Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Journey

By Rev. Mike Bealla, Director of Connectional Ministries

Have you ever noticed that when you begin to pay attention to a certain word, phrase, tune, or an idea, it seems to be everywhere?! As the fall season nears I have begun to notice the frequent use of the word “goals.” Little League teams gathering in Williamsport have a goal to win it all. High school football coaches talk about the goals they have for the upcoming season. Parents talk with their school-age daughters and sons about goals for the academic year. My goal is to not pay too much attention to the shortening daylight hours as we move forward in the calendar year.

Goals are meant not to put pressure upon us, but rather to give us something to aim for … a sense that we are accomplishing something of value. In our Wesleyan heritage one could say our goal is to become perfected in Christ. That is certainly a goal that most of us could easily agree to be a worthy journey.

We are now in our second year of participating in Vital Signs. The use of the Vital Signs Dashboard is a tool that can help us see where we are heading and how well we are carrying out the task of mission and ministry. Let me thank you deeply for your effort. Nearly all of our churches are now recording their information through the dashboard. We have done mightily toward taking on this task, and after some early resistance to the concept, for most it has become a routine that takes very little time.

Our goal in using the dashboard, however, is not about compliance and whether or not the data is entered by every church. The real goal is for your local church to use the data recorded to help it move toward greater vitality. My prayer is that rather than simply recording the data, churches will use this fall season, perhaps as part of planning for church conferences, as a time to set a goal of greater vitality and use the dashboard to track the progress toward the goal.

Goals should be reasonably obtainable to be helpful and encourage effort. For instance, a local church could set a goal to increase worship attendance by five percent during 2015. Then using Vital Signs, progress toward that goal could be shared with the whole congregation on a regular basis, encouraging the effort.
What is a Vital Congregation? Vital congregations are those that are spirit-filled communities of believers which welcome all people. They are places where people continue to grow in Christian discipleship and move beyond the church to serve as Christ served through justice and mercy ministries.

How can you spot such a congregation? Vital congregations have inviting and inspiring transformational worship. They have growing disciples engaged in mission and outreach. They have gifted, empowered, and equipped lay and clergy leadership. Small group ministries are almost always present, as well as strong children’s and youth ministries.

The goal of the Connectional Ministries staff is to help local churches Equip, Empower, Engage, and Connect their faith communities in ways that help nurture their vitality for the sake of God’s kingdom.

I offer this prayer in closing:
Lord, amidst all the fear and anger, violence, and hatred apparent in the world in so many places, may we as your church set a goal not simply to make a difference in the world, but to make the world a different place. We thank you for the challenge set before us and grace that leads us to places we might not go without your calling us. In Christ’s name and for his sake … AMEN.

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