A new website has been launched, with an aim of equipping and empowering local churches to become vital and healthy congregations.
UMVitalCongregations.org is designed to help churches move through a process of evaluation and assessment into one of beginning to set goals – as well as to provide them with key resources to help them achieve those goals.
"While all congregations have some aspect of vitality, highly vital congregations grow over time, engage more people in ministry, and are more generous in giving to mission," said Bishop John Schol, team leader. "The Vital Congregations Project is designed to equip Annual Conference leadership [and] clergy and lay leadership in local congregations to reach their goals and fulfill the vision of becoming more vital and healthy congregations."
The Vital Congregations project was authorized by the Council of Bishops and the Connectional Table in response to the Call to Action research, which indicated a lack of measures and accountability within The United Methodist Church. The research identified a vital congregation as being one that has:
- Inviting and inspiring worship
- Engaged disciples in mission and outreach
- Gifted, equipped and empowered lay leadership
- Effective, equipped and inspired clergy leadership
- Small groups and strong children's programs and youth ministry
Three main components of the new website will help congregations see their church history, assess their current church health, and develop and set goals for their future. Throughout the site are descriptions of vital congregations and resources to help congregations become more vital, and churches are encouraged to share their own success stories. In October, a component will be added to the website that includes resources to help congregations reach their goals – and in November, a best practices component will be added.
The website was developed by the Vital Congregations Project Team that includes the Connectional Table, the Council of Bishops, United Methodist Communications, the General Board of Discipleship, the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry, and the General Council on Finance and Administration.
Part of the evaluation process for churches involves looking at the history of the congregation, and how the past has affected where they are today. A key feature of the website allows every congregation to see its "health history" over the past 5-10 years, using church profiles research from the General Board of Global Ministries. A congregation would then assess its current health, in order to set feasible and attainable goals to reach the vision of becoming a more vital and healthy congregation.
Goals would be based upon five measurable indicators of vitality: worship attendance, professions of faith, number of small groups, persons in mission, and missional giving.
Resources will be available to provide congregations with help, encouragement, and support.
A report of every congregation's goals will be compiled by district and by Conference. Conferences will be invited to set goals based upon the goals of their congregations, and those Conference goals will be collected and reported at the 2012 United Methodist General Conference.