By Lisa Diehl, Kansas communications director
Accountability and alignment were strong themes at the 2012 General Conference as bishops from around the world handed in goal sheets for their conferences during a celebration of the denomination’s ministries April 29.
The goals came directly from congregations that completed the Vital Congregations planning process that began last fall. Congregations were asked to set goals for average weekly worship attendance, professions of faith, small groups, members in mission and dollars given to mission.
Goals were compiled for each annual conference through congregational goal reporting on the Vital Congregations website, www.umvitalcongregations.org. Every congregation can review their goals there.
Kansas Area Bishop Scott Jones handed in goal cards for the Kansas East and Kansas West conferences. The goal cards give a cumulative total of the numerical goals set by the individual congregations in each conference.
“When it comes to the health and vitality of the church, there are no shortcuts,” Jones said. “By setting goals and measuring fruitfulness, the United Methodist Church is destined to advance in its mission to equip and empower people to be disciples of Jesus Christ in their homes and communities.”
By 2015, Kansas East congregations set a weekly worship attendance goal of 35,539, a professions of faith goal of 2,252 per year, a small-group goal of 3,418 groups, a goal of 16,297 people engaged in mission, and a goal to increase stewardship by $840,000 conference-wide.
Based on these goals, conference leaders set a goal to increase the number of highly vital congregations from 14.3 percent of conference congregations in 2010 to 37 percent of conference congregations in 2015.
By 2015, Kansas West congregations set a weekly worship attendance goal of 36,715, a profession of faith goal of 2,127 per year, a small-group goal of 4,568 groups, a mission engagement goal of 11,841 people, and a goal to increase stewardship by $222,000.
Based on these goals, conference leaders set a goal to increase the number of highly vital congregations from 10.8 percent of conference congregations in 2010 to 33 percent of conference congregations in 2015.
To be considered “highly vital,” a church must score high in at least two of four categories – growth, involvement, engagement and giving – and not score low in any of the categories.
High scores indicate areas where a church is doing well, while low scores indicate where a church needs to put more energy and attention on the path to becoming a more vital congregation. Scoring is based on the statistical reports collected annually from local congregations. The statistics from 2010 were used to determine the number of highly vital congregations in each conference.
There are 16 indicators of what makes congregations vital. The indicators can be grouped into four areas—small groups, lay leadership, clergy leadership and worship. A full list of the strategies may be found online at www.umvitalcongregations.org and listed below.
Congregations can track their progress toward their goals by reporting weekly on the Vital Signs Dashboard. Congregations that have not yet signed up to do so may contact their district secretary to start receiving the weekly reminders.
In addition to reporting numbers, congregations also can share where they have seen God through their ministry in the prior week and any ideas that are working well for them in the Vital Signs Dashboard Community Resources, http://vitalsigns.trendsendapp.com/messaging/25.
Jones said the goals, weekly reports and the congregational stories will help conference and denominational leaders tailor resources for congregations.
“Accountability means that as a community of faith that’s clear about its mission, we need to continually ask, ‘How can we be more and more fruitful, more and more faithful and effective in accomplishing that mission?’” Jones said.
The United Methodist Church 16 Key Ministry Strategies
|The following strategies were identified as “drivers of vitality” in a study of vital congregations by Towers Watson. They indicate that if churches worked on all 16, they would move toward vitality or become more vital.|
|Engagement of disciples in small groups and the number of ministries for children and youth|
|1.||Vital churches have more small groups for all ages.|
|2.||Vital churches have more programs for children.|
|3.||Vital churches have more programs for youth.|
|4.||Vital churches focus on increasing the effectiveness of lay
leaders (understand their role and carry these roles out effectively).
|5.||Vital churches have lay leaders who demonstrate a vital personal faith (regular worship, intentional spiritual growth, personal devotional life and giving of financial resources).|
|6.||Vital churches place an emphasis on rotating lay leadership in order to involve more people over time.|
|7.||Vital churches call, equip and support more lay leaders than non-vital churches. (Twenty percent or more of their worship attendees describe themselves as current or past leaders in their church).|
|8.||Vital pastors give attention to developing, coaching and mentoring lay leaders to enable laity to increase their ability to carry out ministry.|
|9.||Vital pastors use their influence to increase the participation of others in order to accomplish changes in the church.|
|10.||Vital pastors motivate the congregation to set and achieve significant goals through effective leadership.|
|11.||Vital pastors inspire the congregation through preaching.|
|12.||Vital pastors, when they are serving effectively, stay for a longer period of time. (short-term appointments of effective pastors decrease the vitality of a congregation).|
|13.||Vital churches offer a mix of contemporary (newer forms of worship style) and traditional services.|
|14.||Vital churches have preachers who tend to use more topical sermon series in traditional services.|
|15.||Vital churches use more contemporary music (less blended music that includes traditional tunes) in contemporary services.|
|16.||Vital churches use more multi-media in contemporary services. (Some congregations in other parts of the world may have limited access or do not use multi-media to the same extend and therefore it may not be as important as it is in some cultures.)|