“100 percent becoming 100 percent” may be the new rallying cry and prayer as conference leaders continue to set a course for the years ahead.
Bishop LaTrelle Easterling met with the Extended Cabinets of the Peninsula-Delaware and Baltimore-Washington Conferences in early January to deepen the collaborative focus so that “100 percent of churches experience 100 percent vitality.” The pillars of vitality are seeing all the people, deepening discipleship, living and loving like Jesus and multiplying impact. Learn more.
The core strategies for achieving this goal, which are intentionally interwoven in intent and content, are:
- Strategic Missional Action Plans (sMAP) with the local (iMAP), district (dMAP) and conference (cMAP) teams that provide opportunities for faith communities to work together to optimize mission, ministry and buildings.
- Four Congregational Vitality Pathways that provide four customized, in-depth initiatives to assist churches in taking their next faithful step;
- Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Anti-racism work to build Beloved Community; and
- Discipleship Ministries in the areas of Advocacy and Action, Wellness and Missions, Young People’s Ministries, New Faith Expressions and Leadership Development to create next-level leaders. These areas didn’t emerge out of thin air but are rooted in the four denominational foci.
These four priorities align with the mission of The United Methodist Church and the desire of both conferences to offer that mission out of strength, not weakness; solid stewardship, not scarcity; and grounded witness, not conjecture.
Vitality comes in all shapes and sizes
In outlining these areas of vitality, Bishop Easterling stressed that they are intended for, and applicable to, all churches – large and small; rural, suburban and urban; congregations of all ethnicities, theologies and geographies. Any church with a desire to grow in vitality and missional impact will find a place in this vision.
Fruitfulness, she noted, “will not be measured in metrics alone, but rather in how well congregations live out their faith as disciples of Jesus Christ and how much of an impact they have on people’s lives.
The Cabinets are committed to this new approach. “While numbers may help to obtain a goal, numbers do not reflect the whole story,” said the Rev. Dawn Hand, dean of the Cabinet for the Baltimore-Washington Conference. “Our work around 100 percent vitality is hoping for churches to engage the mind, heart and soul in worship, small groups, leadership roles, mission and ministries in the church and in the community.”
My hope,” she said, “is for us to move beyond getting stuck in a plan and move toward striving for a purpose.”
“This is for all of God’s creation,” Bishop Easterling said. “Strong, vital and vibrant faith communities will get away from focusing on survival. They’ll be able to overcome insignificant differences, arguments, and conflicts that tear at the fabric of unity. They will have a heart to be outwardly focused, listening to the needs of the community, and making a tangible difference in people’s lives. That can be true whether a church has 10 or 1,000 members.”
For the Rev. Rob Townsend, director of Connectional Ministries in the Peninsula-Delaware Conference, this strategic approach to vitality enables every church “to discover how they can be the hands and feet of Jesus in their community,” he said. This multi-dimensional initiative assists congregations with that. “It puts applicable tools in their toolbox.”
Vitality leads to transformation
According to Bishop Easterling, “every community has needs; every community is yearning for love, for hope and fulfillment. A faith center that meets those needs will need to be strong in its witness to Jesus Christ as Lord, strong in its Wesleyan heritage and spiritual practices, outwardly focused, adaptive and intentional about bearing fruit,” she said.
This Wesleyan focus that reaches beyond the walls of the sanctuary all flows out of our discipleship, said Christie Latona, the BWC’s Director of Connectional Ministries.
The priorities support one another and “create an ecosystem of thriving,” Latona said. “Maturing disciples so that we become fully alive in mission and ministry, stewarding our gifts and resources, developing thriving congregations who are and co-create Beloved Community are all interrelated. We pray churches experience the blessings of these resources in ways that honor God and bring wholeness to our congregations and communities.”
“My hope is that churches will use some of these resources to very intentionally and very passionately engage their communities in works of mercy and acts of justice, said the Rev. Joseph Archie, superintendent the Delaware District and Dean of the Cabinet.
He recognizes that many churches have been through a great deal keeping their doors open during the pandemic. “I tell them it’s okay to feel tired,” he said. “And, I also urge them to rely heavily on prayer and the Holy Spirit to lead them to stay connected with the people and reach out to the marginalized, the lonely, the lost and the least.”
The conferences' focus on vitality and the resources provided are intentionally designed to assist churches looking for new life, renewed energy and discernment about next steps.
“It’s been such a difficult couple of years, and yet United Methodists are still offering hope, healing, and good news. The UMC has always been strong because of our connection,” said the Rev. Erica Robinson-Johnson, the affiliation’s Chief Administrative Officer. “My prayer would be one of gratitude for resilience and creativity and connection.”
The bishop agreed. “We are about creating vibrancy, about helping churches to flourish,” she said. “It’s going to take time, hard decisions, deep teachings, effort and energy and focus. … Too often we are looking for quick fixes, but quick fixes do not yield transformation. Transformation takes time, patience and perseverance. And we know that we do not take these steps alone. God is with us as we listen, learn and live into God’s preferred future.”
A more detailed explanation of the 100 percent becoming 100 percent goal is at bwcumc.org/100-percent-becoming-100-percent-vital.