Happy spring! Just we’re all looking forward to April’s wet coolness bursting into the warmth and bloom of May, we’re also looking forward to some occasions together during May to explore a pathway that can help our congregation grow into increasing health and missional living.
Developed, refined and implemented in many Covenant churches over the past 10 or more years, “congregational vitality” is a journey of life, energy, passion, discovery and hope. It results from the living God breathing new life into the heart of a congregation. It is not human-constructed, but instead is about the wild and strong winds of the Spirit. Along the way, our job will be to raise the sails and catch this wind.
Our desire along the way will be to focus on nothing less than a spiritual awakening in Christ. We don’t want to be about sustaining and maintaining, but rather, to be thriving, growing, and depending on God to lead us deeper in Christ and further in mission.
To this end, we’d love you to put these upcoming dates on your calendars:
- On Wednesday evening, May 15, from 6-7:15 p.m. (following our 5 p.m. community supper), we’ll be hosting a “Congregational Roundtable on Vitality,” giving you an opportunity to explore some key self-reflective questions about our life together, encouraging us to live into some truths of congregational vitality. We’ll also hear a brief presentation from Becky Summerfield, Vitality Team leader at Salem Road Covenant Church here in Rochester; as she shares their own recent journey on the Covenant’s Vitality Pathway. We encourage our youth to participate, and there will be ministries provided for kids and childcare for the littlest ones that evening as well.
- On Sunday morning, May 19 during our 9:30 a.m. worship service, we will explore some of the Scriptural foundation and principles that lead to healthy and missional congregations.
- And during our 11 a.m. Christian Formation Hour that day, we encourage everyone to participate in a Congregational Vitality Forum led by Jon Kramka, director of congregational vitality for the Northwest Conference of the Evangelical Covenant Church. Jon will introduce the process and pathway of Congregational Vitality that has been developed, refined, and implemented at a majority of Covenant churches nationwide over the past 10 years or so. We encourage all youth ages 13 and up to participate, and there will be kids’ ministry and childcare during that hour as well.
- Then, at noon that day (following our 11 a.m. forum), everyone’s invited to stay for an All-Church Lunch hosted by our Missions Ministry Team; donations for lunch that day will go towards renting a van on Sunday mornings to pick up older people or some of our immigrant friends and others who need transportation, as well as Sunday afternoons for our Anywaa (Ethiopian) congregation.
What do we mean when we speak of becoming increasingly “healthy and missional” as a church family? When we say “healthy,” we’re talking about pursuing Christ in all things, and when we say “missional,” we’re talking about pursuing Christ’s priorities in the world.
Along the congregational vitality journey, we want to learn a common language and “constructs”—word pictures or visual pictures to help us understand God’s heart for his church and best practices of thriving congregations. We’ll talk a lot more about this in the months ahead, but as a primer to get us going, we’re introducing Ten Markers of Healthy, Missional Churches. Listed below, read these through, reflect on them, and come ready to engage in our Congregational Vitality conversations during the month of May.
And in the meantime, feel free to talk to me (507-289-2990). I’ve spent the past three years doing some in-depth study on congregational vitality, in a graduate certificate program through North Park Theological Seminary and the Evangelical Covenant Church, and in observing and studying vitality in sister churches in our Northwest Conference. Or you can direct your thoughts and questions to Karen Andrews, our church chair or Nikki Kahoud, our vice chair/chair elect.
Let’s also commit to praying—individually and together—as we allow the Holy Spirit to lead us in the weeks and months ahead.
--Steve Eng, lead pastor
Ten Healthy Missional Markers
1 Centrality of the Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16)
- We believe that the Bible is the only perfect rule for faith, doctrine and conduct.
- Our preaching and teaching in all settings reflects careful preparation, relevance, and creativity.
- Our people are equipped and growing in their ability to study and apply Biblical truth in ways that lead to a scripturally integrated life.
2 Life transforming walk with Jesus (John 3:3,30; Phil. 1:6)
- We teach our people how to be attentive to Christ in all circumstances.
- Our people understand the radical nature of the message and mission of Jesus that continually deconstructs and reconstructs a person’s life.
- Our people are equipped and growing in their ability to use a variety of spiritual growth resources, experiences, and settings.
3 Intentional evangelism (Matthew 28:18-20)
- We are burdened for the spiritual condition of those who do not yet know Christ.
- We have identifiable pathways for evangelism to take place in our ministries.
- Our people are equipped and growing in their ability to build spiritual friendships and know how to share the Gospel as God-birthed opportunities arise.
4 Transforming communities through active compassion, mercy, and justice ministries (Micah 6:8)
- We are burdened for the hurting people in our community and beyond.
- We have identifiable pathways for compassion, mercy, and justice ministries to take place.
- Our people are equipped and growing in their ability to see and address the hurts and the causes of hurt in our community and beyond.
5 Global perspective and engagement (Acts 1:8)
- We raise the sights of our members beyond our congregation and community by developing a Biblical worldview, and we often pray for and reference global matters.
- We have identifiable pathways to support the cause of Christ globally.
- Our people are equipped and growing in their ability to participate in the global dimensions of our ministry.
6 Compelling Christian community (Acts 2:42-47)
- We understand that our love for one another is a powerful testimony to the deity of Jesus.
- We love each other as we are, not as we should be.
- We share life together beyond the worship service.
7 Heartfelt worship (Psalm 138:1a; John 4:23)
- We exalt and celebrate God for who he is, what he has done, what he is doing, and what he will do.
- Worship reflects careful preparation to help give voice to many dimensions of response to God such as adoration, praise, contrition, lament, and commitment.
- People leave worship knowing something more about the heart of God and about their own hearts.
8 Sacrificial and generous living and giving (Romans 12:1-8)
- We help people discover, develop, and deploy their spiritual gifts.
- We regularly, graciously, and unapologetically teach the importance of financial stewardship in the spiritual growth of the Christian.
- We have many examples of lifestyle choices being made on the basis of stewardship and the priority God plays in the lives of our members.
9 Culture of godly leadership (Hebrews 13:7)
- Our leaders at all levels serve with character, competence, and conviction.
- A spirit of collegiality pervades, with our people trusting our leaders and our leaders trusting our people.
- We continually identify and train godly leaders for all dimensions of our ministry.
10 Fruitful organizational structures (Exodus 18:13-26, Acts 6:1-7)
- We can articulate a compelling, Christ-honoring vision for our church.
- We embrace evaluation as normal and natural and work through conflict constructively.
- Our organizational structures are designed to support efficient decision-making while at the same time building congregational ownership for those decisions.