media management in church and parachurch contexts, etc.
Eric Ford is a Doctoral student in the Industrial-Organizational Psychology program at SPU. He is the father of two millennials, both in their early twenties. He is coordinating the change management process for congregations as part of the Pivot NW team.
My love for the church reaches back to my baptism. My father was a United Methodist minister, and I was baptized as an infant in the seminary Chapel. I grew up in the church, sitting in the front pew every Sunday; attending Sunday school and Vacation Bible school; participating in youth group and on mission trips; and playing the piano and organ for special music. I earned a Master Divinity from Boston University School of Theology, with an emphasis in Hebrew Bible/Old Testament. Later I received a Doctor of Ministry from Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University. The program emphasis was in Church Leadership, and my dissertation was on preaching. I am an ordained Elder in the Great Plains Conference of The United Methodist Church. I served as a pastor in local churches for 25 years, most recently as the Senior Pastor of First UMC in Leavenworth, KS.
My frustration with the church reaches back to my baptism. (Yes, there is a parallel forming here!) Through baptism and the priesthood of all believers, each of us is called to live out our faith in holiness and service. Ministry is not just for clergy; I believe that God calls everyone to their life’s vocation, or at least to specific tasks within their skill set. Unfortunately, far too often I have heard about Christians who go “church shopping” or treat prayer as economic exchange. I have witnessed Christians in the church act more like a country club than the body of Christ. We can be our own worst enemy, especially when it comes to connecting with younger generations.
The main reason I chose to transition from ministry in the local church and pursue ministry in the world through psychology was to understand the development of organizational culture. My current research interest focuses on narrative/storytelling, the development of culture within a congregation, and the methods available to help the church adapt to the changes it experiences. I believe that if we can help our churches manage change with grace and love, then we can be more adept at helping the world to change and become more like what God intended.