Three Leaders Offer Their Perspectives on Vibrant Churches
In her Episcopal Address, Bishop Janice Huie reminded the delegates of the Apostle Paul’s description of the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. These words also describe a vibrant congregation. “A fruitful congregation blesses those inside and outside of the church,” she shared with delegates and attendees in the initial worship service. “Mission is not a program but how Christians live – a holy habit, practice and disposition to bless others,” she adds. One way to measure vibrancy, she explained, applies several metrics developed by The General Council on Finance & Administration based on the number of small groups, mission engagement, financial strength, worship attendance and professions of faith.
“Our congregations are in the process of being transformed and the stories are exciting,” she said. For example, TAC has hundreds of churches engaged with their local schools, dozens in the Vibrant Church Initiative, and 15 congregations are planning a second campus or church plant within the year.
“Loneliness is the number one spiritual problem in our culture,” she adds. Ironically, the largest generation in our nation’s history, those 14 – 34-year-olds are the most technologically connected yet remain isolated and longing for real relationships. They yearn for friends to share their hopes and dreams. “One of our pastors has grown a fruitful congregation by having thousands of conversations with people at Starbucks. He heard again and again the desire for connection. Methodists understand the yearning to belong and that relationships are what abundant life is all about.”
Why your UMC?
The world needs each church for a unique reason. “Every congregation has gifts and the ability to bring healing to their neighbors.” Bishop Huie asked each to consider, “How will you cultivate relationships with the people you serve this next year?”
Her 2014 challenge to all churches in the conference: Ask yourself how your congregation is stepping forward to become more vibrant, fruitful and missional? See Bishop Huie on video.
Rev. Olu Brown Demonstrates Relevancy
Rev. Olu Brown, lead pastor of Impact Church in Georgia urged congregations to focus on relationship not membership. He suggested that leaders research the number of “unchurched” people in their community. He called this number the opportunity to share Christ and build relationships with those who are outside the church. He also encouraged leaders to build relationships in every way available including technology as a tool to reach youth. To demonstrate how different age groups view technology, he asked volunteers of different ages to identify an I-phone and an 8-track tape. The responses were telling.
He also pointed out that the most expensive part of any church is the sanctuary. It is also the most underused. He suggested that the future of the church is in small groups and small conversations that may not require the large open space that most churches currently include. “We need to consider how we can make our worship more dynamic, how we can develop deeper relationships, and how we can become hi tech congregations to reach the people in our midst and around the world,” he told delegates. See a video excerpt.
Sue Nilson Kibbey on Leadership
Visiting from the Western Ohio Conference, Rev. Sue Nilson Kibby brought words of inspiration about the power of small decisions in making big impacts within congregations. “Churches often don’t need a total makeover,” she says, “one small change can often allow God to do a new work.” Sharing insight from her books on leadership, she told delegates how a congregation’s culture should be a mix of spiritual shepherding, task champions and visional leadership. “When all three are present, the scene is set to jump start a new cycle of vibrancy,” she notes.
Rev. Nilson Kibbey also shared stories from the Western Ohio Conference of churches that experienced vibrancy through prayer ministries. The prayer practice sometimes involved prayer walks when members of the congregation would walk through the church property or through their communities praying as they go. She has offered TAC members resources that are available at http://www.txcumc.org/2014speakers
See her video clips:
Order of the day Monday
Order of the day Tuesday