Vital Congregations & A Revitalized Connection
"You have heard it said, but now I say to you..." – Jesus
With the emergence of house churches, cell groups, shared ministries, and the successful rebirth of mission congregations through intentional closure, the old paradigm has not only lost relevance, but become toxic. The United Methodist Church is moving towards a new definition of local church vitality that includes at least the following components:
- Sustainability: Congregations should maintain their connectional relationships through an active network of shared gifts. They should neither demand more than their share of denominational resources nor be asked to sacrifice their own vision and future to meet the organizational requirements of their district and conference.
- Viability: Congregations must be actively engage in a learning experience so that their people become disciples of Jesus Christ. This involves developing forms of nurture, prayer, study, worship and participation in the sacraments, that are relevant to their context. Congregations are expected to mature and become capable of discovering for themselves how they can be fruitful in the service of God.
- Vitality: Congregations must be active in their witness, passionate in their faith, and lovingly transformative in their relationship with their community.
- Some congregations will need encouragement as they move out of expensive buildings and into homes or rented facilities.
- Some congregations will need support as they utilize Par. 259.a and transition through closure into a sustainable mission congregation, not dependent upon conference resources.
- Some will need permission to form creative ministry partnerships.
- Many will shift from receiving appointed clergy as their immediate pastoral leadership to having these needs met more efficiently by Certified Lay Ministers and other supervised lay leadership.
- A few will recognize that their life span as a chartered congregation is nearing its end and that they should begin to consider God glorifying options for leaving a legacy and caring for their remaining members.
Where many of today's most exciting new congregations involve an 'emerging church' or 'home fellowship' model. It is important that the conference have in place a supportive way to sustain these congregations and their leadership.
- Metrics and expectations must be built around the new paradigm of church vitality.
- These new fellowships need to be valued as mission congregations and not expected to become chartered churches (see Par. 259).
- Appropriate training procedures need to be developed for both appointed leadership and Certified Lay Ministers.
Are they willing to:
- Enter into partnerships with emerging church fellowships or cell groups
- Engage their whole church in a revitalization program, such as, Healthy Church Initiative, Natural Church Development, Strategic Leadership Inc., etc
- Sponsor a new church plant