Criterion provides training and research to equip people of the church and the churches themselves to discover God’s economy and bring their distinctive faith perspectives to tables where the economy is being reinvented to work for all. Change begins at kitchen tables, at congregational tables, at institutional and denominational tables, at the tables of finance and business where Christian men and women have a voice.
Criterion’s current work with churches grows out of deep and broad experience of the church over many years. Church leaders have engaged Criterion to rethink with them how their pension funds work, how to improve the health of clergy, how to rebuild urban communities around parochial schools, to name just of few of the places we’ve partnered with churches over the last fifteen years. We know churches and we know church people. We are part of conversations in church basements, denominational offices and coffee shops about the longing to make the church more relevant to the wider community.
Our church partners want to make a real difference in people’s lives. We also hear from people of faith who are experts in business and finance. They long to make connections between what they believe and what they do for a living.
At Criterion we bring together a theological imagination with an economic imagination in an ongoing process of action and reflection. When that happens people begin to see new possibilities and to discover God’s economy. Old issues get reframed. In the Criterion theory of change, we then conduct research to test and demonstrate these new possibilities, which can be implemented more widely through our web of institutional relationships and made available to the public through our website, conferences, papers, books, and media.
Criterion has also initiated an ongoing collaboration with seminaries, the institutions charged with training leaders and furthering theological research on behalf of the church. Together we are building a catalog of resources at the intersection of theology and the economy. We envision offering on-line courses on the theme of Discovering God’s Economy.
The best way for congregations to get involved in discovering God’s economy is through the 1K Churches Bible study. The name comes from the goal to involved one thousand (1K) congregations of all denominations in this grassroots movement. The study connects economic issues to our faith and leads the congregation to making a small loan to a small business in their community which is addressing a social issue they care about. This simple action and the groups’ ongoing theological reflection benefits a local business and the community, while it forges new relationships beyond the congregation and encourages members to see all their relationships, including their economic relationships, through the lens of faith.
Criterion helps church groups and institutions discover how they can use finance as a tool for social change through a one-day workshop that we call TOOLKIT. This workshop can be customized to address the specific change the group wants to see happen in the world, like food security or low-income housing.