Successful Churches

A couple of weeks ago here in Castings, I made some observations about what I have been seeing in congregations as I’ve moved through this church conference season. I would like to continue with another one here today.

While any church can do what I am addressing today I would point especially to churches that are in the Vital Church Initiative (VCI) as the most successful at the moment. While there are many positive aspects I see in churches engaging the VCI, the one that I celebrate perhaps more than any other is what is often described as Mission Alignment.

Mission alignment first involves a clear mission and vision for the church. The mission of The United Methodist Church as a whole often provides the framework for the local churches. “Making Disciples of Jesus Christ for the Transformation of the World.” When this becomes the mission, then mission alignment means as Bob Farr puts it, “every ministry in the congregation must demonstrate how it will accomplish the mission, and new ministries need to have as their primary purpose, the making of new disciples.”

I see so many of our congregations kind of dabbling. We do a little bit of this, we offer a little bit of that. We do a Bible study here and maybe a fellowship event there. We do a mission trip here and open up our church to a support group there. Not bad things, but there’s often no understanding of how any of these are connected to the mission. It is a ministry stew, if you will, with no real direction.

Mission alignment clarifies this for everyone in the congregation. It enables the creation of linked paths that build upon one another and develop a cohesive growing missional outreach that coordinates everything a church does. It also identifies the things a church needs to stop doing in order to focus all their energy upon the mission. This can be some of the hardest but most important work in the process.

I have been to some churches lately that are really getting this into place in some meaningful ways. My challenge to all of us today is that we strive for a clearer, more effective mission alignment in the places where we serve together. And if you’re not in VCI and need a resource to help, I would recommend Bob Farr and Kay Kotan’s book “10 Prescriptions for a Healthy Church.”


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