Rural Faith Leaders Consider Economic Opportunity Challenges at Emerging Issues Forum

Rural faith leaders after the Forum talking about their own career journeys and how faith communities can lead the way for others (St Peter’s Episcopal Church)

The Institute for Emerging Issues welcomed over 50 rural faith leaders to our ReCONNECT to Economic Opportunity Forum on October 15. From shout-outs on stage to our faith leader dinner where we asked each other “what’s the American Dream?”, faith leaders considered the big questions and challenges of rural economic opportunities.

Rural faith leaders discuss what work/career looked like in their families and communities growing up.

Thanks to the generous support of The Duke Endowment, IEI continued learning from our rural faith leaders at our half-day gathering at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church on October 16. Clergy and laity submitted questions like “How can ministers help bridge the wealth gap?” and “How can we bring jobs to the community?” as we explored how faith leaders practically respond to opportunities (or the lack thereof) in their rural communities. The core of the day was spent learning from the important work of Resourceful Communities, a program of the North Carolina Conservation Fund focusing on the “Triple Bottom Line”—economic, environmental, and social justice in rural communities. 

Faith leaders were given scenarios of existing rural ministries or partnerships and asked to add an economic opportunity component to it, Shark Tank style. Through brainstorming, faith leaders added compassionate and nuanced ideas (like letting people choose their food when they arrive at a food pantry) and shared with the larger group. Each individual was then asked to “map” out their current ministries or partnerships to start to think about innovative additions or new ideas that could help connect adult workers to higher wages in their rural communities.

The “Shark Tank” judges listen to a rural faith team suggesting ideas to turn an existing rural partnership into one that provides higher wages for residents.

Our learnings continue with rural faith leaders. Starting November 6, clergy and laity can register to come to Raleigh on February 10 for our ReCONNECT to Technological Opportunity Forum and faith leader gatherings. 

IEI also hosts Peer Networks, including two new groups to keep our conversations and questions coming. Register below, rural faith leaders and partners welcome!

Rural Housing Peer Network (NEW!)
Wednesday, November 6
11 am – 12 pm

Rural Stewardship Peer Network (NEW!)
Wednesday, November 6
2 – 3 pm

Substance Use Disorder and Mental Health Peer Network
Thursday, November 12
11 am – 12 pm

Community Food Peer Network
Tuesday, November 12
2 – 3 pm

Multicultural Partnerships Peer Network
Wednesday, November 13
11 am – 12 pm

Early Childhood Peer Network
Wednesday, November 13
2 – 3 pm

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