God calls on God’s people to make disciples. Discipleship Ministries oversees and nurtures new faith expressions in creating new places for new people and assists in the renewal and revitalizing of faith communities.
By being relevant and vital, United Methodists will touch more lives and draw more people to Christ. Our primary purpose is not to help churches grow, but rather we seek to help them reach more people with the good news of the Gospel, to grow more people as gifted and called disciples of Jesus, and to send more people into the world to love and serve God and their neighbors in all they do. We provide tools, resources, workshops, events and training to help leaders and congregations more effectively make disciples for the transformation of the world
Congregational Vitality Pathways Overview
Anthropologist Margaret Mead famously pronounced that we should “never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed individuals can change the world, indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
Who doesn’t want to change the world? Who doesn’t want to have a transformative impact on our communities? It all begins by understanding what is vitality. Unfortunately, we have bought into how our culture defines it; by the number of people we attract to our buildings and the number of offerings we collect. But what if we look to Jesus as our example of vitality?
By our modern metrics, Jesus' ministry might not be considered vital. He occasionally attracted large crowds, but most of his time was spent with 70 people or less, mainly 12-20 and often with just three. While we are convinced that 99% of our ministry needs to take place in our buildings, 99 percent of Jesus' ministry took place outside the walls of the Temple, the church building of his day. He went to where the people were and didn't wait for them to come to him. And his focus was on helping people build relationships with others and grow in their relationship with God. With this as our focus, we will begin our journey toward vitality.
Vitality is about living life to the fullest (John 10:10). A vital church makes a definable and notable difference in the lives of those in their community. What mark are we making as Christ-followers so that all might live life to the fullest? Vital churches:
- See all the people: Build authentic relationships that create belonging as everyone feels known and valued as Children of God.
- Deepen discipleship: A process for maturing disciples who witness to Jesus Christ through acts of devotion, worship, compassion, and justice.
- Live and love like Jesus: Servant leaders put themselves on the line as they proclaim good news to the poor, heal the heartbroken, set the oppressed free, and comfort all who mourn beyond the walls of our buildings.
- Multiply impact: aligns our mission to God’s call by listening and discerning with the broader community how we might reshape ministry and repurpose resources for the greatest good.
To help you get from your current reality to God’s place of vitality, we have designed 2 Congregational Pathways. While each of them is different, each has a similar goal; to help you discern and implement your next faithful step. This type of work is messy, complicated, and challenging for those who want a quick fix.
Rather than a quick fix, you are invited to join us on a journey toward the vitality God is offering you, your congregation and your local community.
Congregational Vitality Pathway Descriptions
The Readiness Initiative
At certain points in the life of every congregation, the question must be asked: “Are we faithfully fulfilling Christ’s call and commission for our church?” As we honestly answer this question we may find ourselves at a “fork in the road” where we need to assess how we are able, willing, and committed to move boldly forward in fulfilling God’s kingdom ministry.
This is at the heart of the Readiness Initiative, a process designed to explore the important questions facing us; “Who are we, what are we here for, who is our neighbor, what particular mission has God given us, and what are we going to do about it?”
The goal of the Readiness Initiative is to help your congregation discern and implement God’s next faithful step for you. Our hope is that this entire process is grounded in spiritual disciplines because this journey will require you to seek God’s will, not your own.
Throughout the process you will be employ 3D thinking:
- Hindsight: Studying times past to chart a path for the future.
- Insight: Paying attention in the now, being in time and present.
- Foresight: Accessing the future through imagination and scenario thinking.
Once your congregation is very clear about your current reality, action steps will be developed to guide you during the next phase of your journey.
Frederick Buechner defined our call as Christians as “the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” But how do we discover this call? And once we have found it, what do we do with it?
Your next faithful step comes when you engage in the deep and adaptive work we seem to want to avoid – an intentional re-engagement with the communities in which we are located. We must see and connect with the people God has called us to reach. This becomes the foundation of effective ministry.
The Catalyst Initiative is designed to help your Church do two things. First, it’s designed to help you love better; love one another and love your community. And second, it will help you discover your congregation’s call and the unique gift that you can bring to your community. It is a year-long congregational cohort process of discovery, exploration, and renewal. It empowers a church to initiate a Spirit-led vision and understanding of its community; ignite faith into action, and invigorate people to claim God’s vision for your lives and community.
Participants will learn to more deeply and intentionally cultivate discipleship, to discern and experiment, to build better relationships with one another and those in the community, to evaluate and design ministry for the most meaningful impact, to identify and leverage assets and to create alignment and systems that sustain ministry into the future. As a result, congregations will increase their skills, confidence and resilience so that more transformed lives transform lives. Congregations are placed into cohorts guided by a Synergist who journeys with them.
Assembling the Team
Assembling your team is an important step in the journey. The content you will receive is critical to the pathway you are traveling, but just as important are your traveling companions. Prayerfully and thoughtfully invite prospective members to the team. Here are some tips and considerations for assembling your team:
- Avoid the temptation of:
- Assigning this work to an already existing team or committee within your church. Many of our committees and teams are bogged down with the current operation of the church that little space is left for innovation.
- Having too many paid staff members populate the team. This is your opportunity to create something new and encourage participation from beyond the current structure.
- Asking people based on position rather than passion or giftedness.
- Identify people who are respected in the congregation and can influence momentum. There needs to be at least one person on the team who others will listen to and truly hear what is being offered through the congregational vitality journey.
- Be mindful to invite people who represent the diversity of the congregation and the neighborhood in which your church exists. Remember, not everyone on the team needs to be a member of the congregation.
- Ensure that each team member has the desire, ability, and the commitment to engage in this process. The Catalyst Initiative is at times a fast-paced process and has approximately the same time commitment as the Disciple 1 Bible Study. Therefore, your team members can expect to spend an average of 10 hours per month for learning and implementing. Be upfront about expectations and responsibilities of team members so they are not surprised later on in the journey.
- Consider inviting people who are newer to the church. These people are more likely to bring a new set of eyes and a different perspective to conversations and learning as the church navigates reaching the unchurched in its community.
- Consider inviting people who are experiencing a season of “holy disruption,” sensing or desiring something new or different for the church, and more importantly, for those in the community that are unchurched.
- Make sure that each team member has internet access and a basic knowledge of computer etiquette. Or have a team member who is willing to work with members who are enthusiastic about the work, but may need some guidance.
- Once your congregation has received an invitation to a particular pathway, make sure that each team member is available for the orientation retreat and other dates given per pathway.