By Ed Preston
In her introduction of the report on church vitality, Rev. Marian Hartman said, “Life is a journey, but where does the highway lead? Whatever way you map the course, one thing remains the same: You need to know the destination. Vitality is the destination to which faith communities are called.”
But how do we get there? We need to acknowledge that the journey is often fraught with detours and potholes. Sometimes the roads we have always used simply won’t get us to that destination anymore.
Knowing this, the Cabinet of the Susquehanna Conference is working in various ways to assist churches in finding the ‘on-ramps to vitality’ that will take them to the destination.
Discipleship is an on-ramp that is measurable through baptisms and affirmations of faith. Each one of these celebrations represents a life transformed. Seven churches around the annual conference have been recognized for their extraordinary achievements in discipleship. These are Bethany, Red Lion; Centre Grove, Clearfield; Cross Point, Harrisburg; Firwood, Wilkes-Barre; Lightstreet, Bloomsburg; McVeytown; and St Paul’s, Nauvoo.
Several paths to vitality were shared in the report. Matthew 28 opens new strategies and reminds congregations that willingness to risk is critical to achieving vitality. Pastoral Leadership Development offers clergy fresh approaches and tools for their work as leaders in the church. Equipping God’s People trains laity in effective local church leadership in a wide variety of ways. All of these can help churches not only begin the journey to vitality, but sustain them through the long haul.
Rev. Mike Bealla offered route options from the Connectional Ministries roadmap. E-Tours train clergy and laity alike in ways to point our churches outward and away from our often inward-focused view. Mission Insite offers high-quality demographic information to local churches that many could not afford to acquire on their own. Visioning processes for local church leadership can help congregations find that on-ramp to vitality which God has laid out for them.
The journey to vitality is never easy, but it is one that will glorify God, inspire our local churches, and propel them out into the world to bring transformational ministries to all of God’s precious children of all ages, nations, and races.