Our Work: Vital Congregations Through the Four Areas of Focus
Vital congregations are crucial to the mission of our United Methodist Church. These faith communities make disciples and build capacity for bearing the fruit of faithful mission and ministry. As a denomination, we look for this fruit in Four Areas of Focus. Engagement in these Four Areas of Focus is also a means to making more vital congregations.
The mission of The United Methodist Church, as it appears in Paragraph 120 of our Book of Discipline, is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. The second sentence of that mission statement is the declaration that local churches provide the most significant arena in which disciple-making occurs. A disciple is a grace-filled Christ-follower, putting faith into action.
In 2010, The Call to Action engaged research firm Towers-Watson to provide data that would help us to better understand church vitality. The results of their study highlighted drivers of vitality, including: mixed approaches to worship services, quality small groups, Lay involvement, and excellent clergy leaderships. This information helped us to begin to define a vital congregation as one showing:
- Growth over time in
- Worship attendance and
- Professions of faith
- Involvement in learning and worship
- Engagement in the community, and
- Giving to mission
The CT and COB have again, this quadrennium, affirmed the focus of our attention, energy and resources to develop these vital congregations. Our hope is to once again double the number of highly vital congregations excelling in these markers of vitality over the next four years.
Four Areas of Focus
Vital Congregations in The United Methodist Church are working together throughout the connection to bear fruit in four key focus areas:
- developing principled Christian leaders,
- creating new places for new people,
- engaging in ministry with the poor, and
- stamping out the killer diseases of poverty like malaria.
These Four Areas of Focus originally emerged as a framework offered by the Council of Bishops and General Secretaries to respond to a deep and urgent yearning across the church for common, united focus on mission and ministry. Implementing a vision of this size requires a spirit of church-wide collaboration that transcended the agendas of agencies, conferences, special interest groups, and individuals.
This quadrennium, leaders from across the connection — the Connectional Table, the Council of Bishops, General Boards & Agencies, Annual Conferences, and local churches — have worked collectively to articulate strategic directions that will align our work together over the next four years. Moving together in these strategic directions will draw us into better missional alignment, making a deeper impact in the world.
By 2020, we look forward to our United Methodist Church as a Vital Connection:
- equipping 3 million people across the connection to be “difference makers,” called out to serve as principled Christian leaders in our world today.
- with 1 million new disciples who profess their faith through renewed and new faith communities around the world.
- that can build 400 vibrant, flourishing and transforming communities addressing issues of poverty and ministry with the poor, particularly with children.
- that can reach 1 million children with life-saving interventions.