Focusing on Vital Signs, Vital Congregations in the New Year

December 19, 2011

In 2012, the focus in the California-Nevada Annual Conference – and for United Methodists everywhere – will be on helping congregations be vital and focused on God's mission in the world. Our Council of Bishops, the Connectional Table's Call to Action, and the California-Nevada Conference Strategic Plan for Congregational Vitality all are in agreement on the importance of this focus.

Vital Signs reporting and Vital Congregations goal setting are two separate opportunities set before us as responses to this missional focus.
Vital Signs
In January 2012, United Methodist churches, including churches in the California-Nevada Annual Conference, will begin tracking six key indicators of vitality by entering weekly information into a Vital Signs "dashboard." Those indicators are:
  • Worship Attendance
  • Professions of Faith
  • Involvement in Small Groups
  • Engagement in Mission and Outreach
  • Support of (giving to) Missions Around the World
  • Giving to Support the Ministry of the Congregation (pledges and offerings)
Churches also will be invited to type in a brief testimony, or narrative account of the church's ministry in the past week.
To sign up for Vital Signs reporting, provide the Conference Communications Office with your church name and the email address (just one) that you wish to use for Vital Signs, by emailing,, or
Find out more about what to report by watching a short video (just under 9 min.).
Find out how to report your church's information by watching a 2 min. video.
For more information about Vital Signs reporting visit
Why Count?
We appreciate that United Methodists are reluctant to be defined by metrics. The bishops and other church leaders recognize that our primary concern is souls, not numbers. Metrics and numbers do not tell the whole story, but numbers do represent souls. When our numbers are declining, we are reaching fewer souls, and we are reducing our capacity to reach new souls for Jesus Christ and transform the world. When we do not set goals, we are susceptible to continuing to do the same things that are not working. Goals help us not only to measure outcomes, but also to evaluate the effectiveness of ministries and strategies.
Vital Congregations
While Vital Signs is about measuring and describing, Vital Congregations is about vision and setting goals.
Three main components of the vital congregations website at will help congregations:
  • see their church history
  • assess their current church health, and
  • develop and set goals for their future.
Part of the evaluation process for churches involves looking at the history of the congregation, and at 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 then is asked to assess its current health, based upon five measurable indicators of vitality: worship attendance, professions of faith, number of small groups, persons involved in mission, and missional giving – in order to move to visioning, in which the congregation sets feasible and attainable goals to reach the vision of becoming a more vital and healthy congregation.
A report of every congregation's goals will be compiled by district and by Conference. Churches are asked to report their goals by March 15, so that the Conference can set its own goals, based upon the goals set by congregations. Conference goals will be reported at the 2012 United Methodist General Conference, taking place in Tampa, Florida April 24-May 4.
Resources are available to provide congregations with help, encouragement, and support. 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. Throughout the site are descriptions of vital congregations and resources to help congregations become more vital – and here, too, churches are encouraged to share their own success stories.
For more background, visit the Call to Action site. You'll find a direct link to Call to Action on the Conference website, under "Areas of Interest" on the right side of the Home Page.