Evangelism in Contemporary Contexts 2020


Rev. Tom Barlow; email tbarlow@iliff.edu

Office phone 303-765-3176; Office location is Bacon 207 (and, due to the Pandemic, I will not be there, so I'll post virtual office hours if that appears to be helpful)
Cell phone 719-640-6726 (emergencies only, please)
Note that my Iliff office hours usually fall on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. For class questions, I am available pretty much every day except Monday, which I take as a Sabbath day with my wife.

Course Description

This course offers critical and practical engagement with why and how Christian faith can be shared while honoring the distinctiveness of others. We will explore the theologies and practices that guide evangelism in modern/postmodern contexts. This course includes practical tools for thinking about who an organization is trying to reach, how to determine the makeup of a given geographic area, and what sorts of engagement will work with them. We will also explore the theological heritage of Methodism as it pertains to the overall aims of the course (other options will be considered for students of other faith traditions - please contact Tom for more information). This course is designed to meet Iliff's revised interpretation of requirements for UM ordination.

Note: This would have been a Hybrid course. We would have met on the Iliff campus (as things get sorted out, I'll be available for conversation during part of these times, and/or we will do some online gatherings to work through the project as necessary for those who need it):

Updated Project Instructions: Church Research Project Instructions 2020.docx

Added 4/23: A demo of searching by polygons is on this

These are quick overviews of functionality that is beyond what you need to do for this course. If you've been playing around on MissionInsite, you may have already discovered these (and more). You do not need to do any of these for this course! 

This first one uses the current (2020) interface. Here, I was waiting to see if anyone would join me for one of the optional Gathering Days sessions, and I did a demo of polygon searches. This is edited pretty heavily at the beginning, so the recording doesn't have me getting quite as excited about local restaurants, and focuses on the polygon creation. Just after I started going through the report, Brian Lee joined the conversation.  Just about 30 minutes, but - again - this is not required. I'm not sure I will come back to check comments, so nudge me if you have questions.

These use the Legacy interface to MissionInsite.

Uploading Congregant Data


Doing Some Basic Plotting of Congregant Data


Drawing Polygons in the Report Wizard


Drawing Polygons in the Map


Just Generally Playing Around a Little



. There are also some older demos, but they also use the older interface. Everything is optional.

Course Overview


See, Know & Serve the People Within Your Reach, Abingdon Press, 2013, ISBN 978-1426774171

Worship Ways for the People Within Your Reach by Thomas Bandy and Lucinda Holmes, Abingdon Press, 2014, ISBN 978-1426788079

Additional readings will be posted as pdf files on the Canvas course site. 

Course Overview

This course offers critical and practical engagement with why and how Christian faith can be shared while honoring the distinctiveness of others. We will explore the theologies and practices that guide evangelism in modern/postmodern contexts. This course includes practical tools for thinking about who an organization is trying to reach, how to determine the makeup of a given geographic area, and what sorts of engagement will work with them. We will also explore the theological heritage of Methodism as it pertains to the overall aims of the course (other options will be considered for students of other faith traditions). 

Course Objectives

The United Methodist Church requires that all candidates "achieve basic competence in the following areas:"

Course Approach

In essence, this course will have two simultaneous threads running through the ten week term. While our primary framework is Methodist/Wesleyan, the essence of our work here crosses denominational lines and theological approaches. The idea of "evangelism" involves the sharing of good news - and that, one hopes, is the aim of all faith traditions represented at Iliff. As we will discuss the first week of the term, evangelism is a problematic word and concept, but if we allow the language to get in the way of our ability to share, we are depriving others of the faith discoveries we have made. 

The first thread of this course focuses on the message that we have to share - that is, the good news itself. Here, we will think theologically about the task, and think - again in practical terms - about the reasons we share. This portion of the course is quite reflective in nature, as we everyone will be invited to think about their personal stories (narratives) and, in doing so, construct an understanding of the reasons we share faith. This thread will be our focus during the early and late stages of the course, but it will persist throughout.

The second thread we are examining is intensely practical, and focuses on ways in which we can understand and engage the needs of geographically-defined communities. The goal in this thread is to identify the groups of people present in the regions which we serve, and explore the ways in which those groups can be reached effectively with the faith message we carry. 

How can you be successful in taking an online class? It can be more than a little challenging - after all, in a face-to-face class, you meet once or twice a week, and, in that time, the instructor can make sure you are on-track in terms of course progress and your understanding of the material. Online, though, is different in some key ways, and your success in the course hinges on understanding those differences.


You can't participate if you don't know what's going on! In your Canvas Profile (which you can access using the Profile link at the top right of every page), you can specify how you should be contacted. Make sure that your preferred email address is properly set on that page.

From that page, you also have the ability to change your notifications (that is an option on the left menu on that page). Make sure that your notification settings are set so that you are kept reasonably informed of events related to the class. 

As each week progresses, you need to pay attention to class-related activities! Keep an eye on whatever notifications you have chosen to receive. If you choose to ignore them, you can quickly find yourself way behind (and, remember, after two weeks of non-involvement, you may be removed from the class).

Finally, if you have a personal emergency (i.e. family crisis, illness, or even the burdens of life just getting in the way of completing the assignments) please (please please please) contact Tom immediately. The final week of the class is not the right time to initiate a conversation with your instructor about incomplete assignments from earlier in the course! 


Online classes are, by their very nature, highly collaborative in terms of learning. That means that the majority of your learning will take place as you engage other students regarding the material that everyone is reading. 

Collaborative learning is a common approach at Iliff, both in online and face-to-face classes. The discussions and other activities that you participate in here are similar to in-class discussions in the face-to-face session. It is a little harder to "hide" in the online classes than it is in the face-to-face, but, otherwise, the approach is the same. And yes, the readings are the same in the the online and face-to-face classes - the load is no heavier in the online class, although the 3.5 hours of "face time" in the face-to-face class is replaced by reading, thinking about what other students have said and responding online.


As with any class, your commitment to learning will greatly impact your success (both in terms of grades and in terms of actually mastering new information). In this class, we don't all meet online at the same time, so it is up to you to set up a schedule that allows you to engage other students about the material. 

There is a significant difference in terms of commitment in an online class, though, and it is this: Since the learning process is highly collaborative (and since different students will be reading material in different ways), your failure to participate will reduce the effectiveness of the class for other students as well. Taking an online class really does require commitment, and a special kind of discipline, in order for everyone to be successful.

Week 1 - Whither Evangelism?

Required Readings:

Week 2 - Evangelism Rethought

Required Readings:

Week 3 - Connections and Narratives

Required Readings:

Week 4 - Connections and Narratives, Part II

Required Readings:

Week 5 - Connections and Narratives, Part III

Week 6 - Connecting Worship

Required Readings:

Week 7 - Forming the Message

Required Readings:

Week 8 - The Great Commission

Required Readings:

Week 9 - Evangelism from Then to Now

Required Readings:

Week 10 - Wrap-Up

Required Readings:




Project Directions and Worksheets

These resources are designed to help you work through the demographics project. 

You will need these three documents (you don't need to print them, though):

Church Research Project Instructions 2019.docx <- Don't use this one, although the worksheet has not changed

Church Research Project Instructions 2020.docx <- Use this one!

Mosaic Lifestyle Segment Worksheet.docx

Worship Lifestyle Segment Worksheet.docx


Two documents from Bandy which may be helpful. These are both self-assessments, though, so this is more about self-awareness within your ministry context:

Leadership Inventory (March 2016).docx

Worship Ways Exercises 2015.docx

In this course, we will be exploring practical ways to identify and connect with the people in your ministry area (as in, ministry region).

Part of our work will involve an online tool known as MissionInsite (Links to an external site.). In the most basic sense, this site provides demographic data for use in ministry (and NPOs). Getting beyond the basics, though, MissionInsite has partnered with Dr. Tom Bandy to integrate their demographic data with his highly missional approach to church life (and he is using mission in a way that should help us to shed some baggage from our colonial/post-colonial periods).

All United Methodist annual conferences are currently under contract with MissionInsite. These contracts allow churches to obtain demographic reports at no cost. In Tom Barlow's experience, many churches are unaware of these contracts, and therefore are not using any of the available services. For this course, we will be using MissionInsite to obtain demographic data. Please understand that we are not trying to sell you on the use of this tool; rather, it is already the tool that the United Methodist Church presently uses, so we are using it as well. When you have completed this course, you will have fairly advanced practical skills related to this particular tool, and they are likely to transfer to other tools as well. 

Note: You will need access to MissionInsite by the third week of the term, so please address the below items soon!

United Methodist Students

Please start by contacting your home church in order to request access to MissionInsite. This will often require obtaining an Agency Account Number from your district or conference. If you need a letter or email from Tom Barlow in support of this request, feel free to ask. If you are challenged along the way, please feel free to say that the President of MissionInsite, Rev. Chuck Salter, is aware of this project, and prefers that UM students use their church's login credentials and/or their Annual Conference's Agency Account Number. If you cannot obtain access, contact Tom Barlow and he will arrange for student access for you - but this should be a last resort for UM students (it may be the only option for students from other traditions).

Students from Other Traditions

First, check the MissionInsite client list page to see if your tradition is listed. If it is, see if you can arrange to get access as described above. If your tradition is not listed, or you are unable to gain access, contact Tom Barlow for access. MissionInsite has an agreement with Iliff to provide student access for this project at no cost, although you may not be able to obtain demographic reports for the area around your organization (Iliff's access is limited to specific counties in the Denver area) - still, however, this will be a valuable exercise. MissionInsite's services are available to any church in the country for an annual fee, so if you find the project helpful, it may be worth additional conversations at your organization or judicatory. 


This was an early effort in video production at Iliff - we need to reshoot parts of it, but it should still be helpful. We've used it in Iliff's UM History course. It's slated for revising over the summer, so if anyone is new to Wesleyan grace and finds it particularly captivating, we might want to sit you down for an interview...


Discussions that Last the Whole Quarter

Introduce Yourself

Coffee Shop

Mar 27, 2020FriWeek 1 - Readings and Video "Due"due by 05:59AM
Mar 28, 2020SatRequest Pass/Fail Gradingdue by 05:59AM
Mar 28, 2020SatWeek 1 - First Posting Duedue by 05:59AM
Mar 28, 2020SatIntroduce Yourselfdue by 05:59AM
Mar 31, 2020TueWeek 1 - Whither Evangelism?due by 05:59AM
Apr 03, 2020FriWeek 2 - Readings and Video "Due"due by 05:59AM
Apr 04, 2020SatWeek 2 - First Posting Duedue by 05:59AM
Apr 07, 2020TueWeek 2 - Evangelism Rethoughtdue by 05:59AM
Apr 10, 2020FriWeek 3 - Readings "Due"due by 05:59AM
Apr 11, 2020SatTelling Your Story - Narrative Versiondue by 05:59AM
Apr 11, 2020SatWeek 3 - First Posting Duedue by 05:59AM
Apr 11, 2020SatArrange for MissionInsite Accessdue by 05:59AM
Apr 14, 2020TueWeek 3 - Connections and Narratives (The Beginning)due by 05:59AM
Apr 17, 2020FriWeek 4 - Video Lecture "Due"due by 05:59AM
Apr 18, 2020SatWeek 4 - First Posting Duedue by 05:59AM
Apr 21, 2020TueWeek 5 - Submit Initial MissionInsite Datadue by 05:59AM
Apr 21, 2020TueWeek 4 - Connections and Narratives (Part II)due by 05:59AM
Apr 24, 2020FriWeek 5 - Keep Up! Here are Updates from the Announcementdue by 05:59AM
Apr 24, 2020FriWeek 5 or 6: Watch These Videosdue by 05:59AM
Apr 25, 2020SatWeek 5 - First Posting Duedue by 05:59AM
Apr 28, 2020TueWeek 5 - Connections and Narratives (Part III)due by 05:59AM
May 01, 2020FriWeek 6 - Video Lecture and Readings "Due"due by 05:59AM
May 02, 2020SatWeek 6 - First Posting Duedue by 05:59AM
May 05, 2020TueWeek 6 - Connecting Worshipdue by 05:59AM
May 08, 2020FriWeek 7 - No Readings or Video, but Please Stay on Track!due by 05:59AM
May 09, 2020SatTelling Your Story - Customized Version 1due by 05:59AM
May 09, 2020SatWeek 7 - First Posting AND Customized Narrative #1 Duedue by 05:59AM
May 12, 2020TueWeek 7 - Forming the Messagedue by 05:59AM
May 12, 2020TueSubmit Your Demographics Research Projectdue by 05:59AM
May 15, 2020FriWeek 8 - Readings "Due"due by 05:59AM
May 16, 2020SatWeek 8 - Initial Discussion & Second Customized Narrative Duedue by 05:59AM
May 16, 2020SatTelling Your Story - Customized Version 2due by 05:59AM
May 19, 2020TueWeek 8 - The Great Commission (Readings & Discussion)due by 05:59AM
May 19, 2020TueWeek 8 - Finishing with Narratives (Your Final Narrative Post)due by 05:59AM
May 22, 2020FriWeek 9 - Readings "Due"due by 05:59AM
May 23, 2020SatWeek 9 - First Discussion Post Duedue by 05:59AM
May 26, 2020TueWeek 9 - Evangelism from Then to Nowdue by 05:59AM
May 29, 2020FriWeek 10 - Video "Due"due by 05:59AM
May 29, 2020FriWeek 10 - Wrapping-up Evangelismdue by 11:00PM