Since our founding, we have partnered with churches because they inspire a large number of people to imagine greater possibilities. 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. Below we’ve highlighted a few of our projects over the years.

Back in our consulting days, Criterion’s first client was the fourteen billion-dollar Methodist Pension Fund, and our job was to figure out how to help them move a billion dollars into microfinance. The General Board of Pensions and Health Benefits of The United Methodist Church is the largest faith-based pension fund in the United States ranked among the top 100 pension plans in the country. The UMC pension fund has translated those assets into nearly $1 billion to affordable housing and community development investments. While the majority of the General Board’s investments have funded affordable housing they have also included health centers, charter schools, and commercial facilities in underserved communities and they have engaged in microfinance lending.

Criterion continued to work with the  General Board of Pensions and Health Benefits as they identified the declining health of clergy as key issue for the future of the church: they needed to create a new strategy which both fit with their values and addressed deeply troubling trends. Over a five year period, Criterion invited over 200 thought leaders in the intersection of faith and health to shape the vision. We engaged Bob Horn, a leader in visual mapping to create a Mess Map of the core dynamics of clergy health. Finally, we managed the design of a new model and the planning for roll-out in the context of a movement. The project has successfully changed the way that the General Board offers health benefits and programs and serves as a best of class model for integrating faith and health.

Starting in 2008, Criterion worked on the Charlie Project (“Charlie”), a Lutheran led community approach to urban education and community economic development. The project was named for Charles Gundelach, a businessman who cared deeply for children in our cities and believed in the role of Lutheran education in strengthening their lives and preparing them for their futures.

During phase I, Criterion explored existing school models and networks nationally and designing a model that would reflect Lutherans’ unique role in urban education. Read our Phase I report here.

During Phase II of this project, which started in 2009, Criterion explored the analysis and design of opening a Charlie school in St. Louis. Read our Phase II report here.

At the Clinton Global Initiative in 2012 we launched a campaign to have a thousand churches invest in small businesses in their local economy, a program we called 1K Churches. Ever since then, we’ve been creating resources for local support congregations as they invest in their local communities such as implementation guides, bible studies, and examples from their peers. Explore these resources here.

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