(R. Neil McDavid, Director of Connectional Ministries, AWF Annual Conference) - The challenge being undertaken by our United Methodist Church is to redirect the flow of attention, energy, and resources to an intense concentration on fostering and sustaining an increase in the number of vital congregations effective in making disciples of Jesus Christ for transformation of the world. We, in the Alabama-West Florida Conference, are joining in this effort to meet the challenge. We have framed our response in what we are calling the SEND model, Seek/Engage/Nurture/Deploy. Thus we are seeking, engaging, nurturing and deploying fruitful leaders and congregations who fulfill our mission as United Methodists. We believe every church can grow in congregational vitality and fruitfulness. To this end, every congregation is being encouraged to engage and participate in the vital congregations project. This project has three (3) components, which are process, plan, and projections . The process involves looking back and remembering the origins of your church. Most churches started with people passionate about reaching out to the community in the name of Christ. Another part of the process is looking at the current context, that is looking at the community and the people God has called your church to serve and asking questions such as, who lives in your community, what are the current needs, what changes have occurred in your community. What are the talents, abilities, and gifts that exist in the people of your congregation? What are your strengths as a church? What are the opportunities for you to serve? If your church ceased to exist, who, other than those in your congregation, would miss you? What does the community think/say when the name of your church is called?
The second component of the vital congregations project is to develop a plan going forward. This involves clarifying your church’s mission and vision and asking what is the vision God has for your church as you move into the future. Important questions to ask in the planning process are what is your church plan for assuring excellence in worship. What is the plan for outreach-oriented, disciple making ministry? What is the plan for disciple growing accountability groups? What is the plan for incarnational, missional, servant based ministry, that is at the heart of who we are as the church? What is plan for extravagant, missional giving in response to the “over the top” extravagant generosity of God?
The plan then leads to making projections in the areas of worship attendance, professions of faith, small groups, missions, and missional giving.
I believe if we seriously engage the process, develop a plan and make projections out of that plan, we will find ourselves talking, not so much about vital congregations but about viral congregations. I submit that if we seriously seek to be the church God calls us to be we will become much more like the church Jesus envisioned as “The Message” has it in Matthew 16:18, “a church so expansive with energy that not even the gates of Hell will be able to keep it out”. This vision is not of a vital church but a viral church. This is a vision worthy of our every endeavor.
The vital congregations planning guide can be accessed by clicking here.
Please call on me (Neil McDavid 334.356.8014 or firstname.lastname@example.org) if I can facilitate the vital congregations process in your church.