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Dave Berg

“Call is always an act and not a static thing. I hope I’m always discerning my call or thinking about why I’m doing this. If I’m not, I think I’ve missed something. So I hope whatever we do is good for all people.”

Pastor Dave Berg
M.Div. 2002
Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, Rochester, Minn.

Godly play in a virtual sandbox

Pastor Dave Berg
Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, Rochester, Minn.
by Erin Schmidtke

Sometimes doing God’s work means thinking differently. That’s what Pastor Dave Berg (2002, M.Div.) did. He and his congregation are trying something new at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Rochester, Minn. On March 16, they will host an interactive forum at 7 p.m. on vocation and purpose. It’s part of their new initiative called the Sandbox Cooperative, which draws its name from the creative and ever-changing space children make when they play in sandboxes together.

The forum will take place at Studio 324 in Rochester, but it’s also available for live streaming at sandboxcooperative.com. This new type of ministry stems from a restructuring the congregation did eight years ago. As a 3,000-member church, they had to figure out how to reach different groups effectively. Berg, who serves as the Generation X, Y and Z pastor, said of the restructuring, “Our philosophy has been: one generation blesses the other.”

This new point of view led Berg, alongside his ministry team, to brainstorm the idea of a discussion forum that would be accessible to younger members, but also relevant for people of all ages. The physical event takes place in a space in downtown Rochester, across from the new University of Minnesota campus there. Though the students there will be on spring break during this particular discussion, it is always available online.

In fact, Gloria Dei has been encouraging participants to join them from a distance. They hope to replicate the model of house churches, which were the main setting for worship and discussion during the early years of the Christian faith. They describe viewing parties as Super Bowl parties combined with faith and life conversation. Communities throughout the nation have already responded. Not only will groups in Rochester be joining them, but ones throughout Minnesota, the Midwest and even on both coasts.

On March 16, they will hear from speaker Shane Hipps, who will share his personal journey and discernment process. He and Berg met when Hipps was serving as a guest preacher at Mars Hill Bible Church in Grand Rapids, Mich. Berg realized they shared similar ideas about vocation. Hipps went on to become a pastor at that church. He is an author and now chief leadership officer at Aspen Heights, a real estate development company in Texas.

“Despite my vocational whiplash, I have always been driven by one thing—I want to be a catalyst in peoples’ movement towards God,” Hipps said.

Berg hopes the Sandbox Cooperative will be a place to discuss a range of topics like faith in politics, food insecurity, and income inequality as possible ideas. “We want to talk about some big issues to broaden the perception people have of what church is and what it means to walk through the doors of church,” he said.

Gloria Dei plans to do at least one more forum in the fall. They have applied for grants to continue these conversations over an intended three-year period. For now, Berg is looking forward to the upcoming discussion and the topic they’ll address.

“Call is always an act and not a static thing. I hope I’m always discerning my call or thinking about why I’m doing this. If I’m not, I think I’ve missed something. So I hope whatever we do is good for all people,” he said.


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Page last modified Oct 22, 2014